Jennifer Sanchis – PR measurement and evaluation: Where are we now?

Interview with Jennifer Sanchis: “Always think of your organisation as a piece of a puzzle. Never review it in isolation. Always look at the bigger picture” 

For AMEC’s measurement month this year, the CIPR EA hosted a webinar with measurement specialist and 2019’s Outstanding Young Communicator Jennifer Sanchis on the importance of strategic planning and PR research. The event was a success, so we managed to follow-up with additional questions from the audience.

CIPR EA: What is the best way of measuring outcomes?

J.S.: Undeniably by understanding your organisational objectives from the start. Your activities and your strategy should serve the goals and objectives of your organisation. If you are able to measure your efforts against those goals, your outcomes will be more impactful because they will speak to the bottom line of the business.

I often see the mistake of focusing too much on output metrics (‘the big numbers’), but these vanity metrics generally do not tell us much about our impact on outcomes.

It is absolutely essential to make this connection between communications efforts and business outcomes, because an organisation’s objective is rarely to achieve media coverage or generate one thousand likes, it is usually to influence behaviours and drive an action.

So, we need to be able to show our impact in influencing behaviours and driving actions.  

CIPR EA: How do I communicate results effectively to clients and the Senior Management Team (SMT)?

J.S.: I would give four pieces of advice for better communicating measurement results:

  • Use the language your colleagues at the board speak. Do not dumb down the analysis. However, do use the concepts, metrics and salient aspects your colleagues live by to assess the success of their campaigns. In my experience, dashboards containing tailored metrics work quite well to share easy-to-digest and sizable but still actionable insights;
  • Acknowledge your audience isn’t always data and analysis savvy. We need to dedicate some time to train and explain what each metric and information in our evaluation process implies and means to your audience;
  • Highlight clear links between the initial business objectives and the desired outcomes. This way, your audience will be able to relate to your measurement study and your findings will have more impact;
  • Integrate your measurement analysis by speaking to the different departments of the organisation. For example, the marketing team could share insights on customer behaviour, the sales team on sales data and the digital team on web traffic. Identifying areas of collaboration will enable to not only understand where opportunities lie but also get a holistic picture of business performance.

CIPR EA: How can I pitch my clients for more budget on evaluation and measurement?

J.S.: I understand the need to pitch for better budgets allocated to measurement.

I guess the best way to secure budget is by delivering value. So many tools and platforms out there give you lots of data, quick and easy outputs metrics, but do they really deliver value to what you’re trying to achieve? Do these tools really speak to your organisational objectives? And are you measuring the things that matter?

A compelling argument would be to demonstrate that measurement is not a final activity that solely exists to prove the success or failure of a campaign. Rather, we should prove that it is an intelligence-gathering exercise that can be used to show an impact on business outcomes, inform future decisions to do better and find new ways of doing things more effectively and efficiently.

Delivering value, always, should be the answer.

CIPR EA: How can Artificial Intelligence support my planning process?

J.S.: We could do a whole piece on this because there seems to be a lot of misconceptions around the power of AI.

People are wondering if machines are taking over, because when we look at data, measurement, analysis, reports, digital spaces etc, yes, we do see huge innovations in terms of AI and machine learning in this field.

And AI is really great for data management, forecasting and analysis. It can help us go faster and stronger, but ultimately, and this is a big BUT, it can’t replace us. Humans are still needed.

So, to answer the question, AI can be a valuable tool for risk management, community identification and reputation audits, and it can support the information gathering phase. However, we have to remember that PR is not an exact science, so humans are still needed.

CIPR EA: How do I review and plan for your Covid-19 strategy?

Jennifer Sanchis: This is a very timely and relevant question.

I would advise t first and foremost to review and clearly outline your organisation’s strategy, its objectives, and research, monitor and analyse its environment. It will help you communicate your organisation’s position on the issue of Covid-19.

Ultimately, always think of your organisation as a piece of a puzzle. Never review it in isolation. Always contextualise it and look at the bigger picture.

Now, when a crisis hits, like a pandemic for example, or you have to make some employees redundant, or you are faced with health and safety issues, you will want to think about your people and how ready you are to tackle those issues.

Usually when we talk about a crisis such as a pandemic, there’s usually a lot of introspection and internal work involved. So you’ll want to investigate areas like policy and leadership, structure, procedures, people and culture.

In doing so, you should be able to collect data from employees to stakeholders, legal teams to directors, from meetings and calls that took place internally, internal newsletters, surveys and social platforms.

And your research and planning should revolve around those three important points:

  • Escalation of the crisis: Did we escalate the crisis on time? If not, what prevented this? What could we have done better?
  • Decisions: Did we get the right people at the right time? Did the crisis team define SMART objectives? How did we assess our progress? How were key decisions perceived?
  • Implementation: How were important decisions communicated internally? Was accurate and sufficient information provided in a timely manner? Were all the targeted audiences reached? Did everybody within the organisation understand the effectiveness of the crisis response plan and were the facilities/tools in place to support this?

The AMEC framework can help you measuring what matters. For example:

  • The volume of information in relation to Covid-19
  • The quality of information communicated
  • The quality of relationships (Interpersonal trust with key stakeholders and audiences)
  • Communication channels (With comparisons between official and unofficial channels)
  • The sentiment of the collected data (Any positive or negative stories? Incidents?)

We can now be a little bit more optimistic by assuming that a vaccine will be made available for next year, so perhaps you will want to monitor the latest clinical developments closely and reflect on your communication around this.

I have written a more extensive piece for Influence Magazine if you’d like to know more about the monitoring mechanisms you should put in place. This framework should help you with your Covid-19 response to make better decisions.

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