The 9th Annual North American Summit on Public Relations Measurement recently concluded. The Summit featured excellent presentations by Yahoo!, Johnson & Johnson, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Conagra and Blue Marble Enterprises; panel and discussion sessions on outputs and outcomes and on standards; and pre-conference workshops covering a research and measurement boot camp, social media measurement, standards, budget management, and analytics.
InfoTrend was honored as the recipient of the Jack Felton Golden Ruler Award for a predictive mathematical model of media impact on corporate reputation. I took advantage of my acceptance talk for a reflection on priorities (or the research agenda, if you prefer the terms used at the Lisbon conference) for the public relations research, measurement, and evaluation field.
Why is this the time to consider action-oriented priorities for the public relations research, measurement, and evaluation function? Senior public relations leaders in organizations and agencies now accept that measurement and evaluation is necessary. We agree on the principles of research: set goals and measurable objectives; link metrics to goals; measure, evaluate, and advise; and repeat. These have been discussed at measurement summits in New Hampshire (many times), Philadelphia, Barcelona, and Lisbon; in papers, articles, and speeches; and in blogs.
Despite this discussion, we have not advanced the argument much beyond guidelines and principles. We need to develop and apply solutions to move our profession forward. This is the first of a series of contributions where I will lay out my vision of an action agenda for our profession: public relations research, measurement, and evaluation.
In coming weeks, I will be writing about the following:
1. Adopting a common measurement framework based on the model of activities, outputs, outtakes, outcomes, and business results.
2. Associated with this framework, a standard set of reliable, valid metrics.
3. Setting standards for public relations research, measurement, and evaluation.
4. Developing more and better statistical models.
5. Opening the box on metrics, indices, and models.
6. The need for empiricism as the foundation for our work.
7. Improving data quality
8. Education and training.
9. Ethical standards for public relations research.
10. Breaking down barriers that impede public relations research.
11. Quantifying and valuing the impact of public relations.
Are some of these thoughts provocative? That is my intention. Is it time to raise the level and broaden the scope of the output-centric discussions in Barcelona and Lisbon? Clearly, I think so. Engage in the discussion and let me know what you think by commenting below. You can also reach out to me directly; my contact information is on the InfoTrend company web site. And look for more detail on these topics in coming weeks.
David Geddes, Ph.D., is Chief Consulting Officer at InfoTrend, Inc., a business research firm offering predictive analytics for public relations, marketing, and branding.