Measurement can put PR at the table

PR has long aspired to secure a seat at the boardroom table.

PR has long aspired to secure a seat at the boardroom table.

Unfortunately in many companies, our discipline has been consigned to be a subset of marketing. Perhaps one of the barriers has been the challenges we've had measuring PR's success.

Many companies take a leap of faith that an on-message newspaper story, for example, will positively add to a brand's image. I don't dispute this, but it may often be seen as a rather vague success measure. It's simply difficult to say how much value positive coverage produces.

Earned media is recognized to be highly credible and valuable to sales, but for years the industry has tried hard to better connect PR output to business outcomes. Most prominently, some practitioners have settled on suspect techniques such as ad value equivalency – an apple-to-oranges comparison at best. Other more complicated techniques, like advanced statistical analysis, can provide greater insight, but may be too resource-intensive to be attainable.

Social media is increasingly being seen as an easier way of connecting PR activity with business success. Using web analytics, we can now correlate activity in social media channels with business results.

For example, we can see which conversations on Twitter led to people clicking a link, downloading a brochure, voting, purchasing, or whatever the desired action may be. PR practitioners now have an achievable way to draw clear lines from the impact of their activities to some of their organization's most crucial objectives. We can say with confidence that PR activity led to a particular business outcome. 

That's not to say that if you're only counting clicks or hits or followers or friends, you're doing it wrong. It's just that you could be doing more.

Senior executives crave programs that impact business performance metrics. This form of social media measurement can be a powerful supplement to traditional measurement processes that you already have in place.

Our industry needs to put all measurement front and center. We need to start any planning discussion with a conversation about what business success looks like – and how we can measure it digitally and in the real world. If we can connect the dots in this way, and demonstrate genuine return, then PR will earn its much desired place at the table.

Aedhmar Hynes is CEO of Text 100.

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