(A college class recently asked me to predict where PR measurement would be in five years. This is what I sent them)
I believe it was Neils Bohr, or perhaps Yogi Berra, who once said, “Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.” In 2008, the public relations industry is undergoing rapid change driven by Web 2.0 phenomenon like social media, blogging, peer-to-peer communications and synchronous communications. As the influence of traditional media diminishes due to ongoing fragmentation, public relations firms are re-inventing themselves to help clients navigate and succeed in this new reality.
Here are a few predictions for the future state of public relations measurement. I almost guarantee these will be wrong.
More than half of all measurement dollars go to Outcomes research rather than (just) measuring Outputs. Historically the majority of PR measurement dollars have gone toward Outputs (exposure) rather than Outcomes (influence and action). For most major PR programs, it is no longer considered sufficient to just measure Outputs. Clients and companies increasingly demand to understand what actually happened as a result of getting a media hit rather than celebrating just getting the hit.
Cross-platform/domain measurement a hot topic – how do you measure the influence on someone who has read your blog, posted a comment, sent a tweet to 35 followers, visited another site and referred to your blog with a trackback, told four friends about your post, two of whom visited your blog as well? Communications tools like advertising and public relations have always worked together synergistically. By 2013, the number of ways to interact and participate in communities of interest has greatly complicated the measurement task.
Word-of-Mouth measurement will be another of the hot topics. While both PR and Advertising claim they are the rightful ‘owners’ of WOM programs, neither is able to offer a comprehensive way to assign a value to a peer-to-peer conversation or recommendation. By the way, it is nonsensical to try to use ad value equivalents for WOM. Makes even less sense than using AVEs for earned print media
Marketing mix modeling is mainstream. In response to cross-platform measurement challenges, an increase in interest in integrated marketing communications, and a continuing need to demonstrate accountability, marketing mix modeling will be commonly used in 2013 to report on the efficacy of large programs containing multiple communications tactics (advertising, PR, PA, direct, etc.)
Industry proliferation and consolidation. The PR measurement industry is undergoing a proliferation of vendors in 2008. For example, the number of social media measurement firms roughly doubled from 50 in 2007 to 100 in 2008. Beginning in 2009 and continuing through 2013, there will be a series of company failures and consolidations that leaves about five large, strong measurement firms and a second tier of perhaps 20 specialist firms.
There will be a variety of free or very low cost public relations measurement tools available online that will make it very easy to obtain good Output data at low or no cost.
There will still be no standard metric for PR measurement. Despite many efforts, there will be no agreement on a single, standard metric for public relations measurement. Objectives vary widely and metrics need to reflect this. In the social media space, Nielsen BuzzMetrics will be considered a de-facto standard by many practitioners.
We will still be talking about AVEs. The continuing quest for accountability and ROI will cause many to follow the easy and misguided route of ad value equivalencies. This despite the fact that numerous professional organizations including PRSA and the IPR have come out against the further use of AVEs in the industry.
As always, thanks for reading. -Don B