Public Relations Tactics

The Elephant in the Room: An ‘Unwillingness to Measure’

May 1, 2014

People often cite public relations’  “measurement problem” as the reason why our profession doesn’t get the respect that it deserves as a business tool. This implies that everything will be fine once the analytics experts stop playing with their pocket protectors and figure it out.

But public relations doesn’t have a measurement problem. Instead, it has an “unwillingness to measure” problem.

We know how to measure public relations. The elephant in the room is that many practitioners shy away from demonstrating and predicting results. Reasons range from fear of accountability to poor math skills and trouble expressing how PR activities contribute to an organization’s bottom line. 

But this may be the year where those barriers crumble. PRSA, along with the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), have teamed up to change this paradigm.

Here’s what’s ahead:

International Measurement Summit

Amsterdam, June 11-13
This is the leading event for new ideas in PR measurement, beginning with the Barcelona Principles in 2010. This year, we’re anticipating speakers and attendees from 40 countries, and an interesting change in theme.

The Summit’s focus is shifting to a broader focus on insight creation. In other words, how do we use both the left and right sides of our brains not only to develop great predictive approaches, but also to inspire award-winning communications programs?

Measurement Week

Worldwide, Sept. 15-19
Organizations from countries around the world — including India, the United Kingdom, Spain, the United States, Australia, China and Brazil — are planning a series of events as part of AMEC’s Global Education Programme.

Activities will include a webinar series by Booz Allen Hamilton and new research on measurement trends to support workshops and seminars from AMEC partner organizations, including PRSA.

PRSA/AMEC Measurement Symposium at the PRSA 2014 International Conference

Washington, D.C., Oct. 12-14
The PRSA 2014 International Conference will focus on increasing ROI, insights and demonstrating value with actionable best practices. As in the last two years, AMEC and PRSA will team up to  offer a symposium to  teach measurement and showcase best practices, based on a huge array of client examples.

“We have received great input from both AMEC and PRSA members in shaping the content. We expect this year’s symposium to have a record number of attendees,” says Todd Grossman, co-chair AMEC North American Chapter and managing director for Precise Americas.

According to Allyson Hugley, co-chair AMEC North American Chapter and executive vice president of analytics for Weber Shandwick, AMEC and PRSA are working together to ensure that this year’s program builds on our past success by continuing to provide practitioners with insights into how to apply best practice communications evaluation to their own work.

“Both organizations are deeply committed to using research and data to inform and elevate the practice of public relations,” she says.

Chris Foster, an AMEC Board member and vice president, Booz Allen Hamilton, has spearheaded much of the measurement education initiatives with AMEC and PRSA. “We’ve finally gotten away from talking about ‘how’ and instead focusing on ‘when.’ The evaluation techniques are all in place, whether it is media measurement, establishing a measurable reputation framework or defining a clear return on engagement,” he says.

“We need to get PR practitioners comfortable in integrating these approaches as part of their programs. Once we do that, we’ll advance the profession considerably and move much closer to delivering business ROI.”

With AMEC and PRSA working together, this is the year to let that elephant out of the room.

Have measurement questions?


David B. Rockland, Ph.D.

David Rockland, Ph.D., retired as CEO of KGRA on July 31, 2017, but continues as part-time chairman. He and his wife, Sarah Dutton, who recently retired from CBS News, have also started their own research and consulting firm to work with Ketchum and other clients at


Mark E. Morris says:

David, Yes, while it is certainly possible to put into place measurement structures that everyone can agree to, I take exception with your comment about shying away from predicting results. If you've been in the business any length of time you know about all the variables that can wreck even the most modest prediction. Your point about PR people not demonstrating enough the effectiveness of their results is a point well taken, but to fault professionals for not predicting results is way off base.

May 12, 2014

Christopher Biddle, APR says:

David,As jead of research of Ketchum, you have both the time, experience, knowledge and BUDGET to tackle this problem head on. At every workshop I've attended, the panelists have been top people with big PR firms. Is there someone at your level who can find a way to make the new PR measurement available to the thousands of tiny agencies and solo practitioners who are working crazy hours already and don't have measurement budgets?

May 12, 2014

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