AMEC’s Johna Burke: ‘It’s OK to not be OK all the time’

The global managing director for the leading resource for measuring communications shares her best measurement, management and martini advice.

How to measure comms success

As one of the leading experts in measurement and evaluation, Johna Burke understands that communicators do not naturally gravitate to measurement. It’s more like an “eat your vegetables” part of the job.

But few people make measurement more fun than Burke. And as a treat for readers of this piece, Burke is sharing her homemade recipe for an Arnold Palmer with a lemon twist (posted at the end of this article). Whether you measure and drink at the same time is up to you.

Burke is global managing director of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), the world’s largest media intelligence and insights organization with more than 160 members in 86 countries. Prior to joining AMEC almost two years ago, she was the chief marketing officer at media monitoring firm Burrelles.

AMEC spearheaded the development of the Barcelona Principles, Barcelona Principles 2.0 (The Barcelona Principles 3.0 will launch at the AMEC summit on July 8th) and the Integrated Evaluation Framework. At most PR conferences, when Burke asks the audience to raise their hands if they know what the Barcelona Principles are, very few hands go up.

Burke is hoping to change that. She recently spoke to PR Daily, sheltering at her home in Surprise, Arizona, outside Scottsdale.

A communicator who does not understand measurement is a communicator who will be left behind.  “Organizations that have strong measurement and evaluation programs are the ones that have strong communications and whose C-suite can appreciate the value you bring,” she says. (Check out AMEC’s Measurement Maturity Mapper, a diagnostic tool for basic, intermediate or advanced measurement strategies.)

The role of tech

Burke sees artificial intelligence as an “accelerant” to a communication strategy. “All communicators need a good framework for their data, relying on a combination of AI and human insights.”

She shares an example of the power of machine learning to propel messaging for pharmaceutical brands that are working on a vaccine for COVID-19. Campaigns are on hold as pharma tracks the projections on when a vaccine will be available and will be ready to release messaging and initiatives based on the data. External factors, seen more clearly with machine learning, will allow communicators of all stripes to either suppress or accelerate their initiatives.

During this pandemic, Burke cautions against the over-used phrases and sentiments distributed by brands. Do phrases such as “we know these are difficult times” move the needle for your brand?  “It’s amazing how little thinking sometimes goes into identifying the audience and speaking with a distinct voice,” says Burke.

Hyperlocal communication is more critical than ever, says Burke. There are stark differences in the rural, suburban and metropolitan experience during this pandemic.

“We need to better understand and appreciate how nuanced the communication needs to be” in different regions, says Burke. To help with this, Burke recommends regular pulse surveys to stakeholders, including employees. “Apply the learnings in a timely way and make sure your actions are data-led.”

Our remote present

Burke, who is typically on business travel a majority of her time, is keen on video calls, with 95% of her meetings now in front of a screen. “If Zoom had a ZIP code, that’s where I’d receive my mail,” she muses.

Being in a global role makes managing stress easier for Burke because she hears the experiences from all over the world. A global role is the ultimate immersion in diversity.

“Cultural, language, socioeconomic factors are all constant hurdles, but not barriers,” she says. “Our community, by nature, is inclusive which makes unrest a place where we can share and grow.”

Still, it can get stressful. “For leaders, it’s OK to not be OK all the time. You’re entitled to take a day, to take a minute, so you can recharge to be your personal best.”

Burke has taken up cooking and baking during quarantine. Her lemon tree has been a welcome distraction—and a temptation, hence the lemon bundt cakes, lemon drizzle and lemon drop martinis.

As promised, the recipe for Johna’s Arnold Palmer:

Daytime recipe:


  • 1 family-size Tetley ice-tea bag (unless you would use a paint brush to mow your lawn, DO NOT use breakfast tea bags for any iced tea; it’s a different blend) brewed in 195-degree water for five minutes
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest


  1. Mix all ingredients in a gallon-size mason jar.
  2. Pour sugar into the mason jar.
  3. Fill mason jar halfway with fresh ice.
  4. Add tea then shake.
  5. After the sugar is all dissolved, add lemon juice and lemon zest.
  6. Shake again and chill.

Nighttime recipe:

  1. Fill a 16 oz glass halfway with ice. (Sugar the rim with lemon juice.)
  2. Add 4 oz. Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka.
  3. Stir in 8 oz. lemon juice.
  4. Sip on your patio or in front of your favorite binge watch for a refreshing treat.

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