Focus: International Evaluation - Measuring the global market/International campaigns must still be evaluated on a local level even in the ’global village’, says Mary Cowlett

The internet has had a huge impact on the way that global PR campaigns are run. Not only has the speed and reach of communications increased dramatically, but also the demands, with significant PR activity being conducted on-line.

The internet has had a huge impact on the way that global PR

campaigns are run. Not only has the speed and reach of communications

increased dramatically, but also the demands, with significant PR

activity being conducted on-line.



These changes have shaken up the way organisations embrace the global

marketplace and conduct their planning and evaluation. On the one hand

the internet offers huge opportunities for low cost dialogue with

stakeholders worldwide, but on the other, brand messages are no longer

confined by geographical boundaries.



’Four years ago, the internet gave people a wake-up call, that whether

they liked it or not, they had a global audience - especially in

parochial countries like the US,’ says Katie Paine, US-based president

of Delahaye Medialink.



’This meant clients wanted to start monitoring what was happening in the

key media markets around the world, and demanded international

capabilities across Europe, Australasia and the Far East,’ she adds.



The immediate benefits of these changes have been far more consistency

in measurement around the globe and wider sharing of best practice.



In 1997 for example, Shandwick International turned to the internet to

develop its co-ordinated evaluation tool STEP, in conjunction with MORI

and MORI subsidiary Test Research.



’This was designed to allow the same sophisticated measurement

methodology to be used on a PR campaign wherever it took place in the

world,’ explains planning director Kieran Knights.



But the idea of the world as a global village raises the spectre of a

homogenic approach to international communication. This in turn poses

questions about the relevance of measuring global strategies in local

markets, and a centralised communications management.



For instance, bolero.net, the electronic trade community that is moving

cross-border trading onto the internet, has a global reach, but its

headquarters are in London. ’Our experience calls into question whether

it is really necessary to bring on a network of agencies to do

international work,’ says Dirk Singer, head of corporate

communications.



’Instead, all international work has been handled from London, and by

our PR agency, Midnight Communications in Brighton.’



Since it was set up last September, Bolero, which is jointly owned by

SWIFT, the international banking co-operative and the TT Club - which

represents the world’s port authorities and logistics operators - has

used only e-mail and the internet to drive media relations. But it has

still generated coverage in 16 countries, from the Paris-based

International Herald Tribune to El Cronista in Buenos Aires.



In addition, Bolero relies heavily on its web site (www.bolero.net) to

talk to customers and attract new business. With this emphasis, Singer

says that he has no need to evaluate brand messages and media coverage

on a country-by-country basis. Instead, he takes a more regional view:

’Rather than being country-specific, I look at our main markets -

Western Europe, North America, the Far East and the rest of the world -

in the round.’



It seems likely that as international barriers continue to fall, so

people will want to shout ever louder about their perceived national and

cultural differences. In the future, this may mean that evaluating the

subtleties of country-specific PR activity could become more important

than ever.



So, as the internet century takes off, what are the measurement issues

PR practitioners have to face? Will a single global strategy be

increasingly recognised as the key to evaluating international

campaigns? Or will the traditional model of local market measurement

under a global umbrella continue to thrive?



Crispin Manners, chief executive of the Argyll Consultancies Group,

believes that delivering global communications in a way that is

acceptable to the local community is the biggest single opportunity

ahead for international PR.



’Ensuring that local measurement continues to be valued as a core

element of international communications will be the key to brand success

beyond 2000,’ he says.



While the internet is making life easier for those looking to build a

truly global brand proposition in the mould of Coca-Cola or McDonald’s,

Manners says organisations still need to build a one-to-one relationship

with their customers. ’Any organisation that takes a ’one flavour suits

all’ international strategy will come a cropper, as this is likely to

alienate people,’ he says.



In the on-line world, as in real life, organisations need to give

customers local bias and value in their on-line communications,

depending on the brand and the messages they are trying to get

across.



’A global PR campaign strategy really depends on brand positioning,’

says Vivek Chaudhri, research and evaluation director of broadcast and

on-line PR consultancy Bulletin International. He contrasts Nike, with

its ’Just do it’ campaign as a universal PR and advertising proposition

across the world, with Unilever which ’is more ’think global, act local’

with its brands, changing its PR and advertising in different countries

accordingly,’ he says.



As the internet pushes brands to become more global, organisations with

changing interests in different markets still need to study the overall

picture. But many believe that there are also practical reasons for

local market evaluation.



’Most evaluation is still done country-by-country, because it is

influenced by a company or PR operator’s business model,’ says Peter

Christopherson, business development director of communications research

group Echo.



’Most organisations have a local operator, and most need to devolve

information to a locality because projects are funded there, or regional

priorities are different from HQ,’ he adds.



Central management may focus on the bigger picture of how messages are

portrayed across Europe for instance, but a German or Spanish operator

needs the detail of how and why activities have hit targets closer to

home.



For operators such as manufacturers, whose international landscape is

defined by where they do business, changing the mindset of geographical

boundaries is likely to take time. Countrywide Porter Novelli has worked

with the Association of Plastic Manufacturers in Europe for the past ten

years. ’By definition, this means that their outlook is broadly

European.



But as individual members they are strongly nationally based,’ says CPN

planning, research and evaluation director Paul Miller.



However, Christopherson maintains that the internet has not yet really

changed evaluation techniques, simply brought different requirements and

raised new issues. ’Companies need to get to grips with measuring

on-line media and discussion groups and tackling problems such as usage

data and the growing reach of non-anglophone internet activity,’ he

says.



To help find a way forward to analyse on-line activity appropriately,

his company has carried out internal discussion group-based surveys of

clients, called Echo Chambers. These have addressed topics such as the

growing strength of internet-based lobbyists, and the increasing

reputation of on-line news services as sources of information for

government and journalists.



However, Mark Westaby, managing director of international media

analysis, PR planning and market research agency Metrica, says: ’I

genuinely believe that the PR industry has no real idea of what’s about

to hit it.’



Despite the explosion of new media, Westaby says the exponential growth

to critical mass is yet to come. ’This will have an enormous impact on

international PR and all the old rules, including those which relate to

evaluation, will go out of the window,’ he says.



It is certainly true that the term ’evaluation’ is already regarded by

many as old hat, with ’integration’ and ’dialogue’ the new buzz

words.



But Westaby says that where PR practitioners have traditionally focused

on performance measures such as delivering value for money, the next

five years will see the emphasis shift to planning.



’Previously, PR people have been able to plan almost intuitively,

knowing that by going to the broadsheets, international business press

or radio, they will reach their target audience,’ he explains.



’But with the explosion in media outlets of smaller, more targeted

audiences, there will be a need to take the results of any activity and

feed them straight back into the PR programme.’



Couple this to the speed with which the internet will bring change to

communications and business goals, and the planning process is likely to

be paramount.



But criticising the PR industry for failing to address the new

measurement issues thrown up by the internet is perhaps unfair as there

are so many unknowns.



In the US, organisations are ahead of the UK in terms of on-line

audience measurement, linking demographic information to create quite

sophisticated evaluation. But until PROs can integrate the tendency for

internet audiences to cluster around issues, with the more traditional

picture of demographics, culture and language, the internet will remain

a problem.



’PR now crosses the borders of off-line and on-line distinctions, so

what you say in either medium reaches the other,’ says internet

reputation consultant and chairman of the joint IPR and PRCA Internet

Commission, David Phillips.



He believes it is becoming more important than ever to evaluate at local

market level, for the simple reason that the internet encourages PR

messages to morph, especially when they cross a language barrier.



’If you are running a campaign, evaluation has to be local, because you

don’t know how issues will feed from the internet into different

markets, into print and then back again,’ he says.



In addition, Claire Spencer, director of planning at Manning Selvage and

Lee, warns that taking a standard global approach to communication can

be a recipe for disaster, diluting the core proposition. As a judge in

the 1999 PR Week Awards she says: ’The most powerful and creative

initiatives were those specifically designed to accommodate local market

factors.’



It seems clear that the global market place will never be a level

playing field. Until national, cultural and language idiosyncrasies

disappear, local market understanding of PR activities will continue to

be of vital importance. And this means tailored communication messages,

levels of activity and, by default, evaluation at local market

level.





PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS’ GLOBAL CHALLENGE



Eighteen months ago, Coopers and Lybrand and Price Waterhouse merged to

become the UK’s number one professional services consultant,

Pricewaterhouse



Coopers (PWC). The driver behind this deal was the investment needed to

create a truly global operation.



Today, the company draws on the talents of 150,000 people in 150

countries worldwide, to offer a full range of business advice to global,

national and local companies and public institutions. Services range

from accounting and tax advice, to project finance and litigation

support.



However, with the skills of its people, rather than a tangible product

comprising its identity, PWC realised that building a global brand would

be heavily reliant on perception. UK director of marketing and

communications Roger White was charged with managing the firm’s global

reputation and promoting PWC as the world’s leading professional

services organisation.



’We had always collected and analysed local coverage,’ says White, ’But

as a global business, we needed to ensure the brand stood for the same

things all over the world.’



To help track and monitor what was being said about the company and its

competitors, and how messages were being interpreted in different

geographical markets, PWC hired Echo Research.



With the mountain of international media, the task needed to be

prioritised.



PWC and Echo chose to begin by monitoring reputable English language

media only which they perceived as having influence beyond geographical

boundaries.



Each quarter, the latest survey and analysis results are presented to

the PWC leadership and the marketing and communications teams around the

firm.



PWC still strives to be strong in individual territories and in local

management. So, while the core brand messages remain consistent, these

are tailored to local interests.



For example, PWC is one of the largest graduate recruiters in the

world.



So in the UK, messages centre on helping build careers and getting

involved in innovative work for great clients. In the Far East and

Eastern Europe, this is interpreted as investing in new markets and

investing in people’s futures.



Now that PWC and Echo have bedded the system down, more non-English

language publications and internet tracking is coming on board. ’This

will enable us to examine what has happened historically, but will also

give us the indicators for moving forward,’ says White.



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