(Nov. 17, 2009) What is the value of public relations? Simply put, it's that you are what you communicate.
A good public relations program means telling your story and being heard. It is a matter of setting a tone and providing context and information, so that consumers-or donors, in the case of nonprofits-are more fully informed.
When making a case for the value of public relations, one important aspect is understanding that counting news clips is not the primary metric on which a public relations program should be measured, but rather the overall outcome of the program for the benefit of your organization.
In an article published in Public Relations Strategist, a publication of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), the author explains that a public relations campaign should not be measured by anything less than its ability to help bring about the achievement of an organization's strategic goals. Traditional metrics to determine the success of a public relations campaign--volume of clips, social media activity, advertising value equivalencies, etc.--play a role, but only as initial data points to guide deeper and more targeted research.
In the article (published online on August 1, 2006), author David B. Oates, APR, explains why the tendency to measure public relations value by measuring its "outputs" is misguided. "While quantifying the number of news articles placed and brochures distributed at a trade show is interesting--and at times, ego-boosting--such initiatives, and some businesses, won't be around long if it's not clear how their efforts impact larger organizational goals, such as lead and sales conversions."In other words, what's needed is an evaluation of the effort against an established set of goals, which begins with writing measurable objectives.
Building a Case for Public Relations
Here are some message points from PRSA meant to help you make the case for a public relations program at your organization.
- Public relations is more than managing the flow of information between an organization and its publics. It is a communications discipline that engages and informs key audiences, builds important relationships and brings vital information back into an organization for analysis and action. It has real, measurable impact on the achievement of strategic organizational goals.
- Public relations and publicity are not synonymous; publicity is a small subset and specialized discipline within public relations, often practiced by dedicated firms who may or may not possess broader strategic communications capabilities.
- A survey of chief marketing officers at major national and global advertisers conducted by the Association of National Advertisers found that the value public relations delivers as part of the overall marketing mix is increasing. Why? One reason is that public relations is a key driver of business outcomes critical to organizational success, including crisis mitigation, reputation and brand building, consumer engagement, sales generation, wealth creation, issues management and beneficial shifts in constituent attitudes and behaviors.
More information about the value of a PR program for your organization can be found by visiting PRSA's website: www.prsa.org/Intelligence/BusinessCase.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated from the original version.