In a recent post following up on the Gap IV study, Sherrilynne of Strive PR poses the question in the headline above when referring to determining the true value of PR. So what is the right answer? Is it Outputs, Outcomes, or both?
Of course the right answer is both. As I pointed out in my post on the Gap IV study (Gap IV Study Points Out Measurement Gap), the majority of PR measurement firms today concentrate on media content analysis (outputs) while companies want to know how PR is contributing to business objectives (outcomes). Hence the 'Gap'. And the 'Gap' may be widening as pressure increases to prove the business benefit and return on investment for public relations. While this suggests we need more focus and resources on Outcome measurement, it does not suggest it should be thought of as an either/or proposition.
Measurement of PR Outputs provides valuable diagnostic information to help answer the question, "Is our PR campaign working?". Are we receiving coverage in our target publications? How favorable is the coverage? How prominently is our brand/company being featured in the stories? How often are our key messages being included, and with what interpretation? All of this data should be analyzed, and discussed by the PR team with an eye toward improving PR efforts going forward.
Too often, PR outputs are merely used to keep score and not as a diagnostic tool. So the answer is both – outputs and outcomes are valuable – but the orientation of how we use the output data could be improved.
Thanks for reading, DB