How To Measure Public Relations

Why you should measure attitudes and behaviours.

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How to meas­ure pub­lic relations?

During a sem­in­ar on meas­ur­ing pub­lic rela­tions (PR) activ­it­ies in social media, an audi­ence mem­ber asked:

Is it pos­sible to meas­ure relationships?

Here, we get into chal­len­ging ter­rit­ory, and I will demon­strate why atti­tude- and beha­viour meas­ure­ments are super­i­or to oth­er types of meas­ure­ments in pub­lic rela­tions.

Here we go:

Methods for Measuring Public Relations

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Methods for Measuring Public Relations

There are three basic approaches to meas­ur­ing pub­lic relations:

  • The Traditional Method
  • The Corporate Method
  • The Sociological Method

Please note: I recom­mend using the Sociological Method for meas­ur­ing pub­lic relations.

The Traditional Method

The tra­di­tion­al meas­ure­ment meth­od is based on mar­ket­ing logic. Marketing meth­ods focus on media chan­nels, demo­graph­ic reach, and ad costs.

Examples of PR measurements:

  • Reach approx­im­a­tions
  • AVE (ad value equivalence)

Primary strength: Easy to cal­cu­late.
Primary weak­ness: Low qual­ity for decision-making.

The Corporate Method

The cor­por­ate meas­ure­ment meth­od is based on gen­er­al busi­ness prac­tices. Corporate meth­ods are focused on man­age­ment the­ory and rev­en­ue. (Closely related to the Excellence PR Approach.)

Examples of PR measurements:

  • ROI (return on investment)
  • KPI (key per­form­ance indicator)

Primary strength: Fit well into cor­por­ate hier­arch­ies.
Primary weak­ness: Misrepresent the value of PR.

The Sociological Method

The soci­olo­gic­al meas­ure­ment meth­od­o­logy is based on psy­cho­logy. Behavioural meth­ods are focused on atti­tudes and beha­viours. (Closely related to the Rhetorical PR Approach.)

Examples of PR measurements:

  • Attitude meas­ure­ments
  • Behaviour meas­ure­ments

Primary strength: Highly use­ful for PR.
Primary weak­ness: Not precise.

Trust, open­ness, involve­ment, invest­ment, and com­mit­ment are key dimen­sions in estab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing good organ­iz­a­tion-pub­lic rela­tion­ships.“
Source: Public Relations Review 1Ledingham, J., & Bruning, S. (1998). Relationship man­age­ment in pub­lic rela­tions: dimen­sions of an organ­iz­a­tion-pub­lic rela­tion­ship. Public Relations Review, 24, 55 – 65. … Continue read­ing

Public rela­tions mod­els should be meas­ured at the rela­tion­al level and have a devel­op­ment­al com­pon­ent to bet­ter align with rela­tion­ship man­age­ment meta­phors.“
Source: Public Relations Review 2Leichty, G., & Springston, J. (1993). Reconsidering pub­lic rela­tions mod­els. Public Relations Review, 19, 327 – 339. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​0​363 – 8111(93)90055‑H

Learn more: Methods for Measuring Public Relations

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How To Measure Public Relations

How to Measure Public Relations - Doctor Spin
How to meas­ure pub­lic relations.
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How To Measure Public Relations

How do you meas­ure pub­lic rela­tions (PR)? I recom­mend meas­ur­ing atti­tudes and beha­viours using ques­tion­naires, rat­ing scales, inter­views, reports (logs, journ­als, diar­ies, etc.), and observations.

My recom­mend­a­tion: I recom­mend the Sociological Method for get­ting valu­able and action­able res­ults from meas­ur­ing pub­lic rela­tions. This means meas­ur­ing atti­tudes and beha­viours. 3Silfwer, J. (2021, March 4). Methods of Measuring Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​m​e​a​s​u​r​i​n​g​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/

There are a few things to think about to meas­ure atti­tudes and beha­viours cor­rectly. 4Educational Communications and Technology. (2001, August 3). 34.5 Measuring Attitudes. The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. … Continue read­ing

Attitude Measurements in PR

An atti­tude meas­ure­ment should meet the fol­low­ing criteria:

  • Valid
  • Reliable
  • Simple to Administer, Explain, and Understand
  • Replicable

There are four main types of atti­tude meas­ure­ment approaches:

  • Self-Reporting
  • Reports of Others
  • Internal Reporting (Sociometric Reporting)
  • Records

There are four main types of atti­tude meas­ure­ment methods:

  • Questionnaires and Rating Scales
  • Interviews
  • Reports (Logs, Journals, Diaries etc.)
  • Observations

I recom­mend using ques­tion­naires and stand­ard­ised inter­views for pub­lic rela­tions measurements:

Validity. Attitudes are psy­cho­lo­gic­al, so I strive to cla­ri­fy what I want to meas­ure, noth­ing more, noth­ing less. And I nev­er add any unne­ces­sary complexity.

Reliability. People exper­i­ence the world dif­fer­ently. But even if atti­tude meas­ure­ments aren’t exact, their use­ful­ness for PR more than makes up for it.

Learn more: How To Measure Public Relations

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My Preference: The Rhetorical Approach

Three Approaches to Public Relations - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Three approaches to pub­lic relations.
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Approaches To Public Relations

There are three schol­arly approaches to pub­lic rela­tions (PR):

  • The Excellence Approach
  • The Rhetorical Approach
  • The Critical Approach

The Excellence Approach. A busi­ness-ori­ented approach focused on object­ives and cor­por­ate value cre­ation. The under­ly­ing motiv­a­tion behind the the­ory was that pub­lic real­tions was mainly a vari­ety of tac­tic­al tools that des­per­ately needed a man­age­ment the­ory to work well in a soph­ist­ic­ated organisation.

Notable men­tions: James E. Grunig, Larissa A. Grunig

The Rhetorical Approach. A clas­sic­al approach that stems from ideas dat­ing back to ancient Greece. It’s a psy­cho­lo­gic­al the­ory of how com­mu­nic­a­tion struc­tures human cul­ture by shap­ing human minds. An absence of mor­al judg­ment char­ac­ter­ises the rhet­or­ic­al approach and is utilitarian.

Notable men­tions: Edward Bernays, The Toronto School of Communication Theory, Robert Heath

The Critical Approach. A crit­ic­al approach deeply rooted in the­or­ies around soci­et­al power dynam­ics. Power is seen as a means to exert dom­in­ance, manip­u­la­tion, and oppres­sion. The crit­ic­al approach bor­rows many ideas from the rhet­or­ic­al approach by pla­cing them in mor­al frameworks.

Notable men­tions: Walter Lippmann, Noam Chomsky

Read also: 3 PR Approaches: Excellence, Rhetorical, and Critical

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The Close Relationship Argument

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

In the rhet­or­ic­al approach, PR is all about rela­tion­ships. And I tend to agree whole­heartedly with that sentiment.

And in life, some rela­tion­ships are more import­ant than oth­ers. My most import­ant and closest rela­tion­ships are those with my wife and son. Those are my most valu­able relationships.

What if I wanted to meas­ure those relationships?

I could meas­ure vari­ous met­rics, from my wife’s salary to my son’s grades. But my wife could make good money, and my son could do well in school des­pite hav­ing an awful rela­tion­ship with me.

What’s the best way for me to gauge my closest rela­tion­ships? For res­ults that mat­ter and are help­ful, engage in open and con­tinu­ous con­ver­sa­tion and codi­fy out­comes. So, in my view, com­mu­nic­a­tion is the best way to meas­ure relationships.

Most rela­tion­ships aren’t that close, but they’re still rela­tion­ships that shape atti­tudes and behaviours.

Money, Money, Money

Most com­pan­ies are man­aged via one single prin­ciple—money.

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

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

Money is a great cent­ral value for nearly everything except for one thing: rela­tion­ships with oth­er humans.

Only meas­ur­ing pub­lic rela­tions by how to squeeze more money out of every rela­tion­ship means 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.

  • In the eyes of advert­isers and fun­nel spe­cial­ists, we are demo­graph­ic entit­ies stripped of our essence, mere pup­pets of con­sump­tion with wal­lets in place of hearts.

Some argue that money is how everything in an organ­isa­tion gets meas­ured, so the PR func­tion must con­form. I take the oppos­ite view: If so, at least one func­tion should focus on the human aspect.

Read also: Why ROI and PR Mix Like Oil and Water

The Golden Rule of Measuring PR

What gets meas­ured, gets done.”
— Peter Drucker

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The Golden Rule of Measuring PR

If an organ­isa­tion focuses on the wrong met­rics, it might estab­lish, main­tain, or devel­op the wrong long-term rela­tion­ships. 5The insight is based on 18+ years of prac­tic­al con­sult­ing exper­i­ence.

The Golden Rule of Measuring PR: Your choice of PR meas­ure­ment meth­od and track­able PR object­ives will impact your organ­isa­tion more than the res­ult­ing meas­ure­ments ever will.

Choosing the meas­ure­ment meth­od and object­ives for pub­lic rela­tions is more crit­ic­al than get­ting the actu­al data from those trackings.

Learn more: The Golden Rule of Measuring PR

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The Barcelona Principles 3.0

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Barcelona Principles 3.0

The PR industry has united around a series of prin­ciples for meas­ur­ing com­mu­nic­a­tions. The latest iter­a­tion comes from AMEC, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication.

1. Setting goals is an abso­lute pre­requis­ite to com­mu­nic­a­tions plan­ning, meas­ure­ment, and eval­u­ation—The found­ing prin­ciple of SMART (spe­cif­ic, meas­ur­able, action­able, rel­ev­ant, and time-bound) goals as a found­a­tion for com­mu­nic­a­tions plan­ning has been pro­moted to an essen­tial pre­requis­ite. It pushes meas­ure­ment and eval­u­ation as a core com­pon­ent of the plan­ning pro­cess, artic­u­lat­ing tar­get out­comes and how pro­gress towards these will be assessed.

2. Measurement and eval­u­ation should identi­fy out­puts, out­comes, and poten­tial impact—Previously, the Principles recom­men­ded meas­ur­ing out­comes, rather than simply count­ing out­puts. The updated prin­ciples extend this to con­sider longer term impact of com­mu­nic­a­tions strategy. According to Levine, this means think­ing about “the chan­nels we are impact­ing, and change we would like to see through cam­paigns, events and activ­a­tions.”

3. Outcomes and impact should be iden­ti­fied for stake­hold­ers, soci­ety, and the organ­isa­tion—From the ori­gin­al focus on busi­ness met­rics, such as sales and rev­en­ue, the 2020 update embraces a more hol­ist­ic view of per­form­ance. It allows the mod­el to be more inclus­ive of a broad­er range of organ­isa­tions and com­mu­nic­a­tions roles that are not neces­sar­ily profit-driv­en.

4. Communication meas­ure­ment and eval­u­ation should include both qual­it­at­ive and quant­it­at­ive ana­lys­is—“To under­stand the full impact of your work, it is cru­cial that you use the full suite of meth­ods to meas­ure those out­comes,” sum­mar­ised Levine in describ­ing the evol­u­tion of this prin­ciple to not just quanti­fy but also under­stand how mes­sages are being received, believed and inter­preted.

5. AVEs are not the value of com­mu­nic­a­tion—The mes­sage remains con­sist­ent and clear; “we con­tin­ue to believe that AVEs do not demon­strate the value of our work.” It is import­ant that com­mu­nic­a­tions meas­ure­ment and eval­u­ation employs a rich­er, more nuanced, and multi-faceted approach to under­stand the impact of com­mu­nic­a­tions.

6. Holistic com­mu­nic­a­tion meas­ure­ment and eval­u­ation includes all rel­ev­ant online and off­line chan­nels—Our found­ing prin­ciple that social media can and should be meas­ured is so obvi­ous today. The 2020 iter­a­tion reflects the game-chan­ging shift in social com­mu­nic­a­tions’ cap­ab­il­it­ies, oppor­tun­it­ies, and influ­ence, such that all rel­ev­ant online and off­line chan­nels should be meas­ured and eval­u­ated equally. The AMEC meas­ure­ment frame­work pro­motes clar­ity across earned, owned, shared, and paid chan­nels to ensure con­sist­ency in approach towards a com­mon goal.

7. Communication meas­ure­ment and eval­u­ation are rooted in integ­rity and trans­par­ency to drive learn­ing and insights—Sound, con­sist­ent, and sus­tained meas­ure­ment calls for integ­rity and trans­par­ency in recog­ni­tion of today’s atten­tion to data pri­vacy and stew­ard­ship as organ­isa­tions com­ply with new reg­u­la­tions, such as GDPR. This is also a state­ment that meas­ure­ment isn’t simply about data col­lec­tion and track­ing, but about learn­ing from eval­u­ation and apply­ing insight back into com­mu­nic­a­tions plan­ning. It recog­nises the need to be trans­par­ent about the con­text in which pro­grammes are run and being aware of any bias that may exist in the tools, meth­od­o­lo­gies and inter­pret­a­tions applied.

Download the Barcelona Principles 3.0 Presentation here

Learn more: How To Measure Public Relations

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Public Relations Objectives

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Public Relations Objectives

Public rela­tions (PR) plays a cru­cial role in shap­ing pub­lic opin­ion by stra­tegic­ally man­aging the spread of inform­a­tion between an organ­isa­tion and stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and pub­lics.

PR pro­fes­sion­als con­trol the nar­rat­ive, mit­ig­ate dam­age, and restore pub­lic con­fid­ence dur­ing a crisis. Through con­sist­ent and effect­ive com­mu­nic­a­tion, PR can sway pub­lic opin­ion in favour of the organ­isa­tion, enhan­cing its repu­ta­tion and stand­ing in the community.

Building trust and cred­ib­il­ity is anoth­er cru­cial object­ive of pub­lic rela­tions. In an era where con­sumers are increas­ingly scep­tic­al of advert­ising and cor­por­ate speak, PR offers a more authen­t­ic and cred­ible way to com­mu­nic­ate with the public. 

PR pro­fes­sion­als strive to build and main­tain a pos­it­ive image for their organ­isa­tions by pro­mot­ing trans­par­ency, demon­strat­ing social respons­ib­il­ity, and enga­ging in open dia­logue with stake­hold­ers. They also work to high­light the organisation’s suc­cesses and achieve­ments, fur­ther enhan­cing its credibility. 

By fos­ter­ing sol­id rela­tion­ships with the media, PR can ensure that the organisation’s story is told fairly and accur­ately. Over time, these efforts can build a strong found­a­tion of trust and cred­ib­il­ity, which is invalu­able in today’s com­pet­it­ive busi­ness environment.

Public rela­tions is a young aca­dem­ic field with poten­tial to inform vari­ous areas of com­mu­nic­a­tion and offer tools like issues man­age­ment for vari­ous applied com­mu­nic­a­tion fields.“
Source: Journal of Communication 6Botan, C., & Taylor, M. (2004). Public rela­tions: State of the field. Journal of Communication, 54, 645 – 661. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​460 – 2466.2004.TB02649.X

Examples of Public Relations Objectives

Here are a few examples of pub­lic rela­tions objectives:

  • Increase aware­ness via earned, shared and owned channels.
  • Educate the mar­ket and modi­fy perceptions.
  • Increase word-of-mouth by cre­at­ing social objects.
  • Increase pos­it­ive pub­li­city and decrease neg­at­ive publicity.
  • Coach and pre­pare cor­por­ate spokespeople.
  • Manage insider threats.
  • Introduce new products or services.
  • Manage inquir­ies from journ­al­ists and analysts.
  • Keep stake­hold­ers well-informed.
  • Strategic work (pos­i­tion­ing, per­cep­tion man­age­ment etc.)
  • Establish and devel­op mutu­al rela­tion­ships with key publics.
  • Monitor word-of-mouth and press coverage.
  • Improve intern­al com­mu­nic­a­tions.
  • Prevent and man­age crises.
  • Manage issues before they escal­ate and become real problems.
  • Influence pub­lic opin­ion and legis­lat­ive processes.
  • Develop the PR strategy and keep the PR plan updated.
  • Gather action­able insights from data ana­lys­is and focus groups.
  • Produce and pub­lish inform­a­tion­al and edu­ca­tion­al con­tent.

Learn more: Public Relations Objectives

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Thanks for read­ing. Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing art­icles with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tions and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. You might also con­sider my PR ser­vices or speak­ing engage­ments.

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ANNOTATIONS
ANNOTATIONS
1 Ledingham, J., & Bruning, S. (1998). Relationship man­age­ment in pub­lic rela­tions: dimen­sions of an organ­iz­a­tion-pub­lic rela­tion­ship. Public Relations Review, 24, 55 – 65. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​S​0​3​6​3​-​8​1​1​1​(​9​8​)​8​0​020 – 9
2 Leichty, G., & Springston, J. (1993). Reconsidering pub­lic rela­tions mod­els. Public Relations Review, 19, 327 – 339. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​1​6​/​0​363 – 8111(93)90055‑H
3 Silfwer, J. (2021, March 4). Methods of Measuring Public Relations. Doctor Spin | The PR Blog. https://​doc​tor​spin​.net/​m​e​a​s​u​r​i​n​g​-​p​u​b​l​i​c​-​r​e​l​a​t​i​o​ns/
4 Educational Communications and Technology. (2001, August 3). 34.5 Measuring Attitudes. The Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology. https://​mem​bers​.aect​.org/​e​d​t​e​c​h​/​e​d​1​/​3​4​/34 – 05.html
5 The insight is based on 18+ years of prac­tic­al con­sult­ing experience.
6 Botan, C., & Taylor, M. (2004). Public rela­tions: State of the field. Journal of Communication, 54, 645 – 661. https://​doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​1​1​1​/​J​.​1​460 – 2466.2004.TB02649.X
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.
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