While the overwhelming majority of public relations practitioners (86 percent) say they are being held more accountable for media relations results, few are doing anything beyond traditional clip counting to provide evidence of effectiveness to management, according to a new survey sponsored by The Public Relations Standards Council, Bulldog Reporter and others.

More than four in five respondents (81 percent) says they have used clip books and other clips-based techniques frequently over the past 12 months as a way of measuring success. The second most popular measure—if that’s the word—is “intuition or gut feel.” Just 38 percent say they use audience impressions to measure output, just 37 percent say they use content analysis, and 35 percent say they use advertising equivalency reports.

Measures of outcomes are even more meager: just 24 percent conduct audience surveys or focus groups; just 24 percent track sales or share price in conjunction with their public relations efforts.

“As a longtime public relations practitioner, I found this study fascinating,” says Jim Haynes of QuickSilver Interactive Group of Dallas, a sponsor of the survey. “I would have guessed that a much higher percentage of the respondents were actively conducting surveys and focus groups, or tracking sales and share prices, to measure their success. I would have thought we had passed this point many years ago.”

One reason for the primitive approach to measurement appears to be economic. The survey found that media relations measurement budgets remain small, with 70 percent saying their evaluation budget was smaller than the 10 percent suggested as a minimum by industry leaders. Only 26 percent said their budgets had increased over the past three years.

The main reason for not actively measuring results” was that measurement is “too expensive” (66 percent), followed by “no one is demanding it” at 49 percent and “too time-consuming” (45 percent). Only 23 percent said they did not measure because they were “not knowledgeable about measurement” and only 9 percent said they were “concerned what results might show.”
When asked about their objectives in measuring media coverage, 89 percent listed “to improve communications planning” as an important reason, followed closely by “to establish use of key messages” (86 percent) and “to prove the value of public relations” (81 percent).  Only 57 percent listed “benchmarking against the competition” as an important reason.