Measurement Week Interviews: Richard Bagnall

September 16th, 2014
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flickr user Randen Pedersen under CC BY

This week is AMEC’s International Measurement Week, and to honor it, we reached out to some of the top measurement experts to get their take on measurement dos and don’ts, common mistakes, and how they found themselves a member of the Measurati.

Let’s hear from today’s featured expert, Richard Bagnall, CEO at PRIME Research UK, SVP at PRIME Research Europe, and Chair of AMEC social media group. Bagnall is also the co-author of CIPR’s Share This Too books.

What is your “measurement moment,” the time you knew your career was becoming measurement-focused?

I’m a poacher turned game-keeper. Before I was working in measurement I used to be a PR practitioner gaining experience both in house and at a PR agency. It was while I was at the agency that I realised how important decent, credible metrics were for public relations.

I was standing in front of a very important client in the 1990s presenting our results which back then were based upon AVEs and other largely meaningless ‘output’ numbers.  The client started to ask me some rather awkward questions about what we had really achieved for them and I realised that the numbers I was presenting just didn’t make any sense.  The truth was I hadn’t given much thought to the meaning behind the numbers up until that point but I knew now that I had to take measurement more seriously.

What is your proudest measurement moment?

Gosh, so many!  Having built a business in the space from the early days I was fortunate to experience so many great things.  Winning important clients in tough pitches was always amazing.  But so too was watching my colleagues, many of whom had been with me since they graduated, blossom and develop into serious and accomplished measurement professionals was an incredible feeling.

And from the measurement itself perspective, nothing quite beats that feeling when a client calls you up to thank you for a job well done when the result of your work has led them to prove their value or improve their strategy successfully.

What is your most important piece of measurement advice?

Just like there isn’t, and will never be, one single number to measure the success of a communications campaign, nor is my best advice just one point. My best tip to anyone thinking about measuring their work is to follow the classic best practice approach which can’t be improved upon:

First – ensure you understand the goals of your organisation

Align your communications goals against these

Then plan you communications objectives by asking yourself what success looks like – what are the targets, what should the KPI’s be? It’s important to do this at the planning stage before the campaign, not afterwards.

Then measure the metrics that matter working through from the key outputs to outtakes to outcomes – such as the metrics chosen tell the whole story.

Finally feed the intelligence gained back into the planning stage for the next campaign. Don’t be afraid of the things that didn’t work – good measurement isn’t only for the successes, but is a strategic tool to be used to improve efficiency in all cases.

What’s the most common measurement mistake you encounter?

That an AVE is either a meaningful number or worse that it’s representative of the value of PR.  It’s neither.  Sadly despite so much hard work by so many people and organisations, the use of AVEs as a metric in our industry is still fairly common, estimated to be at use in about 50% of organisations.  It’s for this reason that ongoing educational campaigns like AMEC’s Measurement Week are so important and deserve all of our support.

Tell us a breakthrough story, in which you took your client from metrics to KPIs.

I was particularly pleased working with one of the world’s largest IT companies based in Silicon Valley on their global communications measurement programme.  Their business was vast and complex with many business units in many different sectors.  Working with their global communications leaders to help them bring clarity to their objectives and measurement programme, to create a measurement matrix and to identify some key metrics not just into KPIs but into some key numbers that their CEO wanted to see was a fabulous experience.

What do you see as measurement’s biggest challenge ahead?

Education, education and education.  As the media has diversified and proliferated and audiences have fragmented, measuring communications has got more complex, not less.  Yet there are so many SAAS platform providers in our space trying to convince clients that their one size fits all approach actually measures anything meaningful rather than is just counting stuff that’s easy to count.  AMEC’s role as a global educator of best practice in communications measurement has never been needed more – especially as the PR community is still slow at embracing CPD.

Bonus question: You just won the lottery. What’s your dream job?

Robert Parker of Parker’s Wine guides.  He gets to taste all of the world’s finest chateaus and vintages and is so powerful that his comments move markets.  What a position to be in!


One Response to “Measurement Week Interviews: Richard Bagnall”

  1. Colleen Roach says:

    Great article. Thanks for sharing. One thing I would add about data/metrics: make sure you and anyone in your organization understands the data, and can easily explain it to journalists. I just recently made a presentation where I was asked to address the topic of “measuring success” in PR/marketing campaigns.

    In this presentation, I ended up saying not once but twice: “Make the data understandable.” If you receive data from an internal office (for example, in higher education most colleges have an office of statistics that deals with enrollment spikes or longitudinal data). Make sure you understand this data well enough to explain it to journalists. If there is part of the data YOU don’t understand, you can bet your bottom dollar there’s a good chance this is exactly what a journalist will ask you about. (This actually happened to me once. I was going to issue a press release and had some good data from the office providing statistics. The problem was: I didn’t understand one particular part of the data. I went back to the statistics’ specialist no less than three times, to keep getting more “explanations” of what the data meant. Then, after I issued a press release, sure enough, a reporter called and asked me to explain exactly the piece of data I had gone back and forth with internally with our statistics’ specialists.) I was glad I was able to respond. The same goes for any metrics/measurement data reports you commission from an outside agency. Make sure you understand the data, not just for journalists, but also to justify the expenditure internally.

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