There is No Silver Bullet: It’s Time to Focus on the Simple Truths of PR Measurement
If you are hoping for a silver-bullet solution to solving the challenge of proving the value of PR, you may be disappointed. On the other hand, you may also share a sigh of relief knowing that even “experts” debate best practices for measuring and evaluating PR performance.
Today, tomorrow, next week and next month at conferences around the world, there will be no shortage of opinion and no easy solutions. A variety of approaches and standards are constantly being discussed, debated and demonstrated, centering on two themes: The “easy and popular” (media tabulations and advertising equivalencies, for example) and “evolved measurement” (such as making the “PR to sales connection”). The danger of this polarizing approach is that “measurement” can become overly simplistic or impractically conceptual. To ground the conversation, I offer these simple truths of public relations measurement.
Principles of Public Relations Measurement
While the larger debate continues to swirl, certain fundamental truths stand. Whether you are a sole practitioner or the EVP of a Fortune 100 PR department, you may find yourself at the center of the “prove-it” debate. If you are among the many public relations practitioners looking for a better way to prove value and improve performance, let me offer seven principles for public relations measurement:
1. Evaluation begins with objectives that are reasonable, meaningful and measurable
2. Value grows by aligning your PR goals with the organization’s
3. Knowledge increases by measuring continuously and consistently
4. Future plans develop as past performance is evaluated
5. Appetites expand among senior executives when measurement (and reporting) occurs whether they require it or not
6. Acceptance expands in a “learning-from-measurement” culture and is stunted in a “punish-by-measurement” culture
7. Partial illumination compares favorably over total darkness and sets the stage for proving value
The Benefits of Public Relations Measurement
When applied, the Principles of Public Relations measurement yield appreciable advantages:
• Measurement helps PR investment decision-makers link results to objectives: In the final analysis, the success of your program will be deemed a success or a failure based on the degree to which you met or exceeded the goals you established at the outset. See Principles 1 and 2.
• Measurement provides opportunities for continual improvement: Good measurement programs provide answers at the same time they raise new questions. Every PR program—even the most successful—provides opportunities for improvement through the question-and-answer continuum. See Principles 3 and 4.
• Measurement attracts executive support and the resources that come with it: It’s only natural that quantitatively successful programs draw additional resources and enthusiasm. See Principle 5.
• Measurement builds trust: Rather than instilling fear and causing disruption, good measurement engages the PR team and attracts—rather than prods—enthusiastic participation. When measurement is shared openly, everyone benefits and grows confident in the process. See Principle 6.
• Measurement addresses return on investment and return on expectation: At the end of the day, measurement should be able to tell you whether the organization’s investment in PR was spent wisely and to positive effect. Even if your measurement is simple and inexpensive, it is reasonable for a measurement program to relate the PR yield with the level of investment. See Principle 7.
The challenge of public relations measurement is certain to continue and only time will tell which measurement approach works best for you and your organization. Success may build slowly—but it is contingent upon intelligence, initiative and perseverance. The results of the measurement process will help you tailor your programs for maximum effectiveness and efficiency, gradually increasing the yield of your organization’s investment in public relations.
Mark Weiner is CEO of PRIME Research | Americas
Published: July 1, 2012 By: