EDITORIAL: PR cannot attain its full value when only half of all corporations budget for measurement

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Fifty-three percent of those who responded to the PRWeek/Biz360 Corporate Survey, which begins on page 17, report that part of their budgets are earmarked for measurement and analysis. That means 47% have no budget provisions for metrics. So unless their PR firms are offering analysis as an add-on benefit, or the Magic 8 Ball constitutes a measurement tool, then almost half of those on the client side have no way of assessing the value or contribution of their programs.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? Fifty-three percent of those who responded to the PRWeek/Biz360 Corporate Survey, which begins on page 17, report that part of their budgets are earmarked for measurement and analysis. That means 47% have no budget provisions for metrics. So unless their PR firms are offering analysis as an add-on benefit, or the Magic 8 Ball constitutes a measurement tool, then almost half of those on the client side have no way of assessing the value or contribution of their programs.

Call me a pessimist, but I'm in the half-empty camp. PRWeek has focused a great deal of editorial attention on the subject of measurement in the past two years, in part because of its obvious significance, and in part because we were told over and over by thought leaders that demonstrable ROI is the priority in these difficult times. There are other signs that this is so, including an increasingly common requirement in RFPs that agencies have measurement programs. But if measurement is really the priority many claim it to be, the number of companies that pay for it should be much, much higher. As the survey reflects, budget cuts continue to deepen. Measurement is likely to be considered a luxury item by some, particularly as departments struggle to maintain their headcounts. It is a comprehensible impulse to think of metrics as merely an add-on, but it reflects a failure to take the long view. Now more than ever, PR teams must demonstrate their value to senior management, and the best way to do that is through an effective measurement system. But it is misleading to focus on metrics as merely a retrospective of campaigns past. The more urgent function of measurement is to inform strategy on an ongoing basis. One of the chief virtues of PR is its flexibility - its ability to adapt to new issues and priorities that cannot be anticipated at the onset of a program. Companies limit their ability to capitalize on this maneuverability, and to retool a campaign that just isn't working, without a way of assessing the situation as it unfolds. It also boils down to accountability. Just as a company won't attract long-term investors if it fails to provide a full and accurate report of its performance, a PR department will not earn budget increases or that coveted "seat at the table" unless it is willing to stand up and prove its value in a way even the most hardened number-cruncher will understand. Zeta-Jones, Douglas need new PR script Nothing is more painful than a self-inflicted PR wound. Reluctant as I am to use this column to discuss celebrity gossip, I find myself returning again and again to the image problem that Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas have created for themselves in pursuing their case against Hello! magazine over the publication of unauthorized wedding photos. Repeatedly reminding the media and the public about something that you really want them to forget is a poor tactic. Litigation, as one of our Op-Ed contributors recently pointed out, can be an underutilized PR opportunity. It can also be an ill-conceived PR disaster if the battle is not chosen wisely.

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