Clients hold key to common measurement standards

Everyone knows measurement is a vital issue for all marketing services disciplines - and PR is no different to any other in that respect.

Everyone knows measurement is a vital issue for all marketing services disciplines – and PR is no different to any other in that respect.

But it has always been more difficult to assess the value of earned media in concrete terms versus its paid-for contemporaries.

In the world of traditional paid-for advertising across TV, radio and print, measurement is relatively straightforward; with national bodies such as Nielsen operating systems that industries use as standard - although believe me it can still generate vicious arguments between the parties involved.

The onset of digital media made things more complicated, for while it is in theory measurable to the nth degree there are still ongoing debates about which metrics actually matter.

PR has never had an industry-wide common measurement standard. Agencies and service providers tend to develop their own systems and actually use them as unique selling points for clients to deal with them rather than their competitors.

But as communications converges with other marketing disciplines and differing providers try to muscle in on PR's territory, it will become increasingly important for PR to demonstrate its effectiveness and ROI with numbers marketing directors and CEOs understand.

That doesn't mean borrowing other disciplines' metrics and molding PR artificially into them, as would be the case with building a system around ad value equivalency.

Our weekly edition analysis looks at the latest attempt to generate a standard the whole industry can sign up to: the so-called “Barcelona Principles”. This is a laudable attempt, spearheaded by the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, with input from the IPR and PRSA in the US.

High-profile agencies including Weber Shandwick and Ketchum have “endorsed” the principles, but it's not really clear what happens next and what chance the principles have of gaining traction with no enforcement in place.

Andre Manning, global head of external comms at Royal Philips Electronics, wants to see the principles enforced and, at the end of the day, the only way they will become an industry standard is if other clients follow suit and require all their agencies to adopt them as part of the RFP and contract process.

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