Public Relations Tactics

Setting standards: Measurement qualifications for PR pros

June 1, 2012

In last month’s column, account executive  Jessica asked what it takes to become a PR research and measurement person.

She became interested in this after learning that you can use PR measurement and analytics to help charitable organizations maximize their marketing dollars, connect companies to relevant publics and determine the best CSR programs for clients.

Coincidentally, representatives from more than 30 countries are gathering in Dublin, Ireland, on June 13-15 to debate competency standards for PR measurement professionals and for PR practitioners in general.  The International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication is hosting the fourth European Summit on Measurement.

What do you need to know to be an expert in measurement and what do you need to know about measurement to be good at public relations?  This question stems from the Barcelona Principles.

Here are some of the qualifications under consideration:

  • Knows quantitative and qualitative research techniques
  • Writes clear goals and objectives
  • Selects appropriate metrics for outputs, outcomes and business results
  • Measures quality and does not rely on simple quantitative measure, such as clips and impressions, alone 
  • Understands the benefits of different media measurement techniques
  • Has knowledge of different outcome measures
  • Can create effective research proposal requests, follow vendor and tool selection best practices and develop research budgets
  • Integrates analytics into communications efforts across channels
  • Emphasizes transparency in all facets of research
  • Measures traditional and social media consistently 

“We learned most of this when I was studying for my communications degree, but can’t recall doing much of this now that I am a PR account executive,”  Jessica said.  “Is it realistic to think we can have standards like this for all PR professionals, or should they only be for measurement gurus?”

I think that PR practitioners should be conversant in most of these things. If we don’t want to be considered a lightweight profession, then we must set higher expectations and talk the language of business.

But what do you think? Following the meeting in Dublin and throughout most of this summer, we will debate the concepts to include in a PR measurement credential — likely concluding the conversation in time for the Measurement Symposium at the PRSA International Conference in San Francisco on Oct. 14. We’d love to hear from you.

Reader email

And, now, a reader question:

As a director of a small PR firm, staffing and time are often limited.  Without having to create my own point system to measure quality of articles, what resources are available?

It sounds more daunting than it is. Sit down with your client for an hour and discuss what would represent the perfect article as well as what would be a disaster. Select -100 to mean 100 percent of these things went wrong, and +100 to signify that 100 percent of these factors went right.

Assign points within this range for message delivery, tone, headline, photo and tier of media — usually in somewhat balanced doses. Score the articles that you generate for the client, or if there are too many, then use a sample or hire an intern.

While it is a bit simplistic, this approach is better than not doing anything and blaming your budget or resources. Most of the time, there are some easy answers.

Send your thoughts, comments and questions to Doc Rock.

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


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