Communication controlling is not a static or one-off phenomenon, but an iterative process in which professionals successively

  • identify the right point of reference or the right problem level for their situatively occurring issues;
  • understand the management or communication process involved in each case;
  • subsequently make this process controllable and evaluable with the use of methods, structures and indicators;

  • continuously optimize all sub-processes and indicators in the course of application, hence enhancing performance as a whole.

Identification of issues and problem levels

Comunication controlling involves very different objectives. The first step is thus to identify the relevant or most urgent problem level (for example, is it about the contribution of corporate communication to EVA, or is it about evaluating media relations performance?). An useful and practicable aid is available in the form of the DPRG/ICV framework for communication controlling. This reference framework shows that specific indicators need to be provided, tested, and updated for all levels and methods. The indicators need not necessarily be economic in nature (monetary units). Nevertheless, the aim in all cases should be to convert qualitative statements to quantitative variables, for example when using the Reputation Quotient or ratings to quantify opinions. This ensures that communication can be correlated to and integrated in the corporate control and evaluation cycle.

Process models

Other criteria for implementing communication controlling are process models describing the connection between controllable actions (influencable by the organization) and desired outcomes, including the parameters relevant in the process (influencing factors, value drivers etc.). On the strategy side, these would be models of the communication management process (Bentele/Nothhaft 2007) and models correlating communication with corporate success and disclosing value links. On the operations side, process models for communication programs and campaigns (Cutlip et al. 2005, Röttger 2005) are essential, as are workable models of the actual process of communication between the corporation and its stakeholder groups or recipients (Zerfaß 2010). The latter may seem trivial but is a point worth stressing. All too commonly, evaluation methods are developed on the basis of mechanistic stimulus-response models that do not adequately address the complexity of communication processes.

Definition of indicators and investigation of costs

Another requirement with respect to the control and measurement of individual processes is to define measurable targets and indicators that are amenable to empirical investigation at acceptable levels of expenditure in terms of time and cost (see DPRG white papers on indicators; Rolke 2007), and to ensure systematic investigation of all internal and external spending on communication measures (Ruud/Pfister 2007). Finally, the selected methods must be continuously reviewed during their use, and improved along the lines of inter-company benchmarking and continuous quality management, to ensure that process understanding and the indicators keep pace with new developments.


Texts available in English

Cutlip, Scott M./Center, Allen H./Broom, Glen M. (2008): Effective Public Relations. 10th edition. New York: Prentice Hall.

Lindenmann, Walter (2003): Guidelines for Measuring the Effectiveness of PR Programs and Activities. Gainesville (FL): IPR. (PDF)

Paine, Katie D. (2007): Measuring Public Relationships. The Data-Driven Communicator's Guide to Success. Berlin (NH): KDPaine & Partners.

Van Ruler, Betteke/Tkalac Vercic, Anna/Vercic, Dejan (Eds.) (2008): Public Relations Metrics:
Research and Evaluation. Mahwah (NJ): Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Watson, Tom/Noble, Paul (2007): Evaluating Public Relations. 2nd edition. London: Kogan Page.

Weiner, Mark (2006): Unleashing the Power of PR. A Contrarian's Guide to Marketing and Communication. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Selected texts in German

Röttger, Ulrike (Ed.) (2009): PR-Kampagnen. Über die Inszenierung von Öffentlichkeit. [PR campaigns. About the production of publics] 4th edition. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Rolke, Lothar (2007): Kennzahlen für die Unternehmenskommunikation. In: Piwinger, Manfred/Zerfaß, Ansgar (Eds.) (2007): Handbuch Unternehmenskommunikation [Handbook of corporate communication]. Wiesbaden: Gabler, pp. 575-585.

Ruud, T. Flemming/Pfister, Jan (2007). Kostenerfassung der Unternehmenskommunikation. In: Piwinger, Manfred/Zerfaß, Ansgar (Eds.) (2007): Handbuch Unternehmenskommunikation [Handbook of corporate communication]. Wiesbaden: Gabler, pp. 631-645

Zerfaß, Ansgar (2010): Unternehmensführung und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit. Grundlegung einer Theorie der Unternehmenskommunikation und Public Relations (3rd rev. ed.) [Strategic management and public relations. Developing a theory of corporate communication and public relations]. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Zerfaß, Ansgar (2005): Rituale der Verifikation? Grundlagen und Grenzen des Kommunikations-Controlling. In: Rademacher, Lars (Ed.): Distinktion und Deutungsmacht. Studien zu Theorie und Pragmatik der Public Relations. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp. 181-220.

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