PR 2.0 and AVE: The ambiguous acronyms of public relations
This past week, one of my graduate classes met at a swanky, Sopranos-esque Italian restaurant to discuss Brian Solis’ and Deidre Breakenridge‘s 2009 book, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations, over an of-age-and-completely-unendorsed-by-our-university glass of wine. I think some of the most thought-provoking and memorable experiences I’ve had over my learning career have taken place outside the actual university. Who would have thunk it?
Our class, which is comprised of 8 lovely ladies and headed by Twitterforce Samra Bufkins, discussed the idea of “PR 2.0” and how the internet basically changed the course of PR forever. The book discusses how PR has come a long way since its early strategic propaganda days, but a concept many companies still fail to grasp is that it’s “no longer just about audiences. It’s about people.” The authors tell us to rid our vocabularies of words like audience and target market in exchange for people and relationships. As someone who studied advertising and marketing during my undergrad, I believe my initial response was, “say whaaat?”
On many a blog post, I’ve emphasized the importance of understanding your brand’s POV before you instigate a social media presence. A lot of brands get a Twitter handle and make a lot of noise without really saying anything. Then, on the other hand, there are companies whose unused Twitter accounts sit idly by with their sad little egg avatars. They have the tool, but they don’t know how to use it.
I think the reason many companies put public relations on the back-burner is because there still isn’t a very effective way to measure it. Many PR professionals still rely on ad value equivilency in order to show C-level executives actual dollar signs, but just as many companies admit it’s not an accurate form of measurement.
Solis’ and Breakenridge’s book suggests “Authority” and “Relationships” as evaluative tools, but how do you measure such things? How do you calculate the ROI of someone following your brand on Twitter or liking you on Facebook? Klout can tell you how “influential” you are (I’m at 37 now), but what does that truly mean? And having your website receive several “hits” does not necessarily equate to sales. PR measurement is still such an undefined art, and I believe that’s why many companies view PR as a business accoutrement rather than a vital part of their brand.
Building relationships with customers is great, but for any business it all comes down to the dollar signs. I’d like to be able to take my strategic PR plan to the suits and say, “this is how much you’re going to make from PR.” I just don’t think there’s a viable way to do so quite yet. But I’m curious to see what the future holds in terms of PR measurement. What changes will PR 3.0 bring? I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until next time, happy blogging!