At last! The decision by the Institute for Public Relations to put its much-thumbed research and evaluation tool onto the Internet is a welcome addition to the PR community. The document, Guidelines and Standards for Measuring and Evaluating PR Effectiveness, has sold 7,000 copies at $15 a pop - a nice little earner for the University of Florida, which co-ordinated the project. This 'push' will extend the booklet's influence still further.
But the decision raises three serious questions: firstly, why did it take 18 months to place a very simple 21-page document on the Web? It was surely not for the money, because the decision was originally taken a year ago.
Secondly, why is it that it took a chance conversation with a member of the IPR to discover this important news? Shouldn't the IPR be promoting its initiatives, instead of discussing them at round-table, closed-shop events?
And thirdly, why is the PRSA Counselors Academy, even now, conducting research on a new evaluation 'product', the nature of which is still in the balance, but which clearly has very similar aims.
This is a clear case of poor PR by the IPR. No surprises there: the whole industry is poor at self-promotion; and institutional bodies epitomize this. But it also suggests a worrying lack of co-ordination between the efforts of these distinctive but potentially compatible bodies.
The IPR booklet reads like a who's who of research and evaluation. Dr Walter Lindenmann, who co-chaired the special task force, is the father of PR research. Others on the committee included Katie Paine at the Delahaye Group, Albert Barr at Carma, Mark Weiner of Medialink, Thomas Martin at ITT, Porter Novelli's Geri Mazur, Forrest Anderson of Golin/Harris and Dr Mary Ann Ferguson at the University of Florida.
And there was additional input from two other universities - Dr James Grunig at the University of Maryland and Dr Donald Wright at the University of South Alabama - to say nothing of Willard Nielsen at Johnson & Johnson.
It's too early to tell what the PRSA's new product will look like. According to PRSA Counselors Academy chair Amanda Brown-Olmstead, 'It may be a training program, a workbook or a CD-Rom.' Judging by the project's stated aims, this looks like a classic case of Not Invented Here, and that's a syndrome not worthy of a progressive organization like the current PRSA. But in fact when we spoke to the Academy, it emerged that they knew nothing about the IPR document.
The days of measuring PR using column inches or impressions should have gone out with the Ark. The fact that such crude methods are still so widely used is a scandal. The PRSA's time would surely be better spent adopting the IPR's document - and jointly promoting it to the PR industry and the business community.