Is PR measurable? Absolutely, yes.
Should it be measured? Again, absolutely, yes.
There’s little question that public relations can and should be measured, but like many things, the rub has more to do with how and what to measure.
In reading an article by Katie Paine, long-credited as one of the industry’s thought leaders on PR measurement, it paralleled something one of my mentor’s used to say, “Rose, just because something can be counted doesn’t mean that it should be counted; instead, measure what counts.”
That stuck with me and is a key tenant of our Results that Matter approach to public relations.
At RMPR, we shy away from measuring PR by counting media clips, calculating ad value equivalency or other such things. It’s not that these things can’t be counted. It’s just that these are not true measures of public relations success.
Somewhere along the line, as PR started to play a more critical role within the marketing mix, PR practitioners started trying to fit tactical outputs and outcomes into marketing and business quantifiers – things like Return on Investment (ROI), which Katie Paine points out, is a financial return on a financial investment.
In other words, it’s the proverbial square peg and round hole when we try to force fit measurement into a formula that doesn’t really correlate with the activities or outcomes.
Sometimes that surprises a prospective client, and may even be an indication of a poor fit for working together. We’re up front about this and recommend setting expectations for outcomes – things like attitudes and behaviors, and other components of evolving reputations.
There are plenty of ways to measure the impact of public relations, the Results that Matter. It starts with research to establish a baseline and includes feedback and adjustment to evaluate a program’s progress to achieving objectives.
It’s more than a number, and it’s proof that PR is helping your organization move forward, not just make noise.
Katie Paine of KD Paine & Partners shares Six Steps for PR Measurement