PRWeek and the Institute for Public Relations are holding four roundtable discussions this year on the topic of measurement, reflecting the four pillars of the IPR - in-house communicators, agencies, service companies and academics.The third roundtable, which involved the service companies providing measurement resources, took place last week Following is an edited transcript of the discussion. Participants: Kay Bransford, VP of marketing communications, Vocus Pauline Draper, SVP, Millward Brown Precis Angie Jeffrey, VP, PRTrak/SDI Bruce Jeffries-Fox, president, Jeffries-Fox Associates David Michaelson, David Michaelson & Associates Jeff Miller, VP and general council, Carma International Jack Serpa, Eastern region VP, Bacon's You Mon Tsang, founder and CMO, Biz360 Rick Watrall, SVP, ImmediateFX Annie Weber, VP, Roper public affairs and media, NOP World Mark Weiner, CEO, Delahaye Medialink PRWeek: Going around the room, what do your companies do, and what are some of the big issues we should address today? Serpa (Bacon's): I remember the phone call recruiting me, thinking this company was the directory guys. But they had just acquired the Observer Group, which does an awful lot of analysis is different parts of the world. So it's been an intriguing 2 1/2 years, and I think the burning question we keep getting from our clients is probably the expansion of the data sample. What I mean by that is, it seems like as a business practice people got comfortable with measuring a limited number of articles, based on what's electronic, what's affordable, what's quick. That can sometimes create a technical bias in the sample. What we are trying to do is make a case for expanding that. Weiner (Delahaye Medialink): We are a provider of content aggregation, content analysis, research and statistical modeling in the PR and communications fields. Burning question has to do with demonstrating a clear return on investment for public relations. The other related question is to do with the application of the data - how do you apply data to a program to make it better. Tsang (Biz360): We provide technology services to help you automate much of the communications metrics, to help our clients do the measurement as well as improving their own systems. The biggest issue for our clients is this group has done a really good job of turning metrics from a "nice to have" on the way to a "must have". I think we're in this middle place called "need to have", which is everyone feels they need to have it. The difference is having the instinct and the systems to actually apply it to your job. If there's a next stage of evangelism it's now you've got it, you wanted it, now make it part of your daily life. Weber (NOP World): We do all sorts of custom research all to do with public relations, communications, strategy, planning, PR measurement, corporate reputation measurement. I work directly with a lot of PR clients. They are struggling with PR in general and definitely measurement is a nice to have but in a weaker economy they are struggling with it not always being a must have. I think simultaneously they are reluctant to move beyond the amount of coverage measurement as their being successful, to both the quality and the effect it has on an audience and business outcomes. They're still nervous about that. Watrall (ImmediateFX): We're a bit of a different animal. The space that we operate in is marketing ROI, so it's really more than just PR. What our clients charge us to do is to measure their entire marketing, as well as other non-marketing things that drive their business. Analytics that try to understand how effective is my marketing, how can I do it better. Where I see things going, this is a industry that has evolved over the past 15 years. People don't want to look at measurement as just one project. They want it continuously. Miller (Carma): Carma specializes in human-based media analysis research, it's media content analysis using human researchers, analysts to break down the data and provide both qualitative and quantitative analysis of their media coverage. Where we see it going right now is there is greater interest with clients from the management level, higher up in what media content analysis can provide. Not just for evaluating and measuring the effectiveness of reputation programs. It's also providing strategic insight and knowledge the company can use at a higher level...to determine what the company needs to do to set business objectives. Some clients are very savvy. But very few clients are on that level right now. Draper (Millward Brown Precis): Millward Brown is one of the top global research companies. Precis is the division that does the qualitative and quantitative content analysis. I've got two questions I would like to float. One is looking at people being interested in how PR fits into the bigger picture of the marketing mix - where they need to be putting their efforts, where they need to be putting their time. The other burning question is what is the next issue that is going to come up and bite us, and how can we therefore plan for it. Actually looking at not just how the company is doing, but the issues associated with the company, so that they can actually consider how they might like to change their position and their strategy. Jeffries-Fox (Jeffries-Fox): I was at AT&T for many years and the last 10 years the director of research. [My firm] started with more media studies and it's evolved into more PR research consulting, whether it be employee communications, support for philanthropy, community relations. I find there are two tiers I deal with - the large companies that can afford to do leading edge work, and their questions are much more about how can PR fit with other marketing communications. Not just, how well am I doing, but how well am I doing compared to other things. Second tier - there is still a huge number of people who are just getting started and they want to know how to work it into their daily life, how do I get started. Michaelson (David Michaelson & Associates): I spent a number of years as agency research director at two different agencies. In my current business, the vast majority is spent on primary research. The area of content that is done on a very limited specialized way is analysis of media relations activities. Our work is predominantly working with Fortune 50s. Bransford (Vocus): We provide online software for public relations. For the past year I've been going out on calls and listening to what our reps around the world. I'm not sure what the stat would be, whether it's 50%, of companies that don't even get clips. We know there are 120,000 people practicing PR in the United States. Why aren't they doing the basics. I'd like to hear some thoughts on, how do we get people to start? We've been talking at 30,000 feet - some are saying I don't even know how to get started, I don't even have a clip budget. How do you talk to those people so they get caught up in the realm and so they are looking at it more strategically. Jeffrey (PRTrak): PRTrak is a tool that offers media metrics and content analysis. Our vision has been to encourage even small companies to start measuring, to start tracking movement and isolate messages and change strategy. The other spectrum relates to our acquisition of SDI. That focuses on larger Fortune 500 companies where share of discussion [is being analyzed]. PRWeek: How is the measurement market really like right now? How many companies are really doing it? Weiner (Delahaye Medialink): IPR did a study with the Arthur Page Society and the University of Miami. What they reported was that senior management is requiring measurement, but they don't know enough about PR or measurement to [use it]. PR people need to measure, but they don't know enough about it to solve it. Michaelson (David Michaelson & Associates): You can talk about ROI issues, but we are in an industry where people are afraid to see the results [of measurement]. Agencies don't want to be measured. Clients don't necessarily want to be measured because so often they'll just say, well look at that great headline. It's easy to show that off. There's a factor going on there that is very, very scary. It's not even the output, but the outcome. Weber (NOP World): The thing that strikes me is they want to be seen as more strategic and want a bigger place at the table but they aren't willing to do the things that will help earn them that place at the table. Jeffries-Fox (Jeffries-Fox): I think there's a schizophrenia, I saw it at AT&T. There's a freedom in being off to the side. So you have to trade off - if you want to be in the mainstream you're going to get measurement, you're going to be stacked up against other people. If you say, I'm just going to stay off to the side here, leave me alone, you can do all the things that PR people love to do, like working with media, and just be left alone. Watrall (ImmediateFX): There was that nervousness in the marketing side years ago. But they are going to be brought into it. Every agency I deal with on the media side, they've realized that accountability's here and they have to deal with it. It's not something they should be afraid of. In fact, public relations usually does very well. PR people should not be afraid of measurement, they should embrace it. Relative to other marketing mix drivers, it generally works very well. How much do you really have invested in PR - headcount, people who are really driving the stories. However you are getting a bang for it. Advertising is definitely measurable, but the point I'm trying to make is you are spending for the advertising, you're not spending for the public relations. The analyses that we've done are basically saying, in the next three or four years how much do you win back for your business based on advertising, promotions, PR and pricing. So it's actually across the marketing mix. Weiner (Delahaye Medialink): Once sales become measured and PR is being measured in this way, and it is being measured this way in certain marketing organizations, the whole practice of PR will be moved from the Rolodex and just focusing on the hits in People magazine, to did it actually move product. Tsang (Biz360): Three years ago when we were having this conversation, it was a lot about fear and why should I do it. But now, a couple of pieces of evidence - there are more RFPs than we've ever seen. A lot of them are still not great RFPs, but many of them actually try to tie back to business objectives. The very high-end, large companies are very sophisticated on the way they want to measure, and deliberate about it. We work with the Medill School of Journalism and they say that the next generation of PR people are analysts. I don't have that conversation of fear any more. Serpa (Bacon's): Ten years ago, the very junior people in an agency were given the task of putting together the clip book and making copies of it. It used to be thud factor measurement. Those kids now are not interested in glue stick, they're interested in analysis. It's the junior people who are asking for it. Weber (NOP World): To me a small client means it's a group of one or two people - it doesn't have to do with company size. Some huge companies have one person and they say, "When am I supposed to do measurement? I'm just trying to get out my press release and trying to make phone calls." They are the people who don't know where to start. Tsang (Biz360): The agencies have a huge opportunity, because they are the ones that can turn around measurement into action. All of us around this room can say, look you have a spokesperson who's off message, this campaign is going badly or this campaign is going very well. But we have to sit back, or to go to the next level we have to be so close to the client that we are almost an agency ourselves. Agencies are the business consultants to our clients. If the agencies get on board, the whole industry will take off very rapidly. Draper (Millward Brown Precis): I'm interested in the internal area of the gatekeeper, this group of people who commission research and they act as a gatekeeper, keeping information to themselves because information is power. I am seeing fewer gatekeepers than I used to years ago and I see that as an opportunity. They aren't just doing the research but they are actually utilizing it in the organization. Weiner (Delahaye Medialink): I find those people who are managers in their organization and step forward, tend to do very well within their organizations. People who take charge of that tend to do very well. PRWeek: What about the budget issues? Have budgets dedicated to measurement programs improved? Serpa (Bacon's): Over the past few years, the cost of doing this has gone down, in terms of the time required. Also coming up with forms of automation that can be used less expensively. Michaelson (David Michaelson & Associates): It depends upon what you are measuring. If your measurement is content-oriented, yes. But that's only one aspect of measurement. Weber (NOP World): For the basic, limited type of measurement, the price has gone down, it's more like a commodity. But if you are talking about the more sophisticated, various key constituencies, following it through, the price is still in line. Serpa (Bacon's): It's the point of entry that's gotten a little bit lower. Jeffries-Fox (Jeffries-Fox): You have to take the discussion off the absolute price and talk about, what's at stake? If you can get them to understand what's at stake, which can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, measurement is a drop in the bucket, if you really believe there's a connection. Watrall (ImmediateFX): That's the way we usually sell. Before going into a company, we know what its marketing budget is. I have evidence of what typical PR clients have got and how they can increase their efficiencies. Simple math shows you that on a $100,000 project, it can pay back in spades. That's really a good way of selling in the value of it. Weiner (Delahaye Medialink): The overarching issue is that once people are educated, it overcomes fear, it overcomes price sensitivity. People understand the process, what value PR brings to the organization in terms of business gains or the absence of business loss. With marketing mix modeling in particular, PR is a fractional, incremental cost. They can see how PR can lift other boats and make advertising and other marketing disciplines more effective. How much is it worth to leverage that $100 million investment with another $50,000 into PR research? Bransford (Vocus): If you send out a press release, you should know what you did to get that press release picked up. It can be very simple, it doesn't always have to be what's the outcome? When can we speak to the community in a language that says we can do very simple things? For the company that says, I'm not AT&T, I just want to do my job and at the end of the year have helped my company in some way. PRWeek: Are there things that can't be measured? Is PR more of an art than a science, as some believe? Bransford (Vocus): I think you can measure everything - from the amount of calls you do, to the amount of stories that get written. Jeffries-Fox (Jeffries-Fox): Things that don't happen, not just in the media, but events. Not that measurement shouldn't go there - that's the heart. Michaelson (David Michaelson & Associates): How do you measure what could have been a negative event? Jeffries-Fox (Jeffries-Fox): You can always put together case histories of what went wrong last time. You can point to that and say here's what at stake. Michaelson (David Michaelson & Associates): The classic example is Tylenol. What could have been the negative impact on the brand? Weber (NOP World): But that too can be measured. That's the point. They are committed and they understand the attributes that are attributed to them. And then when the bad times come, it helps them to weather that. That too can be measured if you look at the big picture. Weiner (Delahaye Medialink): Who says you have to measure everything - you can measure 90% of what's going on, 50%. You are still much better off than not measuring at all. Serpa (Bacon's): We have a client in the cosmetics industry that does research on their company and seven competitors. Then the client overlays the stock price, which I think is pretty daring. There are a lot of variables to stock price that media relations don't drive. Miller (Carma): We've done some of that, trying to correlate stock prices. I think in terms of how much to measure, what to measure, it really comes down to what are your objectives? If you are a very large corporation, maybe you want to do the kitchen sink, do it on a very broad scale. Smaller companies, maybe that don't have a huge budget, you want to find out what is your specific objective - to gain brand recognition or whatever. Oftentimes we'll go to a client not used to measurement and say just start small with us. Then they start to see it and the light bulb goes off.