Measurement, Evaluation and Learning is how we should be reframing the discussion around metrics in public communication according Jim Macnamara, in a special Measurement Month episode of PR podcast Smoke Signal.
Jim Macnamara is a Distinguished Professor of Public Communication in the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). He is internationally recognised for his research into evaluation of public communication and for his work on organisational listening.
We begin this discussion with a look at Jim’s latest book – released in July this year – Beyond Post-Communication: Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation.
The book challenges the notion that fake news and the rise of distrust on all levels is a result of a “few bad apples” such as Trump, Russian trolls or the power of social media platforms. Rather Jim presents a compelling argument, citing numerous examples in our discussion, to show that in fact professional communicators – PR professionals, government advisers, advertisers and journalists –are as much, if not more, to blame for widespread dissemination of disinformation.
However, the book is not about finger pointing but rather how we move forward as a profession – Jim shares some of his strategies for improving the practice of professional communication.
It is in this context we discuss, Measurement and Evaluation. If we’ve moved into a post communication, post trust world, how does measurement and evaluation need to evolve.
And for Jim, the oft-repeated reasons for not doing rigorous evaluation – lack of budget, lack of time – are simply excuses. To move from being a cost-centre to a value-add centre, we need to show outcomes and business impact. It is also, according to Jim, the key for PR professionals to progress their careers and truly get a “seat at the table”.
It is also why Jim talks more today about M, E & L. Measurement and evaluation is often looking in the review mirror, a process of looking back to justify. Rather, Jim says the emphasis should be more on the learnings – both how can we use these measures to assess how can we improve our programs and campaigns moving forward; and also applying learnings to ourselves and how can we can continually improve measurement and evaluation.
In this discussion, Jim uses two current case studies as examples of how measurement can showcase tangible business outcomes – a review he is leading for the World Health Organisation on its evaluation of communication programs globally and a project he oversaw for global financial services firm Achmea.
While these are large scale projects, Jim recommends practitioners start small, show a result, prove your value and then go back and say we can do more. And once the business sees tangible results they naturally become even more committed to PR and communications.
Jim’s final word of advice for practitioners when it comes to measurement and evaluation: Practitioners need to know research methods from Google Analytics and social media analytics through to surveys. You need to be evidence based – that is what is required by management. Too often in our field we rely on feeling and intuition.
The PRIA Education Community Committee is driving a series of initiatives to mark AMEC’s Measurement Month throughout November. Be sure to visit www.pria.com.au or www.educompria.wordpress.com to see a full list of events.