Five PR Measurement Trends to Watch in 2008

16 Jan

Look for 2008 to be a year of increasing accountability for the public relations profession.   Add in the very real possibility of an economic recession and, more than ever, the pressure will be on to prove the value of public relations. 

1.  Focus on efforts to measure the influence of blogs, social media and other online properties

There is a high level of agreement that blogs, discussion groups, social media and other online properties are shaping the way consumers learn and think about products and brands.   First generation attempts to measure their influence on consumers have been done using predominately traditional media metrics like Impressions.  In 2008 expect to see a stronger push toward specialized metrics to measure online engagement/dialogue rather than just exposure.  

2.  Ongoing shift  of PR measurement budgets towards Outcomes rather than Outputs

Historically the majority of public relations dollars have been spent measuring Outputs (Exposure) rather than Outcomes (Influence and Action).  Studies suggest the split has been perhaps 60%/40%.  Expect 2008 to be the first year where the split is closer to 50%/50%.

3.  Renewed efforts by content providers to reconcile copyright issues

Many of you may have recently received a letter from Burrelles/Luce notifying you as of April 2008 they will be adding copyright royalty fees automatically on behalf of content owners based on the average numbers of copies of print or electronic clips distributed.  Expect other content aggregators to follow suit in 2008.  

4.  Increased use of Marketing Mix Modeling for ROI determination

Procter and Gamble’s proactive outreach about their Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) project (read more here) sparked a lot of industry debate in 2007 (and we suspect projects for modeling vendors).  The new Da Vinci agency being formed for Dell has already stated their ambition to combine art and science to tie marketing activities directly to business outcomes like sales and market share.  Look for MMM to be part of the science used by Da Vinci and for it to become mainstreamed in 2008.

5.  Additional efforts to find a ‘single metric’ measurement solution

For many in public relations measurement the Holy Grail is a single, powerful metric of success.  Microsoft took this approach with their ambitious measurement system development project last year as did the Canadian Public Relations Society (read more here)before them. Perhaps Da Vinci will also be seduced by the allure of the single metric.

16 Responses to “Five PR Measurement Trends to Watch in 2008”

  1. David Alston January 17, 2008 at 2:19 am #

    Great post Don. Specifically to points 1 and 2 we’ve certainly been putting a lot of effort into crunching something for the PR and ad pros to use in our social media monitoring solution. In fact the influencer widget that we launched before Christmas was specifically designed to move away from impressions and towards measuring influence based on weighting scores determined by the agency in areas of commenting activity, engagement, unique commenters and on topic inbound links. The ability to then uncover where these inbound links (found inside of posts as opposed to blogrolls) are coming from also helps to determine influential relationship networks.

    We’ve also put some thought into outcome based tracking with our ability to track issues over time across all types of social media by topic or brand. With your indepth knowledge in this area we’d really be interested in your feedback and how what we’ve been doing compares to what you’ve see needed in your agency biz.

    Finally, specifically to number 5 I certainly agree that landing on a specific metric or set of metrics is needed for not only the online ad and social media PR and marketing biz. Article after article points to this lack of measurement standing in the way of accelerated growth in percentage of ad spend online. We’d certainly love to hear any thoughts you might have on this as well.

    All the best.

    David Alston
    “Be the social media expert.”

  2. Don Bartholomew January 17, 2008 at 4:21 am #

    Hi David,
    Thanks for your kind words. I will investigate what you are doing further and get back to you with my thoughts. Regarding the single metric approach, I am not an advocate of it per se. Metrics yes, one composite metric, no. It is tidy for sure, but masks potentially important insights and somewhat discourages diagnostics.

    I look forward to further dialogue on social media measurement. You might also loop Katie Delahaye Paine (see my blogroll) into the conversation if you have not already done so. All the best, DB

  3. sean williams January 17, 2008 at 1:28 pm #

    HI Don – thanks for this post. The situation as regards a single metric is what led to the abhorrent AVE — I’ve been very disappointed in the tendency to seize upon AVE as a singular measure (in several cases). Because it’s simple, because it seems so right, it gets snatched up by many in leadership at companies. Part of that issue in my mind is that the marketing discipline has measured so carefully (albeit in impressions). The seduction of the holy grail is profound! I agree with you that a suite of metrics is the best approach, and that’s what I’m advocating for at National City (here on my two-week anniversary.)

  4. Don Bartholomew January 17, 2008 at 2:30 pm #

    Greeting Sean,

    I think you are absolutely right about the single metric/AVE dynamic. I really like the phrase ‘abhorrent AVE’ BTW. As I have blogged before, AVEs are a path of least resistance approach. It reflects a degree of professional laziness. That said, sometimes in the agency world our clients press/demand that we report AVEs. There needs to be a lot more education in this area, beginning at our universities.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck at National City! -Don B

  5. Katie Delahaye Paine January 17, 2008 at 6:43 pm #

    Can’t argue with anything here.. but I would add one more — increasingly clients are not satisfied with pure technology solutions, be they in social media measurement or traditional media measurement. If Facebook and Microsoft don’t trust computers to do measurement why should anyone else? I see alot more hybrid solutions, i.e computers do the heavy lifting, humans read for tone, messaging and positioning.

  6. Don Bartholomew January 17, 2008 at 9:51 pm #

    Hi Katie,

    Fully agree with your observation that hybrid solutions (man + machine) are necessary for tone, message delivery and positioning on issues. The nuances exceed the capabilities of the machines (or software) used. I believe it is true most of the content analysis vendors have already arrived at this same conclusion with a couple of notable exceptions. As my Dad used to say, “It’s a great day for the race”, “Gee Dad, what race?” “The Human race”.

    Do you plan on doing any ‘top trends’ crystal ball gazing this year Katie?

    Thanks for reading, DB

  7. Mark Weiner January 18, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi Don

    That there are five PR measurement trends to begin with is an important statement. The topic suggests to me that the small world of public relations research and evaluation has matured in the past five years…and while there may be opportunities for explosive growth in the field, more and more PR professionals respect the need for good research and measurement (and they’re investing in it). Your five trends — which span new and traditional media, attitudinal, behavioral and ROI research — indicate a broader range of options and opportunity for the profession and the organizations that serve it.

    Thanks, MetricsMan: keep fighting the good fight!


  8. Don Bartholomew January 18, 2008 at 10:59 pm #

    Thanks Mark.

    Your comments, as usual, are spot on. Regarding the five trends as making an important statement, I believe Katie Paine published 10 trends last year…not sure how to interpret that!

    Cheers, DB

  9. Chris Iafolla January 24, 2008 at 7:35 pm #

    Thanks for your post Don. As most PR pros would agree (and you have stated) landing on a single metric to measure PR is both unlikely and not helpful.

    The hybrird approach discussed here is one we have been taken for our clients for quite some time. It is impossible to equate all articles, just as it is impossible to equate editorial space to ad dollars. Thanks again Don.

  10. Don Bartholomew January 24, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment, I fully agree with your take. Please give my regards to Todd D. -Don B

  11. Herb Lev, BurrellesLuce February 1, 2008 at 4:42 pm #


    Regarding prediction #3 (content providers will renew efforts to reconcile copyright issues), details of the BurrellesLuce compliance program you mentioned and general suggestions on how to adhere to copyright rules are contained in a document titled “Copyright Compliance: What Every Media Relations Professional Needs to Know.” Anyone wanting a copy can e-mail me at

  12. Mariana Sarceda March 30, 2008 at 4:28 pm #

    Thanks a lot for a great post. I specially agree with your first highlight and with the need for PR professionals to be accountable for the results in their area.


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