Measuring PR outcome has become more urgent as digital becomes intrinsic to PR and the communications industry diversifies into new areas. Traditional PR measurement models no longer work.
PR agencies and in-house communications professionals constantly struggle with this problem. The Barcelona Principles unveiled in June 2010 called upon the PR industry to move beyond the Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) and agree upon a minimum new standard of measurement. Since then industry bodies, communications professionals and experts have attempted to experiment with new PR measurement models.
The communications industry finds itself groping in the dark when identifying the outcomes of PR and its value to an organization. The problem stems from the fact that traditional media relations has become only one — and an increasingly narrow — aspect of public relations. The business landscape for the industry has become so vast and diverse that it now covers areas that were previously the domain of marketing and advertising. So it has become that much more difficult to measure and evaluate its contribution.
Breaking the PR measurement and evaluation deadlock: A new approach and model
According to the history of PR measurement, the industry began an intense focus on methods to measure and demonstrate the value of public relations only after the 1970s. A turning point came in 1994 when the International Public Relations Association published a so-called Gold Paper. This galvanized industry leaders to urge communications practitioners to conduct valid and rigorous measurement and evaluation of their activities. In the years that followed, measurement has become the “Holy Grail” of PR. But despite experimenting feverishly with different models, the industry has not really “cracked” the measurement and evaluation “nut.” In fact, renowned academics have concluded that PR practitioners have consistently failed to achieve consensus on what models qualify as basic evaluative measure or how to conduct the underlying research for evaluating and measuring public relations performance.