Vr3: Reputation, Relationships, Results

PR definition – PR measurement … Still seeking the holy grail

Our industry has recently settled on a definition for what we do. The “Public Relations Defined” campaign was led by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Here’s the definition: “Public relations is a strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Of course, few people outside the industry really understand what we do. 

Very few mothers of PR pros can carry an informed discussion about what their daughter/son does for a living, no matter how proud they are.

Importantly, there are people within businesses who think they know what PR is and does, but really don’t have a clue. They’re just after a media release that “spins” their issue du jour. No thanks.

Understanding what we do may be changing, although I am not so sure. No criticism of PRSA’s effort here but what we do every day IS hard to define and, in some cases, even harder to measure. 

From our firm’s perspective, there are two elements of the PRSA definition that drive further thought or consideration for us:

1. What value is added by extensive in-market knowledge and relationships to help a client build “mutually beneficial relationships?” 

We think a lot. We think our local experience, expertise and close personal relationships is a differentiator, as is our ability to provide such “local” connections in other markets around the country and the world through our association in IPREX, a global corporation of about 75 firms around the world.

2. Does the new PRSA definition add value to the age-old discussion of PR’s measurement or ROI?

I think not. Solid measurement of outcomes (v. outputs) is still a bit of the Holy Grail sought by all PR pros. (In fairness, I don’t think answering the measurement question was ever an objective of establishing an industry-accepted definition.)

Without question, the full integration of social media into most PR programs provides us access to more data than ever. This is a very good thing and that alone adds value to our client relationships. 

However, establishing an ROI for a client’s investment around the value derived from a “mutually beneficial relationship” is still murky.

So, the beat goes on. Serious PR professionals will always focus on that which is the most difficult to measure … building, maintaining and strengthening relationships to help our clients grow their market share.

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