PR measurementWhat impact do my Public Relations activities have? It is not only a question most CEOs would have asked themselves at budget time, but goes back to the raison d’être of PR. While marketing can (ideally) show impressive stats on conversation rates and revenue billed for each marketing dollar, PR has long contented with producing clipping books and media coverage stats.

At the more sophisticated end of the scale, companies have adopted additional KPIs such as Share of Voice, sentiment analysis, message penetration and other quantitative and qualitative metrics that add depth to their PR reports. But PR rarely had the same obligation to justify spend; as long there is a continuous improvement, things just keep ticking along.

A recently published whitepaper by PRNewsWire (Leveraging Content and Big Data to Power PR Results) challenges this status quo. Pointing to the ever more personalised and fragmented buyer’s journey along social, digital and traditional channels, the paper paints the “picture of technology as a fulcrum upon which rest twin counterweights: content, which is our industry’s specialty; and data, which increasingly is the fuel that powers modern marketing.” The new approach: More focus on output, outtakes and outcomes as well as closer cooperation between CMO and CIO.

It is only fair to throw down the gauntlet at the good old clipping book, considering that many marketing departments grapple with the same problems (see my recent post on digital marketing challenges). Often, combining and interpreting data from a variety of data sources still involves a lot of elbow grease. Once an organisation invests in better systems to automate data capture, analysis and storage, issues of data privacy, security and liability need to be addressed. In spite of these practical challenges, PR measurement is clearly becoming more data-driven. And with the focus on marketing KPIs also comes greater accountability.

At the same time it is important to remember that PR is not just another digital lead generation channel. In the broader context of issue and reputation management, opinion polls, focus groups and other qualitative and quantitative techniques continue to play a vital role in campaign measurement and evaluation.