Do We Need Universal Standards for Measuring Success in PR?

The art (and it is an art) of measuring success for clients has long been a challenge for PR firms. In the era of “Big Data”, most industry veterans agree that metrics, otherwise known as “numbers”, are more important than ever–and that the PR business needs to continually work on improving the ways we show clients the true value of our work.

A recent Council of Public Relations Firms blog post by vice president of research and development David Geddes proposes the creation and adoption of industry-wide measurement standards. When every firm has a different way of measuring success, clients understandably get a little frustrated: how can they compare and contrast individual campaigns?

Geddes and his group, The Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards, brought together various industry organizations including the Council of Public Relations Firms, Institute for Public Relations, PRSA, Global Alliance, and AMEC to try and tackle the project. They also organized a panel of big-name clients like McDonald’s, General Electric and more to review the results of their efforts and determine, as PR customers, whether the standards are relevant and “usable.”

Their goal: come up with universal ways to show that projects involving social media, traditional media and even ethics are really working for clients.

The group started a microsite featuring papers and details on proposed standards like “item for media analysis“, a way to categorize and report on the influence of a single item of content like a newspaper article, a blog post, a Facebook update or a tweet (but not sponsored material like PR Newswire press releases). We’re not exactly sure how one would compare the success of these very different units, but this proposal offers a way for PR teams to put them all in one place.

Geddes posted some clips of a speech he gave explaining the current state of the project and encouraged everyone within the industry to comment on his group’s efforts, writing:

If you have your own thoughts about where and how standards might best be used, we’d appreciate hearing about it!

A question for PR professionals: How do you currently measure and present your metrics? What do you think of Geddes’s proposal?