Following on from my last post, another dangerous perspective in public relations and communication is that it what we do can't be measured. Well, that's just not true and I firmly believe that the reluctance (even after all these years) to properly measure, evaluate and report back on public relations activity is caused by the identity crisis that grips our profession.
Because practitioners find themselves working on the fringes, directed to send stuff out, they don't see - or get involved with - the whole process of public relations - which is building and maintaining the relationships organisations need to keep their licence to operate. They get bogged down measuring (totally irrelevant) newspaper clippings or counting mentions, along with retweets, likes and shares in more recent years. While some of these things might indicate whether or not your stakeholders have heard and understood you, they don't, in themselves, tell you if your relationship has improved or if the work you are doing has adequately supported your organisational outcomes. For example, has satisfaction, loyalty, trust, commitment or reputation been improved? Have sales increased? Has a policy change been accepted as valid? Have attitudes or behaviour changed? Has the work undertaken increased or decreased the societal or commercial value of the organisation's relationships with its internal and external stakeholders?
There has been plenty of research over the years into the nature of organisational relationships - back in 1999, Grunig and Hon produced some initial research and approaches to relationship measurement and there has been much added since. Yet still I encounter practitioners still caught up with fake measurement models loosely based on 20th century assumptions of our purpose and its relationship to the organisation. In an attempt to encourage practitioners to think about measurement from a different perspective, here's a three minute overview of the process that I've put together and if it encourages even one person somewhere to rethink their approach to public relations research, measurement and evaluation, it's been time well spent.
Practitioners have an ethical duty to properly research, measure and evaluate their work. It is not a holy grail - more an every day cup at the back of the cupboard that few can be bothered to dig out and use. Making research, measurement and evaluation part of the daily routine will do much to demonstrate the value of public relations - particularly given we live and work in a relationship driven society - and address the question of professional identity. It really is time we measured up and demonstrated just how effective we are.