Global CEO Stuart Smith tells AMEC that the mistake of people who dismiss measurement is their failure to grasp why it is vital to the future of their business, their craft and the relationships they hold with clients. 

Writing for the AMEC website, Stuart Smith, Ogilvy PR global CEO says the public relations industry is like a cinema audience witnessing a crash in slow motion – its collective inability to be curious about why what we do works and to scale solutions that impress CMOs.

When pressed on the topic of a responsibility to define standards and enforce them, there is just mumbling and shuffling of feet. If you’re lucky someone might muster a something-should-be-done but be unclear on what, by whom or indeed when.

Those that have an epiphany, emerge blinking into the daylight. These brave souls are rewarded with a brief but blinding glimpse of the post-digital-pre-AI marketing world where data and algorithms will both vet the creative idea and determine whether a campaign has been successful.

A slightly dystopian view of our near future? Perhaps. With more optimism, I was privileged to be present at the birth of the Barcelona Principles. Since they were written however, many things have happened in the world of marketing and communication that led us closer to that near future – not least CMOs questioning the ROI of spending in what some are now calling the “digital swamp”.

Around the launch of the Principles, I started evangelizing the new role of PR and Influence in a rapidly converging world of marketing where we could see the artificial boundaries between disciplines beginning to melt. We now live in what I dared to predict would be an “Earned First” world. The evidence for this is now hiding in plain sight.

Just look at the campaigns which have won multiple awards, especially Cannes Lions and Effies. Whether the originating agency used to call itself “advertising” or “public relations” is no longer important.

What is important is the one thing that united those that won: they generated Big ideas which Earn Influence for their client’s brands. These are ideas that go beyond earning space and media or even attention and create a global conversation.

At their best, these campaigns change us for the better as individuals and collectively as a society. This new generation of ideas has captured the imaginations of CMOs for good reason and made them more curious about the world of PR and influence. Why? Because ideas which earn attention “cut through” the murky swamp and make paid media dollars go further than ever.

The new role of the Public Relations and Influence specialist is to create, co-create or optimize a Big Idea for earned media and influence. But, and there is a big “but”, CMOs will not put more money against these ideas unless we can manufacture them at scale reliably and measure the influence that they earned (not just the impressions).

To do this requires excellent data, AI-quality analysis, world-class insights and meaningful measurement.

Never has the humble discipline of measurement been more important to the twin causes of greater creativity and better effectiveness. Carpe Diem!

Stuart Smith is the new Jury President of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the 2018 PR Lions. @stuartsmith