With PR Week’s Proof campaign now well established, its US sister
title has joined the battle to promote the use of measurement and
evaluation in the PR industry.
The launch of the Proof campaign in the US last month was marked by a
trans-atlantic video conference meeting between the leading players in
the evaluation debate in both the UK and the US, chaired by PR Week (US)
editor Adam Leyland.
There is a lot of interest in this area in the US already. A number of
reputation-measuring tools are available to PR practitioners, and there
is lively debate on the subject.
The various industry bodies in the US have already taken great strides
in finding a national consensus for measurement and have produced
Perhaps the most significant of these is the Florida University’s
Institute for Public Relations’ Guidelines and Standards For Measuring
and Evaluating PR Effectiveness, published in the summer of 1997, and
its sister title launched this month, Guidelines for Selling Measurable
So what can PR Week and the Proof campaign bring to the US party that
has not already been said? The answer is collaboration.
When PR Week launched the Proof campaign in the UK last February, its
success rested firmly on developing a spirit of agreement.
It was vital that industry bodies including the IPR, PRCA and the
Association of Media Evaluation Companies presented a united front. This
agreement being secured has brought immense value to the campaign.
Now the Americans need to do the same thing. ’The most important issue
is not the techniques being proposed, but the sheer divisions in the
industry,’ Leyland says. ’People need to stop bickering, being petty and
seeking to gain advantage from their own proprietary systems and look at
the bigger picture of what clients actually want,’ he adds.
This view was backed up by Chris Genasi, IPR representative on PR Week’s
Toolkit editorial board at the meeting with representatives of the PRSA,
IABC, the Council of Public Relations Firms, the IPR, and the US PR
Evaluation Committee. ’PR Week’s work as the broker in the middle was
very helpful in co-ordinating peoples’ interests,’ he said.
Richard Houghton, representing the PRCA, similarly described the
collaboration as a ’win-win situation’. ’The fact that it builds on
previous initiatives has brought everyone along,’ he said.
Genasi also pointed out that with so much migration in the industry,
there is no longer an ’us and them’ situation between in-house and
consultancy PR practitioners. Therefore it is vital that everyone in the
industry shares common standards.
To kick-start the campaign, PR Week (US) announced that it is launching
a research project similar to the Proof survey undertaken for the UK
title by CARMA and sponsored by Countrywide Porter Novelli published
here in April.
CARMA International has already agreed to undertake the research
analysis and talks are underway about sponsorship. The findings will
make interesting reading. It appears that no widespread scientific
investigation into measurement attitudes in the US PR industry has been
undertaken since at least the 1980s, if ever.
Leyland expects the research to unearth similar findings to the UK
survey, which revealed that examples of best practice are few and far
between, and that while PROs pay lip service to the import of
measurement and evaluation, they do not understand the tools at their
This is where the IPR and PRCA-funded Research and Evaluation Toolkit
could help. Launched in the UK in April, it is the result of over six
month’s research, discussion, debate and input from evaluation experts,
PR practitioners and their clients.
The physical embodiment of the result is a workbook, designed to be a
practical aid to planning and evaluating a PR campaign. For the first
time, those industry bodies with a vested interest in owning the
evaluation debate have ignored their differences and come together for
the common good of the industry.
Now PR Week (US) is looking at the possibility of collaborating with the
industry on a similar project.
Since the Toolkit’s launch in the UK a month ago, there has been srong
feedback from the industry and, importantly, good sales.
Collaboration was not easy to achieve here, and nor will it be in the
US. As Houghton says: ’There were problems, as everyone has their own
axe to grind.’
There are indications that many US practitioners are wielding similar
axes, and a number of those who have dedicated many years to the study
of research and evaluation fear they might lose their stake in the
However, in theory, there are many voices in favour of
Several options were raised at the meeting, from simply selling the
existing Toolkit to US audiences, americanising the Toolkit’s style,
language and case studies, to working on a new international version of
Some raised concerns about the value of the current Toolkit for US
Among them is Walter Lindenmann, senior vice-president and research
director of Ketchum and head of the US Commission on PR Measurement and
He said: ’I’m concerned that it focuses too much on marketing
communications from a one-way perspective. The definition of PR is
changing - it’s about building, maintaining and enhancing relationships
between organisations. The question is how do you measure
Lindenmann also feels the UK Toolkit does not describe which measurement
tools are more or less effective, and does not go into enough detail
about different data collection techniques, or qualitative versus
quantitative research. He would also like to see hands-on training to
put such theory into practice.
However, as Toolkit author Michael Fairchild pointed out, the
publication was never meant to be an end in itself, nor an exhaustive
survey on all research and evaluation methods, but an entry to the
process of evaluation, and a practical aid.
’It covers most kinds of tasks and disciplines, and has the advantage of
having been roadtested on a wide group of people,’ he says.
In a further response to criticism, Leyland says: ’The vision is to get
people interested in it as a starting point. Then they can pursue more
Jack Bergen, president of the Council of Public Relations Firms shares
this vision, saying there is a need for a product which recognises a lot
of what is already available. But he did question whether importing the
language and style of the Toolkit could be a turn-off and lose
Before the Toolkit can be launched in the US, this and several other
problems must be addressed. But if they can be resolved, the benefits of
the Toolkit being taken up by the US industry are obvious. With one
practitioner stating that 60 per cent of the business he works on is
multi-national, anything which can create a common point of reference is
a huge advantage. Creating an international Toolkit would go some way
towards achieving this.
However, Leyland is still unsure at what stage it will be possible to
bring client companies into the fold. ’We really have to conquer the
first obstacle of getting all the major industry bodies behind the
campaign and hear their feedback on the Toolkit,’ he says. But he thinks
it would be valuable for everyone to remember that: ’The war is about
PR, and its place in business and the marketing mix.’
At this preliminary meeting, it became apparent that there is widespread
support for such an initiative and Lindenmann pledged to discuss it
further at the next meeting of the US Commission on PR Measurement and
Evaluation, which takes place on 18 June in Washington DC. Leyland would
also like to form a transatlantic working group to flesh out an
agreement between the organisations.
The prospects for an Anglo-American research and evaluation alliance
certainly look bright. On both sides of the Atlantic, measurement is
being taken more seriously than ever before. Even compared to five years
ago, the resources dedicated to the issue have grown considerably.
DIFFERENT STROKES: UK VERSUS US MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES
At first glance, the number of companies devoted to measurement and
evaluation in the UK would suggest the British research market is more
mature than that of the US. However, this may not be true.
Walter Lindenmann, senior vice-president and director of research at
Ketchum, says: ’I think this is more an indication of the move in the UK
toward measuring the basic output phase of a programme or activity; that
is, determining whether or not those to whom the messages were targeted
were indeed exposed to the messages.’
While Lindenmann feels it is unfair to compare the two markets
like-for-like, he thinks UK practitioners could pick up a few pointers
about more sophisticated measurement from their US cousins. ’It’s not
just about exposure, it’s about outgrowths and outcomes,’ he says. ’It
is very important to determine whether or not target audience groups
actually received the messages, whether or not they paid attention and
really understood the messages, and then look at how this has changed
opinions, attitudes and behaviour patterns.’
Lindenmann cites a recent project Ketchum undertook with the Dole Food
Company in collaboration with the Society for Nutrition Education to
educate third-grade students and their teachers about the importance of
healthy eating. This looked at the role consuming five servings of
fruits or vegetables a day plays in achieving proper levels of
Ketchum distributed questionnaires to 1,000 pupils and 40 of their
teachers before and after the campaign, and held in-depth telephone
interviews with teachers when the programme was under way.
By comparing the before and after survey findings, Ketchum demonstrated
to its clients the real impact the information campaign had on changing
awareness, attitude and the behaviour patterns of both students and
But it would be a mistake to suggest the UK love affair with media
measurement is not shared across the Atlantic. There may not be many US
media analysis companies, but CARMA International president and CEO
Albert Barr explains: ’This is because it is labour-intensive and
revenue-wise, the market is too small.’ However, Barr says the US is
more technology-driven. He points out that CARMA’s UK office relies
entirely on clipping services to provide analysis, whereas in Washington
DC, the operation takes at least half of its information from on-line
services, including the major TV networks, such as ABC and CNN.
But while he sees the competition in the UK measurement market as
healthy, he is also excited by the prospect of merging European
expertise with US technology.
’I just wonder why people are not taking full advantage of the
technology already,’ he says.
GLOBAL MEASUREMENT: MEDIALINK’S WORLDWIDE POTENTIAL
In 1991, when Medialink International vice-president of new media
services Jim Gold came to the UK from New York, he had great plans for
revolutionising British television news monitoring.
Since the late-1980s, his company had been providing clients in the US
with an electronic tracking service of video news releases. ’I naively
thought: let’s just bring the technology across,’ he says.
However, he soon discovered that the system was not suitable for the
European market. While the first few lines of American VNRs were vacant,
allowing Medialink to embed an identification code, on the other side of
the Atlantic ,this space was being used to store text-based news
’I was rather crestfallen as there was not much happening in terms of
other ways of tracking electronically,’ says Gold. Instead his company
had to rely on television watchers, who would tally sightings by viewing
endless news bulletins, a method that often meant clients had to wait up
to 10 days for a media report.
However, eight years later, the VNR tagging problems have been ironed
out and, on 15 April this year, Medialink launched its TeleTrax
Developed in conjunction with Lucent Technologies, this new system
electronically ’watermarks’ VNRs and tracks their use by broadcasters
around the globe.
’The turnaround time is remarkable, within two hours, although most
clients will probably opt for 24 hours,’ says Gold.
Over the next month, TeleTrax should be able to monitor 66 major
satellite and terrestrial TV stations across Western Europe, including
the UK, France, Spain, Germany, the Benelux region and Sweden. By the
end of the year, Gold predicts this coverage will extend into Asia, the
US and beyond.
But it is by no means curtains for more traditional media monitoring
services. If a company holds a press conference and invites TV companies
to film the event themselves, it will be back to the old-fashioned noses
pressed to screens method.