PRWeek this week hosted its first conference dedicated to evaluation and campaign management, which featured some impressive case studies in how some organisations - most outstandingly Oracle - measure the effect and value of their communications spend.
Oracle consistently spends five per cent of its EMEA comms budget on evaluation, a level of investment matched by few of the other organisations represented in the 100-strong audience. That said, organisations such as the BBC are gleaning some very convincing ROI (return on investment) figures from online PR.
This contrasts with some interesting personal asides received within 24 hours of the conference: one chief executive of a European agency network confided: ‘Measurement is for the boring guys who can't do PR'; later, a well-known in-house comms director said: ‘We don't really worry about measuring PR - it's not worth it'; and an international marketing director said: ‘I know PR is better value than our ad spend, but we don't really measure it, we just multiply the column inches.'
Having sat as a judge on the AMEC evaluation awards scheme two weeks ago, this writer - who worked as a PR consultant for more than five years - was impressed by the strides the evaluation industry has made. Today's best evaluation reports are not only thorough but user-friendly for senior executives outside the comms department.
However, the question that fewer comms people are able to answer is how even these techniques directly relate to tangible changes in corporate behaviour.
This of course is the next step up for the industry, but perhaps we should be more realistic about that proportion of UK plc that has even made the first rung.