The PR industry doesn’t need to bother measuring business outcomes. After all, lead generation and sales are marketing’s job. So, you know…sod it.
I paraphrase (heavily), but that’s the general gist of an article that caught my attention last week entitled ‘What PR Metrics You Shouldn’t Measure’. The piece, penned by widely-regarded American author Christopher Penn, focused on three key points:
- Don’t measure things that don’t actually measure anything
- Don’t bother measuring what you don’t intend to act on
- Don’t intensely measure things you have no control over
The first two of those I agree with. The days of measuring AVEs are hopefully long gone (although ‘Opportunities to See’ seems to be the new AVE) and, as Christoper says, if you don’t plan on taking action on the things you’re measuring, why waste time, energy and resources measuring them?
But I find the latter point hard to swallow.
In principle, it makes sense. PR does not, generally speaking, directly generate sales. Rather, it generates awareness and a positive brand reputation, which in turn influence the consideration phase of the buying cycle. But to state that because we have no direct control over sales in the same way that marketers perhaps do we should make little attempt to measure them is, for me at least, burying our heads in the sand and passing the buck.
I was so taken aback to read this from someone so influential that I thought I’d check it out with a couple of hugely respected friends of mine. Maybe I’d misinterpreted what was said or over-reacted?
Author, speaker and CEO of Pure Performance Communications in the US, Deirdre Breakenridge, is one of the most respected PR people on the planet. She said: “One of the ways to show [PR] value is to tie communications to business objectives. Of course, there is additional data to coincide and to show PR’s part of the impact. We’re often not able to measure sales directly, but we’re measuring how what we do contributes to sales. For example, we look at the correlation between PR driving referral traffic to a website and then from click to conversion how many leads/sales during a specific time period.
We always need to integrate what we do into the bigger picture and align PR to business goals. Chris is correct when he says we can’t necessarily “control it,” but where we can show our involvement in reaching business goals, then that gets PR recognized.”
CIPR President Stephen Waddington, who is also the author of two PR books and European Digital & Social Media Director at Ketchum, said: “The measurement of public relations activity is frequently debated by practitioners. As a result, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) has devised a Valid Metrics Framework that calls on practitioners to set measurable objectives at the outset of a campaign, and devise metrics aligned to outcomes, and not outputs. We should be aligning our measurement mechanics with the value that we deliver to an organisation.”
So rather than stepping down from the challenge of measuring outcomes like leads and sales, surely the answer for the PR industry is to work with individual clients to find ways of either measuring the impact of activity directly, or at least ways of drawing definitive causal correlations between PR and outcomes based on known data like conversion rates? In the world of Google Analytics, it’s called attribution analysis.
This is not easy to do, and the industry has struggled with it for decades. But does that mean we should dig in, build a wall and refuse to acknowledge that it’s an area we need to be better at? Not on my watch.
Recommended further reading on this subject:
Google Analytics & PR Measurement: http://www.cipr.co.uk/content/policy-resources/toolkits-and-best-practice-guides/google-analytics
The PR Professional’s Definitive Guide to Measurement: http://prguidetomeasurement.org/
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Posted by Paul Sutton