We’ve all heard it. One of the biggest challenges facing the PR industry today, yesterday and tomorrow is the need for accountability. In fact, a PR News study, “Attitudes Toward Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation” found that while 81% place “some or great value” on measurement, only one in five had any kind of budget for it.

PR Measurement

The best gauge of the success of your PR campaign is to measure the outcomes-did it help business objectives?

Those with measurement budgets report they average only 2.3-2.5% of their total PR budgets. That ranks far below the 10% recommended by PRSA, IABC and the IPR Commission on PR Measurement and Evaluation. The biggest reason for not measuring is still “cost” (61%.) Next most common reasons cited were “uncertain how to measure” and “lack of standards” at 35% and 34% respectively. Finally, fully 84% still primarily rely on “press clippings” to tell their story, with only 42% of their budgets being allocated for the measurement of outcomes.

Measuring Outcomes

The major PR professional associations, research firms and data vendors are working hard to encourage practitioners to measure their results. The primary goal is to measure business “outcomes.” Outcomes-based measurement tells us whether or not a campaign has effected real change in an audience’s attitudes, awareness or behavior. Such changes should impact an organization’s overall goals and objectives. The problem with measuring outcomes is that it’s often difficult to isolate the effects of PR apart from other factors, such as advertising, marketing and distribution.

Outcomes represent the “Holy Grail” of PR measurement. With budget constraints, we tend to measure “outputs.” These gauge the short-term success of the PR tactics and efforts undertaken to effect outcomes. Criteria include numbers of stories placed, audience impressions, the tone of stories, etc. The problem with measuring outputs is that they have been difficult to relate back to actual business outcomes.

Using Outputs to Get to Outcomes

Some research suggests that a link DOES exist between outputs and outcomes that can be seen through proper measurement techniques. The next post in our measurement series will provide guidelines on how to measure PR outputs conservatively and efficaciously. With these techniques, you will have the best chance of seeing these exciting correlations.