The Media Measurement Catch-22

27 Oct

“You Are What You Measure”…I believe the first time I heard this phrase was from the mouth of Katie Delahaye Paine.  I’m quite sure Katie didn’t invent this phrase (it may have been Hauser and Katz in their excellent April 1998 paper entitled, Metrics: You Are What You Measure!), but I certainly have heard Katie use it repeatedly over the years we have known each other. 

There is a corollary to this phrase that might go a little like this: If all you measure is media relations (primarily clip tonnage), that is how the PR profession will be valued.  I have heard or seen this from a number of measurement savvy people recently – Dr. Jim Grunig at the IPR Measurement Summit and Julia Hood in her October 2 column in PRWeek to name two.  So the Catch 22 is this – while we all might agree that attempting to measure public relations is a positive and to be encouraged, what we are measuring and how we are presenting the results is marginalizing our profession – clip book by clip book. 

If public relations is to fully assume a seat at the executive table, we must address this Catch 22 in two fundamental ways:

  1. We must do a better job of measuring and communicating all the value (tangible and intangible) delivered by public relations above and beyond media relations/clip counts – executive counsel, investor relations, employee communications, brand building, reputation enhancement, crisis communications…
  2. We must connect the dots to show how public relations, including media relations, is helping to achieve desired business outcomes. 

So, as Hauser and Katz suggest in their paper, “Many metrics seem right and are easy to measure, but have subtle, counter-productive consequences.”  This is what I believe is happening today with our clip-happy mentality. 

Hauser and Katz go on, “Other metrics are more difficult to measure, but focus the enterprise on those decisions and actions that are critical to success.”  Exactly! 


6 Responses to “The Media Measurement Catch-22”

  1. Constantin Basturea October 29, 2006 at 1:27 am #

    Hauser & Katz’s paper is available online, just in case you might want to include a link to it in your posting:

  2. Glenn October 29, 2006 at 5:03 pm #

    A great post – I couldn’t have put it better. My experience has been that given clip monitoring is easy to do, PR professionals shy away from measuring the real impact of their work – outcomes and longer term impact on their organisation. In addition, many PR professionals have such vague objectives for their programmes that they are unable to “say” how their objectives will contribute to their organisation’s success – if they can’t define what they are trying to achieve – then it is impossible to measure it. And as you have written about before – it comes back to clear and precise objectives from the word go.
    p.s. good to see you blogging again!

  3. vandana October 30, 2006 at 8:33 am #

    Guess what the Pr industry needs today are standardised and universally accepted models for measuring PR effectiveness. The days of measuring press clippings should ideally be over now. We should look at perception shift. Isn’t this what Pr is all about? The PR industry associations need to step up their act in this direction.

  4. Mark Weiner November 24, 2006 at 5:48 pm #


    You’ve made an excellent point and, in my opinion, the question becomes “is PR only about media relations?” I would venture to say that, like it or not, most PR funding is devoted to media relations and in those cases, media measurement must have a place. But even the highest quality placements are only an interim goal towards achieving meaningful business outcomes.

    In my book, Unleashing the Power of PR, published by John Wiley, I posit an opinion that simple metrics are better than no metrics at all. Clip tonnage is not a particularly meaningful measure but it is a start. If the profession wants to take it further, and tie PR results to awareness, understanding and behavior, the tools are available…it’s that collectively there is an unwillingness to apply these tools towards their proper end.

    Where does the responsibility rest? Among all of us: with those who fund PR programs who should know enough to ask for more meaningful results; with those who manage and carry out PR programs who should demand that their work be taken seriously by measuring outcomes; with the awards programs who should make meaningful measurement a more important criteria than the number of tables they sell; with the measurement experts who must continue to raise the bar while democratizing what we learn in the process.


  5. Edward O'Meara November 29, 2006 at 6:58 pm #

    Agree with Mark that simple metrics are better than no metrics at all, but aren’t we all just a wee bit tired of hearing PR Managers whine, “…but to get my bonus I need to show more clips, not better clips!”

    Perhaps “measurement” leaders need to establish broader executive awareness to discourage tonnage reports and encourage the review of value creation. I don’t just mean talking to each other at IPR type events, but somehow getting to mainstream decision-makers.


  1. Metrics: You are what you measure! « intelligent measurement - November 1, 2006

    […] An interesting post from the Metrics Man on the “Media Measurement Catch-22″ as he puts it. His main point is that “you are what you measure”, in other words,  you will focus you efforts on achieving the metrics you set, and further: If all you measure is media relations (primarily clip tonnage), that is how the PR profession will be valued. […]

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