Tip Sheet: The 7 Underlying Principles of PR Measurement

The 2011 Summit on Measurement, which moved from its historical location of Portsmouth, New Hampshire to the historic city of Philadelphia, was marked by a new partnership between the Institute for PR and the PRSA.

While still attracting some of the smartest people in the industry, the new venue and partnership opened new horizons for many others. This is a conference that is not just about the sessions but also about the networking and debates that takes place as much outside of the sessions as they do within them.

The conference officially began with learning opportunities dedicated to topics such as business outcomes, dashboards and key performance indicators (KPIs), market mix modeling, media analysis and metrics, reputation management, search analytics, social media return on investment (ROI), shareholder metrics and survey research.

There was no shortage of opinions at the Summit on Measurement and no easy solutions. A variety of approaches were discussed, debated and demonstrated, centering on three themes: strategy, social media and standardization. There was also a great deal of buzz continuing around the Barcelona Principles and the summer Lisbon Summit.


While the larger debate continues to swirl, certain fundamental truths stood as the base of the summit debates. 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; and

7. Partial illumination compares favorably over total darkness and sets the stage for proving value.

While some summit attendees’ measurement questions went unanswered, benefits of measurement shined through in all the sessions. They include:

Measurement helps public relations 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 that 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 what 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 results of the measurement process will help you tailor your programs for maximum effectiveness, gradually increasing the yield of your organization’s investment in public relations.


Pauline Draper-Watts is senior VP of PRIME Research, North America, and a member of the Institute for Public Relations’ (IPR) Commission on Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation. She can be reached at draper-watts@prime-research.com.