The evaluation of public relations is much discussed in scholarly literature and among practitioners. There often is tension between public relations professionals and their management colleagues about whether public relations can and should be measured in financial terms or whether some aspect of relationships should be evaluated to determine the success of public relations and the organization. This particular tension has not been studied extensively.
The intent of this exploratory study is to determine what role if any public relations plays in the way an organization evaluates itself, as measured by the thematic content of its annual report. Forty-five community foundation annual reports were content analyzed to determine the emphasis on finances vs relationships. Content in the thematic annual report letters from the president and/or board chair was coded by number of sentences with either emphasis. The resulting “relationship ratio” varied among the annual reports studied from 0-5, with a mean of .724 (the higher the number, the greater emphasis on relationships).
Four potential causes (independent variables) of higher relationship content were considered:
Statistical analysis showed that when an organization has a staff position designated as public relations or communications and when a staff person is accredited in public relations (APR) there is a greater likelihood the organization’s annual report will stress relationships as well as or more than financial metrics. The relative power of the PR function and the asset size of the organization did not appear to cause a difference in relationship content.