Not all PR measurement practices are created equal.

When it comes to measurement, everyone has an opinion.

For that we can blame Enlightenment. It was then that man realised that science could explain so much more that previous superstitions and potions ever could. Enlightenment was also a time when measurement was born, in many forms and provided a way to quantify and magnify absolutely everything. In that seismic shift of consciousness we (humanity) lost our faith, broadly in the power of intuition and began to rely heavily on numbers.

If we can measure it we should.

And if it’s not measurable is it worth doing? Of course if it’s of value to the client it’s worth doing. Framing how to measure success is sometimes more of an art than a science, especially with public relations.

But, the way you set your PR goals also dependents on the needs and preferences of your client, the project and manager.

It’s up to communications professionals to guide clients (and managers) towards industry best practice, even if it takes the gentle art of persuasion.

Don’t be afraid to challenge traditional measurement practices used by your organisation.

And, to get you on the right track, here are the established principles set out by global trade body the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC).

7 principles of PR measurement

The Barcelona Principles established in 2010 by AMEC and other peak professional communication associations set out 7 principles for public relations measurement.

1. Goal setting and measurement are fundamental aspects of any PR program.

  • An absolute must on every public relations program: goal and objective setting cannot be omitted.
  • Addressing the who, what, when and how much goals should be as quantitative as possible.
  • Think about the type of change you’d like to create, is it a change in awareness, perception or behaviour you’re aiming for – remembering that behavioural change follows the previous two.

2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality – cuttings in themselves are not enough.

  • Seek also to identify the impressions among stakeholders.
  • To determine the media quality identify the tone, credibility of the medium, key messages mentions and any mentions of the spokesperson.
  • Identity if the coverage was positive, negative or neutral.

3. Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) do not measure the value of PR and do not inform future activity.

  • When you next see a ruler out to measure the size of print PR, remember AVEs do not measure the value of public relations.
  • They measure the cost of media space and are rejected as a concept to value public relations (see full guide for more details).

4. Social media can and should be measured.

  • The beauty of digital is that (almost) everything can be measured.
  • There’s no single metric, but it must include the community building and conversational aspect not only the counting posts.

5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results.

  • Look to outcomes like shifts in awareness, comprehension, attitude and behaviour related to objectives like increases in purchases, donations, brand equity, corporate reputation, employee engagement and the list goes on.

6. Organisational and business results can and should be measured where possible.

  • This one is where you need to fully understand that PR professionals can and must develop measures that can provide reliable input into marketing mix models.
  • Survey research can also be used to isolate the change in purchasing preference or attitude shift resulting from exposure to PR initiatives.

7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement.

  • Be transparent about your PR measurement approach and ensure it’s replicable in terms of the type of media and the methodology you’re using.

It’s not always straight forward to measure everything, but the principles provide a reference framework when planning your next communication project.

Talk to us about applying more rigour to your communication strategies.

Image credit: HausOf_Diegoo via Flickr Creative Commons