American Express Asia comms VP: 'Don't PR results when your measurements fall short'

The measurement conundrum concerning the effectiveness of PR efforts has been a longstanding one in the industry. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting brand communication both internally and externally and companies witnessing budget cuts, it is safe to say that this issue is coming under increasing scrutiny. To prove its value in this increasingly data-driven era, PR teams have to, more so than ever, place emphasis on the effectiveness they bring through measurements, Fritz Quinn (pictured), VP public affairs and communications, American Express, Asia said.

However, teams should not fall into the trap of beautifying their results even though they are not satisfactory.

If you’re trying to measure something, and it doesn’t work, or you can’t [measure it], don’t try to 'PR' the result.

Quinn explained that teams should not be trying to spin less-than-ideal results in a more favourable light. Instead, they should stay focused on what they are trying to achieve for the business, study the results, and see what they can learn for future PR efforts. 

In his role, Quinn is tasked with American Express' communications and government affairs activities across Asia, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India. He oversees the company’s lobbying activity as well as all communications functions, from PR and social media, to corporate social responsibility and internal communications.

He started with American Express in 2007 as part of the federal government affairs team in Washington, DC. Prior to moving to Singapore, Quinn also worked in the public affairs team in Sydney and Hong Kong. In an interview with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, he discusses measurement in the PR industry, and dishes out tips that PR professionals should keep in mind when it comes to conveying effectiveness of their efforts.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: The measurement conundrum is one that has long been plaguing the PR industry. Do you think there is ever going to be a solution to this?

Quinn: I don’t think it’s a conundrum, I think it’s a new way of thinking about things and taking advantage of new tools and technology that are available to us. Adoption takes time.

I don’t think that we’ll ever get to 100% measurement accuracy, but that’s okay. Data should help to guide our efforts, but we still need to incorporate creativity and instinct.

Storytelling is after all, more art than science and we need to preserve that space for creativity.

That said, the PR industry should still be focusing on getting the most accurate measurements and data possible. Always start with a plan for what you think will drive the most desired outcome for your business. Try to set up your campaign and measurement apparatus to capture those data points which will most effectively demonstrate that business outcome.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: In 2020, PR professionals have gone way beyond just publicity to show their value. How can PR professionals actively convey this to their stakeholders? Do you think PR professionals forget to do so?

Quinn: Sometimes communications people are the worst at remembering to communicate, and when it comes to measurement, our business partners aren’t always used to hearing us speak in these terms.

Consistently reminding them helps. Set a dashboard, keep it updated and make refinements along the way. Most importantly, speak in the language of your business partners, not in PR-speak. It goes a long way.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What are some of the skillsets now needed in the PR industry which might not have been around before?

Quinn: I think our field is becoming more technical in nature; people need to develop their analytical skills, but also their comfort with new technology and platforms. I also hope that we don’t lose our ability to write well, with precision and clarity. Sometimes that’s hard in a meme-driven world, so I do think it’s important to remember the fundamentals while building new skills.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What do you think the future holds for PR?

Quinn: I’m always bullish about the future, but I think the next year or so is going to be an interesting challenge for our industry. Given social distancing restrictions and curbs on travel, event-driven PR will change dramatically. Additionally, we’re going to have to use all of our creative ability to find ways of creating the content that will speak directly to our target audiences.

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