FOCUS: MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION - The next rung. The most recent Proof Forum established a number of ways, including targeting clients, to move the campaign up a gear and on to the next phase. Maja Pawinska reports

The Proof campaign has a fresh tank of fuel and is about to move up a gear. The two-year-old industry campaign is revving up a slew of initiatives that aim to put research and evaluation even higher up the agenda of agency and in-house practitioners and clients alike.

The Proof campaign has a fresh tank of fuel and is about to move up

a gear. The two-year-old industry campaign is revving up a slew of

initiatives that aim to put research and evaluation even higher up the

agenda of agency and in-house practitioners and clients alike.



The campaign, which launched in February 1998, was born out of an

industry need to show clients that PR was a measurably powerful tool. A

Proof forum was set up, including representatives from all the trade

associations and backed by PR Week. A clear target was set: for ten per

cent of PR budgets to be spent on research and evaluation.



This was followed last year (PR Week, 12 March 1999) by the first Proof

survey of more than 200 agency and in-house practitioners, sponsored by

Countrywide Porter Novelli. The results showed that around seven per

cent of budgets was being spent on research and evaluation. They also

showed there was still a long way to go, however - 20 per cent of

respondents said they did not believe the success of their activities

could be evaluated, and only a small proportion were using pre-testing

techniques.



Then last summer the Research and Evaluation Tool-kit was published.



This was written by Mike Fairchild, funded by the PRCA and the IPR, and

backed by PR Week. The toolkit set out to explain techniques available

to the industry, and used case studies to show how these might best be

used in different situations.



The Proof campaign is now moving forward to develop the survey and the

toolkit, and will be boosted by some completely new initiatives. At the

Proof forum on 15 May, Nicholas Grant, managing director of Mediatrack

and founder member of the Association of Media Evaluation Companies

(AMEC), spoke for many at the forum when he said the target for the next

step of the Proof campaign should be to ’create a norm whereby

evaluation is basic - it has to be done and if you don’t, you look

stupid.’



Countrywide Porter Novelli director Emma Brazier added that the industry

now needed to work out exactly who its audiences were for the evaluation

message: ’Some clients don’t want to know about the nitty gritty - they

want strategic counsel. We’ve also all got the column inches brigade,

and other clients who want to do every evaluation technique. We need to

shake up PR’s competitiveness in the marketing mix, and fend off the

integrated agencies and the management consultancies. We need to create

a proper stakeholder map.’



This desire will be met by the most exciting of the developments planned

at the Proof forum: the creation of a taskforce. The idea of a group

dedicated to raising awareness and promoting use of research and

evaluation was mooted by Ketchum board director for technology clients

Richard Houghton.



’We need to create a team of people funded by the trade associations

with a proper remit and a budget, which will do whatever it thinks will

work.’



It was immediately agreed to by the PRCA, the IPR, and AMEC, who will be

equal partners in the enterprise. The taskforce will be funded by the

trade associations involved and will consist of a small group of

industry representatives who will lead Best Practice in planning,

research and evaluation.



Rather than concentrating its efforts purely on getting the PR industry

to recognise the importance of formal research and evaluation, the

taskforce, endorsed by PR Week, will also target those who control the

PR budget purse strings - the clients.



PRCA director general Chris McDowall says the taskforce is ’fundamental’

to a significant increase in emphasis on research and evaluation as part

of a healthy industry. ’Certainly for all of us at the PRCA we are bound

to getting out there and telling people about measurement. There are so

many new users of PR, particularly in the dot.com sector, and a lot of

people don’t understand what PR can really do. The taskforce will help

with that process of education.’



The creation of the taskforce will also have an effect on the future of

the toolkit. While there has been an overwhelmingly positive response

from those who bought a copy of the toolkit and actively use it, take-up

has not been nearly as high as the project’s partners hoped.



’It’s not on everybody’s desks or being referred to regularly by

practitioners,’ says McDowall. ’With the taskforce we have a way of

ensuring that PR providers and users use the toolkit on a regular basis.

We know it’s a good document and that it works, but we still hear PR

buyers saying they don’t know what they are getting, and it’s

worrying.’



Two proposals for developing the toolkit were put forward at the Proof

forum. The first, tabled by Fairchild, was for a summary of the toolkit

to be produced, as a quick-reference supplement.



’There is now enough knowledge in the industry to build on the toolkit,’

says Fairchild. ’What we need now is a shortcut version, which takes the

background and the objectives for granted. This would include a short

summary of the five-step process, and perhaps more short case studies to

meet every reasonable PR task.’



The idea that more case studies of research and evaluation best practice

should be collated as an adjunct to the toolkit turned out to be a

popular but tough one. Claire Spencer, planning director at Manning

Selvage and Lee, said the availability of case studies from first-class

practitioners had been one of the catalysts for the advertising industry

to start taking evaluation seriously.



However, a number of forum members pointed out that the best R&E

projects tend to be commercially sensitive, and clients rarely want

details disclosed.



Indeed, when PR Week put out an appeal for case studies in this area

last year, there were barely a handful of respondents.



The development of the Proof survey was also discussed at the forum.



The survey, carried out by Echo Research, will be carried out for the

second time this summer. This sought to find out how committed the

industry was to research and evaluation, the techniques used to

benchmark and evaluate PR activity, the techniques which were most

convincing to PR budget holders and decision-makers, and the key

benefits of and obstacles to planning and evaluating PR activity.



The forum felt that although there needed to be some consistency between

the new survey and the old, a number of new factors could be built in to

yield more relevant results. One of the main reasons for this was that

some members of the forum felt there was a real difference in attitude

between in-house and agency practitioners, and that this needed to be

investigated further.



It was suggested that most in-house practitioners have the money but not

the will to evaluate and agencies had the will but not the cash.

In-house departments are often tracking their activities continually in

some shape or form, while agencies do not always have long-term

evaluation measures in place for clients.



Marketing directors of client companies are to be included in the survey

base for the first time, and another option is for the survey to include

more in-depth qualitative interviews, including client companies. This

would help establish who is spending the money and making decisions

about evaluation, how money is spent and exactly what on, and who sees

and uses the results. This would also be useful to the taskforce as

pre-campaign planning data.



Another topic of discussion was how the internet could be used to

support Proof initiatives. Among the ideas put forward was for case

studies to be put on the trade association web sites as toolkit

’teasers’.



PR Week will be backing these developments in a number of ways. We will

take part as a silent observer in task-force meetings and report back on

the action and progress of the group, and the results of the second

Proof survey will be published in the magazine. We also plan to

highlight where consultancies have used formal research and evaluation -

and the companies which have carried it out - in news stories, campaign

files, and features.



The PR Week Awards will also reflect the importance of research and

evaluation as a core requirement of an outstanding campaign. The Proof

Award was launched last year to reward agencies who had demonstrated an

exceptional use of research and evaluation. This year the Proof Award

will be judged from all the shortlisted entries in the craft and

campaign categories.



This will ensure that research and evaluation are winning factors in all

the PR Week Awards. In addition, a copy of the toolkit will be sent to

all the awards judges awards as a benchmark of what to look for in this

area. The PRCA is also using the toolkit as a basis for its own

awards.



The Proof campaign started with a long-term target. It has made

significant progress in putting the issue of formal research and

evaluation firmly on the agenda of the PR industry. Now the industry

itself has proved it is committed to taking this further and working

harder to get the message over to clients. PR is long-term, it is

effective - and we can prove it.





MAIN PROOF FORUM PROPOSALS



- The creation of a taskforce backed by the main industry bodies and

endorsed byPR Week, to raise awareness of the importance of research and

evaluation to the PR industry and clients.



- The development of an accessible ’Toolkit Lite’ to accompany the PR

Research and Evaluation Toolkit, summarising the main principles and

including short case studies.



- A broadening of the PR Week Proof Survey to include more detail on

exactly how money is spent on research and evaluation, who spends it,

and how the research and evaluation is used, as well as breaking down

in-house and agency responses.



- A commitment by PR Week to including the Toolkit as part of its

briefing for judges of all awards, and to highlight where formal

research and evaluation has been used, throughout the publication.





FIVE SMALL STEPS TO EVALUATION EXCELLENCE



Summary of the Toolkit five-point plan



Research and evaluation should be an integral part of thePR process. The

Research and Evaluation Toolkit, sponsored by the IPR and the PRCA and

supported by PR Week, shows where research and evaluation fit into the

five steps of a campaign and this is summarised below. For a copy of the

Toolkit, call the PRCA on 020 7233 6026 or the IPR on 020 7253 5151.



1. Audit Research about the organisation, products and services, and an

audit of communications with audiences. Research can help identify the

issues as well as tracking the progress of the campaign and its outcome.

Tapping into existing research saves time and money. Involving senior

management at this stage demonstrates the strategic role that PR can

play.



2. Objectives These must reflect the strategic and business goals of an

organisation. PR should be co-ordinated with advertising, direct

marketing, and sponsorship. Identify target audiences, messages by

audience, the medium, the desired response and the timing.



3. Strategy and Plan Decide on level of measurement. Output records what

messages went out and reach; out-take measures the extent to which the

messages were remembered and understood; outcome measures to what degree

PR activity changed opinions, behaviour or attitudes.



4. Measurement and Evaluation The first of possibly several periods of

measurement or continuous measurement. Are we getting there, and if so

do we stay on course? If not should we adjust tactics, strategy or

objectives?



5. Result A review of results against the original objectives: what did

we learn that can be fed back into the planning loop? What worked and

didn’t? What can we re-use next time?





15 MAY PROOF FORUM



MEMBERS



Emma Brazier, Countrywide Porter Novelli



Peter Christopherson, Echo Research



Peter Crowe, Metrica



Roger Haywood, Kestrel Communications



Michael Ferland, Media Proof



Michael Fairchild, The Fairchild Consultancy



Nick Grant, AMEC



David Hide, Carrington Hide Communications



Richard Houghton, Ketchum



Peter Hutton, MORI



Pat Johnstone, Central Office of Information



Kieran Knights, Shandwick



Martin Loat, Propeller



Nick McAteer, Mantra



Chris McDowall, PRCA



Deborah Marsh, Mediatrack



Claire Spencer, Manning Selvage and Lee



Jan Stannard, Marbles



Stephen Walsh, Echo Research



Matthew West, Mantra.



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