It’s the blood curdling moment that awaits – I would contest – every person who has ever worked in PR: having no results to share with the client.
What is, however, much worse is not knowing what results the client actually wants.
Sometimes it’s the agency’s fault for not asking and rolling out what it considers to be a bright and shiny campaign with a vague notion of “getting media coverage”; otherwise, it’s the client’s fault for not being specific enough about campaign objectives or what post-campaign success looks like. Sadly, for the agency, the client is always right – and you can bet it’s not the client getting their coat!
The marketing communications process needs to be a collaborative one – between client and agency – if it is going to succeed. And that includes making a clear and unambiguous agreement on what the campaign needs to achieve; in other words, what OUTCOME is required.
Duncan divides outcomes into two: business and PR. The former, he says, must be “recognisable and make sense across an organisation” while the latter can constitute any part of the PR lifecycle or “funnel”, which includes awareness, knowledge, interest, preference and action. Business outcomes should connect most directly with the final PR outcome – action. This concept is illustrated simply and effectively in the work of the post-Barcelona Principles taskforce.
But that doesn’t mean the outcome needs to be measured in pounds and pence. Duncan cites non-pecuniary outcomes such as lowering employee turnover or achieving changes in legislation. If that’s what success looks like for the company, then both the organisation and the agency needs to be clear about it from the start.
Then, there’s that acronym – KPIs. I’ve never liked the phrase “Key Performance Indicators” as – from the perspective of PR delivery – performance could be understood as output (what material was generated by a campaign) rather than actual results (outcome). And I’ve sometimes wondered whether clients, when asking for KPIs, have a clear picture of what KPIs they need. Again, it’s a collaborative process.
Alternative phrases for KPIs put forward during #measurepr were “validated metric” and – c/o my ever-helpful Twitter friend and PR specialist, Judy Gombita - “Key Success Indicators”, which seems to make the most sense as a measurement criteria.
As Duncan emphasised: “For a KPI to be worth collecting, it has to be correlated with some goal/behaviour.”
If outcomes are the Holy Grail of PR campaigns, then they’re too important not to be specified, agreed and have their own measurement budget allocated up front by agency and client.
How else will PR make business sense?