September 27, 2022

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

Book Review: Katie Paine’s “Measuring Public Relationships”

Book Review: Katie Paine’s “Measuring Public Relationships”

I admire Katie Paine and her intense focus on quantifying the value of public relationships.  Her love for the public relations profession is clear in both her blog and her business.

But let’s face it, the reason that many people found themselves interested in a career in public relations is precisely because they didn’t care for math.

Katie’s new book Measuring Public Relationships, The Data Driven Communicator’s Guide to Success, will turn any natural resistance you might have to measuring things on its head.

Her mix of real-life examples and handy classification of measurement approaches by stakeholder type appealed to my practical side.  While her down-to-earth style and focus on building public relationships appealed to my conversational bent. 

With passages that have titles like “Trust, Bullshit and the Truth,” this is no dry mathematical tome.

The 200-page book is at once down-to-earth and academic, building on an extensive body of knowledge developed by various universities and organizations such as the Institute for Public Relations.

The Myths of Measurement

In the book, Katie takes on what she calls the “myths of measurement,” which are:

  • Measurement = Punishment
  • Measurement = Too much work
  • Measurement = Expensive
  • Measurement = Quantitative over Qualitative
  • Measurement = Something Done After the Fact
  • Measurement = Counting Clips

She breaks down public relations measurement into its basic seven components and gives a game plan for approaching complex problems and situations.

She also defines the basic role of PR measurement, which is to help a company or organization better listen to and respond to its stakeholders and make better business decisions.

The Cost of Measurement

Katie shares the cost of many of the measurement tools out there (for instance, $1 to $3 per clip) and gives guidelines for budgeting for measurement (10 percent of the budget). 

She also gives money saving tips throughout. Note to self: If I were her publisher, I would have marked these in the margins. Another money-saving tip was her suggestion that only 250 representative responses are needed for a valid survey (500 nationally).

She also discusses some great ways to use interns to code articles and how collaborating with a benchmarking group can save thousands of dollars.

Advertising Equivalency Put to Rest

Katie definitively explains why the advertising value equivalency reports that are delivered with your clip reports are basically bogus and also why artificial multipliers for circulation or values are misleading and not usually helpful either.

Due to its ease and impressive numbers, Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) has become very popular with boards and bosses.  The problem is that it does nothing to give actionable direction to future media campaigns and may even contribute to an organization becoming complacent about its reputation in the marketplace.

Most thoughtful public relations practitioners who read this book will walk away determined replace AVEs with other more useful measures.

What Could Be Better?

Negative Isn’t Neutral: I wish that there was a little more in-depth handling of negative press and blog coverage and what that means to a PR campaign.  While I believe, as Katie does, that one should consider dropping out the negative coverage from the results, I do wonder how to account for negative effects of coverage.  After all, just not counting negative clips doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

When Negative is Positive: Even more confusing, sometimes a negative post in a blog, or on a social networking site, that is followed by some healthy discussion in the comments resulting in a renewed relationship can be construed as positive. How can this be measured and accounted?

Create an Index Please: I really wish that there was a Index in this book.  The book lends itself to one with its intense volume of information.  Maybe Katie will consider adding one in future editions of the book.

Those small considerations aside, this book is excellent and I have to agree with Larissa and James Grunig, Professors Emeriti of the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, not to mention very well-respected researchers in the field, who said in their Forward to Katie’s book: 

“It is such a remarkable compendium, that it almost makes us wish that we hadn’t retired so we could assign it as required reading in every single class.”

I don’t have a class, but I am certainly giving it to my clients.

Recommend, 5 of 5 stars

Kami Watson Huyse is a public relations blogger at Communication Overtones and is the principal of MyPR Pro.

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    Jen Zingsheim

    “But let’s face it, the reason that many people found themselves interested in a career in public relations is precisely because they didn’t care for math.”
    That pretty much describes me…I am a math-a-phobe. But, I understand the need to prove that money being spent on PR is generating results. Thanks for the write up, I won’t be so apprehensive that I’ll be swallowed up in numbers when I read the book now!

    Michael Sommermeyer

    I was duly impressed with your review and went ahead and ordered the book, mainly on the supposition that there wouldn’t be any math. Imagine my surprise to find on page 10, hidden neatly, a math problem and a chart no less!
    But seriously, as a sole practitioner, albeit a government office, I find it very difficult to wrangle any budget for measurement, let alone find the time to conduct surveys and use measurement tools.
    This book has already inspired me to move beyond my limited knowledge and budget to dive in and develop a measurement strategy. No communications effort should be conducted without a plan, and Paine’s book takes a lot of what we’ve learned and makes it seem accessible.
    The chapters on crisis communication and social media measurement justify placing this book on your bookshelf.
    Thanks for the heads up and I forgive you for sneaking in some math medicine with the honey.

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