Measurement lessons from Best Buy

January 28, 2013

This year, the Ask Doc Rock column will primarily focus on case studies. Many of the best practices that you’ll read about came from the PRSA/AMEC Measurement Symposium, a one-day event held in conjunction with the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco this past October.  At the Symposium, panelists shared how they apply the Barcelona Principles of measurement in their daily work.

Like many big-box stores today, Best Buy has been facing challenges as consumers switch to buying over the Internet.

“Due to a variety of  factors facing the industry, and our business itself — including an executive shakeup and new C-level leadership — we struggled in the first half of 2012 to embrace measures of our company voice that really mattered,” said Kelly Groehler, APR, the director of operations for Communications and Public Affairs at Best Buy.

For years, the business valued a quantitative measure of communications — mainly impressions, she said. “But when sizable growth in impressions runs against flat to declining performance, as well as loss in reputation and trust, it’s pretty clear that measuring media quantity alone is meaningless.”

Today, the company has a new C-suite of executives, with Hubert Joly as CEO and Matt Furman as senior vice president, communications and public affairs.

With this new leadership and a more accountable reporting structure, greater expectations for measurement have emerged across the department, which encompasses public relations and six other functions: internal communications, corporate events, video production, government relations, community relations and corporate responsibility.

Groehler works with the department’s functional leaders to ensure that they implement new measurement principles. These include:

  • Measure communications in terms of how it contributes to the business. Use these measures to direct communications programming and strategy around business drivers in a predictive and proactive manner.
  • Move from outputs (media results, intranet traffic) measurement to outcomes (audience change, likelihood drivers).  Ensure that communications measurement is consistent with how they are measuring the rest of the business.
  • Sharpen media monitoring. Today, when everyone can be a journalist with a blog or  Twitter account, leaders must pay attention to the coverage that matters.
  • Resist knee-jerk reactions to measurement. A small, continued investment in measurement over time is more cost effective and meaningful than a reactive pulse-check based on a single event.  The communications team must manage leadership expectations.

Applying strengths

Lessons from the changes at Best Buy during 2012 illustrate several Barcelona Principles, including:

  • Start by setting goals. Focus on what matters to the company.
  • Don’t measure quantity of media coverage alone. Include quality in terms of what matters to the business.
  • Use concrete data. Outputs are nice to know, but outcomes are better,  and business results are best.

By applying Best Buy’s existing measurement and analysis strengths to communications and public affairs, the department will more effectively drive and reinvigorate the business.

“I am very optimistic about 2013 and beyond,” Groehler said.  “We are aligning communications to drive trust, reputation and good business outcomes. Our growth can and will be sustained with a strong measurement compass that helps us navigate our communications efforts as the business continues to turn around.”

Have measurement questions? Send an email today.  

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


Marc Marton, APR says:

Is there an instruction manual on how to apply Barcelona principles, how you measure quality and what you're actually measuring? There are a lot of unknowns here and it seems as though all of the meaningful analytics will only come through scientific research, which is almost never budgeted for.

April 16, 2013

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