You Can Measure this Stuff? Seven Things You Need to Know about PR Measurement

I recently attended the Ragan Communications “PR Measurement Summit” in Washington, D.C. Like many of my PR colleagues, I was curious to know how PR efforts are really being measured—or should be measured—today.

We learned, much to our surprise, that only in the last five years has the PR profession itself, at a global level, even begun to tackle the question of how to create meaningful measurement standards.

If you haven’t already heard, counting piles of news clips and transforming them magically into Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE), the quick-and-dirty measurement tool used for more than half a century, doesn’t cut the proverbial PR mustard anymore.

As Don Bartholomew, Senior VP with Ketchum for social and digital research, put it succinctly in the Summit’s first presentation, “the hits and impressions game” is over.

Well, almost over. The old measurement game is still being played because it’s all some PR practitioners know. More to the point, it’s all that their clients know. Many PR clients are still happy to get a big pile of warm media clips fresh from the copy machine.

But they won’t be satisfied for much longer.

This mindset is quickly changing. Big PR firms are now working to set the standards that the rest of us will be compelled to follow. I warrant that within five years all successful PR practitioners will be using sophisticated measurement tools to prove the effectiveness of their efforts.

Why? If our clients are happy with a warm pile of news clips, won’t they be ecstatic when we can prove that their money was well spent?

To set the stage for what to expect in this new world, here are the 7 principles of PR measurement adopted by industry leaders at the first-ever global conference on measurement standards in 2010. The conference was held in Barcelona, Spain. Hence the name, The Barcelona Principles, which I have paraphrased below:

  1. It’s important from the outset to set goals and objectives that can be measured.
  2. Focus on outcomes: on what happened as a result of a PR program. How did attitudes and/or behaviors of target audiences change?
  3. The effect on business results can and should be measured where possible.
  4. Media measurement requires analysis not just of the quantity of coverage but, just as importantly, the quality of that coverage.
  5. AVEs are no longer considered a measurement tool of any value.
  6. Social media can and should be measured. The same measurement principles apply to SM as apply to traditional media.
  7. Sound measurement techniques are both transparent and repeatable.
About Chris Biddle

With 35 years of experience as a hands-on communicator and PR practitioner, President Christopher Biddle is well positioned to help New Jersey-based companies tell their stories and get the results they want. An exceptional writer and editor, Chris is also a strategic thinker who has a proven track record in his ability to conceive and execute goal-driven communications projects both large and small. Chris was Vice President in charge of Communications with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association from 1992 until his retirement in 2012. Contact: Website | More Posts

1 Comment on You Can Measure this Stuff? Seven Things You Need to Know about PR Measurement

  1. Very aligned with what I teach in my PR 1 class at Seton Hall, based on the initial Barcelona Principles released a few years ago. Measuring outcomes and impact on business results depends on client collaboration as well, and I’m happy to see strides being made here.

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