4 Key Steps to PR Measurement Success

David Rockland

By now, many people in PR have heard of the Barcelona Principles adopted two years ago as the basic fundamental “truths” about PR measurement.  While these set a foundation for measurement, there have been a number of events and activities since then that have progressed the Principles to make them more actionable.  One occurred June 13-15 in Dublin, where the 4th annual European Measurement  Summit took place with over 200 delegates from 30 countries.

In Dublin, the delegates to the Summit agreed on the top priorities that anyone working in PR need needs to know when it comes to demonstrating the value of public relations.  The purpose behind this is a global education program, based on the Barcelona Principles, but more specific in terms of the skills, abilities and knowledge levels anybody working in PR should have.

In many ways, it came down to basics.   If you work in PR, the most important things you need to know how to do in terms of measurement are:

1)     Be able to connect what you do to the client’s or organization’s business.  If you can’t describe how what you do drives business or organizational performance, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.  And, you need to be able to say it in the language of the business or organization you are working with.

2)     Know the difference among the three types of metrics used for the evaluation of PR performance – outputs (both traditional and social media results), outcomes (how audiences change as a result), and business results (sales, employee engagement, stock purchase, etc.).

3)     If you can’t write proper communications goals for your work, find a new profession.  A PR practitioner should be able to express who you are trying to reach, what about them you want to change, how much is the expected result, and by when you expect those results to occur.  Without those clear goals, you really can’t measure effectively.

4)     Leave the measurement to the measurement pros.  Things like research transparency, survey design, and the details of market mix modeling, should be left to the researcher.  However, a PR practitioner should know what they are, and know how to ask for them.  And, anyone who is still simply counting clips and impressions, versus how good they are, should probably have their PRSA membership revoked.

What was also interesting about the discussion in Dublin was a pretty clear sense that “if you can’t run with the big dogs, you should stay on the porch.” In other words, too often we meekly ask whether we can measure the results or demonstrate the value of what we do. Instead, the delegates said that we need to insist that measurement — both the results and what they mean going forward — should just naturally be part of any PR program.  In a great presentation by Booz/Allen/Hamilton on original research they’ve done on the PR field, it couldn’t be clearer that we need to either go big or go home. In other words, if you want to be thought of as PR professional and not a PR flack, you insist upon having measurement of communications and business results as part of anything you do.

The trouble in Dublin, however, was when it came to agreeing on what are the key next steps to roll out a global education program focused on the PR practitioner and measurement.   There were some good ideas presented and voted on.  In fact, PRSA’s Christina Darnowski talked about the need to add a measurement education component to every major PR conference rather than the measurement and the PR pros meet separately. In fact, PRSA is adding an entire measurement symposium to its international conference this fall; a great first step in the right direction.

The dilemma for PR professionals is that we often feel undervalued. This was not solved in Dublin.  But, I think we made some progress about how to make sure anybody getting a degree in PR, starting in the field, or leading a large PR function or company can express the value of what we do and take steps toward demonstrating it.   And blogs like Culpwrit play a key role in helping educate our profession about making sure we can express the value of our work in ways that are meaningful and measurable.

This guest post by David Rockland, PhD., is adapted from his July 2012 column “Ask Doc Rock” in PRSA Tactics.  David is Partner and CEO of Ketchum Pleon Change and he heads Ketchum’s global research network. 

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