Why should we measure communications? It all starts with why

The spirit of Simon Sinek was hovering around Russell Square on Tuesday morning. As part of its contribution to AMEC’s Measurement Week #amecatwork, the PR industry’s professional body the CIPR convened a roundtable bringing together the great and the good of measurement and evaluation (M&E).


We spent far too much time talking about advertising value equivalency (AVE), the bogus non-measure of nothing that has kept too many communicators barred from the c-suite for a generation, failing as it does to pass the CFO’s bullshit detector. Rather too much “We come to bury AVE, not to praise it” talk, but after a wobbly start with overtones of Groundhog Day, the caffeine kicked in and there were some encouraging signs of measurement growing up.

AMEC’s indefatigable Barry Leggetter reminded us of Oxfam’s insistence – as long ago as (Lisbon) 2011 – that M&E is simply part of programme management; the charity doesn’t let its campaign managers choose their measures before they set their objectives. Before they start with why.

Richard Bagnall – Prime’s new UK CEO and all-round M&E polymath – rubbed the blear from his eyes, straight in from a two-day conference in India. All 400 subcontinental delegates had heard of and were applying Barry’s Barcelona Principles. Because they start with why.

Hotwire PR’s super-smart Group CEO, Brendon Craigie, told us of his agency’s eureka moment survey, produced for Measurement Week. Hotwire found that twice as many communicators use social and digital data and analytics to plan future campaigns as use them to justify the past; 51% vs 26%. For they, too, start with why.

And the legend that is Jon White made us quickly au fait with Goodhart’s Law which shows that, when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Think NHS waiting lists and the way that NHS managers who became obsessed with targets – most notably for waiting times – very definitely did not start with why.

I’m talking tonight at another Measurement Week event on behalf of Ebiquity on “The new 4Ps of PR” – Protection, Promotion, Performance and Proof – together with PRmoment and others. My thesis is that companies and brands that start with why in their communications are those that thrive. By putting data, analytics, insight and intelligence at the heart of the planning process, they work out what they’re trying to do. How PR can contribute to that. And then – and only then – decide which measures we should use to assess progress towards these objectives.

If you’re coming to tonight’s event in London, I’ll raise and chink a glass with you to celebrate the growing sophistication of whole swathes of the comms industry who have taken Simon Sinek to heart. To them, he’s not just the third most-view TED talk of all time. He enables them to give purpose – measureable purpose – to their day-to-day work. Good going, Simon!