Barack Obama announced last week  that his campaign raised more that $150 million in September — so much, that they’re considering passing some of these goodies along to Democratic Party committees to try to help grow the party’s majority in Congress.

What is most compelling about this number is the fact that it didn’t come from a few donors with deep pockets. No, Obama’s campaign tapped into the pulse of first-time voters, and motivated them to donate in relatively small amounts through Web ads and e-mail appeals. That’s the ultimate example of building a successful virtual community — engaging your audience and putting them to work for you, with a tremendous impact on the bottom line.

There’s a huge lesson in this for public relations practitioners as we grapple with the worst economy some of us have ever seen. Now, more than ever, we have to justify our existence to marketing and management. There is no better way to do that than by demonstrating the value you bring to your organization, which means if you’re not already doing it, you need to start figuring out your measurement program. And, yes, it needs to incorporate more than “impressions” and “ad value.”

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