Do you remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy’s little dog Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal that the all-powerful Wizard is just an old huckster from Omaha? I do every time the subject of PR measurement comes up. I can’t help but think that modern PR measurement techniques are about to pull the curtain back on PR agencies everywhere and wizards and hucksters alike will be revealed. Will giving brands the ability to see exactly how the fees they are paying agencies impact business results break the system or make it better?
PR Has Traditionally Been Difficult to Measure
It is true that (until recently) the business impact of PR efforts has been difficult to quantify. In the absence of quantitative metrics to define the success of agencies, PR pros got creative and the idea of Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) was born. AVE was convenient for agencies because it involved numbers (thus implying objective measurement) and because it often massively overestimated the value of PR. (For more on the perils of AVE, read this.) In addition to AVE, agency fees were justified with measures of activity like the number of press releases, mentions and reach. None of these metrics, however, are capable of illuminating the difference between an effective agency and one that's just busy.
It is Getting Easier to Tie PR Spend to Revenue
Companies are becoming data driven in almost every area of business and PR is no exception. Modern technology is making it easier to link PR investments to demand generation and revenue. The digital behavior of potential buyers can be tracked to the point that nearly each factor that contributes to their interest can be identified and measured. For the first time, PR agencies can demonstrate ROI. Brands are increasingly insisting that agencies have outcome-based goals in terms of traffic, conversions, engagement and sales.
No Place to Hide
So, is PR measurement a good thing for agencies? It depends, of course. Those that have a positive impact on business outcomes will be able to justify increased spend. They will be able to prove their worth vs. other channels to better compete for limited budgets. On the other hand, agencies that are unable to move the needle on business results will struggle to justify retainers and fees, and retain clients.
Once the Wizard got over the smoke and mirrors routine, he was able to be of some help to Dorothy and her friends by reminding them of the assets they had with them all along. We hope that new PR measurement capabilities help you successfully demonstrate the power of PR to impact the bottom line.
We're interested in your take. Is measuring PR results a good thing for agencies?