By Holly Sutton on 28 November 2018
Replacing vanity with sanity in communications
Leading the second instalment of our communications workshops for the current DigitalHealth.London Accelerator cohort, Journalista CEO Holly Sutton underlined her mission to replace vanity with clarity in measuring the impact of PR.
The Digitalhealth.London Accelerator works with 20-30 high-potential digital health SMEs at any stage annually, it supports them to develop and deploy digital innovations that could help transform the NHS. It is a programme of the wider DigitalHealth.London collaboration, which aims to speed up the development and scaling of digital innovations across health and care, and pioneer their adoption by the NHS.
The pointers shared drove a radical re-shift in how many of the cohort said they would manage their communications programmes in future. You can see the slide deck here.
We talked to the founders and teams behind the scale-ups about how to ensure their communications programmes strategically align and drive businesses’ bottom lines. These are some of the insights we shared:
#1 Take proper time to really nail down the problem you want communications to solve
All too often people jump to write a brief to solve a tactical short-term problem, but at their best, communications programmes are deeply strategic. What could an increase in awareness, shift in behaviour or enhanced stakeholder relationships do to your business? What one outcome will measure whether it’s working? Sweat this. It will shape the growth of your business for years to come.
Then, build a dashboard tracking back an outcome such as ‘increased sales enquiries’ via high profile endorsements through to increased hits to website proceeding measures of awareness via searches; engagement on social; quality of messages in media coverage and planned comms activity outputs such as press releases. KPIs that stop at media coverage miss 90 per cent of the journey.
#2: Step away from voodoo comms and invest in developing the evidence base to inform your communications strategy
Government communications strategies must all now be based on the rigorous basic principles laid out in the OASIS method. Fundamental to this is the principle of developing an evidence base for the attitudinal shift that you’re targeting. Where has a parallel shift been implemented before? How, where, what was learnt and how can it be progressed?
The mnemonics of Objectives, carry out Audience Insight, develop a Strategy, Implement it and then carry out Scoring/Evaluation can help those new to PR and marketing understand how to develop a structure for a successful comms campaign.
#3: Have the confidence to insist on KPIs that are rooted in sanity, not vanity
While big-ticket coverage in national publications may give us all that warm fuzzy feeling inside, what’s the point if it’s not going to lead to the results your business needs? Instead, think about your business aims – whether that’s increased sales, greater market share or instigating regulatory changes. Then work backward to define meaningful comms or PR goals, whether that is increased share of voice vs. competitors, raised awareness or advocacy by key stakeholders.
#4: Think about the different ways to measure success with the Barcelona principles
A perennial problem in comms is measuring success. However, while they’re not exhaustive, applying the Barcelona Principles can help you to assess if your comms strategy is making the right sort of impact.
The Barcelona Declaration of Research Principles is a set of seven voluntary guidelines agreed upon by PR practitioners from 33 countries who met in Barcelona, Spain in 2010 for a summit convened by the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC). The principles were then refreshed in 2015.
Key tenets of the Barcelona Principles include never trying to measure the success of PR by Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE), using both qualitative and quantitative methods of evaluation and measuring the impact of comms on organisational performance where possible.
Some of the companies that attended our workshop fed-back that it had completely changed how they thought about communications and PR activity –and some talked about rewriting their strategies as a result.
Do you approach your comms planning in this way? Contact us for more information about how to plan your PR for strategic business success!