Doctor SpinPublic RelationsCorporate CommsHow To Measure Public Relations

How To Measure Public Relations

Measure soft KPIs in PR—the money will follow.

How to measure public relations?

During a seminar on measuring PR activities in social media, I got the classic question of whether or not you can measure relationships in monetary terms.

The answer is: Yes, you can.

But the more important question is: Should you? The fundamental dilemma is whether or not putting a price tag on human relationships will help your business move forward.

Table of Contents

    Human Decision-Making is an Irrational Process

    Human behaviour is an infinite series of complex phenomena. Anyone could decide on a specific purchase, only to get distracted once the phone rings or the weather changes—leading to new and unexpected trains of thought. While human decision-making is a well-studied phenomenon, that doesn’t make human behaviour easily quantifiable.

    How we view and measure relationships differently depends significantly on how we see our own business.

    Example 1: The Money-Centric Business

    Most companies are managed via one single principle — money.

    Money defines their success.
    Money dictates their governance.
    Money functions as their prime motivator.

    To get “human wallets” to comply, money-centric businesses must pretend to care. But here’s the thing with humans: We can see through smooth-talk like that from a mile away. We know that you only care about getting our money.

    Being money-centric can have many advantages in business and life, but not necessarily when establishing and maintaining authentic relationships. A company might see humans as walking-and-talking wallets, but few of us likes to be seen or treated that way.

    By measuring everything from a perspective of money, the chances are that a lot fewer human beings will be giving you a lot less of theirs.

    Example 2: The Value-Centric Business

    Steve Jobs has an interesting take on business at Apple:

    Jobs are primarily focused on creating the best product the company can ever bring itself to manifest. And it’s not “the best product” according to any customer surveys; it’s the best product according to what he holds to be true.

    Being value-centric is not at odds with making money.

    If instead, a company is primarily focused on making something extraordinary for the sake of making it, people will respond well to it. Such companies will often be just as business-savvy as money-centric businesses, not because they want your money, but because they need your money to make their vision come true.

    Measure Soft KPIs—The Money Will Follow

    Value-centric businesses tend to do better in this digital-first world of ours.

    Word-of-mouth is on steroids today—this puts human beings right at the centre of any business model.

    Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.
    Albert Einstein

    We all care about money, businesses and people alike, but that’s not how we form trust and deep relationships.

    Why is it crucial to understand the difference between a money-centric business and a value-centric one? A money-centric business can’t measure the value of a relationship in a way that leads to better and deeper relationships; they can just put a price tag on it. But a value-centric business can.

    I do know this:

    Relationships are not built by equating humans to wallets with legs.

    The key to successfully measuring PR, which is all about human relationships, is to focus on value:

    • Measure how objectively good your products or services are.
    • Measure how the brand is loved by customers the company respects.
    • Measure how the company lives up to its values.
    • Measure how objectively fantastic the company is to work for.
    • Measure what positive change the company is making in the world.

    And so on.

    Only measuring how to cram more money out of every relationship will have you treating your publics like wallets with legs. And that would be a shame because human beings have so much more to give other than just their money.

    And as the saying goes, “what gets measured, gets done.”

    Cover photo by Jerry Silfwer (Prints/Instagram)


    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer
    Jerry Silfwer, aka Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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