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Survey Finds Public Relations Industry in Disarray About How to Measure PR Effectiveness

Here's an issue that would surely frustrate even the most
(seemingly) accomplished public relations exec.

A new survey by Ragan Communications and Nasdaq OMX
Corporate Solutions aimed at measuring the effectiveness of public relations
finds there is really no broadly agreed-upon standard in the industry to
measure it.

While 89% of those surveyed agree that measurement is
crucial to the success of public relations, 66% cite the lack of a standard to
measure effectiveness and return on investment for clients as the biggest
problem facing the industry.

This topic continues to be a nagging one, even in the wake
of the June 2010 gathering of PR execs that forged what has become known as the
seven Barcelona Principles that attempt to set measurement standards for the
industry. And yet only 17% of those surveyed even know about those principles, with
another 17% saying they "don't know how they apply to PR metrics."

It gets worse. Only 25% of the PR execs surveyed are
confident that they understand return on investment; 54% said they never heard
of the idea of Big Data; and only 14% said they make use of Big Data

But agencies insist the issue of creating industry standards
to measure PR effectiveness and ROI does not fall entirely in their laps. Says
one respondent, "Clients are unwilling to spend money on measurement. If they
get sales leads from my work, then they know what we're doing is working. If
not, we try something different."

Another respondent says, "We do not have adequate staff to
conduct thorough campaign or routine news measurement. Generally, we throw out
news releases and informally measure how much coverage we gained, which tier
level of media reported on our news item, the tone of the reporting, whether
the report includes our principal's key message and the tone of reader

Still another respondent wonders, "How do you measure the
impact of a one-sentence blurb on Page One of the Wall Street Journal compared to a six-paragraph story in the B
section on Page 42?"

And another respondent believes measuring effectiveness isn't
the issue. "Our job is to get placements in whatever format is relevant," the
respondent says. "We can't make people take action after they read, view or
hear something and that's what the client doesn't get. Our job is done when the
word is out. Action is a whole other situation."

The online survey is global, but 63% of the 1,467 PR execs that
took part work in the U.S. As far as their PR companies' annual revenue, 13%
take in more than $1 billion, while 20% take in less than $1 million, making it
a pretty broad range of participants. The respondents include corporate chief
marketing officers and CEOs.

The Barcelona Principles were adopted during the Second
European Summit on Measurement held in Barcelona, Spain. Some 200 delegates representing
33 countries and five global PR and measurement organizations -- the
International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication
(AMEC), the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), the Public Relations Society
of America (PRSA), the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO)
and the Global Alliance (GA) -- debated and approved them.

The principles concur that goal-setting and measurement are
fundamental aspects of PR programs; that social media can and should be
measured; that media measurement should be more than just collecting clippings;
and that Advertising Value Equivalents -- which measure what your editorial
coverage would cost if it were advertising space -- do not measure the value of

The principles are very general but most PR professional
should seemingly be aware of them and the Ragan/Nasdaq survey finds most are
not. One respondent termed the three-year-old principles "outdated."

Fixes to the Problems

The survey found 50% of respondents believe that a PR agency
should strive for behavioral changes among consumers with their campaigns or
releases while 40% said behavioral shifts is no more important than outputs or
media mentions.

"It's a mistake to dismiss outputs, especially if you don't
have the bucks to truly measure behavior changes directly tied to your efforts,"
a respondent says. "Just because I don't know the number of lumens a light bulb
put out doesn't mean I don't know the room got brighter when I flicked the

In keeping with that line of thinking, media mentions topped
the list of what PR pros measure with 86%. Web traffic and page views follow at
79%, blog mentions are measured by 61% while 33% measure positioning vs. the

The survey found 32% still used Advertising Value
Equivalency, which the Barcelona Principles say does not measure the value of
PR. AVE is derived by multiplying column inches by the medium's ad rates.

One respondent likened using AVE as a PR measurement to "comparing
baseball to the Kentucky Derby." He added that it is "total BS."

In terms of the social media that PR folks do track, it is
perhaps no surprise that Facebook ranks tops with 94% measuring interaction on
the platform, followed by Twitter at 92%. YouTube is next measured by 60%,
followed by LinkedIn at 45%. Next comes Google + at 27%, Pinterest at 25%, Instagram
at 12%, Flickr at 9%, Foursquare at 8%, Vimeo at 7%, Tumblr at 5% and Quora at

When they do track social comments, 56% of PR folks surveyed
use both free and paid tools, with 35% using free tools only. Among the free
social measurement tools they use with percentage of users: Google Alerts, 85%;
Google Analysis, 79%; Facebook Insights, 55%; YouTube Insights, 32%; TweetDeck,
31%; Unique URLs, 27%;, 26%; Social Mention, 19%; Excel, 19%;
TweetReach, 10%; Topsy, 3%; and Bottlenose, 1%.

Among those who do not use paid social measurement tools,
57% said they are too expensive; 46% said they don't integrate traditional and
social media; 46% said they don't provide context; 42% said they don't provide
insight; 33% said they are too complicated; and 21% said they're ineffective.