Measurement shortcomings in PR agencies are one of the main reasons why corporate communications departments are taking more work in-house, a new survey reveals.
Almost half (47%) of the public relations professionals surveyed said they’ve observed more PR work being taken in-house, according to the 2019 JOTW Communications Survey. Sword & Script Media in partnership with Ned Lundquist’s Job of the Week (JOTW) email newsletter polled 200 communications professionals in the survey.
The PR community has heard anecdotal reports of companies bringing PR functions in-house. Richard Edelman of Edelman, reported by The Holmes Report to be the largest PR agency, but now positions itself as “global communications marketing firm,” recently cited it as a cause of disappointing earnings for the year ending 2018.
But this may be the first time a survey has highlighted the trend in the PR business, says Frank Strong, founder of the Sword & Script Media. Research by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that more companies are moving digital marketing functions in-house.
The top five reasons for firing an agency are:
1) cost (81%);
2) poor client service (47%);
3) inability to measure ROI (41%);
4) too much “hand-holding” (32%);
5) taking more work in-house (30%)
Almost half of the respondents (48%) say they have measurement programs in place. About one-third (29%) think they do an adequate job of PR measurement while 46% say it needs improvement.
What Communications Pros Say about PR Measurement
Survey comments help put these findings in context, Strong says.
“Ours is a business where business usually comes in via referrals or business development efforts. PR is the ‘icing on the cake’ but no PR on its own is going to convince a client to ask us to build a $100 million project.”
“Impossible to draw a solid connection between our outcomes and business outcomes. We can only show alignment.”
“People within organizations have their own agendas and this translates into what gets measured and how. Determining the value of these focal points to the organization is sometimes suspect.”
The most common metrics communications pros said they track include:
web traffic (73%);
estimated site traffic (60%);
mentions (57%); and
email open rates (52%).
Time to Fully Embrace PR Measurement
Those metrics focus on PR outcomes and outputs, not business outcomes, says Wendy Marx, president of Marx Communications. “PR doesn’t have to be limited to those, Marx writes in Business 2 Community. “Effective PR can move the needle in terms of search engine rankings, lead conversions, reviews, retention and revenues.”
A first step is to use tracking codes on links you share. That will let you know the source of people clicking on a link, Marx notes. The next step is to measure PR with an advanced media monitoring and measurement tool.
“PR for too long has been a qualitatively-based profession masquerading as a quantitative one. The problem is that the c-suite hasn’t believed the disguise,” Marx says. “It’s time for PR professionals to remove the blinders. Not only do we need to embrace measurement fully. We need to adopt data mining and artificial intelligence to take the guesswork out of campaigns.”
Bottom Line: Inability to measure how PR impacts ROI is one of the main reasons why companies fire PR agencies and move PR functions in-house, according to a new survey. Other factors include cost and poor client services. A rejuvenated emphasis on PR measurement, more sophisticated metrics and advanced media measurement solutions to demonstrate agency success can stem the trend of companies moving PR in-house.
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