Measurement- taking PRide!

Every year, I try to learn a new skill that is relevant to my profession. In 2012 I was ambitious and tackled two- learning how to use Twitter better, and making sure my students really, really understand the importance of what is going on in measurement and evaluation.  The latter is one of those “slow burn” issues that should be taken more seriously, but all too often isn’t.  And yet….we are at a defining moment in the development of public relations and corporate communications.

I’m talkiing about the emergence of the new Valid Metrics Matrix, a way of confronting squarely the PR profession’s previous inability to demonstrate its value in terms that work for the C Suite (that is, the Chief Executives, Chief Finance Officers, Chief Operating Officers, etc). Having worked most of my professional life in those rarefied circles, speaking business objectives in language that a board understands has always been key to getting buy-in to the campaigns I was running. 

So, I greeted the VMM with open arms and a “hallelujah, about bloody time, too”.  Finally, a way to demonstrate just what impact a good PR campaign can have!

The emergence of a new paradigm in any academic and practitioner community should be a time for debate and discussion. I have been surprised, however, by the lack of enthusiasm about the VMM from the world of agency PR. Maybe that’s because clients don’t understand anything other than the old AVE metric. Or maybe the stranglehold of media relations means that clients still count the value of their PR retainer fees by the number of cuttings, web click throughs, likes, etc. Whatever the case, it is surprising to me just how long it is taking for the VMM to penetrate into use.

So, when the CIPR PRide Awards rolled around last week, I was delighted that one of my Masters student agency teams submitted an application on behalf of their client, Southampton Solent University, for a campaign called “Love Your Bins”- an unsexy topic that actually needed addressiing if community relations between the university and the student population were to be improved.

That their campaign would win a gold award for community relations was never (in my mind anyway) a doubt.  But what made me dance a little jig and strike a Usain Bolt pose was when the CIPR Wessex judges decided to award their campaign a gold prize for best use of measurement. And this award is based on a pool of every entry made to the prize committee, across 25 categories. So, my MA students were pitted against big agencies, and large inhouse departments, and yet managed to beat them all. Why? Because they used the VMM. 

Want to see the campaign and what the judges said? Take a look. Let’s hope that those agencies and clients that actually want to get results from their PR will start taking the VMM seriously. I am delighted that the CIPR is doing just that.