So What?_01

So what?

We’ve had the goal setting, now let’s have a look at the second Barcelona Principle. The second Principle states that ‘measuring communication outcomes is recommended versus only measuring outputs’. In other words: qualitative measurement is preferred over quantitative measurement. But what exactly is the difference? And what do you measure in order to get qualitative results?

Let’s first have a look at the difference between output and outcome. Output refers to your activities and the short-term results. For PR professionals, an example of output could be the number of press releases they’ve sent out, and the total number of clippings they generated. Same goes for marketing professionals: the number of online ads and the total number of clicks, the number of tweets and the total number of followers, and so on. But what’s the actual result of all this? That’s when the so-called ‘so what’ factor comes in. It’s a definition I borrowed from Richard Bagnall on spinsucks.com, who says: Most [metrics] fail the so what factor. So what if there were X tweets, Y likes and Z pins? The questions being asked in today’s boardrooms are about how this activity has aligned to and supported the organizational objectives. Just because metrics might be easy to count, doesn’t mean they matter. Want to know if a metric is valuable? You can ask yourself: would our CEO care?

Which brings us seamlessly to the definition of outcome, that refers to the bigger picture and the difference your activities had on the organization’s impact. Outcomes relate to changes in knowledge, attitude or behavior. How did your press release on the new product launch, and the media picking it up, influence the sales numbers? How did your intense lobbying with that one specific journalist, and his articles mentioning your company, influence the public opinion? How have your efforts to position your CEO helped your company’s reputation?

This kind of questions not only helps taking on a qualitative approach to measurement, but also helps you with setting the right goals and eventually define which activities are worth doing, and which aren’t.

Interested in more examples of qualitative measurement? Have a look at the Valid metrics framework the AMEC developed (they promised a new version will be out soon!). Or give us a call, we have plenty of examples and ideas to share with you!