The Roadmap for Measurement’s Past, Present and Future


Today we bring you a guest post from Mark Stouse, PR industry veteran and managing member of Vaulting Ventures.

This post came about as part of a series of Q&A’s with top professionals curated by Hotwire PR in honor of AMEC’s Measurement Week.

Your resume encompasses many different types of industries and businesses—from kicking off your career at Edelman to playing key roles with big names such as Hewlett Packard, Honeywell and BMC Software.

Can you talk a little bit about how communication and the role of measurement shifted not only as you grew your career but as more technology became available?

The epiphany happened for me when I left the profession for 8 years in the 1990s and took on business roles inside a rapidly growing technology company. I was a sales person for a while, then I moved to marketing, then to R&D. One of my projects earned a valuable patent that drove the business to new levels.

I spent the last four years as the GM of a business. Collectively, those experiences completely transformed my point of view. When I returned to the profession in 2000, it was with a deep commitment to be “in business,” not just “in the business.”

We live in a time of great disruption, wrought by powerful changes in the relationships between people, process and technology. Those waves of change—Social, Mobile, Cloud, Big Data—have combined into a single tsunami that is reshaping everything in the marketing and communications profession.

That tsunami is the Wave of Changing Expectations. There’s no more powerful force in the world.

We’ve already seen a lot of this disruptive power, and we’re about to see a lot more. Social and mobile have combined with cloud-based platforms and nascent Big Data in a way that has given marketing and communications professionals an enhanced illusion of control. I say “illusion” because the truth is that these same technology shifts have actually moved all the power into the hands of our customers and audiences. Their rapidly changing expectations are already shaking the ground under our feet.

Now, you’re the co-founder of a “transformational start-up connecting marketing and communications investment to real business impact.” Can we assume that measurement will be a huge part of this?

There are hundreds of CEOs and CFOs and CMOs who are demanding an end to the status quo in this area. They’ve been quietly frustrated with the state of marketing and communications metrics for a long time. Now, they’re just plain mad. They’re demanding a solution that meets their specifications. And we have to remember one really important thing—the only standard of proof that really matters is their standard of proof. That means business value creation. That means revenue, margin, cash flow and shareholder value.

Our new venture already has attracted some of the very best people in our profession, as well as the support of many business leaders. We’re very excited about what the future holds.

In terms of client relationships and the importance of ROI, how has the emphasis in measurement and data changed over the past decade (or two)?

On one level, it’s good that it has moved from being non-existent to being something that most professionals expect, especially in larger companies and agencies. But there are two existential problems with what I see today:

  1. A very sizeable portion of the profession still does not measure at all. In my view, this is disgraceful and should be considered professional malpractice.
  2. Even where it does exist, what the PR profession calls measurement is so tactical and functional in its perspective that it means very little to the organizations we support.

But, as I’ve said, expectations are changing, from the C-suite on down. The outcome of those changing expectations will be nothing short of Darwinian. Those who can demonstrate the ability to create business value and prove its presence will jump up much higher on the ladder. Those that cannot adapt to this new standard will lose their constituency. Time-and-materials billing will cease to be a viable model for clients, which will freak a lot of people out.

But I see a number of very positive outcomes here that will drive a new Golden Age for our profession. Career satisfaction will go up a lot because people will be able to really see and get credit for the difference they’re making. And the best agencies and people will make a lot more money—again, based on their value, not their billable hours.

Will you be involved in Measurement Week at all?

I have written several op-eds for The Holmes Report, PR News and LinkedIn that I hope will be helpful to everyone participating in Measurement Week. They’re all different, and they’re all guaranteed to provoke conversation, so please check them out. I’m also part of the PRWeek Measurement Roundtable conversation that will be published in early October. But I am so busy building a new company that my participation this year is more limited than in than in the past.

What are the most important points communications professionals can learn from leveraging measurement?

Measurement and analytics are all about understanding where you are versus where you need to go. They are the utterly crucial “eye in the sky” that brings an outside-in perspective to what you’re thinking, planning and doing. The right data also helps calibrate your investment in people and programs, based on what’s going to create business value.

Here’s something else to think about. Pilots are taught that it is very dangerous to “fly by the seat of their pants.” What your senses tell you is true is often not the case at all. Yet a lot of marketing and communications teams do every day. They wing it, and they expose themselves and their companies to terrible risks. So here’s the deal: without the right metrics and analytics, you are flying blind in a plane with no windows through the Alps. It’s only a matter of time before you crash and burn.

Mark SMark Stouse is the managing member of Vaulting Ventures LLC, a consortium of business leaders that supports early-stage companies seeking to drive business value creation by disrupting existing marketing and communications paradigms. Stouse was named Innovator of the Year by the Holmes Report for his work to create the Influence Scoring System, a Fortune 500-proven platform that federates and correlates many different data streams to demonstrate business value creation via Paid, Earned, Shared and Owned channels.