Want to be Taken Seriously? Implement Measurement Standards!

standards help you up

The Research Journal of the Institute for Public Relations just published an exhaustive piece of research on implementation of PR industry standards for measurement (“Joining the Movement?: Investigating Standardization of Measurement and Evaluation Within Public Relations,” by Kjerstin Thorson, David Michaelson, Emily Gee, Jun Jiang, Zijun Lu, Grace Luan, Kaylee Weatherly, Sha-lene Pung, Yihan Qin and Jing Xu).

It’s a fascinating read that I strongly recommend. But since there are probably fewer people who want to slog through an academic paper than have actually implemented the standards, here’s the Cliff Notes version:

If you want to be taken seriously in your organization, want bigger budgets and a larger role in strategic planning, then implement the standards.

While the numbers aren’t overwhelming, it’s still good news for those of us who have been advocating for standards for two decades. One quarter of respondents said that they are using standards and another 13% are considering standardization.

But without a doubt the most interesting finding was the correlation between implementing standards and the respondent’s perception they are taken more seriously and play a larger role in the planning process within their organizations. In other words,  standards compliance gets you closer to that proverbial “seat at the table.”

What is also fascinating is that acceptance of standards is not dependent on size of company or size of budget. Small companies were just as likely to adopt standards as large ones.

Some other Aha! moments from the new IPR research:

  • Those who use standardized measures are also more likely to view their organizational culture as more innovative and more proactive than non-standardizers.
  • Rates of standardization are higher among practitioners who are relatively more engaged in communicating with various stakeholders across social media. In addition, those whose departments focus on more traditional media relations campaigns are much less likely to adopt standardized measures.
  • Standardizing organizations are significantly more likely to measure outcomes than are non-standardizing organizations.
  • Practitioners who report standardizing their measurement programs also report they are taken more seriously in the c-suite, are more likely to take part in long-term organizational planning, and are more likely to believe that the CEO or other top executive think that public relations contributes to financial success.

The research brings up an interesting question about correlation and causality: Do the standards cause being taken more seriously? Or perhaps it’s vise versa? I don’t think you can draw either conclusion. I don’t know what comes first, standards or the credibility necessary to fight for standards.

One final note: What I find amusing and certainly ironic is that neither of the institutions who employ the authors of the study, Teneo Strategy and USC Annenberg School, have bothered to sign the Pledge to Support the Standards.  They are apparently not interested in being innovative, nor being taken seriously.

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.