Three Things I Learned on Measurement (and More) at Today’s PRSA Chicago Breakfast

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

There’s nothing like a breakfast networking/panel discussion event to kick off the day on a positive, productive note.  Add “measuring the effectiveness of public relations plans” to the mix and it gets even better.prsa chicago

Earlier today, I joined a few dozen colleagues from PRSA Chicago for a breakfast meeting on this subject: “How Do You Know if Your Programs are Working?” The focus was on measuring the effectiveness of public relations programs — the bottom-line reason clients pay for our services.  The discussion featured these panelists:

K.C. Brown, General Manager of Cision Global Analysts
Andrew McCann, Product Marketing Manager, Salesforce Marketing Cloud
Craig Werlin, Senior Director of Sales Engineering, Spredfast

The conversation was moderated by Blagica Bottigliero, Founder, Zlato Digital LLC, and a final shout out to Edelman Chicago for hosting the event in their way cool offices on the 66th floor of the Aon Center.   Here are three takeaways from the discussion.

  1. Good PR Measurement = Better Understanding of PR.  There’s a perceived gap in the public relations arena: Clients have unrealistic expectations on what public relations can deliver, but the public relations industry “under-delivers” on its potential for effective communications.  More effective measurement can close the gap.
  2. Measuring Social in the Marketing Mix.  It’s widely accepted (so I’ve read) that public relations professionals dominate effective use of social media in delivering client messages.  So, it’s essential for public relations to measure the impact of social media as part of the entire integrated message.
  3. Cool Infographics, Are, Well Cool, But … Graphic artists who can design provocative infographic works of business art are in demand today because infographics work.  If the budget doesn’t allow it, a well-designed, simple data table (Column A, Column B) can also have a dramatic impact.
A "vintage" infographic, circa 1801.

A “vintage” infographic, circa 1801.

Of course, there was lots of other great insight, knowledge and opinions shared from the panelists, who all work at companies that provide distribution and measurement resources used by the public relations industry.  (Learned a new phrase: “Transgression analysis.”) As an aside,  I would have liked to hear from a senior practitioner who developed and executed a national integrated campaign for that perspective, and I was surprised that in a conversation on public relations measurement, no one mentioned the Barcelona Principles.

(If you’re not familiar with the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles, read what The PRDude had to say in 2010:  Part onePart two.)

Finally, as noted, measuring whether a public relations campaign meets objectives is paramount. That holds true for pure PR programs that incorporate mostly traditional tactics (better known as “earned exposure”) or integrated programs that involve paid and owned messages.  We’ve come a long way from the days when a fistful of print clips demonstrated success.

For me, today’s breakfast also reinforced these thoughts:

1. The practice of public relations continues to advance, driven largely, of course, by technology; but also through its continued integration into the marketing mix.  As one panelist noted: “The consumer doesn’t care where he gets the message from.”

2. To stay vital, to stay relevant as a practitioner, I’ll need to keep abreast of advancements and best practices — and to learn how to use them.

What are your thoughts on the current state of measuring the success of a public relations campaign?

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