CWC 24: Johna Burke of AMEC

Johna Burke, Global Managing Director of the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), joined to discuss Measurement Month and the challenges and opportunities for communicators.

Topics discussed include:

  • The evolution of measurement and evaluation
  • What the future holds for the practice of measurement and evaluation
  • How agencies play an important role in the measurement ecosystem
  • The importance of telling a story with data
  • Ways that communicators can begin their measurement journey with AMEC resources
  • Activities during Measurement Month that may be of interest to listeners

Automated Transcript

The following is an automated transcript. Please review the audio for accuracy before quoting.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Hello and welcome to another episode of chats with chip podcast. My guest today is Johna Burke. She is the global managing director for AMEC, which is the International Association for measurement of an evaluation of communications. Welcome, Johna.

JOHNA BURKE: It’s great to be here.

CHIP GRIFFIN: It is fantastic to have you for many reasons, but the fact that November is measurement month makes it all the more exciting to have you on board. Can you tell it? Well actually why don’t you tell us a little bit about Amec first, because not all of my listeners may be familiar with it is you and I are a and a, so if you tell us a little bit about Amex and then we’ll talk about measurement month after that.

JOHNA BURKE: Very happy to so is the global trade association or the measurement and evaluation of communications and we have members all over the world that really specialize in measurement, analysis and insights on all disciplines of communications, making it very exciting and very lively debate. Often when we talk about things like attribution in correlation, as you might imagine, and it’s been about four years now, I think I probably should know this better, but since Amec measurement month evolved and we really wanted to just create a concentration of awareness around measurements and around those efforts. So we have a month dedicated and each week we spend really with a concentration in each region, which includes the Americas, Europe, Asia, Pacific, and then we kind of all come together at the end again and there are events throughout all of the regions on each of weeks. Obviously it’s so heavily concentrated that we can’t do it all in a single week, but we like to have kind of each of those regions have that chance to have some leadership.

JOHNA BURKE: And last week was uh, the Americas, which was very exciting and a lot of great events. And then in New York on that 29, they’ll have kind of that closing of the month happy hour event at creating some in person networking to kind of tie everything together around a lot of virtual events. I’ll be at a couple of live events next week in London where we partner with per week uk and with the Prca, also local regional groups and media partner affiliation, so locally it really has had an expansive footprints and really raised awareness and I think the level of conversation around measurement so more and more groups not only want to be involved in measurement but really sees the value to the bottom line into their client. So it’s a very exciting time to be a part of the discussion

CHIP GRIFFIN: and if somebody is interested in learning about either the virtual or the in person events, they assume they can go to the Amex website for more information

JOHNA BURKE: and that and we have a full calendar of events there as we post an update those every year so you can see them by region and by dates

CHIP GRIFFIN: and there are. There are a lot of great opportunities for learning for those who may be listening and not as familiar as they would like to be with some aspects of measurement or even for those of us who have been involved for a long time. In the field there’s a, there’s a lot of learning that can go on during this month and I think it’s a, it’s a really valuable project that Amec leads here because the more that we can increase the awareness and understanding of, of good measurement practices, I think the better it is for the overall world of communications.

JOHNA BURKE: Absolutely. And you know, even for those of us who’ve been in the industry and in the business for many more years then we would probably be here to like, man, it’s great to hear the conversations both as they stay the same around the importance of starting with objectives and getting to the outcomes versus just helpless, but also how the dynamics of technology and evolution there are kind of interwoven into those elements. So it is, it’s always very exciting conversations. A lot of the events are free. There are obviously some paid events that a lot of them are free and they just create a great opportunity to really kind of find your tribe and to do great conversations

CHIP GRIFFIN: when there has been a tremendous evolution as you allude to in the industry over the last. Well, the period of time that you and I have been involved in the space for me, it’s been long enough that when I first got involved, I had hair. I, of course, as everybody is familiar with myself included, I have no hair anymore. So probably because of all the frustrations I’ve had in the measurement space over the years, I would think

JOHNA BURKE: hopefully that’s not the real contribution. Otherwise, I think we’re all in. If that’s a direct correlation to challenges, chip, I think there could be some math not in your favorite on that one.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Fair enough. Okay. So it probably has absolutely nothing to do with that, but it’s a good story and I found that you have it, you know, I, I think some people do feel like they’re pulling their hair out when they’re dealing with measurement issues though. And, and you know, one of the things that Amex has done a nice job of in recent years is trying to simplify things and make it so that, uh, you know, the average communicator can better understand how to do proper measurement as well as giving them a roadmap for actually implementing a measurement program for their own activities.

JOHNA BURKE: Absolutely. And I’m so happy to hear you say that. I mean, we’re really dedicated to the education of the markets and raising that awareness about the importance of measurement and evaluation and how it helps organizations. And I think we’ve been in those conversations were at pr will say, oh, but we only have this information and we only have that. And kind of always these mitigating results and the more people understand the overarching organizational objectives and then how their communications efforts we’ve into the overall tapestry. It makes a huge difference in their influence and their effectiveness within their campaign, within their project and within the organization.

CHIP GRIFFIN: I think for some it can feel daunting and in part because there’s a tendency sometimes when you start talking about a measurement and evaluation for experts to be, to have almost a religious level fervor about different issues. Uh, you know, for example, ave is come to mind, uh, that, that, uh, that, that can be very polarizing. Uh, and uh, and so I think that has a, in the past perhaps, you know, scared some people off from engaging in measurement at all because they’re like, if I can’t, if I can’t do it the way that the experts tell me to, I shouldn’t be doing anything at all. When in fact just getting started is the most important thing. Being engaged and, and starting to think about it and implementing one step at a time. It was far better than just sticking your head in the sand and saying, I can’t do it perfectly so I’m not going to do it at all

JOHNA BURKE: and could not agree with you more. And I think that is an area that we as an industry and then really fostering education and the evolution of education have to take a very balanced approach to assure that it isn’t just retribution if you’ve used a metric, but it’s creating a knowledge base and an understanding of the value of communications and hopefully bringing the organizations executive team from their cfo who is requiring the dollar number right, to the CEO who’s, um, you know, familiar with likes and clicks and then getting to that understanding of what that really means to the bottom line. And so as we see that as an iterative approach and as a measurement journey, I think it makes it a lot less intimidating hopefully for end users to then be able to have that conversation and get to that place of comfort where they can get started and where they feel that confidence to say, you know what? I’m at the starting point and things aren’t perfect. I don’t have everything. But I have some great resources. And I like to believe that ms is part of that toolkit. And that resource library that they have to really give them the confidence to forge ahead and to make some mistakes and to learn from those mistakes and then apply that learning and just make their own communications team stronger and better each day.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Yeah. You used the word journey and I think that’s a. that’s a great way to think about measurement and evaluation because even if you’re. Even if you’re a true expert, anything that you do for a particular program for your own organization or a client, it’s going to be a journey. They’re going to be things you can do right out of the gate, but they’re going to be things that you can only do over time is you accumulated more data and built in processes for tracking. And so I think if, if people think of it as a journey, it makes it a lot less intimidating.

JOHNA BURKE: Absolutely. And you know, I’ve heard it, I can’t even remember who to attribute this to you, but it mean communications a little bit like a Rubik’s cube that bites back, you know, because you can apply some of your formula multiple times and have a very similar results, but then when you apply the same formula and there are some external factor, you’re going to have a totally different result. But if you aren’t really looking at those results and showing those across the communications funnel makes it harder and harder to show what’s working, what’s not working and why and how you can show those improvements.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Well, I think the Rubik’s cube is a good analogy too because there are, there’s a lot of different facets that, that come into play, uh, in the, the putting together a good measurement and evaluation program. And one of the things that Amex has done on, on one of those facets recently is to start, um, a group focused on agencies and how they interact in the measurement space. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

JOHNA BURKE: Absolutely. So we are a member organization and it is only through the efforts of really talented, I mean I can’t express enough talented volunteers that were able to undertake some of these initiatives and the agency initiative, the agency group that you’re talking about is spearheaded by John Mikan of the grazing group out of San Francisco and it’s really to create and share and facilitate a conversation for members and nonmembers of light about measurement issues as they come up. Whether it’s dealing with the dreaded RFP to reducing some of those other results. I think that there are similarities that only agency members see and experience that they can really learn from each other and create a very safe environment. And it’s really one of the reasons why, you know, they have a Hashtag that you can follow. But I think the biggest asset that we’ll likely see is the slack workspace.

JOHNA BURKE: I mean, you know, in dealing with a lot of agencies that they live and breathe on slack, right? So we wanted to make sure that we were relevant in that space to be able to facilitate that. So that as those questions come up, they really have that route that can work together and the wonderful thing and especially about John and his attitude is you know, a rising tide lifts all ships and really there is no black box secret to just creating good insights and good measurements and having people so dedicated to sharing their insights and adding that value to the community at large is really amazing and an amazing effort that he’s undertaken. And we’re so thankful.

CHIP GRIFFIN: I think it’s a very important initiative, not the least of which is because agencies play such an important role in the measurement ecosystem, right? They are, they touch a lot of clients. Each individual agency does, they, they can learn from each other within their clients, but as you say, they can learn from each other as part of this group. So I think that making sure that there’s a focus on how agencies can engage in measurement and evaluation in a smart way, I think, you know, really beneficial. And it also is important because so many agencies are asked by their clients to share measurement information. And historically that has been in terms of simply trying to justify the contract, if you will. Um, and in fact there’s a, there’s a lot of ways, um, to use measurement and evaluation much better if you’re an agency. And I think that any effort that can be undertaken to improve that process and improve the insights being provided to clients and that influenced the programs that the agencies themselves are running, I think is incredibly beneficial.

JOHNA BURKE: Couldn’t agree more. You know, we had this mean, this whole group came about because we already had a not for profit group that, you know, while they tackle the same types of challenges, the resource allocation, the distribution across geography and channels are very different than they might be for a atypical or per client. And so after seeing the success of that community, we realized that agencies are that obvious community to be able to create some affiliation with to make sure that we’re doing and keeping true to our charge and our mission of really educating the market

CHIP GRIFFIN: in your role. You are, you, you know, you sit in a unique chair and you’re relatively new to this chair, but over the course of your career, you spent a lot of time working with a lot of different, uh, vendors, consultants, advisors, clients in this space. How have you seen the industry evolve in your time in it? And what do you see coming if you were to take out your crystal ball, you know, in the years ahead?

JOHNA BURKE: Sure. Well, not to age myself too much or drawn your analogy of your hair, but I mean, when I first started in pr for fortune 500, there was still a lot of approach of counts and amounts, right? You’ve got the clip book and Oh, this box is

CHIP GRIFFIN: bigger than the last box. Must Be. Why? Or you could come in every quarter and just drop it on the client’s conference room table. And I mean that was, that was special.

JOHNA BURKE: I have a gal who used to be in charge of putting the books together and she’s still, embarrassingly enough, 28 years later, still sends me a Christmas card and I’m pretty sure it’s just to remind me of the torture that she endured at the hands of clip bugs, which was kind of routine,

CHIP GRIFFIN: sole existence in my first year. My first job, I came in every morning with the exacto knife and I would, I would touch stories out of the Wall Street Journal, photocopy them and fax them to clients. So it was a. I’ve been there and done that.

JOHNA BURKE: Yeah. So just a little reminder, like still haven’t forgiven you, merry Christmas anyway. Um, but you know, it, it really. I mean that’s really where we’ve come from and in, in some cases there’s still a lot of counts and amounts and just because people are using new and updated digital accounts and amounts, they think it’s different. And I think that’s where one of the biggest opportunities is. And that is, you know, if you’re looking at, and people call them vanity metrics, I call them ghosts metrics because I consider them very scary and be served up as a single source of value or return on the investment of any campaign or communication effort. But I think again, it goes back to looking at things in context and understanding the correlation and where are you can the attribution directly of those pr efforts and you know, depending upon how big your stack is of data and what you’re dealing with, then it’s going to make a significant difference in how accurate you can be with some of that information. And with that attribution in the long run.

CHIP GRIFFIN: You know, one of the things I think we’ve seen as an overall communications industry in recent years is more of a, a blurring of the lines between PR and marketing. How have you seen that impact the, the measurement space or, or have you seen it impact investment space?

JOHNA BURKE: It absolutely has. It’s actually one of the reasons why several years ago Amec Develop the integrated evaluation framework and it’s probably one of the most readily use tools that Amex provided to date. And that has because it really does put all of those assets in a single place. And so, um, you know, previously when I was the chair for North America, I would do trainings with agencies and walk them through the integrated evaluation framework because what we’ve done through the help of Richard Bagnall who led the efforts to Jim Mcnamara who really helped in developing the taxonomy is you created kind of a roadmap so that if you’re using this when setting out for your program and you’re all agreeing sitting around the table and agreeing what these things mean, where we’re going to get these data assets or if we’re going to get them right at the, at the onset of a campaign.

JOHNA BURKE: It makes everything else easier along the way. And I think the PR community has always been a little envious in some respects of marketing because they have so much different data. But the reality is we all have access to that data. And a PR is getting smarter about how they use the data and getting much better at how they tell the story around the data. And so it isn’t just a, you know, the raw figures mentality anymore because I think in that story, marketing wins, I think in the contextual layover of the data and what that means to an organization and how well that story is told. I think pr is the trump card for that. Every, every time the deck is shuffled, um, just because that is their skillset and being able to narrate and tell that great story.

CHIP GRIFFIN: When you talk about telling a story. And I think that’s so critical because there’s a, I think there’s a, there’s a perception that, that, you know, measurement folks are sort of the green eyeshade people of the PR community, right? We’re just throwing out piles of data and a, but you know, if you can’t take that data and tell a story with it, then you really haven’t achieved the ultimate objective of, of measurement and evaluation. It really, it’s important to take that data, tell a story, and then figure out how is that going to influence your behavior as an organization, as a communicator going forward, because that’s where the. That’s where the real gold lies. It’s not in just, you know, looking back, it’s, it’s using that reflection to plan for the future.

JOHNA BURKE: Absolutely, and I think there’s, there’s a couple of elements at that that really ring true, especially with pr and that they always want to show a chart or graph is going up right to show progress regarding report the good staff well, but if you’re only reporting the good stuff, that’s where some of your data starts to lose credibility because no matter how good you are, everything is not always good. So establishing a good solid baseline and a benchmark and then really telling the story, including on those tough orders, what this means and what the learnings are, what you’re taking away from it. That’s where I think as we see more competence from the PR practitioners, we’re seeing greater influence with their c suite as well because, you know, I, I called it the a in, you probably heard this, I apologize, but the graphic seduction of public relations, right? Everybody’s so enamored with their charts and graphs, but if they aren’t really breaking that down and saying, okay, you know, c suite executive, here’s what this means to you. Then they’re really missing a huge opportunity and limiting how impactful all of their efforts can be to the overarching organizational goals.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Absolutely. I mean, I think there is a tendency for, as you say, the people wanting the wind always go up, always showing positive information. I think there’s a desire to take a belief and use the data to prove it rather than take a theory and use the data to test it and I think you know, if you’re doing measurement and evaluation correctly, you will do a theory and test because that’s how you’ll actually develop the insights that will help you improve for the future. Whereas if you’re simply proving that what you’ve done in the past worked well, I mean that, that may be good for, you know, short term job security, short term a client retention, but it’s not really going to give you the best results over the longer term

JOHNA BURKE: and short term being the key there. Right? I mean, because if your clients or your csuite loses confidence in the data that you’re presenting them, that really tough road to get back into those good graces and say, no, no, no. Here’s, here’s why what we’re doing is credible and relevant and meaningful to the overall organization.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Absolutely. So I guess we’re, we’re running close to the end of our time, but before we do run out of time, you know, what do you see as the biggest opportunity in the biggest challenge for the measurement community? Um, you know, say over the next 24, 36 months,

JOHNA BURKE: which can be aligned time, feel free to go with 12. I really see a huge opportunity for people to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence and apply insights that can only be gained from that firsthand knowledge of, of activities. And campaigns, I mean, that’s where I see the real immediate future and I see the more people are talking about ai and that can be a very sexy feature and asset that people want to use, but unless they’re really using it in, in a narrow fashion of how it’s going to work and build value, I think it becomes just a lot more noise and an already very noisy echo chamber. And so I think that’s going to be the real key is for agencies especially to kind of remove that heavy lifting of the counts and amounts and to have their data teams or their ads be able to apply some insight that comes from the data stacks that they’re presented to be able to then tell that story to their clients as far as how, why and if not, uh, how they’re going to correct it. The current programs that they’re using are not working and how insights and analysis is helping them navigate and drive additional success and profitability. Right? Because whether you’re a nonprofit or a for profit, I mean it’s the profitability of the investment of the people that you have working with you for you and how they’re being stewards of those resources is really the critical piece and the foundation of all businesses.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Absolutely. And hopefully we’ve been good stewards of our listeners resources here over the last, uh, 25 minutes or so. Uh, I think

JOHNA BURKE: it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me and thank you to everyone for your time. It’s been wonderful.

CHIP GRIFFIN: It’s been a great conversation and I really appreciate you being with us. Joanna, can you just tell people where they can find you online if they’re interested in learning more?

JOHNA BURKE: Absolutely. You can find me at twitter at go, John, be um, linkedin at John ever and at through email. That’s Johnny j o h n [email protected]. And please do visit [inaudible] dot com. We have all of the resources, the calendar of events and the upcoming summit in Prague. In May, there are worse places to be and where we have two days of concentrated learning around measurement and, uh, it’s, it’s really a great event and we do a lot of case studies so people can really see kind of firsthand some learnings of organizations of how they applied the findings and how they’ve kind of evolved and move forward in their measurement journey.

CHIP GRIFFIN: Well, that’s fantastic and I certainly encourage people to, uh, to connect with John Online. Checkout the website. Again, my guest today has been Johna Burke, the global managing director for AMEC.

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