Pulse of the Profession Thought Leadership

Measurement as a Path to Credibility for PR

Editor’s note: This is the fourth post in a series of guest commentary pieces from PRSA 2011 Leadership Assembly Delegates focusing on five key strategic areas within the public relations profession.

Public relations professionals need to build greater credibility through better measurement. That’s the assessment made by a group of senior public relations professionals at PRSA’s 2011 Leadership Assembly in Orlando, Fla.

It’s no secret that public relations professionals have long desired a quick and standardized method for measuring the value of their work. We still use advertising equivalents that are problematic, but alternatives are often very costly. Public relations professionals need more statistical training. For example, is it possible to distinguish public relations from other strategies through regression analysis?

Another challenge is trying to identify those crises or other organizational issues that do not occur as a result of public relations efforts. In these cases, can the organization compare itself to similar ones within an industry? An additional issue is return on investment pressures that focus on short-term results when measurement should really be occurring six or twelve months later.

Former PRSA Chair Michael Cherenson, APR, Fellow PRSA, noted one way to address the need to increase statistical courses for business and public relations students is through PRSA’s outreach to MBA programs. The group discussed a possible certification in statistical analyses and how it might be instituted. In addition, the delegates said we often discuss measurement, but not specific application of it. Additional initiatives might include specific Silver Anvil awards focusing on measurement and evaluation.

Other PRSA initiatives might include measurement and evaluation standards and other professional development tools available on PRSA.org. These efforts might include a possible certification in statistics (as noted above) and a partnership with the American Statistical Association. There is a need to “ramp up” existing academic programs with statistics and applied research content. Also, the delegates asked if we were providing faculty and others the assistance they need. For example, how many of us regularly complete surveys about the profession sent to us by faculty, graduate students or others?

Questions for additional discussion:

  • How can PRSA members most effectively partner with other professionals in measurement and evaluation?
  • How can we build credibility by focusing on measurement and evaluation?
  • Additional resources about this topic can be found at www.prsa.org in the leadership tools/assembly delegate tools area.

Thomas P. Boyle, Ph.D., APR is in his seventieth year of teaching public relations at the university level. Dr. Boyle did public relations work for the Pennsylvania state legislature before returning to graduate school to earn his doctorate.

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