In October I attended the 5th. annual Summit on Measurement sponsored by the IPR. One of the speakers showed a chart listing public relations Outputs and Outcomes. He listed press releases as an Output rather than Impressions, Number of Hits, Message Pick-up or any of the other metrics correctly referred to as Outputs (See the Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Research here). Why bring this minor transgression up? Because this is not an isolated occurrence. Many public relations practitioners, even senior people, regularly have to pause for a moment to make sure they don’t get their Outputs confused with their Outtakes or Outcomes. Outtakes is not often used in the U.S., it seems much more prevalent in Europe. The terminology is confusing and is defined in different ways by different practitioners. Further compounding the confusion is the fact the audiences we present our results or requests to rarely understand the terms and have trouble relating to them. In short, the terms are too much ‘inside baseball’.
What we need is a metrics taxonomy that is easier to understand and explain. Perhaps simple and descriptive enough that we could skip the need for explanation altogether. I propose the following three terms:
- Exposure - to what degree have we created exposure to materials and message?
- Influence – the degree to which exposure has influenced perceptions and attitudes
- Action – as a result of the public relations effort, what actions if any has the target taken?
The E-I-A construct is easy to understand and does a reasonable job of describing what we are trying to accomplish in public relations. Here is a graphic that brings it to life a bit.
There are lot of possible answers to this problem. EIA may be one of them. It would be great to hear whether or not you share the view that Outputs/Outtakes/Outcomes is problematic and what solutions you might offer in response.
As always, thanks for reading. -Don B