Predictions for 2019 from a Dozen Measurement Experts

As part of our regular January Predictions Issue we wanted to bring in some other wise voices. So we asked our favorite experts and various board members of the Institute for PR’s Measurement Commission what they either hoped for or saw on the horizon for 2019, and what their worst nightmare would be in 2019. Interestingly, the Measurati are much more hopeful than fearful. In fact, only two experts expressed apprehensions for the coming year:

Sean Williams, long time member of the Measurement Commission and Vice President at True Digital Communications,  expressed a fear that I think we all share: “The return of AVE: the zombie measurement. One gets tired of fighting it, but we must!”
—Sean Williams, True Digital Communications

The other fear that an anonymous respondent left on our Survey Monkey survey was of an economic downturn or other disruptive global event. Another worthy worry.

The good news is that the Measurati have some pretty lofty aspirations for 2019. Here’s what they predict and/or hope for:

1. Attribution and business metrics will come to PR.

>> In traditional earned media we will make great strides in developing believable attribution that shows the impact of PR on the bottom line. We will also be able to get a much better understanding of the audience who is actually reading the coverage, rather than just an overall number. A bigger number isn’t always better; earned media needs to be read by the right people to make an impact.
—Elizabeth Rector, Head of Brand & Reputation Intelligence, Cisco

>> The trend in 2019 will be towards greater involvement and governance by finance in marketing and comms performance measurement and analytics. The business is coming to the party in a big way.
Mark Stouse, Chairman and CEO, Proof Analytics

>> I hope that I could deliver metrics demonstrating the value of internal communications. No matter what I present, I get the pushback: “There could be other things accounting for that.”

2. Metrics will be used to change the world.

>> In 2019, we hope more and more corporations worldwide will see the damage they are doing to men, women, and children by featuring actors in inappropriate ways in their paid media. Now that measurement exists for unconscious gender bias, these metrics can change the world.
Angela Jeffrey, APR, Vice President Brand Management, Advertising Benchmark Index

3. Nothing is going to change, unless it does.

>> Regarding measurement of communication messages, products or channels/media, there will be no new changes different from what we have in 2018. There isn’t a new tool or some algorithm that will make anyone rich. Indeed, media and social media measurement are so 2017. Done. While measurement of campaigns will get some additional attention—particularly around best practices when tied to planning—what will take the measurement community by storm in 2019 is maturity modelling. In fact, the better models will embrace evaluation (finding value or worth) at the expense of measurement (finding effectiveness). And, the best of those models will demonstrate that evaluation has at least seven units of analyses. That is, the communication function—and the CCO leading that function—will be able to evaluate in seven different ways, and be able to show increased maturity (increased value) in each. Communication messages, products, and channels/media will be seen as just one of those seven units of evaluative analyses—and not the most important.
Fraser Likely, APR, Likely Communication Strategies, LTD.

4. Upfront research will ensure that campaigns target the right audiences with the right messages.

>> I hope practitioners will think more in terms of upfront research to ensure that communications programs support their organization’s business objectives, target the right stakeholders through media they actually use, and employ messages that are likely to drive the kind of behavior that will help the communicators’ organizations achieve their business goals. It seems to me that practitioners are far too caught up in measurement, when the most important thing is doing the research to get the communications campaign right in the first place.
—Forrest Anderson, Forrest W. Anderson Consulting

5. Insight from measurement will be used to better manage organizations.

>> Another hope I have is that not only will practitioners use research to drive communications campaigns, but that they will use it to develop and share insights which will help their senior management guide their organizations more effectively. The research Rebecca Swenson, Nathan Gilkerson, Fraser Likely, Michael Ziviani, and I did with successful CCOs suggests this may be one of the surest ways to get that coveted seat at the management table.
—Forrest Anderson, Forrest W. Anderson Consulting

6. Tools wont matter unless they’re affordable.

>> I want a good low-cost qualitative research tool. I used a good tool previously, but it’s now too expensive.
—Sean Williams, True Digital Communications

>> In 2019, I wish for clarity in communications research. Rather than the latest “tool” or platform, communications research requires category expertise—an understanding of communications and the media—as well as statistical acumen and critical thinking. It’s not about the tool and it’s not about data. Everyone has a tool. Everyone has data… too much data. What matters most is how we think about data and how we manage the tool. There’s too much confusion—propelled in many ways by the “tool companies”—who suggest that it’s only about the tool: tools as “insights engines,” tools as “artificial intelligence machines,” and tools as “self-operating robots.” The result? A diminishing standard of “what’s good enough.” If content relevancy, data accuracy, and actionable insights are important to you, the tool is not enough.
—Mark Weiner, Cision CEO and Senior Consultant PRIME Research

7. Time for B-schools to step up.

>> I hope that B schools will require classes on reputation that emphasize character-guided decision-making over short-term tactics.

8. The measurement and evaluation industry will advance.

>> Johna Burke will single-handedly move the industry forward in her new job with AMEC.

9. AI will have an impact.

>> With a more and more accessible and well managed AI environment, communication specialists and analysts will definitely have more time doing what they are best at: create innovative content, target that powerful content in a more bespoke manner, and fine-tune its spread based on instant customer feedback. Time- and money-consuming data mining, painful data consolidation, and eye-rubbing publishing efforts will be done automatically in the future, thus empowering teams to focus on their core tasks.

But there is also a danger behind the constant emanation of both visible and invisible bots: Communication recipients and customers will question who is talking to them. As we are all looking for relevance and purpose in the messages we get, AI is a hazardous double-edged sword we should not use without care. Consumers will quickly understand if a clever machine sends them cheesy season greetings and replies too rapidly to their requests. My hope is that 2019 shows us that the communication and marketing breed will understand how to use AI to increase creative output and edginess in its messages. Thus creating real sustainable value for their businesses, rather than misleading their target groups by making them even more suspicious.

—Todd Grossman, CEO – Americas, Talkwalker

(Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash)


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Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.