KPIs are a big issue. What cannot be measured, does not exist?

Silvia Albert

How much is a smile worth? And an emotion? How much effort does it take to get applause? And how much does a proposal cost? How much do ideas cost, even if they are not implemented? What do we measure, quantity or quality? How much is excellence worth? Should all actions be measured by the same yardstick? In short, what cannot be measured, does not exist?

Yes, that’s a lot of questions. Clearly, it is not easy to measure the value of communication.. Of course, we can count the likes, shares and impressions, but what about the more intangible aspects of our work? How do we measure the impact of our efforts on the reputation of the brands we work for? How much is bad news worth? And a good one? We have already approached this dichotomy here using as an example the case of Iberdrola/El Confidencial.

This is a challenge facing all communications professionals and one that has become more difficult in the age of social media, yet at the same time equipping us with new and easier metrics. The media, the audience and their capacity for impact are constantly changing; In an age where anyone can be a critic, it is more important than ever to be able to quantify the value of our work;

The importance of measuring intangibles

Quantifying intangibles is a complex task.. While marketing tends to focus on measuring what is tangible – such as the number of leads, ROI, brand value – there are certain aspects of communication that are more difficult to quantify;

A company’s reputation, for example, is an intangible that has a huge impact on its success and valuation; It cannot be measured precisely, but its relevance is immense and we need to be able to quantify it; Similarly, the purpose or aspirations of a company are other variables that cannot be touched, but influence its outcome;

Communication professionals are looking for simple and feasible formulas to demonstrate the value of our work. Although it is not always easy to measure intangibles, it is important to do so in order to manage them but, above all, to be able to improve;

Last week a very interesting round table discussion was organised by the Association of Communication Consultants (ADC) -of which comma is a member-, and Anunciosmagazine. Title:‘Realities and challenges: KPIs and measurement in communication’. We wanted to talk about that, about what are the main metrics our sector should work with and how they should contribute to measure in an appropriate, fair and coherent way the PR actions;

The conclusions of the round table, summarised very aptly by our colleague from Hill+Knowlton Strategies Spain. Elena Serrano on her Linkedin: “What can’t be measured can’t be improved; if there are no accounts, they are just stories; and the need for organisations to specify cross-cutting and unified KPIs across departments in order to make sound and effective business decisions”, are very revealing; Where do we start?

One of the reasons why marketing has succeeded in absorbing communication skills is its ability to use quantitative metrics in a much more efficient way. According to José Manuel Velasco, citing Antonio Lópezteacher of teachers and honorary president of Dircom, “with the obsession with metrics we run the risk of focusing only on the short term and neglecting the magic of a job that involves managing relationships, emotions, feelings and solutions to problems that are often not easy to measure”. He adds:“But if the market asks for measurement, it will have to be measured;” The key is to develop metrics that combine short- and long-term goals, because communication must be conceived as a core component of sustainability, a goal that can only be served with the spotlight on;

At this stage, nobody questions the importance of metrics in the communication sector because we know the importance of the quantitative, but also of the qualitative, those intangibles that are increasingly evident in an environment where audiences are in more different media; No one doubts that business objectives must go hand in hand with communication objectives to achieve real brand impact;

But what should the method be?

The most curious thing of all is that there is no unanimity in the answer. Depending on who you ask, you will get one answer or another; At the end of the day, we tend to make measurements to measure: that’s how you are, that’s how we measure you; Some brands require one type of measurement more in line with their own organisation, others another;

The literature that has been created around the measurement of intangibles, although relatively recent, is prolific, but doesn’t quite hit on the consensus, industry-wide formula. There are different ways of measuring intangibles; One is by attribution of results (a process by which a value is assigned to an action based on its impact on the final result, such as market analysis, which measures the impact of an action in terms of sales, market share or any other quantifiable result. We are talking about the AVE method or the EAR); Another, by content analysis (assessing the impact of the campaign through the analysis of conversations on social networks and other online channels, which allows you to measure engagement and brand perception.

Whatever the method, we lack unanimity; The debate around the round table pointed out certain coordinates in relation to investment, training, technology, the competences of the different departments, transversality, tools… We have an important responsibility when it comes to disseminating homogeneously in organisations what the KPIs of each discipline are, not invading territories that are not our own and not allowing them to invade ours;

But there are two fronts on which we need to shed more light; The first is the growing demand from brands to determine metrics that really contribute to the business (perhaps because of the magnifying glass we mentioned earlier, which measures only the most tangible part); the second, the lack of a common, agreed and adaptable universal measurement system to changing circumstances so that we can all pull in the same direction;

Who takes the first step?

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