2024: The Year of Small Numbers, Big Dashboards, Actionable Metrics

I recently expressed my thoughts on what 2024 will bring for PR Measurement to the editors of PR News. Thought I would share those thoughts and a few others. I incorporated my answers to PR News questions at the end of this post. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you make your 2024 plans.

  • Pickleball is more influential than the Wall Street Journal

As more and more people, groups and communities move to texting, WhatsApp and other platforms that aren’t or can’t be monitored by the automated listening services, the numbers produced by traditional platforms will become increasingly irrelevant.

We will need to figure out how to analyze the sources that people trust, not the ones that advertisers and politicians are dominating with their dollars.

  • Crisis Communications Measurement will be come an industry in 2024

Crises used to be rare events that PR folks scrambled to solve. But in today’s 24/7 news cycle crises for some companies are almost daily events. (Just talk to the folks at any airline or fast-food company.)

It used to be that everyone wanted to know “how do you measure the crisis avoided?” (We answered that here: But increasingly, when leadership sees their peers in a crisis, they want to know how they compare. And not all crises’ communications strategies are equally effective and at some point, leadership and your legal team is going to want some real numbers to prove that your strategic approach is better than theirs. Hence, crisis metrics will take their well-deserve place in the pantheon of metrics organizational dashboards.

  • Persuasion will happen more from people within our tribes than celebrity influencers.

Political campaigns have long known that knocking on doors is where persuasion is most likely to happen, not via mail drops or advertising. Smart marketers have embraced word of mouth marketing, but think it is something that can be bought via a celebrity influencer. In 2024, the most trusted source of information will be people within your own tribe, whether that’s a text chain, a Pickleball court, a WhatsApp group, or a neighborhood block party. We won’t be able to measure all of that, which is why survey research will become more of a necessity.

  • Survey research will become more important than media monitoring.

As traditional media sources continue to lose credibility, and disinformation proliferates, fewer people will trust traditional news sources and legacy social media platforms. As a result, existing metrics will become less relevant. Instead, in order to understand what your target audience thinks, believes, and trusts, you will have to ask them – i.e. conduct survey research. Whether that audience is internal or external, the process of asking them the right questions in order to get the answers you need will be increasingly a necessity.

  • Concerns about data privacy and security will make measurement harder.

The end of third-party cookies and the rise of data privacy laws will make it harder for marketers to accurately identify target audiences. Enhanced privacy technology will make traditional marketing (i.e., emails) less effective. As a result, integrated Customer Data Platforms will become critical for effective marketing.

  • AI Prompters” will become a new business opportunity.

As we dive deeper into the wonders/horrors of ChatGPT, Bard, etc. we will come to learn that the quality of the answers they provide is entirely dependent on the quality of the prompts you provide it. As a result, a new class of agencies and consultants will spring up to help us improve the quality of our prompts.

  • Union organizing will put increased pressure on both internal and external communications.

The success of the UAW, SAG-AFTRA and other unions will make effective internal communications critical. Folks in the legal and HR department will prove ineffective at diffusing the emotions around labor issues and increasingly organizations will turn to the CCO and their communications expertise to play a dominant role in labor issues. (Better study up folks.)

[Editor’s Note: In a recent conversation with Kaylee Hultgren Content Director for PRNEWS, I came up with a few more prediction for 2024

  • Audience-first measurement will require playing nice with others

In order to accurately measure communications in 2024 you will need to assess whether your target audiences are seeing your messages, believing them and acting on them and why. The data for these metrics will NOT come from your social listening or media monitoring tool. You will find it in marketing, data analytics, sales, HR, finance and all kinds of places you never thought to look. So bake a big batch of cookies and go make friends around your organization and see what data turns up.

  • You will ignore any media that doesn’t reach your target audience

Increasingly my clients are ignoring the vast majority of their so-called “coverage” and only analyzing coverage that appears in top tier media. In fact, the most ubiquitous metric of my year is “% of media coverage that occurred in top tier media.” Of course, that assumes that your top tier media is in fact reaching your target audience. The corollary to this trend is the emphasis on figuring out how to identify whether your media is in fact reaching your target audience. Traditionally, it’s been publications like the New York Times or CNN, but I’m seeing far more emphasis on LinkedIn, TikTok and the blogs of key influencers replacing those traditional mainstream publications.

  • Small numbers are cool

No one in senior leadership believes these numbers anyway, so why even use them? Sprout Social just came out with a promo that says their customers reached 2.3 trillion impressions, implying that every single person in the known universe interacted with their customers’ social posts—including all the people that don’t have electricity, internet or computers. And some percentage of probably can’t afford or aren’t able to purchase whatever it is you are selling. Nothing destroys your credibility faster than ridiculously large numbers.

So people will start to dump those vanity metrics and only focus on what contributes to business success. Or at least that’s what I fervently hope for.

  • Tools have jumped the shark

There are simply too many vendors hawking too many tools for this market. Sure, marketing will continue to have bigger budgets to buy more tools, but in the world of communications, most communicators already have too many tools and not enough insight. I can’t tell you how many organizations I talk with that freely admit they use multiple redundant tools that don’t deliver the data they need. For years, vendors have pushed communicators to buy things don’t measure what they need to measure. With any luck, a bit of belt tightening will stop this trend, and organizations will figure out what they actually need to measure their contribution to business success. In the mean time, I suggest you block all vendor calls until you figure that out. Or, sign up for a training course in how to measure whatever it is you need to measure.

  • AI, the elephant in the room

AI is nothing new in the measurement space. Companies like Conversion, Fullintel and Proof have long used AI as part of their processes. Where it will make the most difference to the average PR person is when it can help analyze data. We’re not quite there yet, but 2024 will probably be the year when you can point it to a data set and ask it “who was our best spokesperson?” or “what campaign performed best”—and get an accurate answer.

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