In her latest blog, Sidekick's Charlotte Dimond takes a closer look at PR measurement.

I started my PR life many moons ago when it was common for young executives to stand with a ruler and measure the column inches of a piece of coverage to provide clients with what has now become a dirty phrase – Advertising Value Equivalent, yes AVE!

Here I must quickly add before you judge me, we all did it then, for want of a better way of measuring and I haven’t done it for many many years. Phew, this blog feels cleansing for the soul.

Today we live in a world where graphs, figures, pie charts, spreadsheets, impressions, engagement, and reach, all make up some form of PR measurement but what are we actually measuring? Are we questioning that? Are we measuring what really matters?

Proving the value of PR is a difficult task but if you’ve done your homework at the outset and really got to grips with what is important to your client then you’ll have a good starting point for what to measure.

We cannot get away from the fact that AVE still lingers around, some agencies (I’ve heard them talking about it!) still proudly tell their clients about the thousands of pounds of AVE they have achieved for them.

I even saw an agency tweet the other day a picture of a piece of mounted newspaper coverage they had prepared for their client (I thought I’d gone back in time!). It is a fact that some clients still ask for it, saying, ‘it’s important to the board’, this is where PR professionals need to say – no, it is not important for the board, tell them that it is actually as useful as me writing the report for them in a language they don’t speak!

Instead please let me talk to the board and explain why as an industry this is no longer used as a measure and what useful measurement information we can tell them instead.

As a frequent judge at the CIPR Excellence Awards I was very pleased when the mandate came down from above that any entry citing AVE as a measure had to receive a zero score in that area. It give professionals that extra push to find useful, relevant measures.

I guess the main problem we have is - what have we replaced this with – people got AVE, crude as it was, but the replacement measurements aren’t always as easy to understand. There are so many different companies out there offering so many different products for measuring and prices vary hugely, as does the service. I have to say, I’ve not tried them all, I’m still sampling some of the systems but like Lisa Stansfield before me, I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

Measurement experts want us to determine goals and objectives and to identify metrics that measure how well we’ve done at reaching those goals, fancy that, we need to be aligning the work we do to business objectives! The simple fact is that this is what we need to do if we want businesses to see the value of the PR/ communication function.

Effective measurement is not easy and it won’t be the same for any two clients as no two clients will have the same goals and objectives. It is so important to get it right from the start. By effectively measuring what you do, you learn what works and what doesn’t and adapt your approach accordingly.

Measuring outcomes not outputs is key, so, NO, I won’t promise to tweet seven times a day for you, why would you ask me to do that unless you know you have seven important and interesting things to say every day! Measuring the reach and engagement you have on social media is an important metric not the number of tweets you’ve put out.

If you need a helping hand have a look at the revised Barcelona Principles, a set of seven principles that provide an overarching framework for public relations and communication measurement visit www.amecorg.com.

So step away from the ruler and remember that you don’t work in advertising, you work in Public Relations and learn to measure what matters.