Measurement Year in Review: A Look Back and a Look Ahead

January 1, 2015

[ikon images/corbis]
[ikon images/corbis]

Now that it’s after the holidays, I’d like to make an analogy about public relations in the context of the adults’ and the kids’ tables at big family meals. PR practitioners have long bemoaned their desire to be in the C-suite. In some respects, we are like the upset teenagers who find themselves relegated to the kids’ table.

Why do teenagers have to sit at the kids’ table? Because even though they think they are fascinating, most teenagers don’t actually have a lot to say. Similarly, executives sometimes downgrade public relations because it doesn’t really have anything to contribute at the C-suite level. But people often think of measurement as the way to upgrade.

The reality is that measurement is not a mystery or a problem that still needs solving. Basically, it is the answer to three questions:

1. Did you reach the people you were trying to reach with the messages you were trying to convey?

2. How did those people subsequently change as a result of you reaching them?

3. What effects on the business or organization resulted from the changes in that target audience?

And the metrics for each question and their measurement are pretty straightforward:

1. Quantity of reach and quality of message delivery to a target audience

2. Changes in awareness, comprehension, engagement, attitude, behavior and advocacy

3. Effects on business measures, such as sales, employee retention, and buy and hold stocks

This is the start of my fourth year writing this column. In prior years, I have asked if this would be the year that measurement really took hold in public relations. But this year feels different. In fact, I wonder if 2014 was the year that measurement truly became part of public relations. A few points for consideration:

• Measurement events and conferences were often overbooked. This time last year, I was on a Gorkana webinar that had 1,500 people registered. The IT people weren’t sure how to get that many people connected at once.

• AMEC’s International Measurement Summit in Amsterdam, which is the annual highlight event for measurement pros, was completely booked with people from nearly 40 countries. It was there that social media metrics were adopted and standardized.

• Mergers and acquisitions dominated the measurement business.

• Measurement Week took off in September; almost 50 events on five continents with about 1,000 participants. Honestly, when they first mentioned the idea to me (as AMEC’s chairman), I thought they were a bit nuts. I’m so happy I was wrong and that this will now be part of measurement’s annual calendar.

I’m feeling pretty optimistic about 2015. If 2014 was a year of tremendous activity, then I think that 2015 will be one of continued action and progress. What does that mean? It begins with each PR practitioner and communications team agreeing to their goals for 2015:

1. Who are we trying to reach?

2. What about them are we trying to change?

3. How much is a good change?

4. When will we achieve this?

Answer these questions and apply the metrics noted here, and you’ll have an excellent measurement program. You’ll also probably be sitting at the adults’ table this coming holiday season.

So I’d like to ask you a favor. Send me a note at What would you like to see in this column this year? How can it be most helpful to you in the work you do? Thank you, and Happy New Year.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D.

David B. Rockland, Ph.D., retired as CEO of KGRA in 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


Jalisa Renee Logan says:

After reading articles in the local newspaper about how the VA being audited and President Obama looking to set a measurement system in place to college effectiveness, it was my strong belief that evaluation and measurement is beginning to take center stage. Anybody who wants to validate an accomplishment must have a way to measure it. While this seems fairly straight-forward, developing an accurate and effective measurement system is not as intuitive, depending on what you're trying to measure. Furthermore, human error can prevent good measurements systems from working.

Jan. 6, 2015

Kirk Hazlett, APR, Fellow PRSA says:

Excellent and clearly explained discussion of measuring the effectiveness of public relations and its value. Definitely something I can share with my PR students at Curry College! Thanks!

Jan. 13, 2015

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