The Seismic Shift in Public Relations Measurement

Over the past few years the world of public relations has gone through a radical change in the way program success is measured. The days of measuring how much space your press release occupied in the paper and calculating how much it would have cost to buy an equivalent sized ad are fading fast (for the most part). Ad Value Equivalency has been considered a bogus means of measuring public relations success for a variety of reasons. The simplest reason I cite is it assumes an ad can be purchased and placed in that location in the paper. This is not usually the case with front page stories. More important, AVE doesn’t measure any business outcomes–the number of widgets sold, for example.

The use of AVE in PR measurement has been debated for decades, and was questioned as far back as 1949. This article by Professor Tom Watson gives a history of AVE and its controversial evolution and (I hope) demise. It is still in use. Many executives and nonprofit board members insist on it because it’s simple to understand. Respected monitoring companies still use it, mainly to keep their competitors from stealing customers who insist on AVE as a measurement tool. But even they admit it’s bogus.

Things got serious in 2010 with the acceptance of the Barcelona Principles, which sound like an international treaty or trade agreement, but are the results of a major international effort to build industry consensus on measurement.

Working from that document, the International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications just released The PR Professional’s Definitive Guide to Measurement. The entire history of its development is long, and thoughtful. This is not a snap judgment by any means. It’s a seismic shift in communications evaluation. And it applies to social media as well.

A vocal proponent of outcome-based PR measurement is K.D. Paine, whose blog, The Measurement Standard, is a must-read for anybody in a field even remotely related to public relations.

Back in June she posted about The Conclave, a group of cross-industry professionals hammering out vendor-neutral standards for social media measurement. While these are not finalized yet, it looks like the world of public relations and the world of social media are getting their respective acts together regarding evaluation.

Originally posted on the Eagle Strategies blog, the class blog of the social media course I teach in the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.

Blogs my students write

It’s no secret I love my students. Well, maybe to them it is, because I do have to use tough love to get some of them to reach their potential.  I hold them to the highest professional standards, and rarely cut them slack on their work. You see, the vast majority of my students are seniors, most in their last semester before launching their careers in the “real world.” I can’t baby them as I prepare to kick them out of the nest.  But I still love them and cry at graduation because I know that’s the last time I’ll see many of them.

At the end of the semester I ask them to write blog posts summarizing what they learned in their classes.  They’re always good, and they provide me valuable feedback I wouldn’t get on a standard student evaluation.  Some of them wax nostalgic, some are inspiring, but all show the students’ newfound maturity as they face graduation. 

Some blogs are particularly memorable, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share two with you.

Alisha Andrews (@alychele on twitter) has been in a bunch of my classes, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching her develop as a writer and strategist through two PR writing classes, an ethics class and a social media class.  Besides her good work, she’s got the most infectious smile, and no matter how bad my day has been, one glimpse at her grin makes the gray clouds part and the sun come out.  So it’s no surprise to me that her blog about Journalism 4460–a required PR Communication class that just about kills me along with the students–hit the nail on the head.  This could easily be the first page of the syllabus next semester.

Reading this blog post took me back a year to another post by former student Sarah Minton (@sarahalisa18 on twitter), in which she expounds on how one knows they’re a PR student at UNT. Enjoy! Sarah was in two of my classes–the infamous Journalism 4460 and my ethics class. Sarah was the Outstanding PR student for the 2009/2010 school year, and another student who was a joy to be around. An avid football fan, she’s famous for striking the Heisman Trophy pose as she walked across the stage at graduation last December.

I’m looking forward to following both of these bright young ladies’ careers, and hope they keep blogging–and making us laugh–for many years to come.