Screwing up and doing it wrong may not sound like the most inspiring themes from a three-day summit on measurement, but in fact, it was quite refreshing to hear senior PR professionals talk about the importance of learning from mistakes on their measurement journeys.

By Orla Graham, senior client insights manager, Cision

The official theme of AMEC’s international summit, held last week in Prague, was ‘Analytics, Algorithms and Augmentation’, but how we frame and approach measurement programmes and strategy was really at the heart of discussions.

Several speakers talked about the idea of ‘failing forward’. Dan Stauber from Facebook declared “You’re better off knowing” – there’s no point in hiding behind metrics that will make you look good, or being afraid of what analysis may uncover. Ultimately, any good comms team should want to know the truth so that they can make better decisions – after all, “success is a lousy teacher”. Allyson Hugley of Prudential said that if you’re not failing, you’re not succeeding – “innovation comes from not being afraid of getting things wrong”.

It was a breath of fresh air to hear so many senior leaders – from in-house teams, agencies and measurement providers – emphasising how important it is to have the courage to fail, as long as you learn from it. Mess up, just don’t make the same mistake twice, said Sam Ruchlewicz of The W Agency. All too often, clients are afraid that data and analytics could show them in a bad light, but the only thing to be afraid of is a failure to learn from whatever the data tells us, and the resulting stagnation.

Imperfection was another watchword of the summit – that you don’t have to start with a perfect measurement programme straight out of the gate. It comes with time, and sometimes it’s better to have something than nothing. Start small, build from the ground up, and make sure you’re measuring the things that matter, not just the things you can measure because it’s easy. As long as the analysis is telling you something you didn’t already know, and is helping you to make better decisions, then you’re on the right track.

This is particularly important when considering the practicalities of implementing a measurement programme. Sometimes you can’t get your hands on the data you want – it’s not available, it’s too expensive, or it simply doesn’t exist. Grayling’s Alex Judd showed how to use search data as a proxy for audience awareness and interest levels. An excellent example of free and easy to access data that can at least act as a guide – better than merely measuring something just because you can, even if it doesn’t help you.

Overall, the key narrative of the conference was that measurement – and communications – is a journey. If you’re willing to view it as such, and put in the effort, then it will keep evolving, and your ability to strategise more effectively will evolve with it.

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