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  • Constantine Van Sickle

PR Council’s Agency Ready Certification: Two Main Takeaways

This past summer, I learned that counting impressions is an outdated and misleading tool of measurement, and that PR firms should instead use a more adequate approach to measure impact.

This is just one of my many takeaways from attending the PR Council’s Agency Ready Certification, a webinar series that covered critical areas of integrated marketing communications. During this 8-week course, I had the opportunity to learn from world class communication professionals about a range of topics, from strategic planning and applying data, to DE&I and crisis communications. My time during these past few months was spent learning and absorbing every facet of the PR field, and I want to share two of my biggest takeaways from this certification: measurement in terms of impact and evaluation and how DE&I has continued to change the demands of stakeholders.

Monica Feig, a managing director for Clarity PR, and Jon Meakia, the president of North America for Clarity PR, explained that using impressions as a tool to measure impact, i.e., sales, reputation, etc, is misleading. Clarity PR believes that audience identification is paramount in being able to adequately measure impact. Meaning, in today’s world of social media and the Internet, one is able to reach a lot of people but if one doesn't reach the right audience, their message will land on deaf ears. This is why impressions are misleading and outdated because that piece of information alone cannot identify who clicked or viewed. David Ogilvy puts it best by saying, “It’s not about counting the people you reach, it’s reaching the people that count.” As a student studying PR, I have seen many examples of impressions being used as the gold standard for measuring impact, and this points to a bigger issue of how evaluation in the PR field is quite often done inadequately. The antidote, as explained by Meakia and Feig, is making sure that evaluation answers the following questions: “so what?” And “now what?” In other words, good evaluation is prescriptive, not descriptive. Impressions are a descriptive evaluation — they don’t tell what's next or how to proceed, they merely list the amount of possible clicks or views. Understanding the importance of good evaluation and measurement is critical in the PR field, not only for evaluating campaigns but also as a means to gauge the demands of clients, consumers and employees, such as in the wake of the murder of George Flyod.

Every year, Edelman, one of the largest PR firms in the world, releases a study called the Edelman Trust Barometer which measures the public’s trust in certain institutions, such as businesses, governments, NGOs and the media. This year, due to the elevated discussion about racial justice caused by the killing of George Floyd, Edelman conducted a special study focusing on the business side of racial justice.

What this study found was that consumers and employees alike are demanding more than ever before, that diversity, equity and inclusion need to be at the forefront of clients’ and employers' agendas. This study reported that businesses who don’t take action against racial injustice will lose customers and employees. With this piece of information, the question becomes: “How can a company show to their consumers/employees that they are taking action?”

This special study from Edelman reported that consumers and employees want companies to follow through on their promises; they want complete transparency when it comes to setting goals for DE&I. The study reported that these goals must be meaningful or else consumers and employees will spend their time/money elsewhere. On the subject of setting goals, the study also mentioned how progress on diversity has been made but progress on equity and inclusion has not. Meaning, hiring diverse employees isn't enough; the work environment must be equitable and inclusive. Another important factor that consumers and/or employees are looking for is C-suite action. The study reports that the majority of consumers support CEOs taking action against racial injustices; CEOs must be vocal in combating injustices and promoting equity both within and outside of their organization. My last finding from the study reports that consumers want companies to go beyond a singular campaign or even multiple campaigns and partake in more substantial efforts through educating and advocating.

My two takeaways from this certification are just that, two takeaways, but I have many more pages full of information which I hope to take into my academics and my career in the future. I highly recommend students or already practicing PR professionals to seek out opportunities such as the PR Council’s Agency Ready Certification, to learn more about this ever developing industry. As much as this certification has taught me about PR, it has also made me realize how fast this industry is changing and the need to be constantly learning. Whether it be measuring impact or learning about DE&I, there will always be something you don’t know, so take this opportunity our industry gives us and learn about something new.

This blog post was written by Constantine Van Sickle, Director of Public Relations

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