Want to Adopt a Measurement Mindset? Focus on Improvement, Not Success

January 4, 2016

[luciano lozano/getty images]
[luciano lozano/getty images]

To add new and different perspectives on communication research and measurement, for 2016, the “Ask Doc Rock” column is switching to a new format. A variety of Ketchum Global Research and Analytics staff members will author the column, and David B. Rockland, Ph.D., its originator, will serve as the editor.

In Japan, the concept of continuous improvement, or kaizen, has long been practiced by some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, including Toyota and Yamaha.

For Toyota, continuous improvement means that all line personnel must stop their moving production line for any issue and, along with their supervisor, suggest an improvement to resolve the issue that may initiate a kaizen.

Through the years, the lessons that Toyota has learned and practiced have made its production line the envy of its global rivals, as it minimizes waste, improves efficiency and results in maximum output. This has helped Toyota become the world’s No. 1 car company.

Implementing kaizen

So what does kaizen have to do with PR measurement? Well, everything really. When you read the updated Barcelona Principles, which were launched in London this past September during AMEC’s Measurement Month, the concept of continuous improvement is one of the themes that tie them together. It can be explicitly stated, as in Principle 1 (“Goal setting and measurement are fundamental to communication and public relations”), or implicitly stated, as in Principle 4 (“Measurement and evaluation require both qualitative and quantitative methods”).

In fact, the implicit meaning of the updated fourth principle bears the need for qualitative measures to explain the “why” behind communication’s quantitative outputs. It reminds us that measurement needs to be an objective exercise focused on performance, and helps avoid falling into the flattery trap of only highlighting and reporting what went well during a campaign.

This is a difficult and brave thing to do from a practitioner perspective. Communication programs are expected to go well and deliver positive results, either for your organization or your client. And while the expectation of programs succeeding will never change, having a true measurement mindset means giving yourself permission to learn from the outcomes of all situations, be they positive, negative or neutral.

Focusing on outcomes

A mindset centered on measurement, or continuous improvement, also means that you look beyond output measurement and instead focus on outcomes, both in terms of what is achieved with your target audience and for your business. To do that effectively, not only do you have to have a clear understanding of the challenge your business or client wants to solve — and communication’s role in solving it — but you also have to broaden your horizon of what measurement is and how it can help you.

Don’t just think of measurement as a reflective exercise looking back at a campaign or a fixed period of time. Make sure you have systems, processes and protocols in place that make measurement an ongoing exercise that is constantly feeding back into the organization about what is and isn’t working, both from a channel and audience perspective.

Connect your measurement function with your research and planning function. All great insights need research to help them sparkle. And all great planning teams want to know if their sparkle had its desired impact (and if not, then why it didn’t).

When you approach measurement holistically, with a focus on performance rather than success in absolute terms, you are then better situated to know and understand when things don’t go as planned. (You also have the pleasure of watching when things go exceedingly well!) From a practitioner point of view, this puts you in a better position to stop the communications assembly line, consider the issue at hand and develop a plan to rectify the issue and improve on it.

That is the virtuous circle of continuous improvement. That is communications kaizen.

Ben Levine
Ben Levine is vice president, research & analytics, at Ketchum based in London. He’s responsible for leading and directing research and measurement programs for clients such as Philips, MasterCard and Pfizer. Twitter: @benclevine.
Email: ben.levine at ketchum.com

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