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Public Relations Measurement is Evolving

Marianne Eisenmann
Jan 8th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 3 min read
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    1Clients now expect proof of ROI on PR efforts. 2Increased data increases complexity of PR. 3Increased PR budgets require justification.
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Public Relations

Young businessman standing in front of sketched charts and signs on a blackboard Photo Credit: ra2studio Shutterstock

The 2014 Annenberg GAP Study reported that 40% of public companies and 64% of private companies expect their PR/communications budgets to increase over 2013 levels.

We asked agency leaders how this budget growth has translated into research and program measurement, and found that PR budgets are not increasing to fund more of the same, but to support an expanding range of communications assignments using new platforms and approaches to crafting and disseminating a story.

“Convincing clients to take a calculated risk and move into uncharted territory to capture attention in an increasingly cluttered landscape requires more sophisticated research, data and insights than PR agencies have traditionally provided,” said Weber Shandwick CEO, Andy Polanski.

As this is AMEC’s Measurement Week, it seems timely to explore the implications of this trend on the focus and direction of PR measurement. Access to big data and its role and implications for PR program strategy, planning and measurement, have changed client expectations around outcomes and impact.

Chandler Chicco Companies’ President, Lisa Stockman, said, “Clients are focused on integrated measures across traditional and social media channels – as well as paid, earned and owned – to allow for continuous ‘course correction’ throughout the program to optimize efforts.”

Clients expect more prescriptive and predictive measures that inform the way forward. “Edelman’s tailored use of data to provide insights on how to engage and segment audiences – whether to create awareness, drive demand or shift sentiment – and evaluate performance, is at the core of our efforts for clients who rely on our knowledge of a broad range of data sets,” said Glenn Engler the agency’s Global Director of Corporate Strategy.

Increased budgets have heightened the need for accountability and demand for metrics that prove ROI and performance against goals is stronger than ever. “Establishing a sound measurement framework at the outset of a PR program with clear, realistic objectives that link to business goals is critical,” said Dave Senay, President and CEO of FleishmanHillard.

For clients, proving the success of a campaign comes down to outcomes, which are results of the PR effort reflected in changes in the perceptions, attitudes and behaviors of the target audience. “This is a best practice in PR measurement, which advances our ability to provide insight into where and how client communication drives positive market visibility, reputation and relevance,” Senay continued.

Clients are seeking data-driven measurement programs that can provide a “critical line of sight into business opportunities, surfacing threats that can be addressed through strategic communications as well as insight into where and how programs need to evolve for maximum efficiency,” Polanski added.

“The ability to use data to better than ever before understand and micro-target audiences allows us to create customized communications that will ‘stick’ and deliver stronger outcomes for clients,” added Stockman. But, Engler cautioned, “As more data becomes available, the landscape becomes more complex for clients.

Agency partners need to engage clients in dialog about the role and implications of data for specific industry sectors and focus on data that can advance their communications and business objectives.”

Agency leaders are looking for more sophisticated, prescriptive and predictive analytics that can match the evolving expectations of clients who are faced with an increasing demand for accountability in an environment where the velocity, variety and volume of data is continually expanding.

To do this, practitioners must adhere to a methodical approach of using research to underpin program strategy and planning right from the start. Establishing benchmarks, setting measureable PR objectives and continually evaluating performance are the essential elements of successful measurement.

This is the science beneath the art of PR. Without this systematic process it is challenging to demonstrate success, make real-time program improvements, and apply learnings to future endeavors to ensure sustainable results.

This article was written by Public Relations and Communications experts Marianne Eisenmann and Pauline Draper, and published by the Council of Public Relations Firms: Where to find America’s leading firms.