The PR Measurement Debate Enters a New Stage

Putting the usual cultural/political flotsam and jetsam aside, these are two of the month’s most interesting developments in the PR world:

1. A majority of marketing execs think PR should handle social media duties

2. Many clients are ditching the idea of “social ROI” altogether

In short, an increasing number of people think that PR is best equipped to do social, and many within the industry are pushing for a bigger focus on measurement. At the same time, the concept of measuring the success of social campaigns in dollars-and-cents terms is losing favor among certain higher-ups.

The second point got a big boost last week when four major corporations announced plans to adopt measurement standards developed by the Coalition for Public Relations Standards, a group created in 2012 with the participation of nearly every major PR industry group.

What does this mean?

Reps from McDonaldsGeneral ElectricGeneral Motors and Southwest Airlines were chosen to serve on the CPRS panel “because they are considered leading experts in the field”, and as we move forward they will be judging the success of these new measurement standards in an attempt to “better connect PR outputs with business outcomes.”

This is all very encouraging news for self-proclaimed “Goddess of Measurement” Katie Delahaye Paine, who directed us toward a couple of recent blog posts for her latest thoughts on the matter. Some excerpts:

PR has for too long relied on made up metrics like Earned Media Value and Advertising Value Equivalency which no self respecting marketer would believe reflected the value of PR.

…metrics and ROI should be totally different calculations. If the goal is to increase awareness, the measurement should be the % increase in awareness as measured by a survey. You may want to compare the relative cost of social media to a display ad campaign or a broadcast campaign and the ROI would be greater efficiency.

And she’s skeptical of the move away from social ROI, because:

…with the growth of custom quality scores, and more insightful social media metrics, there IS good data to put into these [marketing mix] models.

As things currently stand, “the proliferation of vanity metrics like followers and fans consistently gets in the way” of measuring real business success. But are the new measurement standards the answer? And will they affect the way we sell our services to prospective clients?

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