FOCUS: MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION - The US market prepares for Proof/After the success of the Proof Toolkit in the UK, the US industry prepares to unite to promote measurement and evaluation

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.

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

various guidelines.



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

PR Objectives.



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

disposal.



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

debate.



However, in theory, there are many voices in favour of

collaboration.



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

the Toolkit.



Some raised concerns about the value of the current Toolkit for US

practitioners.



Among them is Walter Lindenmann, senior vice-president and research

director of Ketchum and head of the US Commission on PR Measurement and

Evaluation.



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

relationships?’



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

complicated issues.’



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

credibility.



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

nutrition.



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

teachers.



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

data.



’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

service.



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.



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