Early in my career as a research-based communications consultant, few people talked about public relations research and evaluation. I assumed that everyone talked about research; they simply didn’t want to talk with me about it.
Then in a conversation with an agency CEO, he commented: “We don’t measure at all. I’d gladly forgo being a proven success in exchange for never being a proven failure.”
That was my PR research “woke” moment.
I viewed research as an impartial guide used to improve performance. The PR community viewed research as a pass/fail report card to prove value.
I wasn’t wrong, I was early. The desire to prove value and improve performance are always present and interrelated but the profession focused—and continues to focus—on “proving PR value.” The solution was further complicated because “values” are subjective: values towards PR change not just from one organization to another but from one person to another within the same organization.
This reality forged the “executive audit,” a brief, anonymous survey conducted with a small group of senior executives with a focus on PR funding, objectives-setting and performance evaluation.
The purpose of this research was twofold: