This week sees the launch of a unique project - a set of definitive
guidelines on the use of research and evaluation in PR, created as a
result of an unprecedented collaboration between the IPR, the PRCA and
the industry’s trade magazine, PR Week.
The launch of the Research and Evaluation Toolkit on 29 April represents
an important landmark for the industry. For the first time, this
practical guide to R&E moves the debate beyond ’why measure’, to ’how to
The debate about the advisability and possibility of measuring and
evaluating PR effectiveness has been raging on both sides of the
Atlantic for years.
But as our recent PR Week/Countrywide Porter Novelli Proof Survey (12
March) showed, behind the politically-correct affirmations of the
importance of planning and evaluating, lies a wealth of inactivity. This
toolkit is designed to address that problem. Its purpose is to provide
some practical pointers on how the industry can actually begin to
achieve the accountability so often talked about.
On another level, the launch of the R&E Toolkit proves that when it
comes to the really important issues facing the industry, the trade
bodies that represent it and individual practitioners in both the public
relations and evaluation industries are more than willing to cast aside
differences of opinion for the common good.
The publication also represents an important landmark in PR Week’s own
Proof Campaign. The Proof Campaign first burst onto the pages of PR Week
in February 1998 with the bold assertion that client companies should
allocate ten per cent of their budgets to proper planning and evaluation
of campaigns. Subsequent straw polls showed that, with a few shining
exceptions, the majority of the industry was failing to allocate any
where near that level of spend.
This desk research also revealed that one of the major barriers to
spending on R&E was a confusion over the methodologies available and the
way they could be applied to different disciplines. As a result, the
Proof Campaign shifted focus to look at ways of providing more
information to clients and practitioners about R&E.
Over the last couple of years there have been some commendable
initiatives with regard to client education and raising levels of PR
professionalism, including publications produced by ICO and the media
But these and other standards of practice were largely
So it represented a major step forward for the industry when in November
last year, the IPR and PRCA agreed to co-fund a practical guide to
research and evaluation, to be written by Michael Fairchild - author of
ICO’s publication How to get real value from public relations - and
steered by an editorial board chaired by PR Week.
During its development, the toolkit was reviewed by a panel of client
practitioners, from organisations as diverse as the Central Office of
Information to BT, as well as a panel of agency practitioners. Their
views on how the toolkit could be made more user-friendly have been
incorporated into the final document.
The result is a toolkit designed for PR practitioners working in
consultancies, in-house, or in management roles with responsibility for
PR, PR training bodies and students, journalists, analysts and other
commentators on the profession. It is intended to be used by the
practitioner and client working together as an aid to planning. It
provides a flexible framework which can be used by any PR practitioner
in most situations and can be adapted and built on by users to suit
Importantly, the toolkit recognises the diversity of the disciplines
known generically as PR, the range of audiences with which one interacts
and the way in which PR is expected to interact with other
All too often, practitioners associate R&E with media measurement,
concluding that those disciplines whose activities cannot be subjected
to media analysis cannot be measured. The toolkit, while accepting that
media evaluation is an extremely important part of that process, aims to
encourage users to take a broader view of the planning and evaluation
To do this, it proposes a series of basic rules of measurement and a
sequence of five steps that should be an integral part of the public
relations planning process. These steps can be roughly summed up as:
audit of existing communications and background; constructing of
objectives; strategy and planning; the first stage of what should become
a continuous process of R&E; and reviewing the results and strategy.
The R&E toolkit and the approach it proposes is based upon best practice
in the UK, other EU countries and the US, and is illustrated by a series
of case studies from a range of sectors and disciplines. It includes a
set of worksheets that can be applied by a practitioner to a campaign or
used as part of a training exercise, as well as a checklist of questions
to assist in developing a PR brief with a client, and a budget guide to
assist in making a case for R&E funding.
Perhaps most importantly, this toolkit is realistic. While setting
standards for best practice, it recognises the fact that most PR
practitioners operate in a less than ideal world. It sets standards but
also gives practical advice on how to work most effectively with other
disciplines in the communications mix. It shows how to maximise
resources and to look at R&E less as a costly add-on to a campaign and
more as a fundamental approach to PR.