Oh, Canada – Is MRP the Answer?

24 Apr

On April 20, the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS), unveiled the media relations rating points (MRP) system, an attempt to come up with a single metric for media relations measurement.  (Learn more here).  Here are a few initial impressions. 

Use of PR Multiplier Hurts Credibility

The MRP uses a multiplier of 2.5 on circulation figures to arrive at Impressions.  Advocates for the use of multipliers argue one of two positions – either PR impressions are “worth more” than other (i.e. advertising) impressions due to editorial credibility, or they are accounting for pass-along readership in addition to base circulation.  Neither position is defensible or advisable.  The only credible, consistent way to report impressions is by using audited circulation or audience figures.  I know of no industry association or governing body (e.g. IPR, PRSA) that supports the use of a multiplier.  It is bad business for the PR industry.



Guess the CPRS Measurement Committee could not resist using the magic measurement acronym – ROI – to describe the MRP.  This is spin.  The MRP uses a cost per Impression metric, which is preferable to just Impressions and does allow comparison to advertising, but it does not give ROI.  ROI has become one of the most misused terms in public relations.  In order to calculate a true ROI, you compare the dollar value of what is created (sales, perception changes, etc.) to the cost of doing it.  Cost per impression is just that, a cost-oriented metric, not value-oriented.  It does not give ROI.


Are All MRPs the Same?

The fact that one selects five qualitative factors from a longer list to include in the MRP for a given campaign  seems to mean that for five different campaigns all reporting MRPs, you could have five slightly different ways of scoring articles for the index.  Not sure how meaningful this is, but it does seem to raise possible issues around consistency of application of the metric.  I also found it a little odd that no attempt was made to weight the various factors according to their ability to impact the readers as determined by primary research. 


Where’s the Proof?

For any single metric to be compelling, you would like to know how it correlates to desired business outcomes.  Does the metric show statistical correlation to some desired ‘downstream’ behavior – sales, likelihood to buy or recommend the stock, brand preference or prescription volume, for example?  Hard to tell if any of this sort of research has been undertaken by the MRP sponsors.  I did not find any evidence of it.  



It’s always easier to criticize than create, so I applaud the efforts of the CPRS and the MRP Committee.  This was a massive undertaking and they accomplished a lot to get to this point.  The MRP is not a magic bullet, and may be fatally flawed.  But who knows – it may take off in Canada and prove to be a valuable tool.  Should be fun to watch!


– Don B            

2 Responses to “Oh, Canada – Is MRP the Answer?”

  1. David Phillips at 12:53 pm #

    This is tragic. It flies in the face of nearly everything we know in output measures and goes way back to the 1970’s when Reggie Watts did some specific research for a specific client for a specific campaign to come up with a specific relative metric against advertising space. Since then the whole idea has got out of hand.

    What is wrong with treating editorial content as editorial content. That is what it is. Its weight varies from writer to writer, journal to journal and time to time.

    I have just seen some work looking at specific story vehicles and the extent they are picked up by the traditional media and subsequently are reported in blogs.

    Here is an interesting tool. It shows output and outtake and that there was readership and an extent to which there is a behaviour influence.

    But, the work showed that there is by no means an even distribution of cause and effect. Some subjects do work well in that there is a blog response from the traditional media but others seem not to appeal to the blogging community. Next up will be more research into other story vehicles which will add more knowledge. There are hundreds of reference points that need to be questioned even to make this statement.

    Compared to a media relations rating point, this is rocket science but at present it is science and not available for practice and I would love to see the science behind ‘rating points’.

    Perhaps we will see it in an academic Journal soon. I just hope I am a reviewer.

  2. Rachel Douglas at 1:15 pm #

    Hi Don-

    As a member of the CPRS Measurement Committee, please allow me to respond to your post and hopefully the information we have supplied has not misled anyone.

    There is no 2.5x multiplier when using the MRP system with the database from News Canada. In earlier incarnations of the system that was going to be a possibility until we did an RFP and found a vendor who could supply audited audience numbers directly from sources including; Nadbank, PBM and Combase to name a few. Therefore no mulitplier is applied.

    The MRP system was designed solely to measure editorial coverage, not relate back to sales etc. so the use of ROI in this instance refers to the overall metrics it provides to understand how far PR dollars went in any campaign. As a PR practitioner on the client-side “cost-per-contact” is a great figure to show my VP’s of Marketing how much they spent and what it got them.

    Don – it would my pelasure to walk you through the system and have an opporunity to look at the database and create a report.

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