Pursuing the ‘Holy Grail’ of PR Measurement

PR Executives Pursue the ‘Holy Grail’ of PR Measurement


Image source: Times Live

Public relations executives see measurement and evaluation as one of the industry’s top growth opportunities, a new survey shows. PR agency executives surveyed by the USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations ranked measurement third out of 18 potential growth drivers.

Two-thirds of agency executives and over half (54%) of in-house PR executives say measurement is very or extremely important as a growth driver.

On the other hand, current measurement models are somewhat alarmingly still largely focused on measures of viewership—such as total reach or total impressions—rather than on business outcomes, states the center’s Global Communications Report done with the Holmes Report.

Most Common Metrics
Agency and client-side executives responding to the survey believe total reach is the most common form of measurement (68%), followed by impressions (65%) and content analysis (64%). Fewer stressed brand perception (47%) or return on investment (41%).

Almost a third 30% say they use advertising value equivalency (AVE), a surprising finding considering experts in media measurement for PR such as Katie Paine, Richard Bagnali, Don Bartholomew, David Rockland, the Institute for Public Relations and the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) have all discredit AVE as a valid metric for PR measurement.

Current applications of social media measurement are also surprisingly unsophisticated. The most common metric is number of followers (78%), followed by reach (77%) and interactions such as likes or comments (76%). Fewer PR executives say they track sentiment (62%). Less than half (47%) say they employ social listening, such as real-time monitoring on conversations or changes in opinion or action (36%).

Measurement is PR’s Holy Grail
“Measurement remains the holy grail in the PR industry,” states Fred Cook, the center’s director, in its report. “Everyone agrees that it’s a huge growth opportunity but few seem to have figured out an integrated approach to determining the real return on investment for communications.”

However, some monitoring and measurement services have recently introduced tools that can integrate multiple data streams into a single dashboard. PR now has the ability to integrate measurement of print, online news, broadcast, social media and analytics from corporate and brand websites. They can integrate data from websites and devices on the Internet of Things and use advanced key word searching and indexing techniques to virtually eliminate irrelevant media clips. In addition, the dashboard’s can be customized to the specific user’s needs.

Other experts agree that public relations and PR measurement will become more important due to the recognized importance of earned media and the growing power of PR measurement technology.

“PR results can and should be measured,” writes Kate Finley, CEO at Belle Communications. “The expectation of measurement that more clearly translates to sales and leads is increasing, and it’s essential that PR professionals have proper measurement in place tailored to the brands with which they are partnering.”

Executives See Growth and Challenges
PR executives are optimistic about the industry’s long-term growth, the Annenberg survey reveals. Content creation, social media, brand reputation as well as measurement and evaluation will drive growth, they believe. Attracting and retaining top talent is their greatest challenge. PR has traditionally not focused on recruiting from outside its ranks, although that may be changing.

Most executives said writing is the most important skill for PR pros, followed by strategic planning and verbal communications. Almost two-thirds (62%) value analytics skills and 41% value SEO.

“It’s clear that finding the right talent is by far the most critical factor in the PR industry’s future growth,” said Cook. “The more complicated question is what skills should this talent possess. Industry leaders still value traditional communications skills but are searching for more strategy, creativity and diversity.”

Bottom Line: Measurement offers PR a substantial growth opportunity, new research reveals. The challenge is selecting the right metrics and finding the right monitoring and measurement tools that offer an integrated approach.

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