From Communications to Business Success : US Summit finds shortcuts!

November 6, 2014

by Michael Ziviani, Founder & CEO


The Institute for Public Relations holds an annual Communications Measurement Summit in New Hampshire and Katie Paine invited me along this year. The event attracts high calibre evaluation experts from all three side of the industry: client, agency and consultant measurement providers. Fifty senior Corporate Communications professionals attended this year from organisations like General Motors, Procter & Gamble, United Parcel Service, Cision and Salience. We all joined with Katie as she hosted a fascinating event, sharing ideas and best practice with real, positive intent. So what did we all talk about for two days in sunny New Hampshire?!

Mary Miller launched proceedings on how she used standards to implement a best in class measurement program at AbbVie. AbbVie spun out of Abbott in 2013 and has established itself as a high growth pharma with stellar stock price rises. Mary heads up the Public Affairs Centre of Excellence and has over 40 years comms experience. A key feature of her work with Katie to design this program was the focus on tying comms metrics back to objectives whilst ensuring those metrics were robust and comprehensive.

The clear focus on ‘follow-the-outcomes’ evaluation was intriguing. Most AbbVie comms activities actually trigger both output and outcome measurement related to the initial objectives. For example:

  • Shifts in desirable share-of-voice are measured [for traditional alongside Social]
  • Web traffic is matched back to carefully logged content tags and links from Social media
  • Company meetings each have an exit survey and an annual leadership survey helps shape comms
  • Dashboards list success metrics against original objectives
  • Activity is reviewed and adjusted monthly

It’s the first time I have heard Site Catalyst mentioned at a PR event!

As a consequence, the comms function has real traction in senior levels of the organisation – it has to because everything is results-oriented. And not just comms outputs but meaningful business outcomes tied back to objectives.

Katie built on this theme, making the connection from PR activity to the end goal as follows:

Discussion on Social Media Measurement learning highlighted the importance of a wrap-around approach to best-practice evaluation. These top evaluation tips and pitfalls elaborate the theme:

  • Check Tagging of content or it won’t be counted by Google analytics
  • Ensure key messages are in normal language that people would search for
  • Allow 6 weeks to setup Social Media filtering – example of SAS having some 2500 NOT terms in their SM filtering!
  • Count original posts/tweets as items – counting each comment overstates things
  • Discount audience reach numbers
  • A study by Katie estimated some 40% of activity is from robots, SPAM, paperclips so is not real

Don Stacks (University of Miami) has been prolific in his leadership on evaluation for 30 years+ and he chairs the IPR. He spoke on Big Data and use of statistics in evaluation (for more depth just ask me since way too detailed to summarise here!). This theme was developed later in the day by Professor Emeritus of PR at Boston University, Otto Lerbinger. Otto questioned what and how Big Data could be used in PR and took a particular interest from the perspective of his current book on International Corporate Diplomacy. Back at Boston University, I was lucky to secure an afternoon of Otto’s time to develop the Big Data theme and share experiences.

There were several threads to that conversation:

  • Mining of twitter feeds for understanding localisation nuances that should shape international PR
  • Recent news by the Apple Chair is a great case in seeing differences in regional Impact
  • The sheer volume of data implies a dual-target approach: Map-forward from what is possible and backwards from what is meaningful to your comms objectives
  • How big does big data need to be to get value? Perhaps just mapping key external and internal data is sufficient – as long as that map is carefully designed.

Boston University also featured a cool presentation on Twitter mining by Jacob Groshek, who specialises in emerging media. This introduced Network Analysis theory to understanding influence nodes in Twitter streams – very interesting indeed!

Katie kindly invited me to speak so I chose the topic of Visualising Communications Value. This provided a platform to explore a new 3-D animated communications model, we developed. We launched this model at AMEC Summit in Amsterdam back in June but have since enhanced it dramatically by showing where value is generated visually with animation. Whilst an abridged slide deck is published here, the massive animation is not included so please contact me direct if you would like to see it.

We then went deep into each of the four layers of the model covering how to apply evaluation to show creation of organisational value from comms.  A key feature was explaining how to integrate different communications platforms and then ‘decode’ the various activities for evaluation. We covered several suggested metrics then explored how to use market research to amplify learning. To capstone, I discussed a case study highlighting how to unearth customer segments then use communications more effectively to directly appeal. Another case showed how to use advanced statistics to explain the weight and impact of media on share/stock price.

Bottom line

This holistic approach to evaluation generates insights and understanding which guides you to work ‘smarter not harder’. Discussion showed this theme really resonated and triggered broader focus on getting an edge with analytics – a topic covered neatly by this blog post. Importantly, pre-planning that analytics means mapping where and how to get to new value. This is an essential step which many organisations are yet to take and until they do value will prove illusive.

The other big standout for me was the different position that Communications professionals seem to hold. They are more broadly respected in their contribution to the business. They consider all comms and carefully look for intermediate measures of success, like website interaction. They have elevated their status with well structured use of evaluation analysis and standards. And this effort has paid dividends to prove their worth in concrete numbers.


  • Australian Drug Foundation
  • BankWest
  • Black Dog Mental Health Institute
  • Charter Hall
  • Coca-Cola Australia
  • Coles
  • Coliban Water
  • Crown Resorts
  • CUA
  • Eliminate Dengue
  • KPMG
  • lendlease
  • Lion Nathan
  • Mastercard
  • Microsoft
  • Minderoo Foundation
  • National Australia Bank
  • Nestle
  • Nokia
  • Open Universities Australia
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
  • St John of God Healthcare
  • Samsung
  • Santos
  • Sony
  • The Smith Family
  • Toshiba
  • Vodafone
  • Workplace Gender Equality Agency
  • Xbox