The PR industry should follow the example shown by the Design
Effectiveness Awards to prove its worth says Deborah Richardson
The industry’s search for a fair way to measure effectiveness is not an
activity exclusive to PR but is relevant to all the service industries
involved in the communications and marketing mix.
Many in the design industry are also keenly aware of the need to prove
their worth in terms that clients can appreciate and to this end the
Design Business Association, the industry trade body, set up the Design
Effectiveness Awards in 1989. These awards provide some interesting
pointers for our own industry.
The Design Effectiveness Awards judge projects entirely on performance,
regardless of whether this is expressed in unit sales and profit or
something less tangible like changes in audience perceptions or staff
morale. The nature of the evidence submitted is left to the entrants,
while the proof of success varies from one submission to the next. The
factor the entries have in common is that they began with a client
brief. The jury’s main concern is whether the data shows that the
project has achieved or succeeded the targets set by the client, with
extra points scored if the brief is particularly challenging. Because
the judges all come from industry and commerce, not design, there is
little inclination to reward creativity over end result and a healthy
scepticism is brought to each claim.
The onus of proof at each stage is placed on both the designers and the
client, with programmes entered and awarded jointly. This gives less
scope for consultants to fudge the data but there are other benefits
too. Designers are not put in the position of having to prove anything
to their client and both are clearly ‘in this together’. Out of their
collaboration comes an equal commitment to design as well as an
incentive to get the brief right from the outset.
Since success is not measured against any universal standard, a great
deal of responsibility is also placed on the judges. With the very
credibility of the awards dependent on their sound judgement, they are
identified by set criteria and selected with care. The opinion of
industry peers matters little; the ‘buyer’s’ view is paramount and the
judges are all from the client side of the relationship.
While there are those in the design industry, as there are in PR, who
would prefer to be judged on the basis of creativity regardless of
results, there can be little doubt that such awards help a service
industry gain respect. Perhaps more importantly, they can give
consultants and those who buy their services, the confidence to claim a
fairer share of the budgets and the ear of decision makers at board
Last year over 50 business to business articles appeared on the event
with coverage in the nationals as well. This year entries to the Design
Effectiveness Awards were up by more than 104 per cent, with 80 major
companies through to the second round. Regardless of who wins that means
a lot of companies are now more aware that design pays.
If it proves impossible to establish universally acceptable measurement
criteria for PR, perhaps an equivalent awards scheme, also based on
results and consultancy/client collaboration, would do our industry the
world of good.
Deborah Richardson is a specialist in design PR