Great minds in PR think alike, it seems, judging by the recent rush of interest among PR folk in demonstrating their effectiveness.
Trade bodies on both sides of the Atlantic are finally getting to grips with the thorny issue of research and evaluation - an area that to date has been marked by a commendable level of debate, but precious little progress.
The last couple of months have seen a number of UK-driven initiatives aimed at increasing the accountability of PR. A new body, The Public Relations Standards Council, is now looking at the possibility of a quality mark for PR effectivenes. The Association of Media Evaluation Companies is launching an online service which will help clients find their way through the maze of research and evaluation methodologies available.
Meanwhile, the Institute of Public Relations and the Public Relations Consultants Association have both proposed a 'tool-kit' of best practice guidelines.
This spate of synchronistic activity is the inevitable result of the pressure being put on corporate communication specialists to be more accountable to their shareholders, customers and the media. Recently, organizations of all kinds have found themselves the subject of an unprecedented level of public and media scrutiny, such as the repeated stories of excessive payments to board directors in the UK.
In this hostile and shifting environment, it has never been more crucial to properly plan and target campaigns. Hence the launch earlier this year of PRWeek's high profile Proof campaign which encourages clients to invest 10% of their total PR budgets to R & E.
PRWeek welcomes this raft of new initiatives, but warns that a duplication of efforts and the creation of a committee culture could only further cloud the issue. The biggest barrier to research and evaluation spending is the confusion about available methodologies.
On November 2, PRWeek hosted The Proof Forum in a bid to pool the resources of these various bodies. As a result, all are now working together on a set of best practice guidelines which will be published next May.
These recent moves confirm the UK's position at the forefront of use of planning and evaluation in Europe. However, with an increasing number of client companies and consultancies routinely working on a global basis, the next challenge for The Proof Forum will be to look at ways of linking up with best practice initiatives being spearheaded by the likes of the PRSA, and the GPRA in Germany, on your side to ensure a seamless cross-border approach to planning and evaluation.