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Measuring PR: How do we get it right?

Bill Gates once said "If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on public relations."

By: Johanna McDowell
 
Bill Gates once said “If I was down to my last dollar I would spend it on public relations.” This statement leads me to think that one of the world’s richest men not only knows but understands the benefits of public relations (PR).
 
However the profession faces misconceptions which have existed for years and one of them is that there are no tangible benefits to PR. According to the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles, a lack of clear standards and approaches to PR Measurement results in the profession not always being taken seriously. A client makes an investment in the hopes of getting tangible returns, but more and more clients are getting uneasy and want to know how PR is measured and how tangible it is.
 
There is no universal, set and approved method of measuring and evaluating public relations every organisation has its own method of measuring and evaluating.
 
One thing is true, public relations is important. Clients ask four questions when seeking to employ the services of a PR agency:
 
  1. Will we see the value of PR through PR?
  2. Is PR a worthy investment?
  3. Is the budget justified?
  4. Will PR generate business leads?
 
To answer the above questions, I need to unpack how PR is measured and the importance thereof. Since the inception PR has always been measured through publication, AVE, (advertising value equivalence) tone, picture inclusion, prominence and public circulation.
 
PR is a big cost saver to any organisation and the advent of technology has made it easy for companies to immediately see the benefits. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have moved PR beyond press releases and media interviews. They have helped in brand and reputation management and most importantly engagement. Some successful PR campaigns have used these platforms with amazing tangible results.
 
So the real question is how do we get it right? How do we reassure clients that PR is valuable and that we can offer tangible results in this ever changing world where what we used to know, no longer is?
 



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