In PR Week’s latest podcast (article here) a couple of industry experts lament the lack of development in the area of measuring ‘what PR does’. One says, ‘The PR industry’s job is to influence and change behaviour of consumers and stakeholders’. I think he’s right. Another says that our industry ‘hasn’t moved on in 20 years’ (in terms of measurement). I think he’s right too.
Sitting alongside marketing — and often not far from sales — as PR does, I’ve often found an almost inherited preoccupation with return on investment. In this sense, I’ve always admired PR for being a bit of a maverick. It has been asked to account for itself in the past and has apologetically coughed up measurement systems like AVE (Advertising Value Equivalency). They should be left in the past, advertising is different — it can and should be measured — like spuds.
Making PR a more accountable, more quantifiable practice misses the point. It isn’t marketing and it isn’t sales: it is your only chance of a two-way interaction with objective media coverage. Not advertising, advertorial or promotions — actual coverage and someone’s creative output — and a qualified opinion. You don’t always get what you pay for but you should get what you ask for; and that is the most important point.
If you need to sell more of something, ask your PR agency to help. If you need to enhance the reputation of your company’s HR policy or introduce your new CEO, make sure it’s in your brief. PR is not always about the coverage, sometimes it is simply about changing consumer perspectives — or even those of your own stakeholders. It may be more subtle than just ‘get good reviews for our next video game’. More often than not the brief is to ensure the product is understood (and therefore that reviewers might have more affinity with it).
The various approaches that good PR employs to get results aren’t more important than the results themselves. They are, though, infinitely more valuable than a mathematical scale which only serves to confuse their purpose — and that of PR itself.
Gary Burns was genuinely emotional after Murray’s hard-fought defeat to Federer, why not ridicule his loss of manly composure on twitter @GTBurns