The internet has had a huge impact on the way that global PR
campaigns are run. Not only has the speed and reach of communications
increased dramatically, but also the demands, with significant PR
activity being conducted on-line.
These changes have shaken up the way organisations embrace the global
marketplace and conduct their planning and evaluation. On the one hand
the internet offers huge opportunities for low cost dialogue with
stakeholders worldwide, but on the other, brand messages are no longer
confined by geographical boundaries.
’Four years ago, the internet gave people a wake-up call, that whether
they liked it or not, they had a global audience - especially in
parochial countries like the US,’ says Katie Paine, US-based president
of Delahaye Medialink.
’This meant clients wanted to start monitoring what was happening in the
key media markets around the world, and demanded international
capabilities across Europe, Australasia and the Far East,’ she adds.
The immediate benefits of these changes have been far more consistency
in measurement around the globe and wider sharing of best practice.
In 1997 for example, Shandwick International turned to the internet to
develop its co-ordinated evaluation tool STEP, in conjunction with MORI
and MORI subsidiary Test Research.
’This was designed to allow the same sophisticated measurement
methodology to be used on a PR campaign wherever it took place in the
world,’ explains planning director Kieran Knights.
But the idea of the world as a global village raises the spectre of a
homogenic approach to international communication. This in turn poses
questions about the relevance of measuring global strategies in local
markets, and a centralised communications management.
For instance, bolero.net, the electronic trade community that is moving
cross-border trading onto the internet, has a global reach, but its
headquarters are in London. ’Our experience calls into question whether
it is really necessary to bring on a network of agencies to do
international work,’ says Dirk Singer, head of corporate
’Instead, all international work has been handled from London, and by
our PR agency, Midnight Communications in Brighton.’
Since it was set up last September, Bolero, which is jointly owned by
SWIFT, the international banking co-operative and the TT Club - which
represents the world’s port authorities and logistics operators - has
used only e-mail and the internet to drive media relations. But it has
still generated coverage in 16 countries, from the Paris-based
International Herald Tribune to El Cronista in Buenos Aires.
In addition, Bolero relies heavily on its web site (www.bolero.net) to
talk to customers and attract new business. With this emphasis, Singer
says that he has no need to evaluate brand messages and media coverage
on a country-by-country basis. Instead, he takes a more regional view:
’Rather than being country-specific, I look at our main markets -
Western Europe, North America, the Far East and the rest of the world -
in the round.’
It seems likely that as international barriers continue to fall, so
people will want to shout ever louder about their perceived national and
cultural differences. In the future, this may mean that evaluating the
subtleties of country-specific PR activity could become more important
So, as the internet century takes off, what are the measurement issues
PR practitioners have to face? Will a single global strategy be
increasingly recognised as the key to evaluating international
campaigns? Or will the traditional model of local market measurement
under a global umbrella continue to thrive?
Crispin Manners, chief executive of the Argyll Consultancies Group,
believes that delivering global communications in a way that is
acceptable to the local community is the biggest single opportunity
ahead for international PR.
’Ensuring that local measurement continues to be valued as a core
element of international communications will be the key to brand success
beyond 2000,’ he says.
While the internet is making life easier for those looking to build a
truly global brand proposition in the mould of Coca-Cola or McDonald’s,
Manners says organisations still need to build a one-to-one relationship
with their customers. ’Any organisation that takes a ’one flavour suits
all’ international strategy will come a cropper, as this is likely to
alienate people,’ he says.
In the on-line world, as in real life, organisations need to give
customers local bias and value in their on-line communications,
depending on the brand and the messages they are trying to get
’A global PR campaign strategy really depends on brand positioning,’
says Vivek Chaudhri, research and evaluation director of broadcast and
on-line PR consultancy Bulletin International. He contrasts Nike, with
its ’Just do it’ campaign as a universal PR and advertising proposition
across the world, with Unilever which ’is more ’think global, act local’
with its brands, changing its PR and advertising in different countries
accordingly,’ he says.
As the internet pushes brands to become more global, organisations with
changing interests in different markets still need to study the overall
picture. But many believe that there are also practical reasons for
local market evaluation.
’Most evaluation is still done country-by-country, because it is
influenced by a company or PR operator’s business model,’ says Peter
Christopherson, business development director of communications research
’Most organisations have a local operator, and most need to devolve
information to a locality because projects are funded there, or regional
priorities are different from HQ,’ he adds.
Central management may focus on the bigger picture of how messages are
portrayed across Europe for instance, but a German or Spanish operator
needs the detail of how and why activities have hit targets closer to
For operators such as manufacturers, whose international landscape is
defined by where they do business, changing the mindset of geographical
boundaries is likely to take time. Countrywide Porter Novelli has worked
with the Association of Plastic Manufacturers in Europe for the past ten
years. ’By definition, this means that their outlook is broadly
But as individual members they are strongly nationally based,’ says CPN
planning, research and evaluation director Paul Miller.
However, Christopherson maintains that the internet has not yet really
changed evaluation techniques, simply brought different requirements and
raised new issues. ’Companies need to get to grips with measuring
on-line media and discussion groups and tackling problems such as usage
data and the growing reach of non-anglophone internet activity,’ he
To help find a way forward to analyse on-line activity appropriately,
his company has carried out internal discussion group-based surveys of
clients, called Echo Chambers. These have addressed topics such as the
growing strength of internet-based lobbyists, and the increasing
reputation of on-line news services as sources of information for
government and journalists.
However, Mark Westaby, managing director of international media
analysis, PR planning and market research agency Metrica, says: ’I
genuinely believe that the PR industry has no real idea of what’s about
to hit it.’
Despite the explosion of new media, Westaby says the exponential growth
to critical mass is yet to come. ’This will have an enormous impact on
international PR and all the old rules, including those which relate to
evaluation, will go out of the window,’ he says.
It is certainly true that the term ’evaluation’ is already regarded by
many as old hat, with ’integration’ and ’dialogue’ the new buzz
But Westaby says that where PR practitioners have traditionally focused
on performance measures such as delivering value for money, the next
five years will see the emphasis shift to planning.
’Previously, PR people have been able to plan almost intuitively,
knowing that by going to the broadsheets, international business press
or radio, they will reach their target audience,’ he explains.
’But with the explosion in media outlets of smaller, more targeted
audiences, there will be a need to take the results of any activity and
feed them straight back into the PR programme.’
Couple this to the speed with which the internet will bring change to
communications and business goals, and the planning process is likely to
But criticising the PR industry for failing to address the new
measurement issues thrown up by the internet is perhaps unfair as there
are so many unknowns.
In the US, organisations are ahead of the UK in terms of on-line
audience measurement, linking demographic information to create quite
sophisticated evaluation. But until PROs can integrate the tendency for
internet audiences to cluster around issues, with the more traditional
picture of demographics, culture and language, the internet will remain
’PR now crosses the borders of off-line and on-line distinctions, so
what you say in either medium reaches the other,’ says internet
reputation consultant and chairman of the joint IPR and PRCA Internet
Commission, David Phillips.
He believes it is becoming more important than ever to evaluate at local
market level, for the simple reason that the internet encourages PR
messages to morph, especially when they cross a language barrier.
’If you are running a campaign, evaluation has to be local, because you
don’t know how issues will feed from the internet into different
markets, into print and then back again,’ he says.
In addition, Claire Spencer, director of planning at Manning Selvage and
Lee, warns that taking a standard global approach to communication can
be a recipe for disaster, diluting the core proposition. As a judge in
the 1999 PR Week Awards she says: ’The most powerful and creative
initiatives were those specifically designed to accommodate local market
It seems clear that the global market place will never be a level
playing field. Until national, cultural and language idiosyncrasies
disappear, local market understanding of PR activities will continue to
be of vital importance. And this means tailored communication messages,
levels of activity and, by default, evaluation at local market
PRICEWATERHOUSECOOPERS’ GLOBAL CHALLENGE
Eighteen months ago, Coopers and Lybrand and Price Waterhouse merged to
become the UK’s number one professional services consultant,
Coopers (PWC). The driver behind this deal was the investment needed to
create a truly global operation.
Today, the company draws on the talents of 150,000 people in 150
countries worldwide, to offer a full range of business advice to global,
national and local companies and public institutions. Services range
from accounting and tax advice, to project finance and litigation
However, with the skills of its people, rather than a tangible product
comprising its identity, PWC realised that building a global brand would
be heavily reliant on perception. UK director of marketing and
communications Roger White was charged with managing the firm’s global
reputation and promoting PWC as the world’s leading professional
’We had always collected and analysed local coverage,’ says White, ’But
as a global business, we needed to ensure the brand stood for the same
things all over the world.’
To help track and monitor what was being said about the company and its
competitors, and how messages were being interpreted in different
geographical markets, PWC hired Echo Research.
With the mountain of international media, the task needed to be
PWC and Echo chose to begin by monitoring reputable English language
media only which they perceived as having influence beyond geographical
Each quarter, the latest survey and analysis results are presented to
the PWC leadership and the marketing and communications teams around the
PWC still strives to be strong in individual territories and in local
management. So, while the core brand messages remain consistent, these
are tailored to local interests.
For example, PWC is one of the largest graduate recruiters in the
So in the UK, messages centre on helping build careers and getting
involved in innovative work for great clients. In the Far East and
Eastern Europe, this is interpreted as investing in new markets and
investing in people’s futures.
Now that PWC and Echo have bedded the system down, more non-English
language publications and internet tracking is coming on board. ’This
will enable us to examine what has happened historically, but will also
give us the indicators for moving forward,’ says White.