Trust me, it's about the glamour you bring to the table

Reflections on the past 10 years in PR measurement and evalutation

To mark the 10-year anniversary of both Communication Director magazine and the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD), we've turned to the heads of the EACD Working Groups – groups that meet regularly to discuss a specific topic or industry, from Brand Leadership to Finance and Insurance – to describe the changes that have occurred in their area of expertise in the past 10 years. To kick us off, Louis de Schorlemer, co-chair of the EACD's Evaluation Working Group, looks at what we have and haven't learned about measurement and evaluation over the past 10 years.

Measurement and evaluation continue to be the lame duck of the communications profession. We all know that there is a need for control, for show evidence of the work and demonstrate the efforts made in communications in terms of numbers and graphs. In other words, giving our activity a precise dimension. Academics, think tanks and professionals have produced many relevant guidelines, recommendations and articles. However, the reality is that most of us still don’t know how to measure adequately and we still don’t dedicate the necessary resources for doing so. As a consequence, we keep ignoring how much proper insights can actually help us do a better job. And ever since we sunset advertising value equivalents (AVE) a few years ago, the profession has not been able to elaborate a new universal measurement model.

"The reality is that most of us still don’t know how to measure adequately and we still don’t dedicate the necessary resources for doing so."

While the Barcelona Principles provide a framework of great value, they don’t actually offer a hands-on model we can apply. Each of us still needs to sit down in our own little corner and elaborate indicators that work for a particular situation, in a particular context. Rarely are these solutions replicable outside our organisation or over time. As a consequence, most of us simply focus on getting our day job done and hope it all works out somehow. It's like driving to your friend’s place for dinner using a first-generation GPS which gets you from A to B without real-time input on traffic conditions, alternative routes or guidance. 

Now, it's not all doom and gloom. We are able to capture numerical, objective information from online activity like number of unique visitors, likes or shares. We also know how to conduct and read opinion surveys. In the past 10 years, we have seen a significant improvement in online semantic analytics. I can still recall the early pioneering work and heavy algorithms that mastered such aground-breaking undertaking. Nowadays, free online tools can provide decent results and professional dashboards give non-stop, instantaneous access to any reference of your brand in sound or image around the world. Just two or three decades ago, your intern would wait for the evening edition of the newspapers at the railway station and run back to the office if he spotted any mention of your story.

"In the past 10 years, we have seen a significant improvement in online semantic analytics."

But we are still seriously failing to measure outcomes, to properly assess scaled and subjective items. This layer of evaluation is more complex, more sophisticated and requires more time, effort and a long-term focus. That is why we need a different approach and why we need to change our way of thinking. Our job is to build and protect reputation. This is a conceptual, intangible item shaped by people’s perceptions and emotions. Reputation is about a level of human affection. Here, measurement requires the integration of multiple channels across a long period of time. It needs to look at those stakeholders who are relevant to the organisation and who will help it accomplish its goal. Success is when those individuals collectively grant the licence to operate, buy the products or services, support the cause, or ask for an opinion. Therefore we need to think about capturing behaviours and attitudes. It’s all about people.

Trust me, when your friend opens the front door and welcomes you for dinner, she doesn’t really bother about bad traffic. She cares about the glamour you bring to the table. 

Image: Thinkstock

This year, the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) and Communication Director are celebrating their joint 10 year anniversary. To find out more about EACD Working Groups, visit the website here.


Louis de Schorlemer

Louis de Schorlemer set up Corporate Diplomat, a consultancy dedicated to managing stakeholder engagement during M&A, in 2017. He serves on the supervisory board of Villeroy & Boch and was on the board of directors of Gault & Millau. Throughout his career, he held senior international communication roles with Sibelco, Cargill and Gallup. Since 2006, he co-chairs the Stakeholder Insights and Analysis Working Group of the European Association of Communication Directors.