By: Jaime Rauso
As Public Relations practice becomes more global, its professional community must constantly work to ensure that its ethics, outcomes and approaches are at the highest standard. Unlike the natural, we do not always have reliable empirical data to analyze. Rather, we oftentimes must rely on qualitative data in our attempts to analyze the attitudes and opinions of our publics and their reactions to our messages. However analyzing reactions is a broad umbrella term used to generalize all the steps that go into measuring results.
Paralleling the growth of PR, measurement standards are being adopted by professional associations such as the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and the International Public Relations Association (IPRA). PR practitioners are looking at past data and are attempting to correct mistakes in the past attempts to measure the effectiveness of public relations, however effectiveness is perceived. Measurement standards are important in analyzing data, but they may vary over time and space as the practice becomes more global and accepts new research questions and measurement methods.
Dr. Don W. Stacks of the University of Miami cites three issues with PR measurement: (1) confusion over goals and objectives, specifically research objectives which go unreported; (2) the varying advantages and disadvantages of different methods, in which it is often hard to choose which method is right for a specific research question and public; and (3) the definition of success? When is a campaign successful? What qualifies as success?
These questions make me wonder whether success in PR is completely arbitrary. I would think common measurements of success would be monetary gain for the organization or a positive or at least a neutralizing effect on public opinion. Yet, a different practitioner with a different public relations situation, in a different industry within a different culture and a different audience may disagree.
To create a universal measurement guide for PR begs the question whether all PR is the same. As we are becoming more, global, it is vital to understand how PR varies throughout the world and how practitioners must address these variations. I believe that a measurement standard is effective, if it is within a specific case. These measurement guides must be tailored to each situation and must acknowledge factors that may require it to change. We must never forget or ignore this inevitable growth of globalization in PR.