Amith Prabhu: If Public Relations cannot be measured, then what can be?

25 May,2015

By Amith Prabhu


In my column last week I wrote about how Public Relations should be looked at by understanding the definition of religion. One cannot measure Public Relations efforts. Public Relations covers four spheres and specific activities within the four spheres can be measured. The four spheres I wrote about are: Content creation, Connecting stakeholders, Crisis management and Counseling leadership.


Almost every activity that is linked to Public Relations will fall under one of these four spheres. Let us look at these four spheres individually and list various aspects that fall under each. That will then give us a sense of what can be measured and what cannot.


Content creation includes and is not limited to drafting and collating information that goes into the website, on social networks, into annual reports, into media releases, into briefing documents, employee emails, internal branding material and any written word, image – moving or still, musical rendition that represents the organisation or department. These have to always be of high quality which means good grammar, zero typos and fairly well composed. A document can be rated on certain parameters but seldom can it be measured.


Connecting stakeholders covers all connections the company or the brand makes internally and externally starting with employees, investors, shareholders, community, customers, past and future employees and customers and specifically relevant members of the media who are both a stakeholder as well as a medium to reach stakeholders through the media outlets. The quality of these relationships can be measured in various ways. With internal stakeholders by evaluating a survey or through the outcome of low attrition and higher supply of talent. With external stakeholders by top of mind recall surveys as an output or increase of sales as an outcome. With media specifically when a specific activity is undertaken it is imperative to have a written brief that clearly indicates goals. And the output for a media release and a media conference should be measured based on targeted conversion, tonality and key messages being present. For other media activities like an interview or a story that appears inorganically the same measure of tonality and key message should be considered.


With the advent of digital media and social in particular anything can be said by anyone at any time. There is the owned and earned media aspect. Not much can be within one’s control for the latter. However, two things are imperative: a) To advise management to constantly do the right things with a playbook that describes the outcomes of a wrong move. And b) To be responsive and be able to respond with facts and figures when there are stray comments in the online world. There are limits to what can be measured.


Finally, with regard to crisis management and counselling leadership these are similar to what a legal counsel would do in an organisation. Constantly evaluating risks and mapping potential issues with a crisis management plan always in place. These again, cannot be measured unless there are specific metrics for a lengthy crisis management programme that are again specific to activities that are linked to a crisis.


That leaves very little to be measured in Public Relations. But the billion rupee question on measuring Public Relations which is a non-question to start with persists. Next time someone asks you how you measure Public Relations it would be prudent to educate them that Public Relations cannot be measured but specific activities within the ambit of can be measured and each activity has its own set of measurement parameters and differs from brief to brief.


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