Capturing the Total Value of Public Relations

15 Dec

Since public relations is a broad profession and may cover a wide variety of disciplines – media relations, online engagement, crisis communications, public affairs, executive counseling, brand building, events, reputation management, employee communications and financial communications to name a few – it is difficult to conceptualize the totality of value public relations and communication delivers to the organization.  For the most part, public relations measurement has focused on attempts to measure media relations value and is not really addressing the other areas very well.  When you are attempting to quantify the full value and ROI of public relations, taking the broad view paints a much richer picture.

The PR Value Cube is a tops-down conceptual framework for capturing all the ways PR is contributing value to the organization.  PR contributes value in one of three major, interrelated areas (Y-axis):

Marketing – Sales and other marketing oriented programs and metrics (e.g. lead generation) fit within this category.   The vast majority of PR measurement efforts today fall within the Marketing category.

Brand – PR contributes to building brands.  Value contribution in this area is usually more anecdotal than measured.  Experiential PR and many social media campaigns are contributing more to brand than sales or any other area.

Reputation – One of the primary overarching purposes of PR is reputation enhancement and protection, yet our contribution here again is usually measured more by ‘gut metrics’ than analytics.


Within each major area we can examine value created through Engagement, Influence and Action (X-axis).

Engagement – to what degree has exposure to PR materials, activities and events created Engagement with the intended target audience?  Are they interacting with our content, creating links, forwarding to friends, talking about the brand, etc.

Influence – the degree to which Engagement has influenced perceptions and attitudes.  Likelihood to recommend the brand to a friend and brand consideration changes are two possible examples of Influence.

Action – as a result of the public relations effort, what actions if any has the target taken?  Did they visit the web site, tell a friend, buy the product, vote for our candidate, etc.

The value itself can take one of three forms (Z-axis):

  • Revenue generation
  • Cost Savings (e.g. employee recruiting costs decline due to strong company reputation)
  • Cost Avoidance (e.g. avoiding recruiting costs because employee retention/loyalty has improved)

There is one more important consideration when thinking about the total value delivered by public relations and social media.  That is time.  PR creates value on a transactional, short-term basis (e.g. the value of 10,000 potential customers reading your article in today’s Wall Street Journal) and on a process-oriented, longer-term basis.  Brand and Reputation are both examples of longer-term value.  Both are process-oriented, and build and lose value over time, often measured in years.  The other time dimension value created by PR is what I have referred to previously as the residual value of PR.  That is the value of the created searchable and archived content created by the PR function.  The residual value may take the form of influencing organic search positioning.

That’s a lot of value for one profession!  In 2009, let’s hope CEOs, CMOs and other decision makers increasingly recognize the great value and superior ROI delivered by public relations.

7 Responses to “Capturing the Total Value of Public Relations”

  1. Nathan Gilliatt December 16, 2008 at 8:16 pm #

    That’s a lot of little cubes. Has anyone ever determined values for all 27?

  2. metricsman December 19, 2008 at 9:33 am #

    Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for your comment. No one company would be creating value in all areas and of all types. The real point is to think beyond the traditional Marketing/Outputs intersection (where 90% of measurement is today) to do a better job of capturing all value areas. PR or social media programs usually are aligned with sales/marketing goals but might actually be primarily adding value to brand or reputation. -Don B

  3. dave platter February 5, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    Don, it would be very interesting to walk through a case study in which you measure a campaign and fill in the value cube. That would really make it come to life. Nice work!

  4. dave platter February 5, 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    Don, regarding my prior comment, I would be especially interested in how you account for value over time in the cube. Thanks again for this fantastic tool.


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    […] must have Exposure before Engagement, much like Awareness must precede Purchase Consideration, true value creation begins at the Engagement stage.  Using old school language, value occurs with Outcomes, not […]

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    […] reputation management, employee communications and financial communications to name a few – MetricMan says it is difficult to conceptualize the totality of value public relations and communications […]

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