Getting the measure of communications

About the author

Ann is a co-founder of PR Academy. Her special areas of interest are internal communication, change management and project communication. MSc, Dip CAM, MCIPR

In our recent ‘Qualifications for Communicators Trends Survey’, carried out amongst our students, almost half of the respondents (44%) identified Measurement as a current skills gap and 56% cited it as a specialist qualification they would be interested in studying.

Given that measurement has always been important part of communications, why is it that practitioners are currently warming up to the subject?

We thought it timely to speak with the course leader for the AMEC International Certificate in Measurement and Evaluation, Paul Noble, to find out…

I started out by asking Paul for his thoughts on why measurement and evaluation are such hot topics right now.

It’s always been at least a warm topic. In fact, I’m tempted to say that the solution to the problem of evaluation is just around the corner – always has been and always will be. But only tempted, as I actually think we have made some real progress in the right direction over recent years, but more of that later. There is the obvious point that public relations and communications people, be they agency or client side, are under pressure to justify themselves, particularly at a time when budgets are tight. But at least as important is an ‘internal’ desire to drive up professionalism and that includes a continual cycle of feedback, learning and improvement alongside the need to demonstrate accountability.  

Where does your interest in measurement stem from?

I first got involved more than 20 years ago when I spent some time as an academic. That provided me with the opportunity to reflect a little on practice, as well as an expectation from students that, with my colleagues, I should be championing good practice. We had a lot of students on placement – I guess we would call them interns these days – and placement employers tended to be relatively forward thinking, so they created an excellent ‘laboratory’ in which to develop and test new ideas. These days, the mix of examining, training and consultancy I get involved in keeps me in touch with a wide mix of practitioners who face the challenges associated with measurement and evaluation on a daily basis, and I think I can help them address those challenges.

What’s different about the AMEC International Certificate in Measurement and Evaluation?

Two main things: content and delivery. AMEC has made excellent progress in leading/coordinating industry moves to develop effective approaches to measurement and evaluation – based on the strong foundations provided the Barcelona principles. We are in a much better position to demonstrate the contribution that communications can make to the achievement of organisational objectives than we even have been. And the content of the course reflects this. Also, it is an online course; this enables people to fit it in around a busy schedule and take the course wherever they are in the world. The result is that we end up with a rich melting pot of participants that leads to a stimulating mix of ideas and experiences.   

A lot of people go into PR because they think of it as a creative industry; do you think the emphasis on data and analytics will put some people off working in PR or start to erode the creativity of the industry?

No, creativity does not come out of thin air, being creative is not a haphazard process. Creativity is actually rooted in information and understanding. The more you get to grips with all aspects of the problem you are solving and the context in which you are operating, the higher your potential to be creative.

Shouldn’t we leave the measurement up to the measurement experts?

Yes, in that we should all be measurement experts. Measurement and evaluation is not an add-on that can outsourced at the end of the process. It is threaded through all aspects of the communications process: from establishing baselines and benchmarks at the beginning, through tracking progress to improve effectiveness, to evaluating overall impact at the end. We might well need expert, specialist support and input at times, but measurement and evaluation is part and parcel of communications planning and implementation and cannot be separated from it.

What will delegates of the course learn?

What best practice in measurement and evaluation looks like, and how to implement it in practice. In short, how to do their jobs even better than they do them now!

Thats great, thanks  Paul!