Poor Evaluation Methods Remain the Achilles Heel of PR

Last Updated Jun 26, 2008 6:27 PM EDT

According to the USC-Annenberg study of PR departments, PR is doing a somewhat better job of evaluating its contribution to the achievement of key corporate goals, but we remain far from successful in developing and using evaluation methods that really get the bosses' attention.
"The authors believe that the profession is doing itself a great disservice by not directing a sufficient percentage of its resources to the development and adoption of more sophisticated forms of evaluation.

This is particularly true when assessing PR budgets relative to their closest rivals, advertising budgets, which are (generally) carefully measured and monitored for effectiveness.

It will be difficult for PR to get a larger share of the total communications expenditure without quantitative means that go well beyond primitive numerical counts of media clips and a hypothetical tally of impressions"

Other key findings regarding evaluation:
  • Organizations remain reluctant or unable to allocate adequate resources to PR evaluation, preferring to focus on execution. At a time when the profession is under increasing pressure to demonstrate its value in "hard" terms, this may be a dangerous, self-defeating posture.
  • Still, given the average expenditure of just 6% of budget on evaluation, the authors believe that the PR profession is not doing enough to demonstrate its value relative to other disciplines.
  • The differences in evaluation metrics used in organizations reporting to the C-Suite versus marketing were striking. The former were far more strategic and organizational in nature, while the latter were far more publicity and sales-oriented.
  • Organizations that reported to the C-Suite were more likely to utilize a combination of evaluation metrics that included using:
    • Contribution to market share
    • Contribution to profitability
    • Contribution to salesInfluence on corporate cultureInfluence on employee attitudes/morale
    • Influence on stakeholder awareness
    • Influence on stakeholder opinions
  • Organizations that reported to marketing were more likely to use only the total number of clips and total number of clips in top tier media.
  • The absence of reliable and widely accepted tools for measuring PR effectiveness (other than those measuring media-related activities) may also lie behind the low percentages of PR budgets dedicated to evaluation.
  • The movement continues away from the traditional quantifiable measures of clips, ad equivalency, impressions, total circulation, etc.
  • Measuring reputation remains a favored methodology â€" this despite the lack of any widely adopted method for doing so.
  • Measures that financial analysts and senior management most rely on to track progress â€" such as influence on stock performance, contribution to profitability, to market share and to sales â€" are ranked very low by respondents, possibly because of the lack of reliable tools that can measure the impact of PR on those vectors.Yet detachment from such traditional progress measures that mean the most to senior management may contribute to any remaining skepticism held by senior management toward the communications function.
  • Jon Greer

    Jon Greer has been analyzing media and PR for more than 25 years. He's been a journalist and a PR executive, and has been a featured speaker for many years at the Bulldog Reporter Media Relations Summit, and served as Bulldog's Editorial Director for their PR University series of weekly how-to audio conferences.

    Jon provides PR services including media relations and freelance writing to clients including start-ups, law firms, corporations, investment banks and venture capital firms. In addition, Jon provides spokesperson training. Learn more about Jon's training programs at The Media Bridge.