What Really Gets People to Take Action? A New Metric to Help Find the Answer

pr taking actionThe worth of PR professionals is often measured by their ability to get a desired group of people to take action based on a message. Awareness and excitement are good, but activity is better—much better—for professional communicators.

Measuring a campaign's effectiveness in getting a target audience to take a desired action is fraught with problems, because identifying the singular cause that leads to a specific outcome remains difficult. But that doesn't mean that people aren't trying.

Participant Media, an activist entertainment company, is working on a tool that looks to measure what motivates people to take action based on something they have watched, according to The New York Times. Working with partners such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Participant is crafting what it refers to as the "Participant Index," an analysis of raw viewership numbers and a survey that calculates how an audience responds behaviorally to visual media.

While the Participant Index is currently being focused on measuring the efficacy of activist documentary films, the ramifications of a successful measurement of what actually gets people to take action are obvious for public relations and marketing. If such a metric could be found, PR professionals would be clamoring to use it to measure the effectivness of communications tools such as online video campaigns, infographics, press releases and media appearances.

For now, Participant says that it will license the measure to nonprofits at cost. Companies or others will pay a fee to use their methodology in the future.

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene