Tip Sheet: Who Says No One’s Measuring?

I recently had a conversion experience. No, it wasn't religious! It was, instead, related to the PR measurement world, and to my new-found faith in my fellow practitioners.

It came as the result of secondary research I pulled for a debate that was featured at the recent Institute for PR Commission Measurement Summit in New Hampshire. Eight of us commission-members were asked to either support or refute propositions that had to do with why people in our industry don't measure their work properly, and who was to blame.

As I dug into an enormous pile of articles, reports and papers covering the last few years, I began to realize that the propositions themselves were faulty! Who says PR folks don't measure their work? Who says they aren't starting to do so 'properly?' As we in the measurement world beat our chests over the perceived lack of appreciation for our work, are we so sure that all the measurement articles, webinars and conferences we've undertaken during the past decade haven't indeed had an effect?

In fact, according to this compilation of data, PR measurement is making huge gains across the industry, resulting in a greater percentage of client PR officers reporting directly to the C-suite. Here are a few citations to whet your whistle:

  • A 2004 PR News/PRtrak Survey, "Attitudes Toward PR Measurement & Evaluation" by David Michaelson, Ph. D., found that 81 percent of respondents were "interested to very interested" in measuring PR. Of those that are measuring, two out of three send analysis reports all the way up to the C-suite.
  • A 2004 Survey from Benchpoint in 25 countries found that 69% of Client practitioners measure their work, and 77 percent intend to do so.
  • The 2003-2004 Annual PR Generally Accepted Practices (G.A.P.) Studies by USC Annenberg found that measurement budgets now average between 4.5-7 percent, which is way up from what other studies have reported to date; and, that 64 percent of PROs now report directly to the C-Suite ... up seven points from the year before.
  • A 2005 Poll by the Council of PR Firms found that more marketing executives today understand the growing importance of PR in an increasingly fragmented media environment.

Furthermore, not only is PR measurement growing, but "proper" measurement that gauges the real impact of outputs on outcomes is replacing old clip-count methods:

  • The 2004 PR News/PRtrak Survey found that 42 percent of client respondents were measuring outcomes, whereas three years prior, a similar study found barely 25 percent were doing so.
  • A 2005 Council of PR Firms article stated that, "Along with growing demand, PR measurement is becoming more sophisticated. Thanks to innovations in PR metrics and to lessons learned from other marketing disciplines, PR executives are moving beyond measuring PR outputs to increasingly measuring its contribution to business outcomes, including sales."
  • The Generally Accepted Practices (G.A.P.) Studies by USC Annenberg looked at 26 different methodologies for measurement and evaluation, and found that influence on corporate reputation' was by far the top-ranked measure to evaluate the effectiveness of public relations.

Admittedly, this is only a sampling of evidence that suggests progress is being made on the PR measurement front. But it was enough to restore my faith in my fellow practitioners.

So, what does all this mean to the average practitioner?

1. It's time to face the facts: If you are not measuring your work, you are likely to soon find yourself in a shrinking, non-competitive, minority.

2. Go to school on the subject: Whatever your experience level, read the white papers on the IPR Commission for PR Measurement & Evaluation web site (http://www.instituteforpr.com); buy the measurement books and how-to kits on the PRSA and IABC Web sites. They are as good as gold for those who hope to report to the C-Suite someday.

3. Measure something, anything: If you are new to measurement, or have a miniscule budget, just pick a project and apply some of the do-it-yourself tips illustrated in the books and papers above. It may be as simple as running an informal focus group, or analyzing the tone of your press clips.

4. If you can't count it, don't do it: At some point, make a commitment to yourself to think in measurement terms for all your communications initiatives. Set meaningful, measurable objectives, and plan how you will measure results before your campaign gets started. Develop the discipline to 'just say no' to activities that can't be measured, and devote your resources to those that can.


Angela Jeffrey, APR, is vice president of editorial research for VMS. She can be reached at 212.329.5257 or [email protected].