Inspiration and Metrics: A Good PR Mix

In Washington, D.C., PR News held its CSR Awards luncheon and PR Measurement Conference back-to-back on April 17-18. You can read about the CSR winners and the happenings at the Measurement Conference on our site, but I thought I might provide some commentary on what I observed at both events.

On Tuesday we hosted 150 people from agencies, nonprofits, government and corporate organizations, all vying for awards in 30 different CSR categories. Three things stood out for me at this gathering: the pride and commitment that communications pros have in their sustainability and community programs; their emphasis on the importance of employee involvement; and the acceptance speech on behalf of Hyundai’s Zafar Brooks—one of our CSR Professionals of the Year— by 14-year-old Brianna Commerford, a 2010-2011 Hyundai Hope on Wheels National Youth Ambassador. The poised teen really put CSR programs in perspective, saying Brooks “works so much for others and is so humble about it.”

Then, on Wednesday at the PR Measurement Conference—with the audience abuzz about the space shuttle Discovery’s D.C. flyover—I got the sense that measurement is still very much a vexing proposition for most of the 250 PR pros in attendance. Mark Weiner of PRIME Research and Johna Burke of BurrellesLuce set the PR measurement table pretty well to kick things off. Weiner emphasized that measuring doesn’t have to be expensive (as many PR pros think it is). “The simplest approach is to set an objective and strive quantitatively to meet or beat it,” said Weiner. The objective must be measurable, meaningful and reasonable, particularly to C-suite executives, he added.

Objectives also can’t be vague, added Burke, who believes in the SMART strategy of specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely objectives.

Yet as the day went on, it was clear that while some measurement techniques can be relatively simple, linking PR with sales is a tough task. The Barcelona Principles, helpful as they are from an objectives standpoint, won’t help you much there. But for PR pros hesitant about measurement, Weiner had some sage advice: It’s better to be approximately right than to be totally in the dark.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01