Good solutions in communication measurement come as manifold and varied as the range of problems and organizations they have to fit. This episode is dedicated to measurement best practices – where to find them and how to learn from them. Also featuring: the role of assumptions on our way to measurement maturity.
Jesper Andersen is a communication expert from Denmark who always has a keen eye open for best practices in communication controlling. With his own company, Quantum PR, Jesper has been organizing a Scandinavian measurement conference, Measurement Days, since 2017, in order to showcase great cases of communication measurement and provide an easy access to the topic. Furthermore, Jesper has been working with AMEC, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation in Communication, since 2014. AMEC is a trade organization dedicated to the promotion and development of communication measurement throughout the industry.
Jesper recommends starting with the free materials on amecorg.com when looking for inspiration and knowledge on measurement. AMEC was originally targeted on companies for media monitoring and media analysis but is nowadays open for anyone interested in exploring and using measurement and evaluation. There is a case study bank, free tools and educational videos and every November, AMEC organizes a month long “Measurement Month” with free webinars and meetings.
A journey towards maturity
On the question how far measurement is advanced after all these years – AMEC was founded 1996 in London – Jesper is not going for a simple answer, with the UK and the United States being generally further along than other countries. But in some individual markets, like for instance the Nordic countries, he sees everything from companies that do really world-class measurement to companies that are not doing any measurement at all. Or, as one speaker at a AMEC conference put it, people are on different stages of the journey of measurement maturity. To start at all, albeit small, is essential, he says.
“There is sort of a tiered difference between what companies are doing and why they’re doing it. I think one speaker called it ‘a journey of maturity’ at the AMEC summit in 2016. And that’s exactly what it is. So people are on different stages of the journey of measurement maturity.” Jesper Andersen
The Danish Heart Foundation – Working backwards
The Danish Heart Foundation aims at health education and stroke prevention, by advocation healthy food and regular exercise. With their “give life”-Campaign, they aimed at encouraging 30.000 people to sign up for first aid courses, to learn how to react when witnessing someone with heart problems like a stroke. The campaign ended up with more than 75.000 inscriptions over a timespan of half a year or a year, a huge success.
Jesper stresses how the organization did not start off thinking about working different channels, but with their organizational goal – preventing death by stroke. And to prevent deaths, there needed to be more first responders. So the next objective had to be getting people to sign up for free courses. And only then they developed a campaign promoting free courses and opportunities to sign up.
Measuring and monitoring the feedback of the campaign brought out important aspects along the way, with surveys of sample groups supporting every step of the campaign:
- When questioning the participants, the foundation realized that in order to make someone a first responder, not only the skill set is needed. It’s also a matter of self-confidence and courage that had to be fostered. Surveys showed that the courses could boost that, too, but refresher courses might be needed as skills and confidence dropped over time.
- It also became evident that participants did not always link the free courses to the Danish Heart Foundation, but confused them with other players in the Health Care sector. The measurement indicated clearly that it was necessary to strengthen the branding of the messages. Especially as a secondary goal of the campaign was to acquire new members for the association of the foundation.
- Most importantly, after some time participants were contacted and asked if they did use their newly acquired skills. Some of them had indeed. It was thus possible to measure impact over all impact levels, through to the outcome for the original business goal.
Maersk – Measurement is about learning
The second case Jesper introduces us to is of Maersk, the danish shipping line, one of the biggest brands in Denmark and a company that many Danes are kind of proud of. In 2017, employee advocacy was a new communication trend. And Maersk set out to try and measure what effect, if any, employee advocacy can have for the company. They found 700 of their employees from around the globe that were eager to take part in this experiment, provided them with some basic guidelines on how to post and what not to post and also offered some shareable information on the company.
For half a year, Maersk ran a kind of split test on parallel communications, through the communication department on one hand and through the social media profiles of the participating employees on the other. All the while they were analyzing reach, engagement, positive comments, negative comments, sharing, tone of voice, different keywords appearing in the coverage and so on.
Basically, they were experimenting on how far they could get with the corporate communication channels versus how positive coverage they could achieve via the employee advocates.
“… what I really loved about this case is they set out to try and measure what effect, if any, employee advocacy can have for the company.” Jesper Andersen
Jesper says that what he finds truly remarkable about the Maersk case is the will to take a chance to learn something, in his opinion a a very, very important aspect in all measurement and evaluation that sets great companies and organizations apart from the rest. Companies with the capacity to take risks might allow the communication department to experiment and be at failure sometimes, not having to succeed all the time.
A glance in the mirror: Assumption-based PR
In companies without such a culture for risks and failure, with an expectation of continuous success, it sometimes seems like communicators rather manipulate the data in their reports to make everything look like a success then to embrace failure as a chance to learn and improve. This kind of communication culture is prone to falling back on assumptions rather than go for data driven decisions. A widespread phenomenon in contemporary PR, as Jesper puts it. He gives an example as common as measuring the success of a PR campaign: Most companies would assume that being mentioned in the media is good. They count the mentions in TV, radio, print and online and create a success report if the numbers are high. Communicators tend to assume that the campaign needs to create media publicity, because when the message appears in the media, somebody will see it. And absorb the message. And form a better opinion. Which will benefit their cause. Based on these assumptions, the communicator’s job seems to be done when his topic is communicated in the media.
„…sometimes we call it experience and sometimes we call it gut feeling, but there is actually a lot of sort of silent assumptions going on behind what we actually do.“ Jesper Andersen
These assumptions might refrain the communicators from thinking a campaign through, from focusing on creating any sort of relevant outcome or business impact, from real value creation. As a communicator, it feels safe to produce information that gets your cause to be mentioned in the media, and your job is done with that. By relying on these assumptions, the communication industry is in danger of becoming irrelevant, says Jesper.
Measurement is necessary to prove these assumptions to be either right or not. If they are wrong, communicators can learn from the results how to really positively impact their business goals.
If measurement proves the assumptions to be right, on the other hand, they don’t need to measure every aspect on a constant basis anymore. They can concentrate on the one indicator that impacts all the others that are important for the cause.
As in the example of the Danish Heart Foundation, measurement has proven that the confidence level rises with the course participation. They would not need to constantly measure it, but could concentrate on reach as a short term indicator. It depends on the self image and the feeling behind what I want to be as a communicator, Jesper says.
Nobody has to try to become an expert overnight. But a good way to start the journey could be to have a look at AMEC’s best practices from around the world.
Information and Materials on AMEC, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication:
- AMEC Case Study Bank
- AMEC Measurement Maturity Mapper, a free tool
- AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework, a free tool in multiple languages
Jesper Andersen is a communication advisor and international keynote speaker specializing in communication measurement and evaluation from Denmark. His company, Quantum PR Measurement, helps companies, organizations and public authorities link and align their communication objectives with their strategic business goals in a way that allows them to measure the communication outcome and business impact and see the value their communication is contributing.
Jesper is also the founder of Measurement Days, which strives to make communication measurement and evaluation as easily accessible and understandable as possible for everyone in the communication industry. Thus, Measurement Days is a mix of conferences that showcase best practice in the field of communication measurement and workshops and online education that turns inspiration and theory into practice.
Since 2014, Jesper has been a member of AMEC, the international Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, a mark of the highest professional standards in the industry. In 2017, 2018 and 2019 he was editor of three AMEC e-books with articles by experts from all over the world.