What PRs could learn from bricklaying

By Deb Sharratt,

Earlier this week I did a workshop in bricklaying – it was the first session in a short DIY course for women. When I signed up, I didn’t think for one minute I’d start comparing laying bricks to public relations – but I discovered that is exactly how my mind works.

Much of PR is about strategy. A way of realising a vision through public relations activity. Laying bricks is also a way of realising the vision of a new physical building or structure.

The tools of the trade need to be effective and appropriate. In communication, the tactics are a way of making a strategy happen by helping to achieve objectives which support the business goals. And how do we know they do that? We measure and evaluate.

Measurement & Evaluation​

​Often seen as a chore, measurement and evaluation is an essential part of any plan or project. A way of monitoring progress, knowing if you are where you need to be.

Measurement is about collecting the data, and evaluation is a separate concept in assessing the impact and value of actions concerning the objectives. AMEC’s Integrated Evaluation framework helps communication professionals must show the effect that their work has had on the objectives of their respective organisations.

AMEC along with many professional communication bodies, such as CIPR, are encouraging consultancy and in-house PR professionals to regard measurement and evaluation as an everyday part of what they do. Yet it is still an area where the profession could do so much more to ensure measurement and evaluation are vital ‘tools of the trade’.

Laying bricks​

​In bricklaying one of the first things we were taught is that measurement and evaluation are key. Plans are drawn up, foundations are made, and preparations thoroughly executed all to exact measurements. Risks and external factors also must be considered with potential different courses of action identified to accommodate changes in circumstances from the weather to the economy.

Necessary tools include a trowel and spot board for the bricks and mortar. However, the right tool must be used at the right time for the right job. As I learnt a Philadelphia trowel is no good inside a cement mixer, but a bucket trowel performs that task perfectly.

One of the most important and frequently used tools was a tape measure. As well as a spirit level and a gauge (for measuring the height of the bricks).

After each brick is placed a tape measure comes out to check it follows the plan. The spirit level ensures each brick has been laid correctly and the gauge so that we can see where we are going meets the vision.

Why do we measure?​

  • To identify the right ingredients to go into the mix for the project to work – much of this knowledge comes from experience, previous evaluation, and research.
  • To ensure the activities support the objectives – do they complement or conflict.
  • To know we are doing the correct activity.
  • To focus on quality and standards.
  • To check that a plan is being executed as intended.
  • To create a strong bond and alignment between the different parts of the project.
  • To see if we are on track to achieve our objectives.

What insights can we gather from data?

  • ​Are the metrics as expected or do we need to modify the activity?
  • Do the metrics support other activity or are they working against each other?
  • Is each part of the project working towards the same goal?
  • Is someone overseeing the whole project and how each part fits together?
  • Are they focused on achieving the overall objective?
  • Is each part of the project happening in the right sequence to have the maximum impact on the result?

Insights for impact​

And importantly what do we then do to make sure the project is on track? Do we tweak, make adjustments, or do we need to create an additional activity?

If we don’t know why we are doing something, it’s hard to collect the evidence to demonstrate that it has been successful.

However, if we collect data but then don’t interpret and learn from the insights then it is also a waste of time and the project may fail and not be fit for purpose and I discovered this week this equally applies to my day job of public relations or my basic bricklaying DIY skills.

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Featured image courtesy of PublicDomainPictures.net

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