Only half of senior public relations executives interviewed for a new study on PR measurement evaluate return on investment on a formal basis, and of those who do, only 30 percent say they are fully satisfied with the methodology they use. The findings are based on interviews conducted by GCI Group with senior PR professionals at 20 leading global companies.
“Current systems are usually quantitative rather than qualitative, under-engineered, lacking in analytical rigour and rarely provide a neutral assessment of results,” says Adrian Wheeler, chairman of GCI Europe. “Many PR practitioners who have been pushing for PR evaluation would see this result as discouraging. I would say the opposite: powerful clients are virtually unanimous in wanting robust evaluation methodologies and a recognized standard.”
Indeed, asked to rate the importance of understanding how public relations contributes to the bottom line, 12 of the 20 respondents rated it between 80 and 100 on a scale of 1 to 100, while another four rated it between 60 and 79. According to one respondent, “It’s essential. The PR staff needs to fully understand the financial goals of the company and the obstacles that might impede success.” Strangely, three respondents rated the importance of understanding how PR contributes to the bottom line between zero and 20.
When asked about the methodology employed by their current agencies, 30 percent said they were satisfied, 30 percent said they were relatively satisfied, and 40 percent said they were not satisfied.
Said one respondent, “Consultancy evaluation is usually of limited scope and tends to be more quantitative than qualitative.” Added another, “Many consultancies recommend (expensive) third-party research programs as an independent measure. These are often under-engineered and usually lack regularity or continuity of analysis bases.”
One major source of frustration was the lack of a single, industry-wide standard for measurement. Said one respondent, “An easy to understand methodology is way overdue. There is no way in which common measurement tools are used over different market sectors. Too many consultancies still seem to think that ‘Opportunities to View’ is a meaningful measure. We need a means to gauge the ‘value’; we already know the cost.”
Says Wheeler, “This is a call to arms for the consultancy sector. We need an evaluation process that covers the majority of PR outcomes, stands up to scrutiny, doesn’t cost a fortune to run, and is not purely designed to justify PR’s existence.”