Why is measurement so hard? Whether we’re talking about communicators, digital marketers or brand marketers, agencies or clients, measurement is an enduring challenge for all. But we can stop the hand-wringing because there are some fundamental ways to make it easier.

The biggest enemy to proper measurement isn’t organizational silos or available data – it’s not taking the necessary steps to plan campaigns effectively. Consider the life cycle of a big brand launch, and the time spent developing key elements like the strategic and creative platforms, and which channels to use. Conversely, think about the time spent by most communicators/marketers developing a measurement framework for the campaign. It pales in comparison.

Planning a measurement strategy requires having realistic, upfront conversations.  Agencies and clients should be discussing how the various channels work together; about whether or not behavioral metrics can be helpful in and of themselves, or whether or not there will be a need to layer on additional methodologies, like primary market research. Successfully executing a measurement framework means making it a fundamental (and early) part of the overall strategic process. It means thinking through all the steps of a campaign: How do we go from a list of pre-established KPIs to campaign-specific KPIs? When are we going to get the data? How are we going to analyze the data and how are we going to use it? What will be the format of the reports and how will we share it? Let your client know that these things take weeks, not days, to execute.

A lack of planning has consequences.  Over my 15-year career, I can remember instances when we had a super cool idea that we executed brilliantly. The results looked great, but we never had the sophisticated measurement back-end to support that really cool idea. Eventually, somebody very senior asked, ‘what did I get?’ And the answer was, ‘I’m not sure.’  You know what happened next: that really cool idea got shuttered way before its time, and that was the end of that program.

Building an Analytics Practice

If you’re launching an analytics practice, consider the three P’s as a guide:

People: We can talk ad nauseam about the importance of data, tools, and process, but if you don’t have the people who are comfortable taking the data and translating it into some sort of action, you’re not going to get anywhere.  The agency professionals that I see succeeding today — whether they’re analytics experts,  communicators or marketers — are those who are on the front lines with clients, understanding their problems, and not accepting the status quo “this is how we’ve always done it” thought process. I look for people who can speak intelligently with clients and navigate internal (political) dynamics. Ideally, they’re comfortable in integrated disciplines; they have a well-rounded background – they’re not solely a communications pro, or marketer, or focused only on social media. Sound like a unicorn? Not quite. There’s an up-and-coming crop of communication professionals out there and they’re poised to assume larger roles.

Process: Ok, it’s not the sexiest P, but it’s really important to outline things like: What are our data sources? What data do we need to collect? How are we going to get that data into the right stakeholder hands to make the right decisions at the right time?

Platforms: The brand marketing graveyard is littered with marketers who dumped a bunch of money into tools and didn’t get much value out of them.  It’s important to remember that while platforms and tools have a critical role to play, they’re only one-third of the mix. And don’t worry — clients and agencies are both struggling to figure out the right tools to use…it’s not just you. In fact, it’s such a sprawling, fluid topic that my next PRC blog will be on just this subject. Stay tuned!

This blog is part of “Agencies of the Future,” the PR Council’s initiative to help Members future-proof and grow their agencies. It was also recorded as an episode on the Agencies in the Future podcast. Listen to it here

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