Inspect what you expect from communications (but you probably won’t)

Great communications, great PR, how do you measure it? You do measure the impact of your communications don’t you?

There is no single question that I know of that is quite as effective in getting a room of communicators to examine their shoes.

It can be a real conversation killer too.

Recently I was talking to a senior PR professional leading a large team driving global PR for a multi-billion dollar business in a related industry. Super smart, we had a great conversation, great insights. As always I learned a lot. The conversation was going very well until I popped the measurement question. I felt the room temperature drop. Eye contact was broken. An awkward silence reigned.

“Do you want the honest answer?”

I nodded.

“If the boss is happy then we know it’s going well.”

In a world of readily available big data, online metrics and artificial intelligence, where companies are investing scarce resources in communications, it shocked me. How can we not be seeking insights into our audience, into the impact of our work on the business? It’s not just about measuring results, but on garnering insights that will make your future work more effective.

We should be. But then this is a long and winding road for PR and communications.

As long as PR agencies treat measurement as a competitive advantage we have a problem.

As long as people are willing to put forward opinions on the effectiveness of communications with no data to back it up, we have a problem.

I’ve heard all the arguments. Communications is hard to measure. We don’t have the time. We don’t have the budget.


If you want communications to have a seat at the table, you better bring insights.


Thankfully it’s not all bad news. There is progress being made to bring insights to communications.

I was heartened to see some of the tweets coming out of the AMEC 2018 conference. (AMEC is an organization that deserves more profile and credit in the PR and communications world. It represents organizations and practitioners who provide media evaluation and communication research in 86 countries worldwide).

The conference showcased some of the work being done across our profession to upgrade how we think about measurement and insights. (Bonus: check out the sketchnotes from the various sessions)


Here are some posts that will give you a flavor of what was discussed:

As communicators we need to embrace big data, measurement and insights, not fear them. Better understanding the effectiveness of your work will help you make informed decisions, allow you to experiment and learn, and last but certainly not least demonstrate the value of what you do.

Want to get started? Read the posts listed above. Take some time to peruse the AMEC site. Reach out to other practitioners. Start thinking. Embrace data. It’ll improve your creativity, your work, your results and your credibility.

There’s no judgement here. I along with every single communications person have much to learn around data, insights and measurement. Technology is changing every day. As a result so is our ability to use that data to understand how our programs are performing and how we can have an impact on the business. Let’s commit to learn and use those insights.

To ignore data, insights, and measurement borders on professional negligence.