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As communications experts, we should find it easy to convey the value of our services to the business managers in our organizations. Yet many public relations (PR) professionals struggle with expressing results in a way that allows senior executives to easily recognize the impact that PR has on the success of the business.

Having explored the perceptions and attitudes of PR professionals and senior executives toward the impact of PR on business success, I've compiled a list of best-practices for translating intangible PR results into demonstrable success, and reporting PR measurement to business execs.

PR Measurement and Metrics

If you doubt the importance of measurement and metrics, consider the results of a recent Gallup Poll, which showed that executives spend 24% of their time on "plan measurement and monitoring," second only to "strategic thinking/planning."

No surprise, then, that board directors and CEOs are more likely than other professionals to say "measurement is an integral part of PR." If you're not measuring the right activities and then translating the results into bottom-line numbers, you're missing the main avenue to credibility.

Consider how each function in the executive suite adds a tangible and measurable value to a company's success. The CFO ties his team's success to operating income, while the VP of sales and the VP of marketing tie their teams' successes to sales revenues.

By contrast, many PR practitioners cite the number of media clips, impressions, and press releases as the results of their efforts. They compare their respective organization's coverage with that of the company's competitors. They assign monetary value to their work by calculating the advertising value equivalency, or AVE, an often-criticized method of devising a value for media coverage by comparing it with the price of advertising. And while this calculation provides a financial interpretation, it's not necessarily a meaningful one for executives.

In general, PR measurement calculates activity but does nothing to measure the activity's impact on the bottom line. From an executive's viewpoint, it can be interpreted as the difference between the PR team's being busy and the PR team's being indispensable.

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Diane Thieke is executive director, Public Relations & Strategic Communications, for Dow Jones Enterprise Media Group, and author of the e-book Talk To Me: 10 Tips for Translating PR Results into the Language of Business.