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Measuring PR Success is Currently Mission Impossible
By: Mike Bush
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How do clients know they’re getting value for their PR dollar spent? They can look at earned media placements, and if they’re particularly savvy, maybe they assign different values for different types of hits (New York Times perhaps more valuable than a trade magazine…depending on what the goal of the PR campaign is). There’s advertising equivalencies, which should make any flack stay up at night pulling his or her hair out. A flack can track the number of “shares” a story gets, assuming the target audience is in the demographic that shares regularly.

And when you look at those options, the truth is, none of them are very good.

Well, PR clients (and flacks looking to demonstrate value), there's bad and worse news here. The bad news for flacks trying to show value is that no one has established a great method yet. The worse news is that there doesn’t seem to be a suitable formula on the horizon.

At the GigaOm Structure Data conference, an analytics executive from Turner Broadcasting System discussed the challenges facing Turner (CNN and Cartoon network are a couple of their properties). He discussed how difficult it is for networks, with all the data you can imagine, to show legitimate value.

Read that again. An Analytics Executive for a major media giant with access to virtually limitless data can’t accurately show value.

Changes in consumer behavior and viewing patterns, consumers getting information from sources other than TV, but related to Turner’s offerings, even the number of devices people are consuming content through; advertisers have exceptional demands on companies like Turner. And as flacks, our clients have similar requests of us.

This isn’t an argument that “well, if Turner can’t do it, we shouldn’t either.” It’s more of an appeal for PR people to rationally think through the process, identifying what the end results of a successful PR campaign might be, and then putting step-by-step goals in place to attain that result.

The good news is that, when there is no standard in place, a crafty communications professional can work with their client to set goals that make sense. At that point, measurement becomes a whole lot easier.

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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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