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Does the brand align with my ethics and values?
Does the culture of the organization match my company culture and what I look for in a group of professionals?
Would I be proud to promote and share on behalf of this brand, because I believe in the vision and mission?
Am I learning and growing as a result of the partnership, initiative, collaboration, joint venture, or the reason that brings our brands together?
Even after 30+ years in the PR industry, measurement is still a tough subject for many PR people. The questions asked years ago when I was first starting out are still surfacing today.
There is no shortage of resources, from research programs to the case studies and accepted industry principles that are available. Even so, the questions are presented on social media, in PR departments and with professionals worldwide.
In the spirit and format of my Answer books, I thought it would be helpful to publish a blog post that pinpoints the essentials of measurement beginning with PR planning.
Of course, who better to team up with, for this article, than Johna Burke, the Global Managing Director of the Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). I’ve been referring to AMEC for years, and even using their Interactive Framework in my classrooms at NYU and UMASS at Amherst.
Johna has shared her answers to several measurement planning questions, which get to the heart of where you can start, when you want to set up measurement for your communication program.
Here’s what I asked Johna, and you can see her answers below. We hope this Q&A helps you to approach measurement and planning with an easier roadmap to follow.
Q1. What is PR planning?
For the eager communicator, planning is the most important and often most dreaded element of any campaign. Planning is the ONLY path to demonstrating the value of PR and communication. Period full stop! When communicators report on activities rather than goals and objectives that correlate to overarching organizational goals, they unwittingly signal to their C-suite they are more invested in justifying activities rather than proving the impact of communication.
Even though there are many extraordinarily talented planners (I am not one of these people), in our industry, planning is not a skill everyone possesses. This being the case planning IS something everyone can and should be adept in. An effective plan should be simple. If your plan is a verbose jargon-filled-to-the brim-word-soup, then you are staging a project which is doomed to failure. Your plan should be concise and to the point, comprehensive and yet sublimely feasible. One should remember to identify the problem and include critical measurable milestones to identify success and failure along the path. These may include stating objective(s), goal(s), strategies, target audiences, expected outputs, possible out-takes, eventual outcomes, and impacts to develop insights.
Success is not something that is only presented in the form of a colorful chart or a graph that correlates growth in ascending bars. When communication professionals invest time and resource into planning, they affirm their commitment to success. Success might mean following unexpected data to determine early enough into a program or campaign that something is amiss and requires change. Utilizing foresight and circumspection to invest in planning is the best affirmation to your executives that they can trust and rely upon your execution and evaluation of any given communication program.
I often hear from professionals that, “my C-suite knows communication is important, but they don’t want ongoing measurement and evaluation.” My first suggestion is always to review and reevaluate your plan. If you do not have a plan, then the problem is with you and not your C-suite. If you have a weak plan that is inwardly focused on your team’s activities alone, the problem is with you. Now, suppose you have a well-developed plan? It includes measurement and evaluation at every stage so you can assess output and out-take performance. This insight allows you to amplify success and mitigates over-investment in unproductive programs. Yet, your C-suite still doesn’t support your holistic program. In that case, it might be time to reconsider your options and get a new job.
Often, I hear, “My Chief Financial Officer (CFO) wants a dollar value of communication.” My retort to this is simple and time worn. Minimizing a bad investment has fiscal consequence. Therefore, an effectively planned, executed, measured and well-evaluated communication effort only lacks the correlation to how your efforts are impacting costs or income of your organization. Success rests on a bedrock of preparation. Work to better understand the precise objective in the proffered requests and weave those values into your plan. Answer the who, how, why and what.
Rather like scientific method one tests the supposition to prove the theory. Planning can therefore be defined as hypothesis validation. Successful planning almost always influences change, and, unfortunately, reforms to common practice are not always readily accepted. To achieve acceptance, try not to complicate objectives. Planning without first considering the consequences of your communication and PR efforts can be detrimental to one’s desired objective. In other words, do not throw obstacles in the path of your plan’s approval.
Follow these logical steps and you will affirm why planning and effective communication is critical to your company or any organization. Side effect: your strategic planning will transform you into a trusted strategic counselor for your C-suite.
Q2. Can you define a measurable objective and why are measurable objectives important in your communication program(s)?
Measurable objectives are the foundation of communication success. If these measurable objectives are not aligned with the overarching organization goals the communication team is just doing stuff, working without purpose. Bereft of measurable goals, individuals and teams tend to be ineffective and marginalized. Lack of accountability, direction and purpose erodes the inherent morale of the communication team and compromises any confidence the C-suite may have on its impact towards the desired goal.
The most common approach is to start with a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound) objective. SMART is an age-old acronym that has stood the test of time. If SMART is good, then SMARTER (Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Time-bound, Ethical and Revolutionizing) is significantly better. In 2017, I added the ‘e’ and ‘r’ at a measurement and evaluation conference. Although it was well-received, the year 2020 instilled increased focus and importance on ethical behavior; performance and attribution proved more critical to the professional, the organization, and society than we had ever seen before; a communication watershed; a game changer.
The term Ethical includes – among other things – an adherence to chosen language; how teams capture and use data, the sourcing of clean data, who they will communicate with and how they will hold a team or organization to the highest standard of value. Revolutionizing and evolving stated objectives is critical in order to fulfill the stated purpose of the individual, group or organization. When we prompt strategy with inspiration, communication efforts become more meaningful to the bottom line and consequently more compelling to the C-suite.
When the communication team realizes the potential of measured success, the team becomes empowered and is more likely to push boundaries, improve activities, achieve outputs, and ultimately realize the impact of their message. The proliferation of communication data has accelerated communication objectives to those who dare to succeed, fail and try again. This is necessary to learn from any communication program.
The biggest mistake of any communication professionals is the failure to recognize a stated objective for a measurable objective. Clearly stated and measurable is the ideal. However, measurable is the minimum standard required if one is to calibrate and quantify communication effectiveness.
Our communication efforts will increase awareness of our brand and result in a more active community.
SMART: Using our Paid, Owned, Earned and Social channels we will increase our brand share of voice by ten perfect (from X to Y) during the second quarter.
Add Ethical: We will source our content from clean data sources. (example: We will grow our community through a twenty percent increase in prospect opt-ins through our website. We will not use a ‘list purchase’ which is generally not GDPR compliant)
Revolutionizing: The use of communication and data to revolutionize the impact of communication. (Example: Current data indicates a prospect makes seven visits to our website before opting into our community. Using integrated messages across paid, earned, social and owned channels, we will target calls to action by prospect profiles to accelerate the conversion of prospects in two visits to the website. This will reduce the conversion cycle by 45 days and put 25 percent more leads in our sales team pipeline each quarter. If salesperson close rates remain static, this will result in 15% additional Q2 revenue.)
With clearly stated aligned measurable goals communication can mature from a cost center to a profit center by offsetting costs through effective communication.
Q3. What does the communicator, with little resources, do to implement better communications planning?
Communicators may have varying degrees of financial resources, but every communicator possesses critical thinking, the most valuable resource of all.
Communication professionals should make sure their teams are committed to the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) Barcelona Principles 3.0. These principles, originally adopted in 2010, updated in 2015, and most recently in 2020, are an excellent foundation for teams to rally around in their pursuit of excellence.
There are seven principles:
- Setting measurable goals is an absolute prerequisite to communication planning, measurement, and evaluation
- Measurement and evaluation should identify outputs, outcomes, and potential impact
- Outcomes and impact should be identified for stakeholders, society, and the organization
- Communication measurement and evaluation should include both qualitative and quantitative analysis
- AVEs are not the value of communication
- Holistic communication measurement and evaluation includes all relevant online and offline channels
- Communication measurement and evaluation are rooted in integrity and transparency to drive learning and insights
The most recent update of 2020 includes the vital ‘what to and not to do’ guidance. This expands the resources of any size team dedicated to best practice. Thus, enabling them to empower themselves in both thought and commitment.
Principle 1: Setting goals is an absolute prerequisite to communications planning, measurement, and evaluation. There is a reason these all begin and end together. The founding principle of SMART-Goals (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound) as a foundation for communications planning has been elevated to an essential prerequisite. It pushes measurement and evaluation as a core component of the planning process; articulating target outcomes and how progress towards these will be assessed.
As mentioned previously, planning is critical. It doesn’t have to be complicated, however, it needs to be strategically aligned with both organizational goals and objectives. Once you are aligned with your organizational priorities (understanding how your organization makes and spends money) you are better positioned to collaborate and more likely to tap into the full potential of communication.
Teams with little resources are often the most creative. In contrast larger communication teams often miss opportunities by thinking small and fixating on their own activities and outputs focusing on what can be measured instead of what should be measured.
For instance. There is nothing new under the sun and viral stunts and gimmicks are two-a-penny. Organizations need and thrive on sustainable success. Therefore, tactical thinking lacking in foresight and objectivity will always be a flash in the pan. Worse still It could potentially limit your credibility, ruin reputation, and erode trust with both internal and external stakeholders. By focusing your plan on building trust internally, you can help generate greater access to data and understanding.
As an example, when you participate with other internal teams for surveys you can contribute with actionable feedback e.g., recognizing the difference in the varying stakeholders’ language and offering useful input to help define the message. If you can develop positive collaboration between advertising, human resources, marketing, and sales, then you will be able to attribute accurate impact caused, in full or in part, by your communication.
Q4. What tools are available to help communicators with planning?
How does one go from a blank sheet of paper to the master plan? Just as there are innumerable ways to solve any problem, there are multiple planning tool options available that will allow the harried planning professional to select the one that best fits the needs of their organization.
There are many diverse online tools in the marketplace for sale as well as pay-to-play consultants who specialize in planning at a price. I will focus on free tools that work for every strategic thinker with the ambition of acquiring effective planning strategies.
My preferred recommendation is the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) Integrated Evaluation Framework (IEF), a free online resource. This framework not only assists with initial planning, but also allows for contiguous resolutions that will impact your objectives, activities and tactics providing real communication value. By completing the requested fields in the framework, professionals can map their strategies and subsequent impacts, progressing them quickly from a blank page to a comprehensive one-page plan.
The availability of password-protected credentialed access allows strategists to modify plans should circumstance or stakeholder scope change*. Professionals who use the AMEC IEF have the luxury and utility of a one-sheet solution. By utilizing the proscribed framework, they can share with internal stakeholders, recruit outside assistance, and ultimately hold team members accountable. The IEF is an ideal resource to keep your team(s) focused on the program’s most important elements. It allows contributors to understand the direct connection of their efforts to the plan, stimulating team member contributions and removing inherent barriers.
This framework adapts to support customized local and global initiatives and can easily be reduced to an excel sheet. Teams are able to identify appropriate fields and populate them with activities and key messages: What is the objective? Who is the audience? What are you saying? How are you saying it? Who is saying it? Where are you saying it? What results are caused in full or in part by your communication?
SWOT is another strategic planning tool:
Post-COVID, I expect CATWOE will be an important companion to SWOT.
CATWOE will be an especially effective complement to your planning if your organization has moved from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to Corporate Social Activism (CSA).
Finally, in my free planning tools list is the PLAY model from Mischief, which is available in the AMEC Planning Primer.
P- Problem (What are the commercial and communication objectives? What is the current situation and why? What needs to change?)
L- Look at the audience (Who are they? How are they behaving? Why?)
A- Ask how you will earn attention? (What influences our audience? What is the convention in the category? What content will best influence the influencers?)
Y- You’ll know you have done it when (what does success look like?)
There are both simple and complex planning tools available regardless your expertise or budget. The most important consideration for you as a strategist is to ensure that whichever tool you use, the ultimate product of your efforts reflects SMART or SMARTER objectives, which align with your organization, mission and culture.
Johna Burke is the Global Managing Director of the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), A member of the Institute for Public Relations(IPR) Measurement Commission, is in the PR News Measurement Hall of Fame and was most recently inducted into the ICCO Hall of Fame. She is passionate about helping professionals transform their communication from good to exceptional by applying best practices combined with data and analytics.
Happy 2020, friends! Here’s to a year that’s filled with happiness, good health, and prosperity.
When I look back at 2019, I realize it was an intense year for so many reasons. Every week was one of reflection and new insights with a 52+ week millennial research project.
Today, as a result of this reflection and realizing my research had uncovered a new Mode of Operation or communication model, I’m focusing on a FEEL roadmap in 2020; adding FEEL to all of my communications. At the same time, I’ll be helping other professionals understand why strategic communications can only get you so far in your connections and relationship building. FEEL is the stepping stone to real relationships personally and professionally. How much do you use FEEL in your communication through all of your channels? Now you can find out with the FEEL First Test.
I decided to evaluate myself and my ability to FEEL, by taking the online FEEL First test, which came together as a result of the deep conversations with millennials in 2019.
I was surprised, not so surprised, to learn that I still have some FEEL work to do in the areas of facing Fears, engaging with Empathy, etc. In 2020, I’m on my way to FEEL Mastery, which is the highest range of scores you can achieve. The FEEL First Test not only evaluates your ability to FEEL, in every area of the model, and in different settings, but it also recommends exercises to increase your level of FEEL.
And, so my roadmap begins and yours can too.
A huge thank you to all of those millennials who took the time to interview with me, and who wanted to share the value of communication, what it means to have trust in a real relationship and what they expect from the important people in their lives. You have helped me to get through a difficult time and to turn loss and sadness into purpose and focus.
Here’s my video discussing where my roadmap begins and how professionals and companies would solve a lot of their issues and communication challenges with the FEEL model.
Featured Image Photo Credit: Amit Jain at Unsplash
What questions do you have about the transition from PR and communications student to industry professional? Jason Mollica (@jasmollica), a professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C. and Megan Wagner (@meganmwagner), professor of marketing at St. Bonaventure University are the hosts of the podcast, “Pints and Pizza with Professors,” where they offer up insight on life outside of college.
In this edition of #PRSTUDCHAT, we’re talking to Jason and Megan about preparing for life in your last months of school. On Thursday, October 31st at 12:00 p.m. ET, they’ll answer questions that will help you take a look beyond graduation and ease into the communications industry, such as what skills do you really need to cut it in marketing and real-world advice on careers, classes and more.
Some of the topics/questions Jason, Megan, and the #PRStudChat community will answer include:
- How can students best adjust to post-academic life?
- What classes in college (grad/undergrad) did you feel prepared you for your career?
- Was there a moment in your academic career that you felt you like you chose the wrong path?
- Are there skills that students are better off learning in college instead of an internship?
- How important are portfolio websites for students?
- How can academic changes and life changes help in guiding your career path?
- What is the best way to transition your social media profiles from “student” to “professional?”
- Is it appropriate to use academic projects as examples of your professional expertise?
- In the spirit of reverse mentoring, let’s share advice on how to stand out in PR and communications. Go!
- If there was one thing you could tell your freshman self, what would it be?
Get ready to learn the smooth transition from student to an industry pro with the #PRStudChat community. We hope you can join our Twitter chat on 31st at 12:00 p.m. ET!
Ever wonder which tool is most effective to create infographics, manage social media channels, or record the clearest podcast? Maybe you are overwhelmed by all of the apps and options and don’t know where to begin.
On Thursday, September 26th at 12:00 p.m. ET, the #PRStudChat community will discuss how to advance your PR Toolkit with the best tools, apps, websites, and more. Leading the Twitter chat discussion, sponsored by @spinsucks, will be Syracuse University @NewhousePR Professor @GinaLuttrell sharing her favorite go-to resources.
Some of the topics/questions Gina and the #PRStudChat community will answer include:
Q1. Where do you go to learn about your favorite tools, apps, and resources?
Q2. What are some of your favorite social media monitoring tools?
Q3. What can you recommend for creative tools and resources?
Q4. With so many daily responsibilities, are you using any time-saving apps?
Q5. What tools do you use to manage content for an organization or your personal brand?
Q6. What resources provide the best measurement for social media engagement?
Q7. Are there any tools you like for content curation?
Q8. What are your favorite free social media resources?
Q9. When investing in a new tool what are some of the questions you should ask?
Q10. What apps do you have on your phone that you can’t do without?
Get ready to advance your PR Toolkit by learning about the best tools, apps, websites, and resources from the #PRStudChat community.
Hope to see you on the 26th at 12:00 p.m. ET.
Last September, the World Economic Forum published an article discussing what Millennials really want from businesses. What stood out immediately from the article appeared in the first sentence. “The global business community is being challenged by Millennials who want to change the world — and the results are going to be incredible.”
The article went on to discuss how Millennials want to create change and value takes priority. Financial performance should not be the only measure of success. They are focused on and want to see social change. The organizations that live by their values and bring them to life are the companies that will get Millennial attention, the benefits of their purchasing power, and their employment. As a result, businesses are actively working on becoming more socially conscious by placing organizational purpose over corporate mission and profits.
Although I’ve shared some of the ways leaders are disappointing Millennials in previous posts, here’s the good news … you’re getting a few things right in your communication and it’s appreciated. It’s not all bad for business leaders and brands that want to reach Millennials through their marketing channels or want to recruit and retain them in their companies.
From my research, there are several ways that leaders score positive points and can make a difference. Here’s what Millennials said when I asked, “Please fill in the blank. I LIKE a leader who …”
- Speaks up more and shows a lot of corporate activism. Brands are more than their products and services today.
- Interacts frequently with followers. The screen doesn’t exist and you can have a conversation.
- Convey thoughts properly and effectively.
- Takes the time to communicate through videos.
- Shares direct and straightforward messages.
- Communicates in earnest and follows up with action.
- Leads with integrity and leads by example.
- Inspires an audience and listens carefully to their thoughts and concerns and fuel the passion further.
- Is vulnerable and authentic.
- Shares some personal experience and knowledge; a leader who is compassionate and interested.
- Basically enjoys helping others to become leaders.
By way of background, I started my research journey to really understand how Millennials show up to their conversations and how they want to be perceived. What surfaced quickly in my one-on-one interviews was what they expected from the leaders in their lives (bosses or managers at their companies, business professionals representing the brands they love and even their religious and political figures too) whether they’ve expressed this publicly or not.
After experiencing personal family trauma, I wanted to also learn why communication doesn’t always show how people feel when they share on social media or during their in-person interactions. That’s why it’s so important to show up to your conversations with a FEEL First approach.
Because, when you FEEL before you communicate, you:
Face Your Fears by you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and allowing yourself to be more open to the ideas, feedback, and information that challenges the way that you are programmed to think.
Engage with Empathy by actively listening and you’re able to put your own agenda aside. Taking the time to understand the details of someone’s situation is the first step toward compassion and walking in someone else’s shoes.
Use Ethics and your good judgment by exercising your values and beliefs with every interaction and being true to yourself through your communication.
Unleash the Love of your work, ideas, cause, etc. (you fill in the blank) with contagious passion and the kind of energy that makes people want to not only be around you but also to support your cause and collaborate with you.
If you’re a leader and you FEEL you’re not connecting and advancing your relationships or exciting the people around you (not just Millennials but anyone), then here’s are a few ways to address the “F” in the FEEL model that might help. Embracing open conversations, differing opinions and being open to change means stepping out of your comfort. When you’re more aware of how you show up to your conversations, and when you have an open and inviting approach, different actions will result, from the people around you.
My FEEL First research journey continues. I’m speaking with Millennials every week to learn what they expect from leaders, including their interactions with business executives from their companies or the brands that interest them to government officials online and at different communications touch points. The communication model I’m building is based on these informal one-on-one interviews, social media searches using the Talkwalker Quick Search platform, as well as 30 years in communications and relationship-building best practices.
Although I have a few favorite research questions, there was one that yielded powerful results. I asked Millennials to fill in the blank for the following statement, “I don’t like leaders who…” They were told they could answer in a few words or a sentence. What I ended up with was much more than I had imagined. Millennials had a lot to say about leaders they don’t like.
As a matter of fact, they elaborated far more on this question than any other. Why? Is it because their leaders are coming across as leaders who don’t meet their expectation? Or, is it because they’re seeing communication that lacks an open perspective or appears self-serving and disingenuous, especially on social media? I see it everyday … there’s very little listening with a low tolerance for opposing or differing opinions, not to mention communication that is self-absorbed and isn’t transparent. Do you see this too?
The Millennials I’ve interviewed are clear, and they know exactly what they don’t like about leaders today. Take a look at some of the partial responses to the statement, “I don’t like leaders who …”
- Don’t follow anyone on social media, and they don’t post anything other than policies and products.
- Have a bad attitude and their tone is passive aggressive.
- Blow up your feed and you still don’t get the answers you need.
- Don’t have integrity and are full of hot air.
- Communicate through multiple persons and a complicated chain of command.
- Don’t know how to lead; they were just put into a leadership position and have no leadership skills.
- Ignore the criticism you share; Millennials want their voices to be heard.
- Talk more than they listen.
- Are egotistical and self-centered.
- Are unwilling to learn and who have a finite agenda in their communication.
Strategy and planning have always been the focus of my work in PR and marketing. I’ve created countless communication roadmaps for brands and professionals, to successfully prepare, launch and implement their campaigns with a goal to build relationships and to create business value.
Today, my research uncovers an approach that must be applied first. Based on Millennial responses to my questions over the last six months and numerous social media searches, leaders and business professionals must FEEL First before they communicate. FEEL stands for: Facing Fears, engaging with Empathy, using Ethics and good judgment and unleashing the Love of their mission to genuinely connect and to build loyal and unbreakable bonds.
What is the genesis of my passion project? It all began after my step daughter Noelle passed away. She was only 24 years old and she was an outstanding scholar and an amazing young woman with a giving heart and someone who would have done great things in this world. Noelle’s passing was heartbreaking and it really threw my family’s world upside down. I started to research Millennials and their communication habits. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Millennials value themselves based on their performance and image. I also quickly uncovered that Millennials were more stressed out and anxious than years past. Anxiety and depression statistics are at alarming levels and so are suicide rates. Did you know that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in Americans from ages 10 to 34?
From everything I’ve learned, it was time for me to step back to take a good look at the communication differences between generations; how people interact, the level of integrity, authenticity and the empathy in their relations. Are increasing communication touchpoints and a technology-driven world fueling stress and anxiety? Plus, when we communicate, how much do we really know about the people that we work so hard to build relationships with? As a communicator of 30 years, I want to make sure that any workshops, training, speaking and the courses I develop will always stress helpful, ethical, communication with EQ in the driver’s seat.
So what does all of this have to do with the development of the new communications model, FEEL First? Everything! Communication can make a situation better; it’s an opportunity to put on your emotional intelligence hat so you can listen and help people; an important first step to lending genuine support. When there’s good communication there’s more understanding and empathy; kindness and caring are also present. Most of all good communication is a time for openness and transparency and even vulnerability. Brené Brown, who is a researcher and storyteller, nailed this in her TED Talk. When you’re vulnerable you can build a real relationship. Plus, with good communication that exudes passion and pure enthusiasm you will attract inspired and motivated supporters.
However, today, we’re seeing far less good communication. Think about it. As you spend more time on your smartphones and engage in new technologies, are you noticing increased noise, frustration, and anger, whether it’s on social media, in the news, and within the four walls of your companies?
Of course, leaders have to be strong, take a stance, show confidence, be innovative and have a clear vision that people will follow. This must come through in all of their interactions. But, if you can’t balance your strength and IQ, with greater levels of Emotional Quotient (EQ) then your ability to build relationships, bond with your tribe and create blind loyalty will be limited.
In an age of automation and Artificial Intelligence, it’s your emotional intelligence that separates you from the machine. Machines don’t have intuition, they don’t experience kindness and caring, they don’t know empathy and they don’t build relationships. Millennials are not shy about wanting their leaders to have more emotional intelligence. Here’s a FEEL First research blog post on this very topic.
What’s my advice to leaders about their communication, based on how Millennials finished the statement, “I don’t like leaders who?“ In a nutshell, you have to FEEL First!