Paine Publishing’s Official Top 10 Best Things to Happen to Communications Measurement in 2018

2018 was a busy year all around, and the world of research and communications was no exception. For those of us who follow the news obsessively, something that dominated the news for a week—like the Thai teenagers stuck in a cave—seems like ancient history. In case you’re wondering what the actual top stories are, check out Google’s Year in Search.

Here at The Measurement Advisor, we’re celebrating the best things that happened in our little measurement corner of the world. For a more general discussion of the year’s events, see our article “What a Year for Measurement! 2018’s Trends, Turmoil, and Transitions.” For the top ten best of the year, here is our entirely subjective list of award winners:

#10: The Polls

Since the 2016 elections, pollsters and pundits have been wringing their hands about the “failure” of the prognosticators in that election. Yes, no one thought Trump would win, but the FiveThirtyEight forecast wasn’t actually all that far off. More importantly, the various mea culpas did in fact lead to some much better polling practices. This time around, exit polling was improved and there was far more restraint among most of the media in terms of how polling results were interpreted.

#9: The Communicators

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez

But by far the biggest surprise of the 2018 midterm elections wasn’t the results, or even the improvement in polling. It was the brilliant, authentic, and inspiring communicating of the candidates themselves. Although they didn’t all win in the end, the totally on-message, straight-from-the-heart speeches of Beto O’Rourke, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Stacey Abrams, and all the other great political communicators of the 2018 midterms should serve as a lesson to corporate communicators everywhere: If you stay on message, and remain authentic to who you and your organizations are, then people will actually believe you.

#8: The Comeback of Survey Research

Blame it on Russian bots, or years of bad sentiment analysis, or the improvement (and lower cost) of surveying these days, but for whatever reason, organizations have embraced survey research like a long-lost love at a high school reunion. Let’s be clear, survey research never went away, it’s always been a staple of major consumer brands. But it is has long been perceived as taking forever and costing a fortune. So, with the rise of social media, many turned to analyzing social sentiment as an alternative. It was faster, cheaper, and if your stakeholders were actually expressing their feelings in social media, it wasn’t a bad alternative.

But social media sentiment analysis only works if you have sufficient quantities of opinions to calculate an accurate conclusion, and if your audience is active on social media. Which is why so many B2B organizations are now turning back to survey research to test the assumptions of their marketing programs. And to measure the degree to which their communications efforts are increasing preference and/or consideration. Whatever the reason, we applaud the resurgence.

#7: Nike’s Colin Kaepernick Ad

Nike and Colin Kaepernick

I have mixed feelings about naming this to the list. I think the ad and the strategy behind the campaign was one of the most brilliant communications efforts in the last few years. You can read all the details here. By treating the ad like a political campaign, Nike not only got huge amounts of earned media on top of its paid campaign, it measured its results in sales and stock price. Yet I also hope that no one tries to copy it, because the world does not need more controversy. Or burning sneakers.

#6: The Increase in Integrated Dashboards

As more and more organizations embrace a customer-centric communications strategy based on a fully integrated PESO concept, the need for integrated measurement has grown proportionately. Organizations from tiny non-profits to multi-billion-dollar consumer brands are embracing this coordinated integrated attitude. Best of all, they are taking a business-results-first attitude towards measurement. (Which is a very good thing given our #4 best thing, below.)

#5: The Death of Boolean, the Rise of AI

“snow” OR “too much” OR “time for a vacation”

Those of us in the measurement business have been working with Boolean search strings and filters for over a decade. The experience is very much like shoveling snow in a New Hampshire winter: Just when you think you’re done, another ton of s—t comes along.

One of our clients required over 2000 “not” terms just to make sure we were getting clean data. Another required a month and thousands of terms to make sure that everything was categorized correctly. And after all that, their program still required daily human monitoring to make sure nothing went wrong.

Now, after years of yapping about how AI is going to save us all, it’s actually starting to be used by some of the more sophisticated media monitoring companies to improve the quality and accuracy of the agonizing task of collecting data for media analysis.

#4: Finance and Risk Management’s Involvement in Communications Measurement

I know many of you will shudder at the notion of green eyeshades and nerds examining the results that you’re producing. But look at it this way: with their attention, you will finally get the credit you deserve. Plus, let’s face it, they do math much better than any of us. So let them take it over, do it well, and then we get to interpret the data. Isn’t that really what we’d rather be doing anyway?

#3: The Growing Mistrust of Impressions and Other Bad Metrics

I never thought I’d be publicly expressing gratitude to Russian spam bots, but you heard it here first. Because of the publicity given to fake news, Russian hacking, and all the rest, there is a growing skepticism in board rooms and management meetings about the ridiculous “impression” and “engagement” numbers that some professional communicators are so proud of.

Over and over again this fall, I’ve fielded the question: “Is there a better alternative to impressions?” And the truth is there are lots of great alternatives. (We wrote about them here: “How to Break Up With Impressions.”) But more to the point, the MarTech world is digging into the problem. Memo is one solution and I’m sure there will be more. Whether they are viable, or anyone can afford them, is another question. But at least progress is being made.

#2: The Appointment of Johna Burke to Lead AMEC

Johna Burke, AMEC’s new Global Managing Director

This isn’t just my opinion, it was echoed over and over on Twitter when the announcement was made. But it’s true: Johna brings a wealth of measurement and communications experience (not to mention a great sense of humor) to the job. She certainly knows our business, but, most of all, her pragmatic attitude and global worldview will ensure that AMEC and measurement in general will be top of mind for years to come.

#1: You’re Still Interested in Measurement and Supporting this Newsletter!

When I started Paine Publishing five years ago, no one was quite sure whether a subscription-based model would work in our industry. When so many media measurement firms were giving away content for free, who would pay for it? If you can sign up for a free webinar every day of the week on the topic of measurement, why would anyone pay to access our content?

Despite the skeptics. and inspired by The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, we forged ahead with the belief that good content that meets the need of the community would be worth paying for.

Well you did (thank you very much!) and—almost 600 articles later—we’re still here. And we appreciate that interest and enthusiasm more than you’ll ever know. So Thank You! Give yourselves a gold star ? for being the best thing to happen to measurement in 2018. (And if you don’t yet have a subscription to The Measurement Advisor, click here!) ∞


About Author

Katie Paine

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