The question of measurement is a foremost consideration in the evolution of Public Relations. For PR to become an integral part of an organization's business, practitioners need to put success in tangible terms for senior decision makers to show how it drives business performance, whatever that business may be.
If you're a CEO of a publicly traded company, you'll want to know how investor relations drives investment or share valuation of the company. One quantitative way to show this is to track investor behavior on news story days.
If you're an Executive Director at a non-profit organization, you'll want to know how PR drives donations and membership, or see how top-tier media are responding to priority program offerings.
For business-to-consumer companies, VPs will ask how sustained PR campaigns help build and maintain sales and thus gross profit. A practitioner could look at whether purchase levels are impacted by exposure to PR messaging, or demonstrate whether reputation management efforts have paid off when new products enter the marketplace.
Senior government decision makers will think about whether public awareness campaigns support their mandates, such as getting more people to take the flu shot that year, or lowering fatalities on the road.
Whatever the business, PR works collaboratively with key stakeholders to enhance business efficiency. It differs from Advertising in that Public Relations is not just focused on delivering messages, but also on strengthening relationships for the long-term based on audience and end user feedback. Through targeted outreach to build and maintain trust with people, effective PR reinforces the communication of organizational values, mitigates crises, builds a reservoir of goodwill and saves millions in prospective litigation fees. Therefore, practicing PR means building value that is recognized by those who matter most to the organization. And this most definitely impacts every kind of bottom line.
Stay tuned for an upcoming post on internet-based communications' measurement :)
Food for Thought: What other ways have you seen PR generate value for organizations?
For More Info: Check out this awesome presentation from the PRSA's working group on PR measurement.