Measurement and evaluation: now I see clearly

About the author

Richard Bailey Hon FCIPR is editor of PR Academy's PR Place Insights. He teaches and assesses undergraduate, postgraduate and professional students.

Fraser Likely presenting at the AMEC Summit
Fraser Likely presenting at the AMEC Summit

Clarity was cast on the distinction between measurement and evaluation on day two of the AMEC Summit.

Fraser Likely, a management consultant and academic who has been on the IPR Measurement Commission since 2001, said they are often used interchangeably, yet they have distinct meanings.

Measurement is quantitative (we count the numbers); evaluation is qualitative (providing insights). We can easily count quantities of outputs, but how do we quantify the value of advice? Here, there’s a need to focus on what matters to the CEO and to the organisation, and on what value is provided by the comms team.

Thinking along similar lines, Grayling’s Jon Meakin later described measurement as backward looking, and evaluation as forward looking – emphasising the connection between evaluation and planning.

AMEC chairman Richard Bagnall made the distinction between effectiveness and value: ‘effectiveness is the result of our measurement; value is how we benchmark that. One is quantitative, the other is qualitative.’

‘We measure for effectiveness, we evaluate for value.’

There’s so much that can be counted – but much less that should be counted. So how to focus on measuring what matters?

Claire Pimm, speaking on behalf of the UK’s Government Communication Service (4000 people with an annual budget of £430 million) described how to challenge and clarify comms objectives. We need to think like a seven year old, she argued.

‘Ask ‘why?’ until it makes sense. Then ask ‘so what?’

Clear objectives have measures of success built into them. It’s obvious, really, yet we learnt yesterday that a sizeable minority of practitioners still make no attempt to evaluate their efforts.

They should take note of the experience of UK government comms. The Central Office of Information was closed down after the coalition government came to power in 2010 because it wasn’t able to prove the value it added. 2000 comms people lost their jobs.

Evaluation helps plan for the future. It also helps ensure that you will have a well-paid future in the profession.