Measurement gains popularity amid the downturn

While measurement might have once been considered disposable, PR pros say it is now increasingly a necessity for their firms and clients.

While measurement might have once been considered disposable, PR pros say it is now increasingly a necessity for their firms and clients. Measurement is informing PR programs and pitches, and helping to demonstrate ROI, which has gained even more importance in light of the economic recession.

“The trend now is a major increase in measurement,” says Natasha Fogel, EVP with StrategyOne, the independent measurement arm of Edelman. While the group does the majority of its work with Edelman, it also works with other firms.

Fogel says she's seen a spike in measurement requests since last month, and “I don't see that going down anytime soon.”

“We're getting pulled in more because PR is getting subsumed under marketing or being asked to comply with the same ROI business case analysis that other businesses have been doing for years,” she adds.

According to Teresa Henderson, Edelman's Texas GM, the firm rarely meets with new business prospects or clients without a discussion about measurement. In addition to the usual reliance on research, clients have made more measurement requests.

“At the onset of '09, I can think of a couple of key clients in the Texas operations who have asked us to evaluate and produce even more frequent and monitored measurement than before,” Henderson says.

Burson-Marsteller's worldwide EVP, Josh Gottheimer, says having a good measurement arm is “a selling point.”

“We're seeing more and more people ask us, ‘How do I show my board or boss that this is effective?'” he says. “We try to add a layer of measurement to confirm some of our thinking and inform our thinking. It's really important to our discussions with clients.”

And having access to measurement in-house adds efficiency.

“With the recession, it shows you the ROI and how effective every dollar invested in PR is,” he says. “Because we have our own infrastructure, we're able to do this in-house, have deep expertise, and work more effectively from a speed and timeliness perspective.”

Tim Marklein, EVP of measurement and strategy at Weber Shandwick, says advantages reveal themselves from the start of the new business process.

“This year, probably... more than last year, measurement is a fundamental part of every RFP,” he says.

Marklein says WS is recommending “weekly or monthly measurement” that's tied to a variety of things, such as Web analytics, sales metrics, and customer satisfaction and brand tracking data. Showing the value of PR when every dollar counts and marketing data from non-PR areas is critical.

“When budgets are tight and being cut, you need ammunition to defend your budget, keep it, or grow it,” Marklein says. “All other [stakeholders] are using measurement to their advantage. PR leaders need to use measurement... so they [won't] be the one whose budget is cut first.”

Key Points:
More clients are asking for more measurement to gauge ROI in light of the economic downturn

Having a strong measurement capability is a selling point when pitching new business

Spending money on measurement early on can ultimately save funds on misguided PR programs

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