Thursday, January 22, 2009

Value of APR

I recently completed a study that shows, among other things, that when PR professionals possess the APR (Accreditation in Public Relations) credential their organization's PR content output is more likely to stress relationships. Here's a summary of the research:

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:
  • the existence of a position identified as public relations/communications;
  • the relative power of the PR position as determined by being in an autonomous dept;
  • whether the top PR staff person is accredited (APR);
  • the total asset size of the organization.

    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.

    Dan Keeney, APR said...

    As an accredited PR person, I find this intersting and I appreciate that you are looking at this particular topic. I encourage you to expand on this and further explore how this contributes to overall success of organizations. Do those who have APRs involved have greater success achieving some of the financial metrics (relationships contribute to giving)?

    darbyDarnit said...

    I also applaud your research and I'm glad that someone is conducting some measurement related to organizations using APRs. Dan raises an important point. Outputs, such as how many press releases are sent, how many contacts have been made, or what type of words are used, are easy to measure. But they don't really evaluate what executives truly care about: outcomes. Dan mentioned giving. Reputation, growth in new donors, expanded giving among existing donors, referrals, are all areas that could be measured. PR folks should be focused on helping achieve business goals and objectives. So the question is whether APRs help realize stronger outcomes.

    Tim Penning, APR said...

    Yes, outcomes are important. And many APR practitioners DO measure change in target publics' awareness, attitude, action. Other studies, and future ones by me, may look more into that.

    But the focus of this study was content analysis. That's important to me because if we in PR stress relationships, then PR people, and especially accredited ones, should make a difference in org communication stressing relationships. A problem in too many orgs is PR being co-opted by other professions, which change messaging to be more transactional than relational.