Much ado has been made of varying perspectives on whether public relations is measurable or not. The short answer is that yes, it’s eminently measurable in every way. Some ways are deeply impractical, but they are measurable and quantifiable with infinite time and resources. Even brand equity itself has a number of valuation models, from weighted and non-weighted indices to conjoint analyses. Even the most sophisticated modeling methods for intangibles like brand are now within reach of public relations professionals and firms.
The issue is not whether PR is measurable, but what we do with those measurements to improve our businesses. The greatest disconnect in all of public relations is not measurement, but bridging the gap between audience generation and marketing conversion. The greatest value an agency or in-house team can provide is to help bridge that gap, to create bottom-line results from top-of-funnel activities.
Let’s say you get a great hit in the New York Times, the venerable Grey Lady. How many different ways can you measure that? You can measure share of voice. You can measure exposure or eyeball counts. You can measure direct traffic from the domain. The list goes on and on. Here’s the real problem: none of those measurements really tell you what to do next. None of them say, okay, you got the hit, now do X, Y, or Z. That’s what is missing from the discussions about PR’s quantification. We know we can measure what happened. As an industry we struggle with telling people what to do next. For example, after a big hit, how many PR pros go to their sales teams (or clients’ sales teams, if you’re agency-side) with the clip and say, “here, use this in your selling as an authority influence play”?
This is why PR professionals who want to see their companies or clients grow need to learn what happens after the traditional PR work is done. This is why marketers need to understand PR, and why PR professionals need to understand marketing, so that we can see the big picture impacts of our work at all levels of the organization. This is why we measure not just what PR does, but what happens to the organization as a whole, so that we know the bottom-line value of our work.
PR is measurable. PR is quantifiable. But PR needs to provide insight if it’s to remain a valuable part of a company’s overall growth.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology