Strategic Communications

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.

CyberAlert grants permission to republish this article provided that the republished version contains a link to the original article on the CyberAlert Blog.


BLOG: Ten Things You Need to Know Before Hiring a PR Firm

Not so long ago, the big question for corporate executives and marketing departments was: should we hire a PR firm? Those days are gone. Today, the PR question is: what kind of firm do we need to hire for our precise needs?

Executives serious about their companies’ products, services, brand equity, customer loyalty, and reputation, know public relations is a must-have for ongoing success. This holds true at national and international marketing levels, and in many instances at the local level.

Smart, strategic PR campaigns are as vital to the success of A-list celebrities and rock stars as they are to the success of baby food companies and obscure widgets that fit into technology products.

What do you need to know when you are researching and interviewing for public relations services? The following 10 points (five now, five later) will help ensure you to hire a great PR firm matched to your needs. (Of course, you can also adopt these questions to help you hire an in-house PR person or a PR consultant.)

1. The PR firm must have the necessary skills and experience to provide strategy. Yep, strategy folks. If you don’t start with a PR strategy, PR efforts for your company won’t make much difference. Without a “strategy”, even if by chance you get some good (non-strategic) PR – you need to question whether the ‘press’ was timed correctly, positioned properly and messaged appropriately to move the needle for your company. You might find the whole PR effort was just a waste of effort because it didn’t have any noticeable impact on your business objectives.

2. The firm needs to know how to target an audience. You need your PR team to identify who to target for communications; who are the folks that can best help influence the outcome of success or lack thereof for your business. Keep this in mind – the audience for PR may or may not be the same constituents targeted in other elements of your companies’ marketing efforts.  A seasoned PR pro will understand this and can help you identify the right audiences.

3. Beware the old bait and switch. This remains, often inadvertently, a continued management method of PR firms. You sign up with a glimmering, smooth-talking VP who could sell combs to bald people. You are very impressed by him or her…but, after the service agreement is signed, you rarely see or hear from that person. Instead, you get barraged by emails and phone calls from interns cutting their teeth on their first PR account – your business!  I love interns. I started as a PR intern years back – but the success I achieved then was from senior PR executive mentors – and it is these senior PR pros you want managing your account and to be available to you on a regular basis.

4. Make sure the firm has the right experience for your niche and vertical needs. Check its credentials — find out which companies it has worked for, what products and services it has done PR for, and which journalists it knows in your space. Is the firm experienced in multiple vertical market sectors or only one or two? For example if you have a technology product that will have both business-to-business and business-to-consumer commercial applications, you’ll want a firm that can straddle both sectors with authority and expertise.

5. Ask about the firm’s success record. Has the firm accomplished basic PR goals? Demand specifics about companies, products and services. Often, a simple round-up of placed media samples can tell you a lot!

To read 6 to 10, email me at … and I’ll tell you when they go live. [email protected].