The Value of Public Relations
This chapter speaks to one of the two major research questions of the Excellence study. In fact, the elusive goal of determining the value of public relations was a major reason why the IABC Research Foundation requested proposals for this ambitious study. In its proposal to the foundation, the research team that ultimately received the grant added a second question to this so-called “bottom line” query—an elaboration of the request to explain how and why communication contributes to the bottom line. We understood that only excellent public relations departments or communication managers with certain attributes could or would help make their organizations effective. So, we on the team asked about characteristics of excellence. The main issue for IABC's leadership, however, was this: How does public relations malee an organization more efictive, and what is that contribution worth?
The question of the value of public relations has been of great concern to professional communicators for many years because of the perception among both communicators and other managers that public relations is an intangible management function in comparison with other functions whose value can be described, measured, and evaluated through systematic research. Because of its intangibility, public relations often has been believed to suffer at budget time, and particularly during financial crises, because there is no way to demonstrate its worth.
For at least 25 years, therefore, public relations professionals and researchers have struggled to develop measures that would establish that public relations is effective or adds value. Among other measures, they have attempted to determine the advertising value of press clippings, to establish the readership of publications, or to do surveys or experiments to determine if communication campaigns or programs have had measurable effects on cognitions, attitudes, or behaviors. Many professional communicators have successfully demonstrated