Measurement-by-Tactic vs. Measurement-by-Objective

Research IS measurement. Measurement IS research. The same techniques and tools. The same continuum. Different times, perhaps, but they are co-dependent and co-enablers. Using research in a pre-campaign, formative capacity can puts us in a more measurement-friendly place post-campaign.

Among other things, pre-campaign research can help us set measurable objectives. Probably the most common objective in the hundreds of PR plans I’ve seen: raise awareness. What’s rare, though, is to see a number attached to this objective. (Pre-campaign awareness can be tested overnight and for as little as a thousand dollars).

Other objectives in a consumer MarComm context might include encouraging product trial (which is really about behaviour change). Herein lies the paradox; a gap between objectives and the measures against those objectives.

Consider the Spectrum of ‘Outs’

Four increasingly sophisticated levels of whatever we want to do to an audience or whatever we want from them. There should be four corresponding and increasingly sophisticated levels of research and measurement to tell us whether or now we’ve met those objectives.

More often that not our communications plans have objectives to do with behaviour change. But, as the slide below points out, only a third (and this figure does not include Canada…my educated guess would be that this number would be more like 10% in Canada) are measuring at that level. And we never will until or unless we put in place a pre and post campaign method and objective to work with.

Write Measurable Objectives

So we should write measurable objectives that:

  • Include / refer to an outcome not a tactic
  • Target an audience
  • Specifies a finite time frame


Increase awareness of Bell Canada’s new on-line security product by 15% among prospective clients within the Ontario market by the end of the 3rd quarter. (But even this is only a media relations, awareness-level objective).

Presumably with the right measurement system in place, there’d be no question as to whether or not we hit our targets.

At minimum, measure by tactic:
Most measurement occurs at the tactical or communication vehicle level. We measure in often vague, relative terms. How much and how good: against ourselves, against competitors, compared to last time. A sort of binary up or down; this time and over time.

Ideally, measure by objective:
However, ideally, measurement should be done at the objective level. This approach calls for evaluation against pre-set, measurable objectives in absolute terms. Did we meet our objectives or not?

Alan Chumley, Director of Communications Research, Leger Marketing, is an instructor of communications research in the PR programs at Ryerson and McMaster Universities, an associate member of the CPRS measurement committee, as well as an industry speaker, conference chair, and blogger:


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