Size matters: Why are PR people so afraid of measurement?

If you like getting down with digits and sexy with the spreadsheets, our next podcast is for you. Darryl Sparey is MD and Co-Founder of Hard Numbers, the (AMEC, PR Moment, PRCA and UK Agency of the Year) award winning, performance-driven communications consultancy. Hard Numbers combines killer creative with commercial acumen to create campaigns that drive a demonstrable return on investment.

Unlike many agency founders, Darryl spent much of his career in business development. After ten years running sales and marketing for Precise (now Kantar Media), he moved into digital marketing, running the London office of a search engine marketing agency. He then moved into PR as a board director of Hotwire.

Darryl is a Fellow of the PRCA, a CIPR Chartered Practitioner and member of AMEC, but his most important job is that of father to his children, Hudson and Halia.

In this episode, you’ll learn all about the hard numbers (see what we did there) of measurement and why these shouldn’t be forsaken for the fluffy elements of PR, comms and marketing.

Darryl Sparey

Managing Director and Co-Founder of Hard Numbers

Key Topics:

“I think first and foremost, Google Analytics, particularly because there are a lot of changes coming up. It’s such an important tool in terms of understanding traffic that’s coming to our website; where it’s from; what that’s led to in terms of goal completions etc.

“All of that is vitally important, also most PR people ultimately – and this is something that people will argue with me about – report ultimately into a CMO who looks at things through the traffic of the window of Google Analytics.

“I’m a big advocate for CRM. We use HubSpot in our business, and Propel which enables me to tell how many times we’ve pitched the Financial Times for all of our clients in the last week, month, year. How many times we’ve potentially secured an opportunity with that title and how many times it’s actually led to live coverage. We can do that by any journalist, any outlet, or anything else. We’ve got a live system of record for the success of what we do.

“So some form of CRM or PRM system is important and then Google Data studio or some other kind of BI tool that helps you bring multiple data sets together in one place to then visualise data Above and beyond all of those other tools, if you were to tell me I could only use one tool for, tracking and measurement of the effectiveness of what we do, it would be Excel or Google Sheets.”

And in terms of KPIs? Darryl says: “There’s no golden bullet to this, right?

“There’s no Nielsen metric. For PR there’s no one number that you can ever boil anything down to and it’s important that you don’t. If you have a number of metrics you’re reporting against, no matter what the vicissitudes of running PR or marketing campaigns for your clients are, you’ll be able to show progress on the month or quarter to quarter basis or on one of them so it’s important to have a suite of metrics.”

More importantly, is Darryl a robot?! He says: “I’m a chartered PR professional, a fellow of the PRCA, but I have a background in sales and marketing.

“For most of my career I’ve run the sales and marketing department for private equity backed businesses, so I don’t know if what I do is PR, but I do know what I do – drive sales – and I think that is definitely the kind of pitch for Hard Numbers.

“I think more broadly as well, the industry is bifurcating along two lines, so you’re either typically reporting to a chief comms officer or CEO and you’re taking care of reputation management in some form or another, or you’re going down the demand generation root for high growth businesses, and as I alluded to earlier, typically reporting to a CMO.

“I think that PR is definitely at the heart of that and there’s a connection with sales there. Sales is God’s work, and everyone in PR is selling something to someone. You’re pitching a story to a journalist, to get coverage. You’re selling your results back that you got from the activity, whatever it is to either your internal stakeholders or your external stakeholders and clients effectively to tell them you got great results.

“If you’re in agencies, you’re selling to clients all the time; you’re pitching for new business all the time.” Darryl recommends reading Daniel H. Pink’s book: To Sell is Human.

“I always have exactly the same answer – the AMEC Integrated Measurement Framework.

“Anyone who works at Hard Numbers has it tattooed somewhere. I have it tattooed on my inner thigh [*resists urge to verify*] and it’s a great resource for anyone who wants to undertake any form of communication.

“Basically start with your objectives. Work out what you need to know, what activities you have to undertake, what outputs you’ll create from what you’ll be doing, and what the outcomes that these will drive, and what the organisational impact will be and AMEC Measurement Framework gives you that beautifully in a very easy to use format.”

A final thought

Of the heroics our Comms Heroes perform every day, Darryl says: “Communications can be incredibly complicated, difficult, challenging so the work you do to champion people in this industry is absolutely brilliant.

“It’s a wonderful force of positivity and I think it’s a great thing for anyone to be part of. If I’m having a tough day I’ll normally search the #Comms Hero hashtag and there’ll normally be something that will bring a smile to my face.”

The show notes are the creation of friend of #CommsHero Teela Clayton.


TL;DR: Accountability – the industry still hasn’t professionalised – fewer than 600 people are chartered practitioners in an industry that employs over 90k people; measurement will help professionalise the industry

Tools – Tend to measure what they can; not what matters. Too much content analysis – message and spokesperson pick-up, sentiment, etc; not enough focus on what the business is looking for – traffic, leads, opportunities to pitch

Numeracy – PR people often like to say they’re words people, or think in pictures. It’s a cop-out. You can teach yourself to be numerate, or to use spreadsheets to do the tough stuff (pivot tables, etc)

Daniel H. Pink To Sell is Human

AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework

Fancy getting in the hot seat and sharing your CommsHero wisdom? Contact Asif Choudry

Tickets are now available for #CommsHero week, 19-23 September. The week-long virtual event with over 35 sessions live streamed and available on demand for a year. Great value at £180 and you can find out more at


This episode is sponsored by Blink. The world’s first enterprise app designed exclusively for frontline workers.