Let’s put Outputs, Outtakes and Outcomes in the Outhouse

1 Nov

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.

EIA graphic

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  


16 Responses to “Let’s put Outputs, Outtakes and Outcomes in the Outhouse”

  1. Michael Blowers November 12, 2007 at 8:52 pm #

    Hi Dan, I really think you have got something here. I am convinced that but with the exception of the hallowed echelons of the measurement cognoscenti the ‘Out’s are confusing and an alternative needs to be sought for the PR community. I think your E-I-A construct shows genuine insight and warrants official examination. The measurement industry needs this discussion and it also needs to make sure that PR drives progress as they are the ones who will have to put it into practice and use it to relay the message back to the end user/client.

  2. Don Bartholomew November 14, 2007 at 7:56 pm #

    Thanks for your comment and your blog post on your site (http://mediaevaluation.blogspot.com).

    To build on one of your points, it is interesting that the measurement community often has a significant voice on issues larger than measurement and evaluation. As you imply, since we are the ones on the front lines of the need to prove the value of public relations, we have a unique perspective on many of our shortcomings as an industry. I am convinced that if our industry continues to be viewed through the media relations lens, we will eventually be marginalized.
    Cheers, Don B

    p.s. Don not Dan – thanks

  3. Ipek Ozerim November 29, 2007 at 11:44 pm #

    ThankQ Don for a very easy-to-understand formula. I was brushing up on some PR terms for training to staff tomorrow and finding your blog was tops 😉

    Your E-I-A is going to be so much easier to explain (and retain) than the 3 “Out”s, and certainly more apt/effective measures for PR activity.

  4. Don Bartholomew November 29, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    Thanks for those kind words Ipek. Good luck with the training session tomorrow! -DB

  5. achumley December 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm #

    Kudos Don. I love it. While technically it’s a matter of semantics–a rose by any other name–and both taxonomies essentially ‘do’ the same thing, I think the real value lies in folks who don’t do measurement for a living understanding exposure / influence / action more readily than the spectrum of outs. Good to see the back of that napkin you showed me in NH has made the light of day. Well done.

    One sticky point for me, though. The jump from expsoure to includence seems huge to me relative to the jump from influence to action. Could understanding be missing between expsoure and influence>

  6. Don Bartholomew December 17, 2007 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi Alan,

    It feels like Canada is Dallas recently – 29 degrees this weekend!

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I would agree that the jump from Exposure to Influence is greater than the jump from Influence to Action. However, I do not believe it is any longer than the jump from Output to Outcome.

    Part of the reason E to I is a bigger jump is the shear volume of noise (competing messages) aimed at our target audience. Breaking through the clutter and creating influence in damn difficult!

    Beyond that, I believe you are right that Understanding is an interim step between Exposure and Influence. I might argue that Relevance is an even more important interim step. But I’ll take either over Outtakes!

    Cheers, DB

    p.s. Thanks for the Holiday card. I added you to my blogroll – I was remiss in doing that.

  7. achumley December 18, 2007 at 6:24 pm #

    Now if only I could spell. Numbers good. Words bad.

  8. Kathryn Chandler April 22, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Speaking of ‘shear volume’: shearing is what you do to sheep. The correct word is ‘sheer’, as in ‘it’s a matter of sheer necessity to change OOO to EIA.’

  9. metricsman April 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm #

    Thanks,Kathryn, you are correct of course. Thanks for reading so carefully. -Don B

  10. posicionamiento web November 18, 2016 at 4:53 am #

    Sin duda estáis a la última, gracias por la
    info! Lo pondremos en práctica


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