4 minute read

The world has changed. It’s time to update how we measure effective communications

Recent events, social movements, politics, oh and a global pandemic have changed a few things in 2020. So it’s no surprise that the PR industry is assessing how the public have adjusted and are reviewing what matters when measuring communications.

In July 2020, the Association of Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) hosted a virtual global summit. It’s an annual event, normally in-person, where the most passionate PR analysts meet to discuss new techniques, measurement technology and case studies of the best evaluation. 

This year however, it seems more relevant than ever for everyone in PR to take note, beyond just the measurement enthusiasts. 

The world has changed, the public’s feelings are different, so how we measure the effectiveness of our recent and future communications should also change.

This first really struck me, when Richard Bagnall, Chairman of AMEC and member of Cabinet Office Evaluation Council shared the results of a survey of the global AMEC members. By quite some way, members voiced that the four biggest groups of metrics that are important to them this year are; Reputation, Key Message Penetration, Audience Insights and Sentiment. 

Gone are the days of prioritising volume of coverage, how many people may have seen it or what an equivalent spend in advertising might have been for the same publication space. 

Source: @richardbagnall / AMEC

The top four points of PR measurement, that over 60% of members said are most relevant to them right now are:

  • the audience they’re speaking to
  • the message understood from PR
  • the opinion + change of opinion of the audience 
  • and reputation of the brand, post comms

Reputation, according to AMEC members, is by far the most relevant area in measurement. But when we consider what has happened recently, the open source research anyone can do and then the immediate platforms people have access to share their new opinions on – is it any surprise? 

Considering all of the points just made, would you rely on the more traditional (but commonly used) PR measurement methods of a sample survey to gauge changes in opinion and reputation?

I can’t say I would! 

In addition to the AMEC member survey results, AMEC also announced an update to the industry-wide measurement checklist ‘the Barcelona Principles’.  The principles have provided a good guide to practitioners on how to measure for ten years. This year, a number of experts made some additions to bring the guide up to date. 

They now include points to measure how PR impacts a society (not just organisation & stakeholders) and that evaluation should be rooted in integrity and transparency.

I love these additions. They totally reflect the changes we’re seeing in society and therefore how communications should be positioned and measured. 

So, with a check in on where we’re at and an updated guide on what we should measure, how exactly do we put this into practice? 

Measuring reputation and integrity 

From what I have learnt from measurement experts such as the queen of metrics – Katie Paine, when measuring reputation it’s important to gauge the trust in your brand/organisation, opinion of true credibility and track any demonstration of empathy.

Here’s how:


What keywords and terms express trust, credibility and empathy among your audience in relation to your brand principles, values, position or service. 

Take the time to explore this with key stakeholders. Then,

What to monitor, track & analyse:

Pre, during and post communications within:

  • Key message delivery in coverage 
  • Sentiment (& change) within coverage
  • Engagement (& change of) with content/coverage
  • Questions(& change of) around brand/product/campaign/principles
  • NPS survey of connected audience/customers etc

Search insight for reputation 

Some of the tips above on how to explore for reputation may not be new to you. However an area that is emerging for many in communications right now is Search Listening.

That looks at the questions being asked (& the change in those questions over time) around your brand, product, campaign or principles.

Reviewing what people want to know about your brand, product etc. before, during or after a campaign can reveal a huge amount of insight on the true feelings of your audience. 

You can do this through looking at ‘search data’ – essentially the unbiased perspectives of millions of people being added to Google everyday.

Through their private questions you can learn what people really think, not what they say they think. It’s candid, honest insight, which makes it incredibly valuable…particularly when it comes to tracking reputation.

Source: @ColeyBird

Sophie Coley or ‘the insight queen’ as I liked to call her when we worked together in my agency days, hosted a whole webinar just on this topic alone, I recommend you set an hour aside at some point to watch and learn.

However, if you want to test this right away just head to insight tool, AnswerThePublic and pop your brand/product/industry into the free version and check out the questions being asked, it’s fascinating.

Once you get the hang of it add this process to your full reputation tracking. The pro-version of the tool also now monitors how search behaviour changes over time. You can be alerted to a change in questions on brand perceptions or potential crises or set up date alerts for benchmarking before comms begin, during and post activity. 

Here’s an example from the tool on questions people have asked Google on corona over time. Now imagine your brand here…

Source: AnswerThePublic

Tracking insights from questions your audience is asking at key times can create explosive ‘insight moments’ in reputation tracking and can feed other points in the reputation work-flow too. 

Start to capture your query diagrams through, AnswerThePublic. They can make a great addition to proof in opinion-change after key coverage has been achieved, a perfect addition in evaluation and reports.

Search Listening for evaluation is a new technique for many so there is a lot to take in and learn. But as we know, the world has changed so it is time.

It’s time. 

To update KPIs and track the new, important objectives. 

It’s time to try new tools to track audience curiosity engagement and trust.

It’s time to update metrics that represent all of this…Just as we’re doing at AnswerThePublic and CoverageBook right now. Watch this space.

Additional learning:

Sign up to Katie Paine Publishing. Katie has amazing free resources as well as paid-for ‘measurement bootcamps’ which are more than worth the cost. Hugely recommend!

Watch my recent webinar with Katie on how to pivot KPIs and measurement during the pandemic.

Watch a recording of mine and Sophie Coley’s webinar on an introduction of using Search Listening in Public Relations.