IPR President and CEO, Dr. Tina McCorkindale, traveled to Thailand to present at the 2017 AMEC Conference in Bangkok. She presented the following speech during the session, “Measurement and the PR & Communications Professional: Why Measurement Should be Non-negotiable!”

Download (PDF): Measurement and the PR & Communications Professional: Why Measurement Should be Non-negotiable!

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.

The Institute for Public Relations is a nonprofit research foundation devoted to research that matters to the profession. We have a Measurement Commission that has been around for 20 years and we appreciate the opportunity to work with industry partners like AMEC.

First, I want to touch on measurement and then dive into challenges for our industry moving forward. It’s not just about how we prepare for today but how we get ready for tomorrow’s challenges. First, as we heard yesterday, measurement should never be done for measurement’s sake. It should not be just a box we check or something we do to simply prove our worth and value. It must be strategic and focused on achieving outcomes.

While we all understand the importance of research or we wouldn’t be here, we need to think about what’s happening in the industry and the profession. Now, let’s shake things up a bit.

As the great Bob Dylan said, “Times they are a changing.”

In 2016, PriceWaterhouseCoopers launched the results of their Global CEO Survey of 1,400 CEOs. The CEOs reported a need to apply data and analytics more effectively to measure and express performance around business and strategy, purpose, and values. This is all while operating in a time of tremendous change and in growing expectations of transparency and trustworthiness in a very fractured and changing media environment. According to the most recent Cisco Visual Networking Index, mobile data traffic has grown 18-fold over the past 5 years and will increase sevenfold over the next five years.

How does this impact us? Our profession needs to be better prepared for this rapidly changing world and we are NOT there yet, NOT even close.

Let’s look more into our future. Multiple research sources, including McKinsey and Pew Internet Research Center, have predicted that massive numbers of jobs are at risk as smart, self-learning systems—or artificial intelligence—are increasing. Can our jobs be automated? To some degree, yes.

According to a recent Pew Research study about the future of jobs, workers of the future will need to deeply cultivate activity, abstract and systems thinking, complex communication, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments.

Added to all this are the 17 sustainable goals outlined in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015). As you can see, we have societal challenges we will need to address and many companies are focusing on certain goals to help make our planet stronger and healthier.

With all these changes, what is the future of our profession? I would argue it’s more important than ever.

We will always have some mainstays of measurement. But, what is our future media model and is this really the focus? The media environment is changing and how people consume information. How personalized will it become?

We need to be strategic and make sure we are measuring the right things. We do our profession a tremendous disservice when we report inflated or invalid metrics – we engage in this kind of “success” theater – billions of eyeballs through impressions had an opportunity to see a regional program? We need to look at the validity of what we do and come up with a stronger model. And we can’t give clients invalid metrics such as AVEs because they ask for it.

We need to pull in more measures from psychology, sociology, and other “ologies.” We need to measure for the long-term such as trust, engagement, motivation, reputation, loyalty, values, etc., and measure them as accurately as possible. We should focus on more precise measurement techniques and other ways to measure behavior. We have access to all sorts of human behaviors that are now quantifiable: habits, sleep patterns, facial recognition, biometrics, physiological factors, and others. We can further hone in on the specific demographics, psychographics, attitudinal and behavioral data to draw insights.

With increased personalization – look at our smartphones for example – we can grasp and collect data with more nuanced information. We can incorporate more predictive analytics and build more formulas, more accurately for measurement.

We need to learn new tools and skills – how to work with data and algorithms, statistical literacy, behavioral science – how attitudes and opinions affect behavior, how to work with 3-D modeling, printers, holographics, virtual reality, and how to implement findings from AI and automation. Technology is center of it all. Just look at Watson at IBM or Alexa at Amazon.

With all the changes to our global societies, we must be prepared to make sure our measurement techniques evolve….for the better…..as well. Gleaning insights are key – we throw this term around but are we using it correctly? Reporting a percentage increase from 3 to 5% is not insights. We need to adopt standards for mutual understanding. We need to tell stories with data. How to evaluate sources. How to locate information in a flood of data, and I mean a flood. How to influence. How to do research. Not just visualizing data, but truly tell a story that the computer can’t. And by the way, the Washington Post is already using a bot with its Heliograf software to write stories for them. And it does a great job. As Marc Andreessen said, “software is eating the world.”

Barry Chudakov of Sertain Research said our greatest skill will be the ability to think through the cloud of facts, data, experience and strategic direction that products and services require. Design thinking and data management will be important—thinking, problem-solving, reflection and visioning are more difficult to teach.

So to sum up, we have to get this right. We must evolve as a profession and be prepared for the future that awaits us. Thank you.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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