Carefully Crafted on January 07

PR Measurement Lessons from Election Day

PR Measurement

If you ask me, every day should be election day. I’ve been saying that since 2001, when I worked on my first political campaign. (Truth be told, Election Day is my favorite holiday!) My PR career started at an agency, but not your typical firm. I worked at a company that specialized in public affairs, more specifically, we did political campaigns for candidates and issues. And, I loved it. Mainly, because I loved the rush that comes from knowing that all your hard work leads up to a specific day, and on that day, voters make the final decision. In theory, if I did a good job, my candidate or issue would win. Conversely, I didn’t do my job well enough if we lost. (I know there are other influences that determine the outcome of elections, but go with me on this …)

That’s why it drives me crazy when PR people try to justify their work by counting impressions or putting together inflated ad equivalency reports … and hence my little rant on Twitter yesterday. First, PR is more than just media relations, but that’s a whole other discussion. Second, in political campaigns, it doesn’t matter how many people SAW a media clip. If our PR outreach didn’t move the needle — sway votes — than it didn’t matter. The same standard should hold true for businesses. It doesn’t matter if 100,000 people see a story about your product, or that it would have cost you $300,000 to place an ad of similar size and reach. At the end of the day, if your media relations activities aren’t shaping perception, encouraging people to take action, increasing sales, generating new business leads, or something along those lines, than what’s the point?

I’m not naive. I know that research is expensive, and that most companies won’t shell out thousands of dollars for pre- and post- polls. That doesn’t mean that you should settle for bogus measurement standards. So, here’s the million dollar question: Small business owners, how are you measuring the value of your public relations efforts? Along those same lines, PR people, what metrics do you use to measure your impact? (And, if you’re a PR person who says this measurement stuff is unnecessary because clients are on board with ad eq reports or impressions, go read Katie Paine’s post today in PR Daily.)

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