The Proof campaign has a fresh tank of fuel and is about to move up
a gear. The two-year-old industry campaign is revving up a slew of
initiatives that aim to put research and evaluation even higher up the
agenda of agency and in-house practitioners and clients alike.
The campaign, which launched in February 1998, was born out of an
industry need to show clients that PR was a measurably powerful tool. A
Proof forum was set up, including representatives from all the trade
associations and backed by PR Week. A clear target was set: for ten per
cent of PR budgets to be spent on research and evaluation.
This was followed last year (PR Week, 12 March 1999) by the first Proof
survey of more than 200 agency and in-house practitioners, sponsored by
Countrywide Porter Novelli. The results showed that around seven per
cent of budgets was being spent on research and evaluation. They also
showed there was still a long way to go, however - 20 per cent of
respondents said they did not believe the success of their activities
could be evaluated, and only a small proportion were using pre-testing
Then last summer the Research and Evaluation Tool-kit was published.
This was written by Mike Fairchild, funded by the PRCA and the IPR, and
backed by PR Week. The toolkit set out to explain techniques available
to the industry, and used case studies to show how these might best be
used in different situations.
The Proof campaign is now moving forward to develop the survey and the
toolkit, and will be boosted by some completely new initiatives. At the
Proof forum on 15 May, Nicholas Grant, managing director of Mediatrack
and founder member of the Association of Media Evaluation Companies
(AMEC), spoke for many at the forum when he said the target for the next
step of the Proof campaign should be to ’create a norm whereby
evaluation is basic - it has to be done and if you don’t, you look
Countrywide Porter Novelli director Emma Brazier added that the industry
now needed to work out exactly who its audiences were for the evaluation
message: ’Some clients don’t want to know about the nitty gritty - they
want strategic counsel. We’ve also all got the column inches brigade,
and other clients who want to do every evaluation technique. We need to
shake up PR’s competitiveness in the marketing mix, and fend off the
integrated agencies and the management consultancies. We need to create
a proper stakeholder map.’
This desire will be met by the most exciting of the developments planned
at the Proof forum: the creation of a taskforce. The idea of a group
dedicated to raising awareness and promoting use of research and
evaluation was mooted by Ketchum board director for technology clients
’We need to create a team of people funded by the trade associations
with a proper remit and a budget, which will do whatever it thinks will
It was immediately agreed to by the PRCA, the IPR, and AMEC, who will be
equal partners in the enterprise. The taskforce will be funded by the
trade associations involved and will consist of a small group of
industry representatives who will lead Best Practice in planning,
research and evaluation.
Rather than concentrating its efforts purely on getting the PR industry
to recognise the importance of formal research and evaluation, the
taskforce, endorsed by PR Week, will also target those who control the
PR budget purse strings - the clients.
PRCA director general Chris McDowall says the taskforce is ’fundamental’
to a significant increase in emphasis on research and evaluation as part
of a healthy industry. ’Certainly for all of us at the PRCA we are bound
to getting out there and telling people about measurement. There are so
many new users of PR, particularly in the dot.com sector, and a lot of
people don’t understand what PR can really do. The taskforce will help
with that process of education.’
The creation of the taskforce will also have an effect on the future of
the toolkit. While there has been an overwhelmingly positive response
from those who bought a copy of the toolkit and actively use it, take-up
has not been nearly as high as the project’s partners hoped.
’It’s not on everybody’s desks or being referred to regularly by
practitioners,’ says McDowall. ’With the taskforce we have a way of
ensuring that PR providers and users use the toolkit on a regular basis.
We know it’s a good document and that it works, but we still hear PR
buyers saying they don’t know what they are getting, and it’s
Two proposals for developing the toolkit were put forward at the Proof
forum. The first, tabled by Fairchild, was for a summary of the toolkit
to be produced, as a quick-reference supplement.
’There is now enough knowledge in the industry to build on the toolkit,’
says Fairchild. ’What we need now is a shortcut version, which takes the
background and the objectives for granted. This would include a short
summary of the five-step process, and perhaps more short case studies to
meet every reasonable PR task.’
The idea that more case studies of research and evaluation best practice
should be collated as an adjunct to the toolkit turned out to be a
popular but tough one. Claire Spencer, planning director at Manning
Selvage and Lee, said the availability of case studies from first-class
practitioners had been one of the catalysts for the advertising industry
to start taking evaluation seriously.
However, a number of forum members pointed out that the best R&E
projects tend to be commercially sensitive, and clients rarely want
Indeed, when PR Week put out an appeal for case studies in this area
last year, there were barely a handful of respondents.
The development of the Proof survey was also discussed at the forum.
The survey, carried out by Echo Research, will be carried out for the
second time this summer. This sought to find out how committed the
industry was to research and evaluation, the techniques used to
benchmark and evaluate PR activity, the techniques which were most
convincing to PR budget holders and decision-makers, and the key
benefits of and obstacles to planning and evaluating PR activity.
The forum felt that although there needed to be some consistency between
the new survey and the old, a number of new factors could be built in to
yield more relevant results. One of the main reasons for this was that
some members of the forum felt there was a real difference in attitude
between in-house and agency practitioners, and that this needed to be
It was suggested that most in-house practitioners have the money but not
the will to evaluate and agencies had the will but not the cash.
In-house departments are often tracking their activities continually in
some shape or form, while agencies do not always have long-term
evaluation measures in place for clients.
Marketing directors of client companies are to be included in the survey
base for the first time, and another option is for the survey to include
more in-depth qualitative interviews, including client companies. This
would help establish who is spending the money and making decisions
about evaluation, how money is spent and exactly what on, and who sees
and uses the results. This would also be useful to the taskforce as
pre-campaign planning data.
Another topic of discussion was how the internet could be used to
support Proof initiatives. Among the ideas put forward was for case
studies to be put on the trade association web sites as toolkit
PR Week will be backing these developments in a number of ways. We will
take part as a silent observer in task-force meetings and report back on
the action and progress of the group, and the results of the second
Proof survey will be published in the magazine. We also plan to
highlight where consultancies have used formal research and evaluation -
and the companies which have carried it out - in news stories, campaign
files, and features.
The PR Week Awards will also reflect the importance of research and
evaluation as a core requirement of an outstanding campaign. The Proof
Award was launched last year to reward agencies who had demonstrated an
exceptional use of research and evaluation. This year the Proof Award
will be judged from all the shortlisted entries in the craft and
This will ensure that research and evaluation are winning factors in all
the PR Week Awards. In addition, a copy of the toolkit will be sent to
all the awards judges awards as a benchmark of what to look for in this
area. The PRCA is also using the toolkit as a basis for its own
The Proof campaign started with a long-term target. It has made
significant progress in putting the issue of formal research and
evaluation firmly on the agenda of the PR industry. Now the industry
itself has proved it is committed to taking this further and working
harder to get the message over to clients. PR is long-term, it is
effective - and we can prove it.
MAIN PROOF FORUM PROPOSALS
- The creation of a taskforce backed by the main industry bodies and
endorsed byPR Week, to raise awareness of the importance of research and
evaluation to the PR industry and clients.
- The development of an accessible ’Toolkit Lite’ to accompany the PR
Research and Evaluation Toolkit, summarising the main principles and
including short case studies.
- A broadening of the PR Week Proof Survey to include more detail on
exactly how money is spent on research and evaluation, who spends it,
and how the research and evaluation is used, as well as breaking down
in-house and agency responses.
- A commitment by PR Week to including the Toolkit as part of its
briefing for judges of all awards, and to highlight where formal
research and evaluation has been used, throughout the publication.
FIVE SMALL STEPS TO EVALUATION EXCELLENCE
Summary of the Toolkit five-point plan
Research and evaluation should be an integral part of thePR process. The
Research and Evaluation Toolkit, sponsored by the IPR and the PRCA and
supported by PR Week, shows where research and evaluation fit into the
five steps of a campaign and this is summarised below. For a copy of the
Toolkit, call the PRCA on 020 7233 6026 or the IPR on 020 7253 5151.
1. Audit Research about the organisation, products and services, and an
audit of communications with audiences. Research can help identify the
issues as well as tracking the progress of the campaign and its outcome.
Tapping into existing research saves time and money. Involving senior
management at this stage demonstrates the strategic role that PR can
2. Objectives These must reflect the strategic and business goals of an
organisation. PR should be co-ordinated with advertising, direct
marketing, and sponsorship. Identify target audiences, messages by
audience, the medium, the desired response and the timing.
3. Strategy and Plan Decide on level of measurement. Output records what
messages went out and reach; out-take measures the extent to which the
messages were remembered and understood; outcome measures to what degree
PR activity changed opinions, behaviour or attitudes.
4. Measurement and Evaluation The first of possibly several periods of
measurement or continuous measurement. Are we getting there, and if so
do we stay on course? If not should we adjust tactics, strategy or
5. Result A review of results against the original objectives: what did
we learn that can be fed back into the planning loop? What worked and
didn’t? What can we re-use next time?
15 MAY PROOF FORUM
Emma Brazier, Countrywide Porter Novelli
Peter Christopherson, Echo Research
Peter Crowe, Metrica
Roger Haywood, Kestrel Communications
Michael Ferland, Media Proof
Michael Fairchild, The Fairchild Consultancy
Nick Grant, AMEC
David Hide, Carrington Hide Communications
Richard Houghton, Ketchum
Peter Hutton, MORI
Pat Johnstone, Central Office of Information
Kieran Knights, Shandwick
Martin Loat, Propeller
Nick McAteer, Mantra
Chris McDowall, PRCA
Deborah Marsh, Mediatrack
Claire Spencer, Manning Selvage and Lee
Jan Stannard, Marbles
Stephen Walsh, Echo Research
Matthew West, Mantra.