Best and Worst of Communications Measurement in 2016

It’s been the best of times and it’s been the worst of times for communications measurement. Which gives us plenty to write about for this article:

The Best of 2016 Communications Measurement

#1. The Maturing of the Measurement Market

At the top of my list are new integration tools and more case studies illustrating how earned media is driving business results. There is no doubt that the market is maturing. Despite setbacks like this year’s Measurement Menace, we are making progress replacing AVEs and other silly metrics.

#2. The launch of the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework

It’s not the ultimate solution that the hype might lead you to expect, but it is a very good guide to establishing your measurement program. If nothing else, it will force a lot of people to get solid answers to some fundamental questions that need answering before measurement can begin.

#3. The arrival of the 800-pound gorillas

Communications measurement has been something of a backwater industry, of interest only to PR people with budgets that are insignificant compared to their advertising brethren. But 2016 changed all that, with Adobe, Salesforce, IBM, and others jumping into the field. Never mind Cision appointing the former GM of Oracle Marketing Cloud as CEO. Clearly, they need PR and social media data to fuel their data analytics operations. As a result, they’ve brought a new legitimacy and stature to the industry that it heretofore lacked.

#4. The decline in television ratings

With the decline in TV viewership of both the Olympics and NFL, networks and their advertisers are scrambling to frame the root cause before leadership starts questioning their budgets. As a result, communications folks are turning to engagement numbers as an alternative. Sure, they’re not all calculated consistently. But they bring two things that ratings lacked:

  • They’re smaller, which will, we hope, depress the demand for ever-bigger impression counts, and
  • They’re more targeted, which we trust will make folks focus on the quality of the interactions, not just the quantity.

#5. More evidence that there is no validity to the principle of “multipliers” or AVEs

Thanks to an exhaustive study by Marianne Eisenmann and Julie O’Neil, there is further proof that “…there is no difference in perceived credibility based upon exposure to traditional advertising versus a news story.” Read all about it here.

#6. Books

Remember them? They’re like blogs, only longer and occasionally they have covers and actual pages. There were a number of them this year:

  • My perennial favorite: Don Stacks’ Primer of Public Relations Research. Since the first edition came out in 2002, this has been the bible for many of us in the communications measurement world. For 2017 Stacks has updated it with new information on industry standards, big data, benchmarks, and KPIs.
  • Another of my favorite authors, Shel Israel, also had a new book out in 2016: The Fourth Transformation. For this one, he teamed up with tech guru Robert Scoble to tackle virtual reality (VR). No matter what he writes about Israel knows  how to tell a great story, so even though VR may not be on your radar, this is still a great read.

#7. Measurement Base Camp

Okay, this is purely self congratulatory, because this was a Paine Publishing event. We are, of course, very pleased and proud that so many people came from all over New England for our all-day session on measurement fundamentals. The really important thing is that this event’s success speaks to both the demand for knowledge and the fact that PR people are willing to do math and get into the weeds with Excel.

The Worst of 2016 Communications Measurement

#1. The worst of the worst

We’ve reserved a special place in measurement hell for mediaQuant: see our Measurement Menace of the Year.

#2. The love affair with AI

This year has been full of AI chatter, with the consensus being that it will replace all of us humans. While it won’t replace me or my peers in our lifetime, it is troubling to think how easily it could replace much of our profession. It doesn’t take much AI to write an SEO-optimized press release these days. The bigger question is, will AI be able to take on the really hard problems? With regard to crises, for instance, will AI be able to understand all the relevant research, combine it with Tim Coombs’ papers, add in some relevant stock price and business results data, and then suddenly be able to provide better advice than a veteran PR pro? Let me know when that happens. Really.

#3. Fake news

Another troubling development in 2016 is the increasing use of bots and fake news creators to plant news stories on our social media feeds. Not only can it skew elections, it also makes the already dirty data in earned media a much more serious and massive problem.

#4. Using AVE to evaluate events

While we’re delighted that event promoters are now including earned media in their calculations of value, the fact that they are still using AVEs to calculate that value is among the worst things to happen to measurement this year. ∞

About Author

Katie Paine

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