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Measuring PR's Value

Thieke, Diane. Talk to Me: Making Public Relations Meaningful to Business Executives, Public Relations Strategist, Spring 2007.

Public relations professionals understand the qualitative results of their activities but often aren’t able to express them in ways that are meaningful to executives. Current quantitative measurement practices such as advertising equivalency values and measuring impressions are ineffective in demonstrating the strategic contribution of public relations to the organization. Thieke suggests that public relations practitioners should tie their communications program metrics to their company’s key performance indicators and show the value of campaigns by demonstrating trends of how the company is perceived by the media, rather than basing it on the number of clippings received.

Burdick, Jeff. Fast Tracking: Making a Friend of Metrics, Public Relations Tactics, January 2008.

In companies that doggedly measure nearly every business activity, the calls to quantify public relations' value can seem never-ending. This is most prevalent in companies with a relentless eye for continuous improvement and return on investment. When it comes to public relations, the typical response from public relations pros is to fight any attempt to reduce our work to a simple spreadsheet. But given such an environment, in the long run it vastly benefits communicators to call a truce and make metrics work for — not against — you.

Weiner, Mark. A Trio of Tests: Opportunities for the Asking, Public Relations Strategist, Spring 2007.

Weiner states that proving value helps executives believe that their public relations investment is well spent. Demonstrating return on investment shows how money is recognized and retained.

Puckett, Joanne, and David B. Rockland. Don’t Be Scared: Having the ROI Conversation with Clients, Public Relations Tactics, July 2006.

To develop and introduce a measurement plan for communications programs, public relations professionals must understand what return on investment (ROI) means. However, discussing ROI with executives and staff can be challenging. Puckett and Rockland discuss the key messages to get across about ROI, as well as provide answers to frequently asked questions agencies have about measuring the value of public relations programs.

Rockland, David B. Asked to Calculate ROI? Don't Sweat It — Just Ask Good Questions from the Get-Go, Public Relations Tactics, July 2005.

The strict definition of return on investment (ROI) is the amount of income earned through public relations initiatives after subtracting program expenditures. However, this is not always the best way to demonstrate the return on investment of communications programs to executives. Rockland discusses tools that show how to derive a ROI for public relations when used along with market-mix models. Tools to determine the value of public relations placements including tracking studies, attitude and usage studies and questionnaires. Output measures of media coverage can have the same level of granularity and frequency as the sales data, and can be used in the same ways that sales data are used for advertising.   

Michaelson, David, and Sandra Macleod. The Application of 'Best Practices' in Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation Systems, Public Relations Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2007.

Public relations measurement and evaluation are essential elements in the creation of successful communications programs. While there is wide acknowledgment that measurement and evaluation are important, there is little understanding among public relations practitioners of the best and most appropriate ways to design and implement an effective system for measurement and evaluation. Michaelson and Macleod present a series of processes, procedures and considerations that should be applied in the design of research programs.

Oates, David B. Measuring the Value of Public Relations: Tying Efforts to Business Goals, PR Tactics and The Strategist Online, August 2006.

Traditional metrics to determine the success of a public relations campaign are important, but only as initial data points to indicate where to further measure campaign initiatives against business objectives. These metrics will show how public relations programs generate long-term benefits, not just short-term responses. Oates explains that in order to do this, public relations professionals must think and act strategically to measure success of their programs, target audiences and messaging must be aligned to these metrics and execution of public relations initiatives will require changes in leadership.

Burke, Johna. PR Effectiveness: What Are You Doing to Show it?, ComPRehension, March 9, 2009.

BurrellesLuce surveyed public relations practitioners about how they measure the success of their programs and found that 44 percent of public relations practitioners apply qualitative metrics (such as key messages and prominence) while 42 percent primarily use quantitative metrics. Burke refers to her webinar, How Smart Measurement Can Help You Survive the Media Revolution, available free on demand until March 2010, for examples of media measurement best practices.

Sinickas, Angela. Calculating a Return on Investment (ROI), ComPRehension, March 11, 2009.

By connecting communications with audience behavior changes and quantifying these changes, you can calculate the return on investment of your programs. Determine the net return by finding the gross return (financial value of behavior changes caused by your communications program) and subtracting the cost of your programs. Then divide this result by the cost of communications to determine the percentage return on investment.

Rockland, David B. Is ROI for Public Relations Realistic? Public Relations Tactics, January 2005.

Computing public relations' return on investment (ROI) has been a challenge to most companies. Rockland shares how Ketchum's techniques to quantify the financial value of public relations work.

Pilmer, John. Small Business? Small Budget? How to Measure for Success, Public Relations Tactics, July 2005.

Public relations is one of the most effective means a small business has to get a solid foothold in their industry and become competitive with much larger corporations. When investing precious resources, however, organizations deserve reassurance that their money is not being wasted. Wise practitioners understand the need for organizations to see the return on their investments. Pilmer discusses the public relations campaign process with a focus on measurement methods for small businesses with small budgets.

Paine, Katie Delahaye. Designing and Implementing Your Communication’s Dashboard: Lessons Learned, Institute for Public Relations, 2006.

Dashboards provide CEOs with a more efficient way to study metrics. Rather than looking at the actual numbers, gauges on the dashboard tell them whether the organization is on or off track. Paine outlines the techniques used to help communications professionals move beyond measures like clips and hits and instead define their priorities and design metrics that are tied into business performance and organizational mission. Examples of dashboards designed for nonprofits, governmental agencies as well as corporations and public relations firms, are included.

Anderson, Forrest W., and Linda Hadley. Setting Measureable Public Relations Objectives, Institute for Public Relations, 1999.

The goal of virtually all public relations is to help an organization achieve its business or performance objectives. Public relations begins to do this by setting measurable objectives. Anderson and Hadley offers guidance in creating objectives that are valuable to the business and measurable.

Corder, Lloyd D., Mark Deasy and Jerry Thompson. Answering the Age Old Marketing Question: What Have You Done For Me Lately?, Public Relations Tactics, May 1999.

Corder, Deasy and Thompson discuss the challenge of finding a convincing answer to the question of proving that your marketing communications programs and tactics achieve the desired results.

Jeffrey, Angela, and Gary Getto. Measuring to Show the Positive Value of Public Relations, Public Relations Tactics, October 2003.

Too many communications professionals fail to provide their organizations with concrete measurements of the impact and value of unpaid media. Jeffrey and Getto give concise advice on how to quantify public relations' value.

Coletti, Donna. How to Measure PR’s Contribution to Corporate Objectives, Institute for Public Relations, 2002.

This primer on showing public relations' value to management is based on a well-rounded approach used by Texas Instruments. Coletti discusses developing measurable public relations objectives and strategies based on company objectives, how the communications metrics will not fit all stakeholders and suggests methods of measurement and evaluation for public relations campaigns.

Likely, Fraser. Performance Measurement: Can PR/Communication Contribute to the New Bottom Line of Intangible, Non-Financial Indicators?, Institute for Public Relations, 1999.

If communications professionals want recognition for the intangible assets they contribute to an organization such as customer satisfaction, loyalty and goodwill, they must be able to show that the outputs of their work affect business outcomes such as organization/stakeholder relationships, corporate reputation and organizational leadership. Likely explains how efficiency, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, which is the combination of efficiency and effectiveness, can be measured at three levels: communications products, communications programs and organizational positioning.

Likely, Fraser. Communication and PR: Made to Measure, Institute for Public Relations, 2006.

Increasingly communications managers are being held responsible for the return on investment of their resources and the efficiency of their programs. If they are to be accountable, they need to manage the what and the how of measurement through a total performance measurement framework.

Lugbauer, Catherine. What Now? New Attitudes and Approaches to Communications Measurement, Public Relations Strategist, Fall 2003.

In public relations measurement clips remain the primary measure of success. This leads to a disconnect with executives as clip counts do not directly correlate to business value measures. Lugbauer provides potential starting points for senior communications professionals to use to frame a performance measurement strategy. She describes the four steps that must be accomplished by the planning and programming process. These include setting communications goals within context of organization's business goals, getting the data to quantify the goals, creating programs that can achieve the goals, and creating the metrics to assess the outcomes.

Michaelson, David B., and Toni Griffin. A New Model for Media Content Analysis, Institute for Public Relations, 2005. 

The premise of Michaelson and Griffin's research is that the media content analysis methods commonly in use fail to address the fundamental information needs of public relations professionals. The authors suggest conducting content analysis by determining the presence of four key factors in articles that are to be content analyzed: correct information, incorrect information, misleading information and omitted information. Case histories conducted for an insurance organization demonstrate how the analysis is conducted and how this analysis was used to manage media relations efforts.

Paine, Katie Delahaye, Pauline Draper and Angela Jeffrey. Using Public Relations Research to Drive Business Results, Institute for Public Relations, 2008.

Paine, Draper and Jeffrey encourage the use of data-driven decision-making within the public relations profession. The authors discuss the setting of measurable goals and objectives and provides six case studies from the technology, defense, retail, airline, utility and health care industries in which research has been used to further business goals and communications objectives.

Richter, Lisa and Walter G. Barlow. Selling Public Relations Research Internally: Changing the Mindset About Communications, Institute for Public Relations, 2000.

The pre-eminent challenge facing the public relations executive seeking to develop evaluation and measurement systems is gaining acceptance of them from all important parties, starting with the organization head that has to approve the budgets and the staffs who have to develop, execute and then interpret the resulting research. While it is difficult to isolate in specific return on investment dollar amount that portion due to the impact of other factors like advertising expenditures and the external environment, correlations can begin to be made between public relations inputs and dollar outcomes.

Rockland, David B. PR Research and Measurement at a CrossroadsPublic Relations Strategist, Fall 2003.

Companies have begun to master the art of measuring media in terms of message delivery, quality of the article in terms of third- party endorsement and placement, as well as repositioning the competition, rather than compiling clip books .Measurement is also changing in terms of consumer outcomes driven by media coverage. If modeled properly, it is possible not only to measure the effects of public relations on sales - and, in turn, on return on investment - but also to determine which elements of the coverage exhibit the greatest impact on the bottom line. Elevating research and measurement to the status of media relations, crisis and issues management, or executive counseling, puts it at the table with the other profit generators of a public relations practice.

Jeffrey, Angela. The Advantage of Output Measurement, Public Relations Tactics, February 2000.

There are two types of measurement — outcome and output — both linked by carefully defined objectives at the start of a campaign. Outcome measurements, which tell us how much a public relations campaign has moved the needle in public awareness, attitudes and behavior. Outputs reflect the success of short-term tactics and efforts, and can be as simple as media content analysis, ad equivalencies, impressions, numbers of messages sent and placed, speeches given and attendance at events. Ad equivalency inaccurately infers that public relations can be compared to advertising; media value — the space or time occupied by a story — is what public relations can measure.

Weiner, Mark, and Hans Bender. Public Relations and the Marketing Mix Modeling Process, Public Relations Strategist, Summer 2006.

Public relations research and evaluation are becoming more meaningful as those who invest in public relations demand to know more about what has been earned for their investment. The catalyst for change is "marketing mix modeling," a form of statistical analysis applied to marketing outputs to mathematically explain historical results and predict future outcomes. These analyses focus on probabilities and trends based on variable factors likely to influence future behavior or results. The data that feeds most marketing mix models is relatively simple: frequency and reach of advertising or direct marketing, also known as gross rating points, or GRPs, segmented by market and within a given time frame.

Ostrowski, Helen. Moving the Measurement Needles, Public Relations Strategist, Summer 1999.

Publicity is neither a substitute for advertising nor synonymous with public relations. According to Ostrowski, public relations can help market products and services and be credited for its contributions to the bottom line by applying the strategic elements of marketing. 

Stacks, Don W. Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Research, Institute for Public Relations, 2006.

Lindenmann, Walter K. Public Relations Research for Planning and Evaluation, Institute for Public Relations, 2006.

Lindenmann, Walter K. Guidelines and Standards for Measuring the Effectiveness of PR Programs and Activities, Institute for Public Relations, 1997.

"Research, Planning, Implementation and Evaluation." In Study Guide for the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations (APR), Public Relations Society of America, 2008.

Note: For additional resources for public relations research, measurement techniques, guidelines, scales and measurement case studies, please refer to Tina Caroll and Don W. Stacks' Bibliography of Public Relations Measurement, available from the Institute for Public Relations.