Can You Sell PR Measurement to Your Dumb-Ass Boss?

I love it when I get to read really smart analysis (thanks, Twitter) and love it even more when it comes from two smart people, Katie Payne and Todd Defren.

Todd blogged about this yesterday, but he and Katie had an exchange in which Katie commented on one of Todd’s recent posts about isolating public relations vs. marketing efforts. For those of us who have struggled with this, it’s hard – first of all, from a turf perspective. Marketing will want to claim credit for sales or brand awareness, and public relations will want to say that they are the air cover for the ground war — they created “awareness” which helped the marketing and sales people in the end. In Katie’s newsletter, she commented on Todd’s POV:

“Another popular reason that PR/SM ‘can’t be measured’ is that, ‘You can’t isolate PR from everything else the organization is doing!’ But yes, in fact, you can. It might take some coordination with advertising, or some sophisticated ANOVA (Analysis of Variance) but it can be done, and is being done every day. (Measurement is) hard … particularly for the math-phobic PR folks. It requires calculations and analytics and a bunch of things that PR people hate.”

Yout both are tight. Measurement IS hard. I hate math. Hell, I am adjunct faculty at Georgetown and got a “D” in the one undergrad math class that I took.

Damn Those Obstacles!

One of the texts in my class is the Bible of PR Measurement, Katie’s “Measuring Public Relationships.” All of that mathy stuff can, in fact, get done and made into pretty PowerPoint slides that anyone can understand. The fact that it can be done often runs into the immovable force of it will get done.

For what Todd and Katie are discussing, I see two major obstacles: human and fiscal capital.

By “human capital” I mean you have to find someone who not actually gets this stuff, but who is also committed to the idea that you can indeed offer precise measurements of public relations, marketing and other communications efforts — and isolate each one.

By “fiscal capital,” it’s more obvious, but most of the medium and small businesses (and even some of the large ones that I worked with in my 15 years on the agency side) can’t afford or don’t understand why they need to shell out the bucks for an outside firm like Katie’s. Katie – I have no idea what your billing rates are, so please don’t flame me!

There is astronomical value in measuring communications efforts. The hard part is very much related to a post that I wrote last week: “How To Sell Social Media to Your Dumb-Ass Boss.” It’s frustrating when you see the real value of something — and how it has the potential to really impact your business — and you get the “deer in the headlights” look from the people in the corner office.

In retrospect, maybe I’ll start a series of posts called “How to Sell REAL Public Relations Measurement to Your Dumb Ass Boss.”

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.




  1. First of all, THANK you for the complements! Love the fact that you like the book! Secondly, I have a trick for you that works with alot of dumb-ass bosses — don’t call it measurement. Measurement sounds defensive. What you are doing, particularly with social media, is listening to your target audiences. And if your boss doesn’t want to listen to what his/her stakeholders are talking about, perhaps he/she should find a different line of work.
    Measurement is essentially research into what’s going on, what’s being talked about and written about in your marketplace. Would finance or sales recommend a strategy and not cite data and/or market research? So why shouldn’t communications get just as much money for its research. (And oh, by the way, our services start at $3600 a year. And if you figure that the average spend on measurement is between 5 and 10% that means that anyone with a communications budget of more than about $20,000 a year can afford PR measuremnt.

  2. Mike Watson Says: November 27, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Firstly, Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating the custom. Secondly, are PR practitioners and specialists in measurement, evaluation, listening, etc as effective as those who ‘sell-in’ sport and cultural sponsorships, CRM and IT systems/upgrades, market research, HR training schemes, corporate image/livery, etc to those in corner offices? Can we learn from them? Or should we train-up and hand-over the selling to sales? No, from what I’ve observed. Btw, a 10lb zucchini starts as a colourful flower and they taste great when stuffed, battered, and fried.

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