Our industry group, the Public Relations Society of America, has formed a committee of high level thinkers
to solve one nagging pain point that continues to hurt our industry: develop a true industry-wide measurement standard. (PRSA Seeks To Establish Industry Wide Measurement Standards)
This is no easy task. In fact, many professionals in our industry have tackled this very challenge before with little to no consensus resulting from their efforts. More to the point, it’s safe to say that no two firms today conduct measurement that leverages the same verifiable and consistent standard.
I applaud the PRSA and especially this committee for its efforts. From what I see, their key strategy is right on target. Everything they will develop revolves around shifting the conversation away from the volume of media clips, social media activity and advertising equivalency value to outcomes that measure and show how PR drives business performance. I also love the fact that they are offering up specific economic models to do this (i.e. regression analysis and also isolating the effects of PR campaigns by isolating statistics, are two examples). No doubt, this will teach many PR practitioners that a true quantitative ROI on their campaigns can be measured and understood. This isn’t rocket science, after all.
Yes. I have a good feeling that this group (comprised of some very talented measurement professionals like Katie Paine) will provide us with a standard that the industry can be proud of.
What still concerns me (though) is that our industry is ill prepared for real metrics because of two realities that have nothing to do with creating a respectable industry standard:
1) Almost always (in my experience,) prospects talk big about wanting the agency they hire to measure a soon to be created/implemented campaign. But, once that business is actually won, it’s rare that a true metrics program is ever crafted at the onset of the relationship. Measurement isn’t that hard. But, it takes a number of meetings and some work to tailor a system/formula/process that should fit each individual client. Both client and agency have responsibility to make sure that this happens. In my experience, it’s typically the client who is so rushed (or excited) to begin the program, that measurement often just gets pushed aside.
2) Measuring true business outcomes can never actually happen unless the right mechanisms are in put in place to track and collect data and then conduct the precise type of analysis that is needed, (i.e. what sales leads data actually resulted from this campaign?). It’s not that difficult to arrange for this to transpire. But, if nothing materializes, then the end metrics result can only be the analysis of outputs (such as PR clips, and social media activity.) I simply don’t see too many companies spending time to create these valuable mechanisms. And, that’s a shame.
Kudos to this committee. But in my estimation, we’ve still got a lot of education that needs to take place.