PR News/Nasdaq Survey: Nearly One-Fifth of Communicators Shun Measurement Entirely

Despite numerous calls to use measurement to assess PR’s effectiveness, enhance its reputation and develop strategy, a new study shows more than half of PR professionals devote little or no time to measurement. Nearly one-fifth (18 percent) of PR pros ignore measurement altogether, spending no time on it, according to a joint study conducted by PR News and Nasdaq Media Intelligence. In addition, 35 percent of respondents spend just one hour each week on measurement functions. Asked about the biggest challenge they face in measuring their work, 21 percent cited time, 18 percent said tools’ price, complexity or availability were the culprit and 12 percent of respondents cited monetary restrictions. Accordingly, many PR pros show little faith in the numerous online measurement tools available. “The low adoption rate is not because the importance of measurement is unclear,” said Mike Piispanen, VP, global head of Media Intelligence at Nasdaq. “PR pros understand the opportunity in providing insight to the business. In many cases it’s simply a resource issue.”

He added, “The survey results show that many communications teams lack clarity in what’s important to leadership (or their client).”

Nearly half of the respondents (44 percent) spent less than 5 percent of their communications budget on purchasing measurement tools and technology.

Piispanen stressed that PR pros need to focus on metrics that matter to their stakeholders. “Once PR pros have a better understanding of what [metrics] matter, they can choose tools that will help them convert data into intelligence,” he said. “And that is what raises the profile of PR within your company and helps you make the case for additional investment.”

Roughly 70 percent of the study’s 370 respondents said they devote just 1 to 5 hours weekly to measurement.

“I’m surprised to see that nearly 20 percent of participants said they spend no time on measuring the impact of their efforts,” said David Armano, global strategy director at Edelman. “Measuring for impact, efficiency and integration with broader marketing efforts is top of the list for many of our clients.”

Another disturbing finding was that 56 percent of the respondents rated their ability to select the proper communications data to analyze—and the ability to apply that data to improve PR strategies—as “fair” or “poor.”

For Anne Green, president-CEO of CooperKatz & Co., that shortcoming goes to the heart of the matter. “PR pros are looking at multiple streams of data that may be owned by multiple parties: earned media, social, search and Web analytics,” she said.

“PR may not necessarily own all pieces of that data,” she added. “What we have to do is push for partnerships with the people who own those other data points. You must measure cross-functionally.”

As a result, Green said, it’s imperative that PR pros be proactive at the beginning of a campaign, gathering disparate data sets and making certain they are included in the measurement process.

Lede 1 chart

CONTACT: Follow David Armano on Twitter, @Armano; Anne Green, [email protected]; Mike Piispanen, [email protected]

This article originally appeared in the August 3, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.