The TMP team: Liam Kelly on why PR needs to embrace data

Measurement: time for communications to grasp the nettle
13th July 2016
The TMP team: Pat Molloy on technology’s measurement potential
10th October 2016

liam-headshotTMP’s team comprises five (soon to be six!) of the most experienced practitioners in their respective fields. I wanted to find out why my simple idea for a virtual consultancy to help clients get the best from their measurment seemed to resonate with these experts. So I asked each member of the team to write up just a few words describing their reasons for supporting our effort to make measurement an integral part of professional communications.

Liam is first up. He’s worked at the coal face of measurement for many years, helping clients create programmes that have genuinely improved their effectiveness. His last senior role was at Cision, heading up their Global Analytics team. What Liam doesn’t know about building effective measurement programmes isn’t worth knowing. He wrote:

PR needs to make this change to its measurement

According to the PRCA, 30% of UK PR practitioners do not measure at all.  This is quite extraordinary, and on the face of it is a real missed opportunity for the communications industry.  But even among those that do measure their work, they could often get so much more out of how they go about it.

Measurement folk, like me, used to say there are two reasons to measure PR – justify the budget and strategic planning.  These reasons still exist.

The comms team needs to show that their actions have had an impact on the organisation to justify continued funding.  Understanding why certain activations have worked while others have not helps to ensure that budget is spent more effectively in the future.

It’s all about the data

We now live in the age of data.  Organisations are making decisions based on vast amounts of consumer data.  In marketing, data tells a story about consumer behaviour and what might influence it.

Data analysts and scientists are working through numbers to uncover what the story might be.  They are making assumptions and asking questions of the data.  If their assumptions are not correct, they start again.  It is a straight forward learning process, and there are no wrong questions.

Time for comms to embrace data

The problem with the brave new world is that communications is rarely part of the process.  PR continues to focus on measuring media outputs – impressions, article counts, tone.  Don’t get me wrong, PR definitely needs to understand the effect of it’s media outreach.

PR needs to know how messages were interpreted and what worked within an activation.  Media output measurement means that communicators can adjust a campaign and can improve future campaigns.  So, great for strategic planning.

Media output measurements won’t be enough to justify PR budgets for too much longer.   A consumer’s complete journey to purchase can be measured.  With that, the business impact of PR can be better defined.   Communicators don’t need to understand data fully, they just need to understand the process.

Internal PR teams need to know what data they can access from within their own organisation.  Agency teams need to learn how to connect their activities to that data.  Neither of these activities are difficult.  They take time and a willingness to learn from the inevitable mistakes that come with interrogating data.

Data builds insights, and better stories

If there is one function in any organisation that can tell a great story, it is communications.  As an added bonus, consumer data is a rich source for the stories that communicators need to tell.

When a PR pro combines creativity with consumer insights they can create highly relevant content for their demographic.  The more relevant the content, messaging and story, the more successful the activation.  And, the easier it is to protect and build budgets.

I have spent 16 years helping global organisations understand earned media measurement.  But, there’s so much more that a PR pro now needs to understand.

The Measurement Practice brings together a group of experts in evaluation and communications research, data integration, media analysis and insight, communications and strategy and analytics, data mining and technology.   I am excited to be part of such a talented team that can truly help communicators make the most of all the data available to them.

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