Attempts to link PR to sales cloud industry's efforts to measure ROI

Kathy Cripps' recent column on how to link PR with sales merely perpetuates the flawed concept that the quest for PR's Holy Grail of delivering valid, universally accepted measurement and ROI is attainable through everyday practices.

Kathy Cripps' recent column on how to link PR with sales merely perpetuates the flawed concept that the quest for PR's Holy Grail of delivering valid, universally accepted measurement and ROI is attainable through everyday practices.

The column unfortunately trivializes the solution into six message points that speak to fundamental PR activities, rather than offer solutions that might solve the measurement/ROI conundrum.

There's nothing new in raising awareness or building brand loyalty; PR already has been doing this and more. Making people happy with their purchases is a good idea, but that's also the role of advertising, product marketing, customer service, technical support, and other well-established departments within an organization. This is not a solution; it's a pep talk for a game that has already been played.

Nevertheless, the PR industry seems to spend a lot of time talking about measurement and how to prove its value. Or we just add a fresh new coat of paint to the issue and opine that our end goal is the popular, yet nebulous notion of achieving "outcomes."

PR has created an entire industry out of what I deem the three "Cs" of PR metrics: conferences, columns, and cocktail parties. We gnash our teeth and endure a constant state of insecurity over proving our net worth in endless seminars, webinars, and forums. Let's face it, PR is not sales. We're going to be jousting with a lot of windmills
if we continue to delude ourselves into believing that we can persuade the corporate boardroom to think otherwise.

PR has barely generated any new concepts or innovations to truly address the challenge of PR measurement and delivery of ROI. Repositioning or spinning the things we already do or trying to convince management that PR and sales have some sort of relationship will have many detractors, especially from the salespeople who earn bonuses and commissions, which is the industry-accepted direct recognition of their contribution to revenue generation.

PR at best can claim an indirect role in sales. Without a direct financial compensation model, the line between PR and the bottom line remains dotted. And though it's easy to boast that PR is linked to sales, are we truly prepared for the potentially undesirable flip side to that business equation, in the form of ever-increasing monthly and quarterly quotas for PR deliverables?

That's why it's long past due for the PR profession to end this constant fear, uncertainty, and doubt on measurement and value-add, and deliver - as an entire industry - acceptable standards for measuring the things we do and the deliverables that we create.

Industry standards uplift, legitimize, and solidify professional practices. Doctors, attorneys, and accountants rely on the AMA, the ABA, and GAAP, respectively, for such validation. PR's solution does not lie in proprietary measurement solutions that are often out of financial reach or do not scale to the rank-and-file PR pro. Rather, PR must create standards that are accessible, can be implemented industrywide, and are marketable to corporate management.

Representative groups, such as the Council of PR Firms and PRSA, have a unique chance to unite and establish technological approaches and universal standards to PR measurement that would resonate with the same impact of, for example, Nielsen ratings for television. Until then, our efforts will be spent on the three Cs, which make for great conversation, but are hardly grist for the mill.

Joel Don
President
Comm Strategies
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

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