2012 in review: What happened in the measurement world?

December 7, 2012

As we reach the end of 2012, it’s time to assess the progress that we’ve made in PR measurement. 

  • Did we discover the Holy Grail of ROI? Not really, since we have had it for quite some time with the Barcelona Principles. However, many began using analytics tools much more often this year and bringing public relations into the bottom-line equation. 
  • Are AVEs completely dead?  Not yet, but no one is defending their merit and they are fading fast.
  • Did something better than the Barcelona Principles happen? It’s hard to say, since they are the foundation for measurement, and we will continue to build on them in the years ahead.

There were some measurement accomplishments to be quite proud of in 2012. For example, in June, the Dublin Declaration occurred at the annual European Measurement Summit.

The Summit focused on how to build an education campaign regarding the mid-level PR practitioner.  A survey found that they should know how to articulate goal-setting and measurement, even if they are not performing these tasks.

PRSA and AMEC (of the European Summits) partnered in several educational activities for PRSA members. One was the first-ever Measurement Symposium during the 2012 International Conference in San Francisco. Speakers from several agencies led sessions and experts from organizations including Philips, FedEx, Best Buy, Symantec, Microsoft, and Starbucks, shared best practices.

This Symposium, along with the ongoing webinar series for PRSA members on the Barcelona Principles, was a highlight in terms of measurement education for mid-level PR practitioners.

Social studies

The two hot topics in 2012 were social media measurement and analytics.

Don Bartholomew, a social media measurement guru, said that more groups are exploring possible standards to gauge social audiences, engagement, influence, advocacy, impact and value. 

“This has been the year of the influencer in social media insider conversations,” Bartholomew said, citing heightened attention on online influence approaches like the Klout score, which has been both toasted and roasted in social media channels. 

As marketing efforts in social channels increase, Bartholomew believes that the strategy of trying to identify and reach social influencers will escalate in the short term.

“More sophisticated efforts in social analytics have begun to focus on drawing deeper meaning and insight from social conversations,” he said.  “Rather than simply looking at the volume and sentiment of posts, advanced analysis seeks to understand the consumer’s emotions, intentions and behaviors. This effort will continue to accelerate.”

Bartholomew adds that big data caught mainstream attention in 2012, generating buzz from The New York Times to the World Economic Forum in Davos. Big data creates substantial analytic challenges and substantial opportunities in the marketing world, which we will watch unfold in the years ahead.

As we move forward into 2013, let me know how we can continue to make this column more interesting and relevant to you.  Many thanks and Happy Holidays to you and yours. 


David B. Rockland, Ph.D.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D., retired as CEO of KGRA in 2017, but continues as part-time chairman. He and his wife, Sarah Dutton, who recently retired from CBS News, have also started their own research and consulting firm to work with Ketchum and other clients at rocklanddutton.com.


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