That was the key message from PR experts at the Public Relations Congress in Dubai last week, which was attended by more than 150 public relations professionals from across the region.
Speaking to Campaign after a panel discussion on the importance of measurement and analysis, Sadri Barrage, chairman of the Middle East PR Association (MEPRA) and managing director of Headline PR in Dubai, said counting column inches was not a professional way to measure the impact of PR and that the industry had to push itself to undertake research before, during and after campaigns.
Barrage said that the industry had to fight to justify its importance to marketers by demonstrating that PR offers a good return on investment.
"We have to fight to gain proper recognition of what we do, we have to fight for our share of the marketing budgets and the way to do it is through scientific measurement and research all the way through a campaign," Barrage said. "The budgets for advertising are huge, but for PR, clients are just not willing to invest in us because they don't know what PR can achieve. Proper measurement is the only way that we can say to a client that what we have done has had an effect."
He added: "Counting column inches is something that is done for the feel good factor but it's not fulfilling the needs of clients."
Mohammad Elzubeir, managing director of media research firm and congress sponsor Mediastow, said the industry had to take a serious look at the way it measured the effectiveness of its work, or risk losing credibility in the eyes of clients altogether.
"Traditional methods of counting clippings and calculating advertising equivalence values are simply not accurate measurement techniques," he said. "If agencies don't find a way to measure the real value of their work, they risk losing their clients and missing out on future business opportunities."
Sunil John, managing director of Asda'a Public Relations in Dubai, said it was in agencies' interests to team up with research companies to help practitioners prove PR's ability to change public perceptions. "I think that the industry has developed some fairly good tangible measures, but the real yardstick of success is of how perceptions have changed in the marketplace," said John.
"I seriously urge the industry to tie up with research agencies to find out about how perceptions can change in light of PR - this is the way the industry should move."