PR News Q&A: Ovaitt on Measurement’s ‘So What’ Factor

With a strong pedigree that combines academic measurement rigor (he's a professor of applied research at George Washington University) with in-the-trenches measurement applications for clients (he's also executive VP at Makovsky + Co.), Frank Ovaitt is well-qualified to answer PR pros’ tough questions about metrics. As a member of the Institute of Public Relations’ Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation, Ovaitt played a prominent role in the adoption of the Barcelona Principles last summer—a topic he covered as a speaker on the panel "Must-Know Trends and Next Practices in PR Measurement" at PR News' PR Measurement Conference, held March 1, 2011, in Washington, D.C.

PR News: Which PR metrics does the C-suite want to see?

Frank Ovaitt:
The “so what” factor has never been higher when the C-suite looks at PR metrics. Talk to them about business results. Talk about two or three things that matter to them, not 20 things that matter to you. Talk to them about issues that are bigger than what is technically under your  control. Hey, the CFO does not have power over every financial transaction of the company, yet no one doubts that the CFO speaks with authority on that agenda. Communications officers should take the same expansive view of their responsibilities.
PR News: On a scale of 1-10, 1 being not important at all, how do you rate the importance of The Barcelona Principles?

Ovaitt: I’d give it an 8. This is the first time we’ve had broad international agreement on principles of public relations measurement. Much remains to be done to flesh out some of the principles (and much has already been done). But my hat is off to the organizations that led the way: the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, the Institute for Public Relations, the Global Alliance, the Public Relations Society of America and the International Communications Consultancy Organisation. 
PR News: Are AVEs really that bad?
Yes. Ad costs are not especially helpful in representing the value of advertising today. Why would anybody believe they represent the value of public relations?
PR News: What's one key action a PR pro should take when formulating a measurement strategy?

Ovaitt: Do not start with measurement. That’s like diving into the shallow end of the pool. Do your benchmarking first to know what other companies are doing in circumstances like yours. Do your planning research to establish objectives, strategies, tactics and messages. If you’ve done that well, there’s no mystery about what to measure.

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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