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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To Measure or Not to Measure (PR Effectiveness) Part II

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

Let me continue with more thoughts from the August 10 webinar hosted by Thompson Reuters and the Bulldog Reporter on “2010 PR Measurement Practices.” The full webinar audio content and slides remain live as of today.

The second half of the webinar featured comments from Frank Ovaitt, EVP of Makowsky + Company, and questions fielded by moderator Jon Greer.  The highlights, as I interpret them:

  1. Measurement Building Blocks — Mr. Ovaitt began his presentation with a slide entitled, “Measurement Isn’t the Starting Point.” It listed four “building blocks” for developing the metrics used to measure the performance of a public relations program — how well or poorly.  The four components are:  Foundational Research, Benchmarking & Best Practices, Formative Research and Measurement & Evaluation.I’ll have some insight to share later, but I was impressed with a comment from Mr. Ovaitt.  And, I paraphrase: “Too many in public relations use research as a ‘report card.’ We should use it as a GPS to guide us to do better.”
  2. Measurement Declarations Make Sense — Some brief commentary was made regarding the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles, a set of seven standards designed to guide how public relations is measured.  The standards were created during the Second European Summit on Measurement, which was held in June of this year in — you guessed it — Barcelona, Spain!   Five leading industry bodies, including the Public Relations Society of America (I’m a proud member), participated in the summit.Read the seven Principles and make your own assessment of their value and validity. I think they all are spot on, with number seven being especially poignant: “Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement.”  Note: Is “replicability” a real word?
  3. Q & A Was Just Okay — Participants had the opportunity to pose questions via email to the panelists.  Frankly, a lot of the questions were time-wasters and perfunctory.  Here’s an example:  “C-suite was referred to extensively throughout the webinar.  What does it mean?” Earlier in the webinar, the representative from Southwest Airlines had to define S.M.A.R.T. goals — twice.Really?  Someone couldn’t ascertain from the nature of the conversation who comprises the “C-suite” at a company?  Not to come on as being snarky (that is a word), but perhaps the person posing the question could have googled the answer.

And now, my thoughts:

  • I’m a full supporter of furthering public relations measurement practices through effective research. But I subscribe to the belief that there are two basic types of research: Primary (what you initiate on your own) and Secondary (how you use research conducted by others).  With all due respect to Mr. Ovaitt, do we really need to put research into other categories like “Foundational” and “Formative?”
  • The Barcelona Declarations obviously were the product of some really smart people.  I’ve never been to Barcelona,  but I’m sure it’s a spectacular place to visit.  Just wonder why participating groups like the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communications (AMEC) and others decided to use the city name as part of the name for their guidelines.
  • No disrespect to those who offered questions during the webinar. But I maintain it’s best to use situations like this to pose insightful questions, those that make the panelists offer an opinion or explanation.  And, granted, there were some better questions, like one posed on tools available to provide a rating to print articles.   But in this increasingly search-engine-driven world, answers to a lot of stuff are a few keystrokes away.