A Tumultuous Year of Transformation: Katie Paine’s Communications Measurement Predictions for 2016

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By Katie Delahaye Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing

Caution: The sky will tumble and mountains will crumble. If you’re afraid of change, 2016 will be a miserable year.

About this time of every year, we all seem to look back and mumble something about “Good riddance!” and then predict wonderful things for the upcoming twelve months. This time around, it really depends on how you feel about change.

I’m the type of person who can’t wait to see what’s around the next bend, so I’m excited. But if you’re one of those who don’t welcome change, then you might want to find a cave to hide in. Because 2016 will be a tumultuous year of transformation for those of us in the communications industry. Here’s what I predict:

1. Silos will tumble.

For years most corporations have kept a nearly insurmountable wall between internal communications and external, never mind all the usual barriers between social and traditional media monitoring. But the new reality is that, in the minds of your customers, those boundaries have already melted away. In 2016 consumers will continue to expand their use of mobile and social platforms, ignoring traditional media sources. Instead they’ll turn to each other and their apps when they make buying decisions.

The good news on the measurement front is that media monitoring companies are getting good at social listening, and technology is making it much easier to bring social and web analytics into PR dashboards.

Look for: The big step forward in 2016 will be the integration of internal communications metrics into those dashboards.

2. Brands will bumble along, but content marketing will crumble.

Brands will, of course, bumble along, making mistakes while trying to navigate the newly merged environment. They’ll confuse what PR does well – build relationships and create true, organic engagement – with marketing. As a result, “content marketing” will hit the saturation point. (It may have already since the term “Peak Content” is already being bandied about.)

Look for: The very people brands are trying to reach will simply ignore everything that most corporations spew out — and talk amongst themselves.

3. Recruitment problems will rumble.

The biggest problem will no longer be cost cutting but recruitment. The PR talent pool was never all that deep to begin with, and many senior professionals are looking to retire. At the same time, the rapidly recovering economy is making jobs, many of which have needed to be filled for too long, even harder to fill.

As corporations step up their hiring, it will take longer and be more expensive to find true talent. And with increased competition in recruitment, organizations will need to focus more attention on their culture and reputation, or else they’ll be spending a lot more money on salaries. And, where the money goes, metrics follow.

Look for: More budgets shifting dollars to internal, culture, reputation, and CSR measurement.

4. Standards will come out of the rumble seat and into the driver’s seat.

When the Media Rating Council (MRC) — in partnership with the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), the 4As, the Institute for Public Relations and the IABfinalized its Social Media Measurement Guidelines, there was little fanfare. There should have been a lot more. The MRC is the organization chartered by Congress and backed by all the major brands and organizations that tells organizations that sell media for a living exactly what they can and cannot do.

The MRC came out with definitions of “reach” and “impressions” that essentially reinforced our belief that most of the numbers used to quantify “reach” are, at best, “potential” impressions. If you’re on the buying end of social media, you now have standards with which you can hold agencies’ and media’s proverbial feet to the fire. And they don’t stop there: The MRC document outlines agreed-upon nomenclature, definitions, and best practices for a host of commonly misused metrics for social media.

To further bolster the rigor with which social media can and should be measured, in 2016 the IPR Measurement Commission will complete its validation of the Conclave’s social media measurement standards on sentiment and engagement.

5. Measurement vendors will stumble.

On the measurement side, the merger mania of the past few years will lose favor with both customers and investors, and numerous customers will express their frustration with bad data, inaccurate metrics, and revamped interfaces.

Look for: A wave of RFPs as customers begin searching for new and better vendors.

6. Marketing will grumble, but cost effectiveness metrics will replace bad ROI calculations.

For years, marketers and their bosses have flung around the “ROI” word without ever calculating it correctly, using bad math and incomplete cost calculations to determine the “ROI” of direct mail and paid media. In addition, they made up silly equations like “the value of a like,” and used AVE to attempt to put a “value” on social media and PR.

But with better data and more sophisticated platforms (helped by a wave of data analysts and new PR grads who were forced to take business courses), more and more often communications departments will be investigating the cost effectiveness of all their activities. First on the chopping block may be direct mail, which wastes entire forests and is increasingly seen as horrible for the environment. Once data reveals that direct mail’s true cost doesn’t match the real dollar returns, organizations will see the efficiency advantages that PR and social media bring.

Further jumbling of the paid media world will occur as ad-blocker apps become the norm on cell phones. Ad-blocker apps like Peace, Purify, and Crystal offer you freedom from ads on your mobile device in exchange for a small fee. In its first two months of existence, once such app earned over $150,000 in revenue.

7. Technology will be humbled.

The technology and data all-you-can-eat buffet that has engorged the communications landscape in the past few years will lose its appeal, as clients realize that all those fancy tools and piles of data are worthless without trained, knowledgeable human expertise to interpret it. (See #3 above.)

Look for: Organizations will invest more in talent and human-based insight, and will dial back their technology investments until such time as they can digest the data that’s coming in already. ∞

A version of this article appeared in PRNews.

Image provided by Pixabay. 

The Measurement Advisor