A good post from Tom Davenport at Harvard Business Online talks about the need for empirical proof that the “solutions” offered by consultancies actually have an impact on the business.
I’m reminded of Sergio Zyman’s comment in “The End of Advertising as We Know It” that the job of advertising is “to sell more things in less time to more people for more money” and that anything that doesn’t do that is a waste of money. He also suggested a new payment scheme for advertisers that based fees on a percentage of profits derived from the campaign. Nothing like a good hanging to concentrate the mind!
Measurement of public relations activities is even more problematic than advertising, in many ways. PR is generally a “slow burn” discipline (though not always – ad-free product launches have garnered some more than respectable results) and so it is often difficult to quantify the impact of activities. Metrics like equivalent advertising value don’t really do the job – EAVs are a fundamentally flawed concept in my opinion, though not as flawed as “PR Value” which simply multiplies EAV’s by a given amount – 2.5 times is usual – on the basis that PR is more credible than advertising. K.D. Paine has an interesting take on EAVs and PR Value which I think is theoretically sound, though I’m not sure how it would deal with negative stories or stories that attack the key message.
Edelman invests significantly in global, regional and local research to try and provide clients with a reasonably high certainty of outcome and empirical evidence for our recommendations from the outset. Persuading clients to share marketing research information is often a challenge, but often this data can provide good additional data such as conversion ratios which can provide a useful base metric.
Once we start talking about measurement of results, though, we often run into resistance from the client. There are a lot of measurement metrics out there, but they all cost money. EAV’s are quick, simple and cheap – the fast food of PR metrics with roughly the same nutritional content. A more robust measurement model based on Output, Impact (Outtake) and Outcome metrics is often appreciated on paper but rejected on price.
I agree entirely with Davenport that consultancies need to provide empirical evidence that their recommendations are effective. However, what is also need for the PR industry in particular is an awareness among companies that PR forms an important and quantifiable component within the marketing mix and the implementation of the necessary internal processes and KPIs to reflect this. I would be delighted if clients demanded specific metrics: one of the biggest frustrations to me is concluding a conversation on the importance of measurement and the reliable tools that are available with the client saying, “That’s really interesting and I see the value, but we prefer to use EAV.”
And I’ll take extra cheese on my burger.