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For the last three days of last week, the great and the good of the world's reputation and PR measurement and evaluation community came together in Dublin under the banner of our representative trade body. It was time for the 4th Annual European Summit of AMEC - the Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication for long.
Measuring the outputs, outtakes and critically the outcomes of communications activity designed to sustain and build corporate and brand reputations used to be relatively straightforward. Each reputation research house had its proprietary methodology for aggregating, interrogating and making sense out of media coverage and stakeholder opinion and sentiment.
But then, like an overflowing crèche of boisterous toddlers suddenly appearing as if from nowhere, social and digital media made things a whole lot more complex. Brand management was firmly wrested from the hands of brand custodians. Influential and connected consumers, customers and opinion-formers found platforms for their voices. Dialogue replaced monologue, and many more voices mattered. Brand owners responded with a variety of strategies, from investing in intelligent, bespoke metrics
to burying their heads in the sand and hoping social media would go away.
And those in the business of measuring and evaluating reputation all did something - some did a very great deal of smart stuff - but most of these somethings were idiosyncratic and unaligned. The Darwinian business imperative of dominant competitive advantage did a fundamental disservice to clients looking to compare apples with pears.
Since the advent of social and digital media channels, AMEC, which represents those who matter in the reputation measurement game, has really come into its own in setting and aligning standards across our diverse industry. The first public-facing landmark in this process was the creation of the Barcelona Principles at the 2010 AMEC Summit. Bringing together existing best practice, this set of seven principles set the industry on the right path for measurement across all different facets of earned media, encompassing traditional and the proliferation of social media channels. It also sounded the first (of many) death knells for less meaningful measurement practices, including the zombie pariah of the industry, AVE - Advertising Value Equivalency.
Last year, jumping across the Iberian Peninsula to Lisbon, AMEC's members were introduced to the valid metrics framework, a standardised approach to help ensure reputation research agencies and clients measure the same kinds of metrics in the same kinds of ways. This was an approach of similarity, not a cookie-cutter model. The framework conceptualises all indirect communications as moving a target audience across a spectrum of engagement and empowers those in the business of comms measurement with a common worldview and methodology for mapping progress on that journey.
And so to Dublin last week, where highlights of the dialogue and debate included clients from private and public sector - and their M&E agencies - demonstrating the power of the valid metrics framework in action. On the last day, the standout session saw leading thinkers in the field @kdpaine and @tmarklein unveil AMEC's new, industry-standard template to drive transparency across social media research, analytics and measurement services. The philosophy of Barcelona was followed by the strawman of Lisbon and now - at last - the dynamic working model of Dublin. It truly felt like we'd moved from the talking shop to the workshop, from the ethereal to the practical. We got so down and dirty in Dublin, I have no doubt that delegates will have had the nail brushes out over the weekend.
Industry and trade association events are interesting for many reasons. They're like a prolonged period of ceasefire, when companies usually at one another's throats leave competition in the hotel lobby and work together for everyone's benefit (while at the same time representing their own smart thinking to their peers). They let you learn what the competition is up to, and provide inspiration - often from unexpected sources - for your own innovation. You learn skills and content
relevant for business development, forge alliances and open up prospects through networking.
What I found distinctively different about the Dublin Summit last week was how, under the light-touch leadership of @BarryLeggetter, AMEC is an organisation that can do all of this and more. It's not only representative, it's not only relevant, it's also increasingly - and impressively - action-oriented. The week will lead to what's already been dubbed the Dublin Declaration, the industry will do what it does better, and clients will be better served.
You can't ask more than that. And as befits a grouping of comms measurement professionals increasingly focused on making sense out of social media dialogue, the quality of Twitter action throughout the #AMEC2012 Dublin event was top class. You'll get a sense of the debate in this Traackr A-list, even if the tool to track conversation is not one that delegates chose to endorse.
Roll on 2013.