Measurement – Does anyone really care?

One thing is clear to me right now; measurement has failed to get on the PR agenda. Just read the main stories in the PR trades. Not one of them talks about measurement. Sure it shows up on RFPs, sure clients want to talk about how well things are going and they even want charts showing what a great job is being done for the money. But the sad truth is that PR measurement still doesn’t command a meaningful part of most company’s budgets. Some simple, albeit unscientific, research reveals that out of the five clients I asked not one does measurement in the same way (actually not all bother to measure). Furthermore none of those that do measure have a well defined budget for measurement when planning programs.

A broader look at measurement shows that many people do use firms like Biz360 or Carma but even then from what I can tell the PR staff tend to pay little or no attention to the results these services provide unless of course they think it will help with some internal presentation to justify the funding of the department. We shouldn’t blame our clients for the sorry state of affairs here. After all, how much effort do most agencies put in to being measured? We are the ones who make moey from doing PR so we are the ones who should make sure our clients use tools to make sure that what we do is actually worth the money.

My own view on this is that we need an industry standard form of measurement in the way the ad industry has. This means we need to know what we are to measure, how often we measure it etc. We also need to start to establish an agreed way to invest in measurement. This could be either a certain percentage of fees applied, or a minimum expenditure. I for one would love to see such measurement be carried out in such a way that work done in PR could measured alongside work done in other areas of marketing so that we can finally start to see just how PR stacks up against other forms of marketing.

The current thinking on measurement seems to be to let everyone just do their own thing. Let’s face it this isn’t working. Now I know some PR people don’t want measurement because: a) they’ll have to do some work for the fees they charge otherwise they’ll be found out; b) funds applied to measurement will likely be taken out of the money they would otherwise have been given to run programs, host lunches etc.; and c) they argue that PR is to hard to measure accurately anyway, so why bother? My response to these people is if we don’t adopt measurement then we can expect PR to lag disciplines like advertising for many years to come.

I’d love to see publications like PR Week, O’Dwyer’s as well as organizations like the Council of PR Firms take these issues on and really move the needle. Anyone else want to see this happen?

31 Comments on “Measurement – Does anyone really care?”

  1. David Rossiter says:

    In the European IT PR market, I think you could add a couple of factors.

    Most budgets are small. Few agencies have the skill or resource to do measurement in-house and don’t want to use an external supplier unless absolutely necessary because it means giving away margin.

    As an industry, we’ve not been great at creating the analytical type posts that most ad agencies and DM agencies have – where are the PR industry planners for example?

    And does not having measurement lose you business? Because if there’s no competitive advantage in providing measurement, my guess is that most agencies won’t invest in it.

    Clients must share some responsibility though. They have to be willing to stump up bigger fees if they expect serious grown-up measurement.

    We actually do do evaluation for our clients. It’s all bespoke but every clients tends to get a mix of qualitative and quantitative measures.

    What we’ve found is that it does far more than just show how effective our work with the analysts is.

    It also provides valuable feedback which can be used to improve the programme by altering messages, activity levels, targeting etc.

    Measurement may not be the sexiest of PR topics but I agree – without it, PR won’t ever be taken as seriously as it could (or should) be.

  2. Mike Maney says:

    Measurement is the wrong word for what we need to do. Do any of us truly still believe that our worth is based on the piles of clips we deliver or the equivalency to other marketing functions? I hope not.

    The reality is that measurement done smartly is a way for us to rapidly tweak messages, to see industry trends more clearly, and to get a look into where our competitors are taking their stories. Done correctly, measurement provides a dashboard that helps marketing and development see the outside, objective world.

    Yes, we need to track “hits.” But those hits are less and less about coverage and more about targeted message delivery in non-media outlets with influencers who have
    never been to j-school. In this world, tracking is about setting a baseline based on a mix of content and audience criteria, and measuring regularly to give our clients insight into deviations from that baseline (whether they be good or bad, or indicate shifts that can be taken advantage of or avoided).

    What’s needed, I believe, is a common dashboard agreed upon by the leaders of the agency world (perhaps some of the smaller, more nimble agencies could band together to
    jumpstart the initiative). This dashboard would have a common layout, with common criteria. It would allow measurement data to be individualized for each client
    within the dashboard’s framework.

    Good idea? Bad? Are we really serious enough about this to care?

  3. PR-Guy says:

    Tim – I totally agree, especially about the fact that most agencies do their own thing.

    As for my group, we’ve come to believe that while “Media Content Analysis” and other models have their place, that the automation (and resulting ROI analysis) of most-other marketing vehicles will ultimately force PR to prove its worth in bottom-line terms.

  4. Deborah Eastman says:

    As a leader in the measurement space, we at Biz360 see this issue every day.

    Mike’s comments illustrate the real value. It’s more than measurement. A sophisticated analytics solution can help you with your messaging, competitive positioning, finding opportunities to increase your share of voice and ultimately make you more successful at leveraging PR as a strategic tool in the marketing mix. With the today’s challenges in reaching your audience through advertising, PR professionals have a real opportunity to step up and take a leadership role.

    I wonder if blogs will change this situation? Given the intersection of blogs and mainstream media, sophisticated technology is necessary to monitor your corporate brands and reputation in the blog community before they hit mainstream. With 15m+ blogs you can’t exactly do this with a clip book.

    We at Biz360 would be interested in working with agencies as suggested here to develop standards. I need to get my blog started, but in the meantime, you can reach me at

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  9. Katie Delahaye Paine says:

    I’m jumping into this conversation a little late, but I do have to say that for someone who is normally on the leading edge of things, Tim, you’re about a decade behind the times. First of all, are you reading the same publications I am? PRNews and PR Week probably have a measurement story in them ever other month. There have been standard guidelines established by The Institute for PR ( for nearly a decade. These have been agreed upon by agency heads, clients, academics and researchers. I’ve worked with hundreds of companies in the last 20 years who not only measure their results, but use them on a daily basis to improve their communications efforts. We know what we need to measure, the tools are out there, it’s just a question of getting the word out that measurement is affordable and available.

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