barcelonaprinciplesThe PR analytics and PR measurement landscape are continually evolving with the advent of owned vs earned media, social channels, the Barcelona Principles and a growing demand for standards around measurement and analytics. Believe it or not, 20 or so years ago, most PR firms used to charge extra for measurement, or provide none at all, claiming, “PR is immeasurable.” But the truth is that it has always been measureable to some extent; it’s just easier than ever today with our access to big data, affordable tools and insightful analytics.

So we know PR measurement has changed and continues to evolve (thankfully). The profession itself continues to be one of extreme pressure, having landed once again on CareerCast’s list of the most stressful jobs in America for 2014 – at No. 6 as reported by Ragan’s PR Daily in January. (Coincidentally, better PR analytics can help ease some of the pressure on teams by proving success in ways we never could before.) But what else in PR remains the same, if anything?

Here are six truths about PR that remain constant over the years:


  1. The Need To Read. One of the biggest complaints from journalists is that PR executives don’t actually read what a journalist writes. This has been a long time issue, fueled by PR agencies that build budgets based on hourly rates and want as much content pumped out as possible in those hours. (Which was driven by status reports that focused on outputs – “look how much we’ve done” - vs outcomes and results – “here’s what our impact has been.”) But the best PR agencies also know that “quality content” (pitches, Tweets, blog posts, etc.) come from knowing their target intimately and providing value in whatever they pitch. PR executives have a daunting responsibility to keep up with more news and industry trends than ever.
  2. Every brand must have a crisis communications plan. As Fast Company recently wrote in regards to its spokesperson being investigated for child pornography, “I’m pretty sure Subway never thought this was going to happen. You have to plan for the worst.” Every good PR team will have some kind of crisis communications in queue, and revisit it yearly to ensure it remains applicable and current in our constantly changing business and communications environment.
  3. PR Drives Quality Leads. There is a common debate in the industry on whether or not PR drives quality leads or simply awareness. Today, PR has an impact not only at the top, but throughout the entire sales funnel: from pre-sales (awareness) to closing (validation and credibility) to post-sales (building customer advocates). In 2013, Lattice Engines and CSO Insights reported that sixty-eight percent of business are not getting enough quality leads through their lead generation efforts and blame their marketing people for it. A good PR team is integrated with marketing and plays a key role in this – building strategic campaigns to not only raise awareness but to also drive action, place key messages in front of the right (and often multiple) audiences and build credibility. Not every PR campaign is created equal – each has a distinct purpose and a distinct audience. If your PR team isn’t driving leads, an evaluation of what’s working and what isn’t is in order. This is where PR analytics can help, to identify successful strategies so you can repeat what’s working and pivot from what isn’t.
  4. PR Needs A Seat At The Table. Every division in a business needs to communicate and connect with PR for the ultimate success. A PR team can’t make an impact working in a black hole. If the sales team wants quality leads, they need to participate in the process by continually sharing with PR their experiences, conversations and challenges from prospects. Customer service has to work to ensure that public messages and brand promises are ones they can uphold and adhere to, and let PR know if they cannot. HR needs to understand and believe in the company’s branding and integrate such messages into their recruiting materials. It takes a village to ensure that PR efforts are paying off across an entire business.
  5. Earned Media Still Matters – A Lot. Yes, content rules and owned media is a great way to ensure your specific messages are heard. But no matter how much social channels have dominated the marketing landscape lately, the truth is that third party, traditional media (articles written by true blue journalists) is still one of the top requests by companies seeking PR help. Media relations is not dead, despite what you may have read in the Holmes Report 2015 World PR Report,claiming that that “media relations skills are not seen as particularly relevant” anymore. More on that, here and here, where PR Week featured a good post on this topic last year. PR pros have got to master the relationship building aspect of PR first and foremost. And that returns us back up to #1.
  6. Clients Want Measurement And Analysis. The request for measurement has always been there and that hasn’t changed. What has changed is the demand for more meaningful metrics and a PR team’s ability to easily provide them. Yes, we’re biased since we provide a tool to make measurement easier and more strategic. But we’re not the only ones. With the Barcelona Principles having its fifth anniversary this year, and new PR analytics platforms surpassing traditional media monitoring tools for measurement success, the industry is now aware that better data is indeed available. And, that true measurement means a focus on outcomes, not just output.

No doubt that new media has added to the mix of what PR executives need to accomplish, use, measure and analyze, but the core of the profession remains. New tools come and go – the best public relations professionals know how to build and maintain many relationships, communicate and tell stories in a compelling way, work quickly and efficiently under high pressure, and execute campaigns that positively impact the bottom line.

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