This time they're based on business outcomes.
by Katie Delahaye Paine
Last week PRSA announced a call for industry agreement on standards for public relations measurement. A working group, chaired by David Rockland and made up of former or current chairs of the IPR Measurement Commission (Pauline Draper-Watts, Mark Weiner, Don Wright, and myself) has put together a set of recommended metrics and approaches for evaluating PR's influence on business outcomes. (Notice I said "outcomes," we'll talk more about those in a minute.)
You can view our actual recommendations in the slide show below. Or visit the PRSA's ComPRhension blog, where you can read David's post and give us your comments.
Before I list the actual outcome measures recommended, here's some background on recent efforts to develop public relations measurement standards, and a glimpse into why this new effort is more useful and powerful than those in the past.
Guidelines, standards: We've been there before.
Over the past fifteen years or so, I've been personally associated with every serious effort to develop public relations measurement standards. Back in 1995, Jack Felton got a group of us measurement geeks together at a PRSA conference to talk about establishing some kind of measurement standards.
The result was the formation in 1996 of a "Special Commission on Measurement" under the auspices of the IPR. Together we wrote the first IPR white paper (offically authored by Walt Lindemann), "Guidelines and Standards for Measuring the Effectiveness of PR Programs and Activities." You can download it (and/or a somewhat newer and revised version of it) from the IPR's website. At about the same time, the Brits and the Europeans were trying to tackle this problem, and Walt and I went to Europe to be part of their standard-setting confab.
Since that time, various other groups, like CPRS (with whom I consulted) and AMEC, have attempted to set more formal standards, but none gained significant traction. So, despite a decade and a half of serious and well-intentioned efforts, no official, industry-wide standards have resulted.
This time, however, things are a little different, and the new PRSA effort holds great promise.
Eyeballs or outcomes?
Back then, what people wanted public relations measurement to provide was a "GRP" of PR – a way to quantify success as conveniently as the GRP measure used by advertising. But GRPs are only a count of eyeballs, and not every PR campaign is designed to attract eyeballs. In fact, just about every PR program ever launched has a unique set of goals, and thus, a different set of measures of success. Thus, there never can be a single metric that applies to all PR.
Now we have PRSA's most recent effort, and I think this time we'll have some standards that people will agree upon and use. Why? Because this time the standards are based on business outcomes -- metrics that the C-suite can understand and respect.
When CEOs and the rest of the C-suite look to marketing and PR for measures of their success, they expect to be presented with business-oriented metrics -- not AVEs, or clip counts, or even impressions. All those output measures are relatively easy to put together, but are really only useful as a way of describing activity. They are only surrogates for the outcome metrics we wish we had, the real revenue-related numbers like sales or cost savings.
Why outcomes now?
Of course, many of us have been pushing the value of outcome measures for years (myself included). Why have we now, at last, built outcome measures into industry recommendations? It's because PR is now under tremendous pressure to up its game:
- When money is tight, the fat gets trimmed. Never has it been more important to demonstrate the business value that PR brings to the table. If you can't show how your work contributes to the bottom line, chances are you'll have a smaller budget going forward, and you probably won't have a job much longer either.
- There are more alternatives to traditional PR tactics than ever before-- and they come with powerful new metrics. Reaching out to reporters in a traditional sense is now only the start of a good campaign. You need to bring in Twitter, Facebook, a blog or two, and probably some videos as well. And the outcomes for those social media are far more measurable than for traditional PR. They are not impressions, but rather, engagement – measured by comments, clickthroughs, downloads, retweets, votes, ratings, and all the other new metrics that social media is bringing to the table. And, believe me, the hungry new social media industry is not waiting around for PR people to catch up. Just ask anyone in the newspaper business.
So what exactly is it that PRSA is offering for standards?
Below is the presentation developed by our Working Group. It's not just a list of recommendations, rather it's really a philosophy that PR practitioners can and should take to the C-suite to explain exactly how PR can help the bottom line. It's also channel- and industry-neutral; designed to work whether you're measuring social or traditional media. And equally applicable whether you're working for a small local nonprofit or a Fortune 500 corporation.
If the above slide show doesn't work, visit the PRSA's ComPRhension blog, where you can see it and leave your comments.
The recommendations are summarized in the table below. They divide the business outcomes of PR into four basic categories:
- Public Policy
and offer measurement guidelines for outcomes related to each category. Again we are very eager to hear your comments, so please visit the PRSA blog and let us know what you think.
Marketing Public Relations drives sales
Investor Public Relations drives investment
Public Relations drives donations and membership for relevant organizations
Modeling / Econometric Modeling:
Improves efficiency by better audience targeting
PR reaches more people with a credible message for less money
Determine comparative cost of different communication approaches; calculate percent of target reached; determine change in purchase cycle resultant from PR activity.
Avoids catastrophic cost
Mitigates impacts of crises
Assess competitors and peers who may have faced similar crises, track emergence of their crises and impact on sales, stock price, and relevant business measures to evaluate the potential impact that was avoided.
Increases likelihood to purchase / consider your brand(s)
Minimizes the effects of a crisis
Reinforces communication of organizational values
Rebuilds trust after a crisis
Establishes credibility of new products / companies; ease of market entry
Commanding higher prices, lower costs, premium on stock price
Enhances recommendations / word of mouth leading to faster adoption
Increases customer loyalty / renewals / satisfaction
Improves the attracting / retaining of talent
Lowers legal costs
Benchmark reputation / relationship metrics via survey prior to a campaign, repeat every 3 - 6 months
Correlate attitudinal studies with customer purchase attitude and behavior
Map conversations (and tone) in traditional and social media to web analytic data, e.g., registrations, requests for information, sales leads, etc.
Map conversations / reputation to financial analysts opinions and stock price volatility
Correlate share of thought leadership visibility to adoption of policy positions
Increases employee satisfaction and engagement, leading to greater efficiency, increased retention, lower turnover rates, lower recruitment costs, and higher productivity
Lowers legal costs
Change employee behaviors such as greater levels of focus on key areas such as safety, quality, call response times
Provides greater transparency and commitment to and from employees
Creates a platform should it be necessary to communicate bad news at some stage in the future
Note: Items here can also refer to other internal publics such as trade association members.
Use control groups and compare to employee populations exposed to PR activities
Focus on performance outcomes not attitude or awareness
Match / correlate messaging data to:
Consider other research tools and data – focus groups, exit interview data, days of sickness, etc.
Note: items here can also refer to other internal publics such as trade association members.
Creates public awareness, understanding, and support for legislation, regulation, and political candidates
Affects voter behavior
Helps pass legislation, regulation, and initiatives
Affects specific companies and industries through appropriations, tax impacts, and regulatory changes that can affect any and all aspects of a business
Instigates and perpetuates grassroots or grasstops campaigns
Use available public tracking services at national (e.g., major network polls) or local (e.g., university polling centers) to track changes in awareness, understanding, support, and voter intent. Also where possible link to level of PR activity.
Conduct tracking survey of key politicians or regulators. Can often use Influentials’ awareness as a proxy for elected officials, as well as to measure the “edge” of a trend.
Post-election surveys can isolate specific effects of PR by determining actual voting behavior, as well as levels of exposure to different communication media.
Actual public or legislator voting behavior.