This blog is provided by the IPR Measurement Commission.
A series of questions have begun percolating in my head, now that I’ve moved from consulting to teaching full-time. Not least of these questions reflects the ongoing battle to encourage public relations professionals to embrace PR Measurement as an essential component of our practice.
This battle is long-lived; I’ve served on the IPR Measurement Commission now for some 16 years, and there is no doubt we have made tremendous progress in establishing best practices for PR measurement, and standards for measuring media relations and internal communication (Eisenmann, Geddes, & O’Neil, 2015; O’Neil, Ewing, Smith, & Williams, 2018).
The IPR Measurement Commissioners have also offered up a set of resources for educators (O’Neil, 2012) to help advance the cause of measurement among the coming generations of PR professionals. This material needs updating; questions keep popping up as I teach coursework in PR, organizational communication, and communications in general.
At the heart of my educational values is my belief that no one can hope to measure effectively without a clear understanding of business strategy and the communication strategy that helps bring it to life in the marketplace (See for example, Ragas and Culp, 2014, and Duhè, 2013). Strategy is crucial, and you cannot have strategy without objectives. And objectives have to be measurable, otherwise we cannot measure (Williams, 2014).
Sounds obvious, I know, but the reality is that much communication strategy continues to be divorced from the business. A commonplace complaint, even now, is that communicators cannot be strategic because they don’t understand the business.
The first question, then, is:
How can we imbue the PR curriculum with sufficient business acumen?
I surmise that the answer is to ensure that we cover the basics of how businesses make money, spend money, and attain their objectives, in an undergraduate’s first PR course. That foundation would set the proper context for discussing PR planning, the various tools and techniques of the practice, and the role of research, measurement, and evaluation in the field.
If measurement is established firmly as a part of the strategic process, how does education in the skills of PR need to change to align with that?
It isn’t clear to me that PR skills – writing, editing, photos, video, audio, social, integrated – have much of a measurement component at all. A cursory examination of some course syllabi revealed either no measurement component explicitly stated, or only minimal, output-based measures. This is not some sort of indictment; it’s a reflection of how much measurement might be seen as separate from strategy and execution. Even the well-developed AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework seems to me to be too rearward-facing and not particularly connected to strategy to be useful for inexperienced students. Plus, it can be complicated if you’re not a measurement geek (Paine, 2016).
Are instructors sufficiently equipped to teach measurement in the context laid out here?
That’s a good question. I want to say, “yes” with enthusiasm, but I surmise the answer is “no.” Why? For the same reasons the battle around measurement has proceeded. Time, budget, and expertise.
Perhaps obviously, we need to do some formal research to get a grip on the scope of the problem. Then we need to examine the current research and resources that might enable instructors to teach measurement more effectively.
If we can do that, we stand an excellent chance of creating generations of public relations people who will be significantly better equipped to bring measurement into the strategic process.
Sean D. Willliams is an Assistant Teaching Professor at Bowling Green State University.
Duhè, S. (2013). Teaching business as a second language. Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://instituteforpr.org/teaching-business-second-language/.
Eisenmann, M., Geddes, D., and O’Neil, J. (2015). An Examination of the Validity, Reliability and Best Practice Related to the Standards for Traditional Media Analysis. Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission. Retrieved 30 September 2019 from https://instituteforpr.org/examination-validity-reliability-best-practices-related-standards-traditional-media/
Macnamara, J. (2018). A review of new evaluation models for strategic communication: Progress and gaps. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 12(2), 180-195. doi:10.1080/1553118X.2018.1428978
O’Neil, J. (2012). Resources for public relations educators for teaching research, measurement and evaluation. Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://instituteforpr.org/resources-for-public-relations-educators-for-teaching-research-measurement-and-evaluation.
O’Neil, J., Ewing, M., Smith, S., and Williams, S. (2018) A Delphi Study to Identify Standards for Internal Communication. Public Relations Journal. 11, 3. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://prjournal.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/1.-A-Delphi-Study-to-Identify-Standards-for-IC-.pdf.
Paine, K. (2016). The good, the bad and the ugly of AMEC’s new framework. Paine Publishing. Web log post. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://painepublishing.com/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-of-amecs-new-framework/.
Ragas, M. and Culp, R. (2014). Public relations and business acumen: Closing the gap. Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://instituteforpr.org/public-relations-business-acumen-closing-gap/.
Williams, S. (2014). Fearless is PR in the face of challenge. Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from https://instituteforpr.org/fearless-pr-face-challenge/.