Research on PR/C performance management is becoming more scholarly, moving from what was mostly the domain of PR/C consultants to that of PR/C academics or a partnership of academics and consultants. As a result, the research is more robust and has gained greater validity through the peer review process.
For anyone who is interested in source material, here are a number of worthwhile references:
German Public Relations Association (DPRG). (2011). Communication Controlling: How to Maximize and Demonstrate the Value Creation Through Communication. Position Paper. Retrieved from: http://www.communicationcontrolling.de/fileadmin/communicationcontrolling/sonst_files/Position_paper_DPRG_ICV_2011_english.pdf
From the introduction, the purpose of the paper is described as follows: “Management and evaluation in the corporate environment are key challenges for the communication sector. Thanks to the work of the U.S. Institute for Public Relations (Lindenmann et al.), as well as the Swedish Public Relations Association in Europe, there has been an international discussion about value-oriented business communication for years. It was driven by professional associations and researchers at universities. The resulting approaches focused on the evaluation of PR impact. These approaches, however, were insufﬁcient for strategically managing the performance of corporate communication, as they did not fully comprehend the complex process of value creation through communications. In particular, they fail to effectively demonstrate return on investment in terms of business results (Watson/Zerfass 2011). Therefore, the discussion has increasingly shifted to service provision processes and intangible assets; i. e. success factors which can be signiﬁcantly inﬂuenced by communications. Common guidelines have become apparent only recently. In summer 2010, at the second European Summit on Measurement, communications experts from 33 countries approved the “Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles”. This was the ﬁrst time joint international standards had been drawn up for PR measurement. The Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) presented a “valid-metrics” model following this. Valid-metrics is a multi-stage model, which highlights the communication value proposition and shows performance indicators
at different impact levels. All of these initiatives were introduced by service providers and agencies within the communications sector. In order to implement approved standards, however, it is necessary to involve the corporate practitioners in charge of communication, who develop strategies, agree on objectives, establish processes and measure performance indicators. Such orientation on corporate practice and cooperation between communication managers and management accountants has been characterizing the development in the German-speaking countries. The discussion, led in Germany by the German Public Relations Society (DPRG) and the International Controller Accounting Association (ICV), engages PR executives, management accountants, and marketing communicators on the corporate side with researchers and professional service providers.
Zerfass, A. (2010). Assuring Rationality and Transparency in Corporate Communications: The Role of Communication Controlling from a Management Point of View. Paper presented at the 13th International Public Relations Research Conference. Miami, FL, March. http://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/IPRRC_13_Proceedings.pdf
The author introduces the concept of communication controlling: “the notion of “controlling” is a specific one. It must not be confused with the traditional concepts of measurement or evaluation as part of the PR management
process, but it is closely linked to the concept of controlling and management accounting in management theory. According to this view, controlling is a complementary function to management. Its focus is on providing transparency by analyzing processes, identifying value links between goals and measures, defining key performance indicators and evaluation methods and providing up-to-date information which will allow management to achieve results.” … “This paper closes this gap by: a) developing a definition of communication controlling based on the management theory of controlling; b) explaining the interplay of communication management, communication controlling, corporate communications and business strategy in an overall framework; c) introducing the main areas of strategic and operational communication controlling and corresponding methods (scorecards, value links, multi-level framework of communication effects, measurement methods); d) discussing the status of communication controlling in Europe based on an empirical survey in 34 countries; e) reflecting on critical aspects of the concept and questions for future research.”
Zerfass, A. (2005). The corporate communications scorecard – a framework for managing and evaluating communication strategies. 12th International Public Relations Research Symposium (Bledcom). 1-3 July, Lake Bled, Slovenia.
The author introduces the concept of Corporate Communications Scorecard based on the Balanced Scorecard model. He concludes: “To overcome these obstacles, the Corporate Communications Scorecard shows how to link established methods of PR measuring to overall business objectives, and it highlights the ways in which communication contributes to a company’s profitability. By doing so it incorporates an immanent tension between control and creativity. For characterizing this approach a statement by Albert Einstein holds true: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
O’Neil, J. (2008). Measuring the Impact of Employee Communication on Employee Comprehension and Action: A Case Study of a Major International Firm. Public Relations Journal. 2; 2, Spring. PRSA.
Taken from the paper, “This study describes the employee communication strategy of this ﬁrm and the research that compares communication output and outcome data from 2004 and 2007.” … “This paper also investigates how changes in employee communication outcome metrics are related to managerial communication, employee communication tactics, and communication channels.” … “This case study is signiﬁcant because it demonstrates the usefulness of using both output and outcome metrics to evaluate an employee communication program.”
Ragas, M.W., Laskin, A.V. & Brusch, M. (2014). Investor relations measurement: an industry survey. Journal of Communication Management. 18: 2; pp.176 – 192.
In the abstract, the authors state: “This is one of the first and largest studies to specifically examine program measurement and evaluation in the context of investor relations.” … “Respondents strongly rebuked using share price as a valid measure of investor relations performance. A factor analysis revealed that IROs use four factors to measure program success (listed in order of stated importance): first, international C-suite assessment; second, relationship assessment; third, outreach assessment; and fourth, external assessment. IROs at large-cap companies place significantly more importance on both C-suite assessment and relationship assessment than their peers at small-caps.”
Meng, J. & Berger, B.K. (2012). Measuring return on investment (ROI) of organizations’ internal communication efforts. Journal of Communication Management.16: 4; pp.332 – 354.
The authors describe the research as follows: “The purpose of this research is to investigate how senior communication executives measure the effectiveness of organizations’ internal communication efforts and link the efforts with organizations’ business performance.” … “Results suggested that most business communicators and organizations recognized the importance of measuring organizations’ internal communication initiatives; however, limited metrics have been applied to the assessment process.” … “Business communicators should demonstrate a stronger request for a consultative leadership direction in the organization to be able to develop and test sets of reliable and consistent metrics and measurement approaches."
Place, K.R. (2015). Exploring the Role of Ethics in Public Relations Program Evaluation. Journal of Public Relations Research. 27: 2, 118-135.
From the abstract: “This qualitative study examined the role of ethics in public relations evaluation and the ethical issues that complicate the evaluation process. Findings suggest that the role of ethics in evaluation is integral, centered on truth, focused on benefiting an organization’s publics or, in contrast, irrelevant. Ethical issues regarding evaluation include manipulation of evaluation data and use of tainted data to persuade clients or publics. This study further exposes an ethical conflict where professionals prioritize duty, truthfulness, and precision, yet face constraints on their ethical autonomy or selectively represent evaluation data to cultivate client relationships or corporate image. Increased sensitivity to online contexts and descriptive theorizing of ethics are needed.”
Likely, F., & Watson, T. (2013). Measuring The Edifice: Public Relations Measurement And Evaluation Practices Over The Course Of 40 Years. In Public Relations And Communication Management: Current Trends and Emerging Topics. Sriramesh, K., Zerfass, A., and Kim, J-M. (Eds). New York; Routledge.
The authors trace and describe the evolution of PR/C measurement, utilizing the contribution of Jim Grunig to PR/C performance measurement as a focal point. In particular, they examine the five levels of measurement proposed by Grunig: communication messages, products and channels; communication campaigns; PR/C function; organization; and society. They suggest that the first two are increasingly becoming standardized. Unfortunately, the latter three required additional study. The authors conclude by noting that Jim Grunig worked with both academics and practitioners on measurement and evaluation research and that for PR/C measurement to advance, both in scholarship and in practice, then additional events, commissions, task forces and paper and book opportunities that mix academics and practitioners together are a must.
Childers Hon, L. & Grunig, J.E. (1999). Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations. Institute for Public Relations. Retrieved from: http://www.instituteforpr.org/measuring-relationships/
The authors determined that an organization’s “longer-term relationships with key constituencies can best be measured by focusing on six very precise elements or components of the relationships that exist.” These were: control mutuality; trust; satisfaction; commitment; exchange relationship; and communal relationship. They propose a method for measuring these relationship outcomes.
Wehrmann, C., Pagen, M., & van der Sanden, M.C.A. (2012). Communication Benchmark 2011: Connecting Organization and Performance of the Corporate Communications Function. In Vercic, D., Tkalac, A., Sriramesh, K. & Zerfass, A. (Eds.). Public Relations and Communication Management: The State of the Profession. Proceedings Of The 19th International Public Relations Research Symposium Bledcom. Lake Bled, Slovenia, July 6 − 7.
Taken from the abstract, the following provides an overview of the paper: “Communications departments in companies and non-profit organizations have an important role in achieving organizational objectives. But how to measure the added value of the communications function of an organization? In this paper the design of the Communication Benchmark 2011 has been described and justified. The benchmark distinguishes itself from other benchmarks in the communications domain by making the value of the communications function for the organization visible and measurable. This was possible by making use of the balanced scorecard of Kaplan and Norton (Kaplan & Norton, 2001) and to adapt it to the situation of communications departments.” … “An important principle in developing the benchmark is that the benchmark should be able to yield measurable results of the success of the communications function and connect the activities and composition of the communications function with the performance of the organization.” … “The purpose of this paper is to describe and justify the design of the Communication Benchmark 2011, and to discuss how the outcomes of the benchmark could be interpreted by communications directors in order to be able to decide about the structure and management of their department and to contribute as efficiently and effectively as possible to the organization as a whole.”
Wehmeier, S. (2006). Dancers in the Dark: The Myth of Rationality in Public Relations. Public Relations Review. 32; 3, 213-220.
Taken from the abstract: “This article takes a critical look at the communication management approach of public relations by using the balanced scorecard, and how it has been adapted in public relations, as an example. By using neo-institutionalism, the article clarifies the idea that the pursuit of rationality, regulation, measurement, and control, of and in, organizations can be characterized as myth to achieve social legitimacy. It further contends that, within a complex and dynamic public sphere, such attempts at quantifying such largely qualitative areas as public relations can be counterproductive.”
Fleisher, C. S. & Mahaffy, D. (1997). A Balanced Scorecard Approach To Public Relations Management Assessment. Public Relations Review. 23; 2, 117-142.
From the abstract: “This article describes a new managerial approach to assessing Public Relations/Communications (PR/C) performance using a balanced scorecard. The balanced scorecard requires PR/C executives to develop a set of audience/client/ stakeholder, financial, improvement, and operational/process performance measures that reflect progress against a plan. More than just a measurement system, the approach is being used in a number of progressively managed organizations to clarify, communicate and manage PR/C strategy. The article reviews the current state of PR/C management assessment, illustrates the balanced scorecard framework, high lights the framework's strengths and weaknesses, describes the process of applying the scorecard to PR/C units, and provides sample applications for use in assessing, measuring and managing organizational PR/communications.”
Vos, M. & Schoemaker, H. (2004). Accountability of Communication Management: A Balanced Scorecard for Communication Quality. Utrecht; Lemma Publishers.
The authors developed a methodology for assessing communication management in organizations, based on the Balanced Scorecard concept. From the Introduction: “By measuring the quality of communication using a balanced scorecard, managers are in a better position to understand communication as a field of expertise. Using a balanced scorecard as a quality tool, also improves the interaction between managers and communication experts when it comes to communication. In this book, we have developed a balanced scorecard for communication management.”
Williams, L.C. & Dozier, D.M. (2010). Framing Communication Audits to Create Positive Outcomes for Organizations. Refereed paper presented at the meeting of the 13th International Public Relations Research Conference, March 10-13. Miami, Florida.
From the abstract: “Few public relations techniques are as mysterious as communication audits. Although the use of them is fairly well known in the industry, seldom has any research been done to determine their ultimate (or, even, their preliminary) value to an organization. Yet organizations continue to spend many dollars on them, hoping they will improve the way communication is conducted within and for the organization. Bottom line, what this study has begun to show is the bottom line orientation of communication audits. A work in progress that seems destined to grow ever more important in the not so distant future.”
Gregory, A. & Watson, T. (2008), Defining the Gap Between Research and Practice in Public Relations Programme Evaluation - Towards a Research Agenda. Journal of Marketing Communication. 14; 5, 337-350.
Taken from the abstract: “The current situation in public relations programme evaluation is neatly summarized by McCoy who commented that ‘probably the most common buzzwords in public relations in the last ten years have been evaluation and accountability’ (McCoy 2005, 3). This paper examines the academic and practitioner-based literature and research on programme evaluation and it detects different priorities and approaches that may partly explain why the debate on acceptable and agreed evaluation methods continues. It analyses those differences and proposes a research agenda to bridge the gap and move the debate forward.”
Macnamara, J. (2014). Emerging international standards for measurement and evaluation of public relations: A critical analysis. Public Relations Inquiry. January. 3; 1, 7-29.
From the article: “After 30 years of modest progress in measurement and evaluation of public relations since Jim Grunig uttered his cri de coeur about lack of evaluation, a flurry of activity has occurred in the past few years. A new momentum started with the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles in 2010. In 2011, a Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards was formed by three leading international PR and research organizations. In 2012, the group expanded to 11 professional associations which worked in collaboration with advertising and media organizations and companies representing employer perspectives to publish a number of definitions and standards for measurement and evaluation in 2012 and 2013. Concurrently, there have been renewed debates about measurement concepts such as Return on Investment (ROI). As the industry reaches the 20th anniversary of the International Public Relations Association ‘Gold Paper on Evaluation’ published in 1994, it appears that progress is at last being made. This paper welcomes and commends initiatives taken, but presents a critical analysis that reveals continuing gaps and problematic issues to address in the latest efforts to measure the value of PR and a substantial gap between theory and practice.”
Macnamara, J. (2013). The ‘Toe bone to the head bone’ logic model: An approach to connect PR and corporate communication to organization and business outcomes. Research Paper. Retrieved from: http://amecorg.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Toe-Bone-to-the-Foot-Bone-Logic-Model-to-Link-Outcomes-Jim-McNamara-May-2013.pdf
From the paper: “PR and communication academics have been harping about evaluation for 30 years since Jim Grunig uttered his cri de coeur about lack of evaluation in 1983. Grunig observed then: “just as everyone is against sin, so most public relations people I talk to are for evaluation. People keep on sinning, however, and PR people continue not to do evaluation research. When evaluation is done, even today it is largely focused on measuring outputs, such as the volume and tone of publicity, impressions and Web page views and downloads, with much less identification of outcomes, according to research studies such as the biennial Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) study in the US and a six-year longitudinal analysis of PR practitioners’ use of social media by Don Wright and Michelle Hinson. Most importantly of all, PR outcomes are rarely linked to desired organization or business outcomes. This lack of connection to the ‘bottom line’ – whether financial or otherwise – is the main barrier to further professionalization of PR and corporate communication, according to 75 per cent of 2,200 practitioners surveyed in 20124. In the current global discussion of standards for PR evaluation, fresh attention has been turned to supporting organization and business outcomes, but PR evaluation literature still does not have much to say about how this can be done. This paper presents a logic model approach with a particular twist that has been shown to have some success in identifying and explaining the ultimate value of PR and which, therefore, may make a useful contribution to bridging the gap between communication outcomes and organization and business outcomes.”
Bochenek, L.M. & Blili, S. (2013). From the Size of a Clipping Book to Sophisticated ROI: Measuring Corporate Communication Strategic Management. Conference On Corporate Communication 2013. June 4 - 7, Baruch College/CUNY.
From the authors: “Corporate communication (CC) is considered one of the strategic functions within organizations. However, the measurement of CC doesn’t have a clear framework in the industry. Sets of recommendations like Barcelona Principles aim to establish it. The following paper analyzes perceptions of CC measurement strategies employed by communication experts. It aims also to see whether there is an expectations’ gap between the actual measurement of CC and the perception of the experts how “it should be done”. The previous studies and review of literature lead to the hypothesis of the difference between the perception of CC and the way CC is measured and reported within the organizations. This study is based on an expert survey among 242 senior communication experts conducted internationally. The data is analyzed statistically to find the measurement strategies within the organizations.” The authors conclude that: “ … Therefore, there is a need for a strategic framework of CC management. It would include also a measurement framework closer to the business objective and ROI. The experts participating in the survey clearly indicate the need for strategic management of corporate communication. …”
O’Neil, G. (2013). Evaluation of international and non-governmental organizations’ communication activities: A 15 year systematic review. Public Relations Review. 39; 572-574.
The purpose of this paper is to understand how intergovernmental organizations and international non-governmental organizations have evaluated their communication activities and adhered to principles of evaluation methodology from 1995–2010 based on a systematic review of available evaluation reports (N = 46) and guidelines (N = 9). Most evaluations were compliant with principle 1 (deﬁning communication objectives), principle 2 (combining evaluation methods), principle 4 (focusing on outcomes) and principle 5 (evaluating for continued improvement). Compliance was least with principle 3 (using a rigorous design) and principle 6 (linking to organizational goals). Evaluation was found not to be integrated, adopted widely or rigorously in these organizations.
Thorson, K., Michaelson, D., Gee, E., Jiang,, J., Lu, J., Luan, G., Weatherly, K., Pung, S., Qin, Y. & Xu, J. (2015). Joining the Movement?: Investigating Standardization of Measurement and Evaluation Within Public Relations. Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations. 2; 1 (Winter). © Institute for Public Relations Retrieved from: http://www.instituteforpr.org/wp-content/uploads/MichaelsonEtcArticle.pdf
From the abstract: “This paper draws on a new survey of public relations professionals to explore (1) the extent to which respondents report adopting standardized measures recommended by professional organizations; (2) predictors of measurement standardization; and (3) links among measurement practices and self-reported influence of public relations within the broader organization.” And from the paper, the authors conclude: “Perhaps of greatest note is the extent to which we find professionals reporting they have adopted standard measures: Fully a quarter of our sample fit this category. This rate of standardization seems quite remarkable given that the standardization movement got underway relatively recently. If this result holds up in future studies, it suggests that the call for standardization has had a quite powerful impact on the day to day practice of the profession, perhaps because measurement standardization resonates with a broader shift within organizations of many kinds toward at least an interest in data-driven decision-making. … Further, our evidence—though only correlational in nature—that standardization is linked to influence in the organization may suggest an additional hypothesis, namely that standardized measures are beginning to receive support from management and therefore additional funding. That said, we cannot rule out the possibility that at least some of the reported standardization is the result of a social desirability bias in responding to the question. Evidence for this possibility can be found in our analyses of how standardizers measure. The standardizing group is characterized by more measurement of all kinds. It is not simply that they are more likely to measure campaign outcomes. They are more likely to take up all available forms of measurement—even those that have been roundly dismissed by research professionals and scholars. … Results showing that those who standardize see themselves as taken seriously and as having a larger role in long-term strategic planning set the stage for future studies of the role of measurement in the arsenal of the practitioner who wishes to have a seat at the table.”
Wippersberg, J. (2009). Change in Progress: On the Relationship of Goals and Measurement of Public Relations, Public Affairs and Advertising and its Influence on Characteristics of Quality. The Romanian Journal of Journalism & Communication. 4; 4, 54-66.
From the abstract: “This paper introduces a new systematic relationship between goals, evaluation and quality in corporate communications (public relations, public affairs and advertising). Eleven goal categories for corporate communications are developed, building on fundamental goal levels (persuasion, organisational objectives and service spectrum). These goal categories do not only constitute the standard for “good corporate communications”, but also function as dimensions of quality for corporate communications, as those categories are used to “fill” the “empty notion” of quality with dimensions. Evaluation assumes a special role in this context, as on one hand it serves to regulate “good public relations”, particularly target achievement, and on the other hand becomes a tool for quality assurance and quality control.”
Michaelson, D., Wright, D. K. & Stacks, D.W. (2012). Evaluating Efficacy in Public Relations/Corporate Communication Programming: Towards Establishing Standards of Campaign Performance. Public Relations Journal 6; 5.
Taken from the abstract: “This article suggests a generic model that includes a degree of standardization against which to compare planning and programming is the best way to establish excellence in public relations and corporate communication. The authors suggest this model can be (a) historically, to establish past campaigns; (b) used in the strategic planning process to identify problems or holes in a campaign; or (c) used as a final evaluation tool that provides evidence based in quantifiable data weighted to the particular needs of the company or client at a particular point in time. The key here is the generic value the hierarchical model gives to the profession and function a way to evaluate excellence and provide hard evidence, data, on that evaluation.”
Eisenmann, M., O’Neil, J. & Geddes, D. (2015). An Examination of the Validity, Reliability and Best Practices Related to the Standards for Traditional Media. Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations. 2, 1 (Winter). Retrieved from: http://www.instituteforpr.org/wpcontent/uploads/Eisenmann_ONeil_Geddes_REVISIONS_V2_01_07_2015.pdf
From the abstract: The purpose of this research is twofold: (1) to test the reliability of the proposed media standards based upon a content analysis of a randomly selected sample of media coverage; and (2) to provide a “ready-made” set of tools in the form of a tested and effective media coding guidebook and coding instructions to enable public relations practitioners to implement media content analysis with the necessary transparency in methodology and confidence of replication.
Macnamara, J. (2014). Organizational Listening: A Vital Missing Element in Public Communication and the Public Sphere. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal. 15; 1, 89-108.
The abstract: “Voice and communication are seen as largely synonymous in social theory, democratic political theory, media studies and in more than 600 human communication theories that have been identified. That is to say, voice is normatively conceptualised as dialogic and communicative, not simply seen as speaking. However, in the context of organisations and organisation-public relationships (OPR), which are extensive in industrialised and institutionalised societies, research indicates that voice and communication are predominantly enacted as speaking. A pilot study reported in this article indicates that allegedly communicative functions including public relations, involve considerable and often massive resources devoted to creating an architecture of speaking and doing the work of speaking on behalf of organisations including government departments and agencies, corporations, and institutions. Conversely, this research raises serious questions about the extent to which organisations listen to those who seek to engage with them. Further, it suggests that organisations cannot effectively listen unless they have an architecture of listening or do the work of listening, and identifies cultural, structural, political and technological components to create this vital missing element in public communication and the public sphere.”
Hartman, J. & Lenk, M.M. (2001). Strategic Communication Capital as an Intangible Asset. International Journal of Media Management. 2; 3: 147-154.
“This paper has combined concepts from communication, accounting and operations management literatures to arrive upon a new model of strategic communication capital. This model creates a framework that argues for the exploitable, intangible value of an organisation's strategic communication system. The basic idea is that there is an underlying organisation-level value from effective communication systems that is not captured by typical accounting systems but that is significantly appreciated by marketplace constituents. The underlying assumptions of this model are that business value is difficult to achieve without the effective building and nurturing of intellectual capital and human relationships.”
Stacks, D.W. (2011). Primer of Public Relations Research. 2nd Edition. New York, The Guilford Press.
The author improves on the first edition of this book, in itself probably the most valuable resource for any public relations practitioner who wishes to understand research, evaluation and measurement methods. The book is at it’s best in how it covers measuring communication outcomes, both with use of qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.
Watson T. & Noble, P. (2014). Evaluating Public Relations. 3rd Edition. London, Kogan Page.
The authors also improve on their earlier editions. This is a tour de force that allows any practitioner interested in developing their department’s own performance measurement system a broad overview of the evolution of PR/C research, valuation and measurement.
Fitz-enz, J. (1995). How to Measure Human Resource Management. 2nd Edition. New York, McGraw-Hill.
Fitz-enz, J. (2009). The ROI of Human Capital: Measuring the Economic Value of Employee Performance. 2nd Edition. New York, AMACOM.
Fitz-enz, J. (2010). The New HR Analytics: Predicting the Economic Value of Your Company’s Human Capital Investments. New York, AMACON.
Becker, B.E., Huselid, M.A. & Ulrich, D. (2001). The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy and Performance. Boston, Harvard Business School Press.
These four books above, taken together, suggest a future for the PR/C function. At this time, there is not the equivalent in PR/C. These address performance measurement for the HR function that is more complete and more holistic manner than what is currently the practice in PR/C.