WASHINGTON — Communicators need to move away from billing by time and embrace measurement that demonstrates value and impact on the business, PRovoke"s Global Summit heard yesterday.

"We"ve accepted billing by time as an industry, but it makes you think small," Tim Marklein, founder and CEO of Big Valley Marketing, said during a panel discussion with Mark Weiner, chief insights officer at PublicRelay, and Maureen Davenport, CCO at KPMG.

Davenport described billing by time as "an incentive mismatch." "We know there has to be a better way, but the question is, what is the better way?"

Better and more evolved ways of measurement are "much more accessible" than just five years ago, Weiner said, adding that measurement didn"t need to be complicated or sophisticated to be effective.

Media coverage can encompass part of an effective framework but it needs to be linked to the impact on the business. "If we"re only measuring the capability of PR we"re missing everything else we"re doing, when we think about reputation, brand, where we are in the market, and what that means in terms of talent and culture," Davenport added. She said within her organisation the PR team is held accountable for trust "which includes the media, stakeholders and surveys. That"s our measure of how we"re moving the needle." 

And she also recommended using "the language of the business" to demonstrate the value of PR, saying her team often created dashboards in the same systems the audit team used internally "to put our language into a business frame that actually makes sense."

Communicators and agencies should also take responsibility for educating the leadership team on how they propose to measure impact, Marklein said. This includes making an investment in measurement. "People fall for easy metrics because they don"t know enough, or won"t spend the money.

"If you"re going to spend money on comms, embed as part of that a measurement framework, not just clicks."

Effective measurement also involves prioritisation, the panel agreed, and allocation of resources. "If you don"t have the right conversations you"re going to have 1,000 priorities spread like peanut butter across the organisation," Davenport said. 

Marklein added: "There"s a blank cheque syndrome in PR. We keep doing more and adding more, but we need to prioritise in order to get the budget and resources."

He cited an example of working with a unicorn startup whose CMO wanted to double the organisation"s media share. "We were able to go back and say to hit that metric we need to double our budget. We"ve now hit those metrics two years running and there"s been no pressure on the comms budget because there"s alignment between us, the client, the CEO and the board about what we"re all trying to do."