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Is There a Place in PR for Six Sigma?

February 22, 2010

Public relations is in a twitter these days over the topic of measurement with an intense air of seriousness and purpose. A Google search of “PR measurement” brings up over 4.8 million results (with Katie Paine’s blog at the top).  The prevailing wisdom is that if it matters it should be measured. This is sensible and a no brainer, although the debate rages on over exactly what and how PR is measured to understand how it connects and contributes to overarching organizational goals.

However, when I hear the word, “measurement,” my knee jerk reaction* is to think of it systemically – as a constant discipline, integrated into every decision and action.  By being integral within the overall processes of public relations, measurement is poised to support controlled and predictable outcomes.

Isn’t this the promise of Six Sigma?  Its process of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control consumes measurement as if it were a fish with gills wide open.   Measurement becomes not only the lifeblood of performance, but it is the language of performance, too.

Perhaps this is why public relations is slow to become a data-driven, measurement-based function. Our language is about words and images, not numbers.  The same trepidation people have in learning a foreign language (speaking first-hand) cripples public relations professionals in embracing numbers.

So, is there a place in PR for Six Sigma?  If interpreted as, “is there a place in PR for a culture of systemic and disciplined measurement?” – the answer is emphatically, “yes.”   Measurement gives us the only language to express where we are and where we need to go.  The hard part is getting it immersed throughout the organization with commitment and dedication for it to reach the point of fluency.

*spoken as a former analytical chemist and trained Six Sigma champion

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