The highs and lows of comms measurement in 2016

Measuring messaging is a challenge, no doubt. Here are the thrills of victory and the agonies of defeat from this year.

It’s been the best of times and the worst of times for communications measurement. That gives us plenty to write about.

The best of 2016

1. The maturing of the measurement market

At the top of my list are new integration tools and case studies illustrating how earned media placements are driving business results. There is no doubt that the market is maturing. Despite setbacks like this year’s Measurement Menace, we are making progress in replacing AVEs and other ineffective metrics.

2. The launch of the AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework

It’s not the ultimate solution that the hype might lead you to expect, but it is a good guide to establishing your measurement program. If nothing else, it will force a lot of people to get solid answers to fundamental questions before measurement can begin.

3. The arrival of the 800-pound gorillas

Communications measurement has been something of a backwater industry, of interest only to PR people with budgets that are insignificant compared with their advertising brethren. 2016 changed all that, with Adobe, Salesforce, IBM and others jumping into the field. Never mind that Cision appointed the former GM of Oracle Marketing Cloud as CEO. Clearly, it needs PR and social media data to fuel its data analytics operations. As a result, it’s brought a previously lacking legitimacy and stature to the industry.

4. The decline in television ratings

With the dip in TV viewership of both the Olympics and NFL, networks and their advertisers are scrambling to frame the cause before leadership starts questioning budgets. Communications folks are turning to engagement numbers as an alternative. Sure, they’re not all calculated consistently, but they bring two things that ratings lacked:

  • They’re smaller, which should depress the demand for ever-bigger impression counts.
  • They’re more targeted, which should increase focus on the quality of the interactions, not just the quantity.

5. More evidence that there is no validity to the principle of “multipliers” or AVEs

Thanks to an exhaustive study by Marianne Eisenmann and Julie O’Neil, there is further proof that “there is no difference in perceived credibility based upon exposure to traditional advertising versus a news story.” Read all about it here.

6. Books

Remember them? They’re like blogs, only longer, and some have covers and actual pages. There are a number of them:

  • My perennial favorite: Don Stacks’ Primer of Public Relations Research. Since the first edition came out in 2002, this has been the bible for many of us in the communications measurement world. For 2017, Stacks has updated it with new information on industry standards, big data, benchmarks and KPIs.
  • Another of my favorite authors, Shel Israel, also had a new book out in 2016: The Fourth Transformation. For this one, he teamed up with tech guru Robert Scoble to tackle virtual reality. Israel knows how to tell a great story, so even though virtual reality might not be on your radar, this is still a great read.

The worst of 2016

1. The worst of the worst

We’ve reserved a special place in measurement hell for mediaQuant: see our Measurement Menace of the Year.

2. The love affair with artificial intelligence

This year has been full of AI chatter, the consensus being that it will replace humans. Though it won’t replace me or my peers in our lifetime, it is troubling to think how easily it could replace much of our profession. It doesn’t take much AI to write an SEO-optimized press release these days.

The bigger question is, will AI be able to take on the really hard problems? With regard to crises, for instance, will AI be able to understand all the relevant research, combine it with Tim Coombs’ papers, add relevant stock price and business results data, and then be able to provide better advice than a veteran PR pro? Let me know when that happens.

3. Fake news

Another troubling development in 2016 is the increasing use of bots and fake news creators to plant news stories on our social media feeds. Not only can it skew elections, it also makes the already dirty data in earned media a much more serious and massive problem.

4. Using AVE to evaluate events

Though we’re delighted that event promoters are now including earned media in their calculations of value, the fact that they are still using AVEs to calculate that value is among the worst aspects of measurement this year.

A version of this article first appeared on The Measurement Advisor.

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