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
Results of the fourth annual Public Relations Generally Accepted Practices Study (GAP IV) were released today. The study is published by the USC Annenberg Strategic Public Relations Center (SPRC), and is intended to provide the PR profession with data on evaluation, organization, budgeting, emerging trends, use of outside agencies, perceptions of the PR function and other important topics.
The study has several interesting findings, but let's take a look at what the findings say about Evaluation/Measurement:
- Respondents spent only 4% of their total PR budgets on evaluation
- 'Ability to Quantify Results' (12%) ranked low on the reasons a company would choose to use an outside agency ('Additional arms & legs' (51%) and 'Complements our internal capabilities' (47%) were the two highest-ranked factors)
- 64% of all respondents (77% of F-500 respondents) report to the C-Suite in their organizations
- The differences in metrics used by organizations where PR reports to the C-Suite versus those used where PR reports to Marketing are dramatic. C-Suite metrics tend to be more strategic and organizationally focused while metrics used by those reporting to Marketing were more media and sales-oriented
- 'Influence on corporate reputation' has been the highest scoring metric in each of the four GAP studies, yet as the authors point out, "there are currently no consistently reliable, generally-accepted, quantifiable methods for correlating PR activities with reputation."
- PR is seen as contributing to the bottom line success of the company (5.30 v. top-ranked Finance at 5.59)
To amplify the fourth bullet above, in companies reporting to the C-Suite, it was significantly more likely the following metrics were used for evaluation:
- Crisis avoidance/mitigation
- Influence on corporate culture
- Influence on corporate reputation
In companies where PR reports to Marketing, it was significantly more likely the following metrics were used:
- Contribution to sales
- Total circulation of clips
- Total number of clips
To me, there are two key learnings from the study:
- Confirming my personal experience and observations (see my earlier post), PR increasingly is reporting to the C-Suite and is seen as playing a strategic role within organizations, and
- There is a tremendous gap between what most companies actually measure today and the new requirements to measure how PR is impacting the organization
The measurement gap refers to the fact that the measurement industry today is focused on media content analysis (outputs measurement) while organizations increasingly value PR for our contributions in moving the needle on reputation, culture or sales (outcomes). We may have great data on number of impressions or % of articles containing key messages, but how are we proving the value of PR's contribution to the more strategic outcomes the C-Suite demands? This is a great challenge to the measurement community – we are not necessarily measuring the right things (media clips), and lack agreed-upon metrics and approaches for the types of measurement our new environment demands. We need to evaluate the tangible contributions of PR (e.g. sales) as well as the intangible (e.g. brand or reputation). And we need to not only look at PR's contribution to sales, but to PR's contribution in reducing costs (e.g. regulation or litigation) and reducing risks (e.g. new product introductions, downsizing). So many challenges – so little time.
Thanks for reading – Don B.
Disclaimer: The author is a member of the Professional Advisory Committee for the GAP Study
Do you have any superb examples of measurement integrated into a public relations campaign?
Do you want to be recognized for excellence in public relations measurement and evaluation?
Would you like to have your case study published on the web site of the Institute for Public Relations?
Would you like to be honored at an award ceremony at the Institute’s Summit on Measurement in September?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you should consider participating in the 2006 Jack Felton Golden Ruler Award. There is still time to submit your entry form, which must be received by June 30, 2006. For your background, the Institute’s Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation created the award. Jack Felton, for whom the award is named, served as President and CEO of the Institute and was instrumental in founding the Commission. For more information about the award, including the entry form, visit: http://www.instituteforpr.org/goldenruler.phtml. Good luck! -DB