Editorial: Stop talking and start doing R&E

It comes as no surprise to discover this week that, despite the welter of politically-correct affirmations from the PR industry about the importance of proper research and evaluation, in reality, day-to-day usage of R&E is still grossly inadequate. The PR Week/ Countrywide Porter Novelli Proof Survey, paints a picture of an industry confused about the whole concept of R&E and the methodologies available.

It comes as no surprise to discover this week that, despite the

welter of politically-correct affirmations from the PR industry about

the importance of proper research and evaluation, in reality, day-to-day

usage of R&E is still grossly inadequate. The PR Week/ Countrywide

Porter Novelli Proof Survey, paints a picture of an industry confused

about the whole concept of R&E and the methodologies available.



The overwhelming reliance by all sectors of the industry on media

analysis and content is certainly understandable. Media relations still

forms a significant part of the everyday PR agenda, and media analysis

is an essential tool in the PR armoury. And the news that only nine per

cent of respondents now admit to using advertising value equivalents

(AVEs) indicates that nature of this analysis is now more sophisticated

and appropriate.



What is worrying, however, is the over-reliance on analysis of external

media, by disciplines such as internal communications, which patently

would better benefit from other research tools such as internal focus

groups, staff surveys or face-to-face interviews.



It is this preoccupation with media analysis that led 20 per cent of

operators, including a large number of those working in internal

communications, financial PR and government and community relations to

the conclusion that what they do could not be evaluated - the premise

being that if it could not be analysed by a media evaluation company it

was beyond measurement.



The fact that so few consumer PR specialists make use of consumer

surveys and that only three per cent of overall respondents to the

survey have ever pre-tested messages underlines the alarming

over-emphasis on the medium as the message.



Admittedly use of indicators such as share and sales price increases

pose the problem of how you separate out the impact of PR. The complex

way in which PR interacts with other communications and marketing

disciplines means that there are no easy answers to this conundrum.



But, while the industry must continue to make use of media analysis

techniques, it must also begin to look at other methodologies that can

also be applied to particular disciplines.



If, as 91 per cent of respondents to the Proof Survey believe,

reputation is a measurable asset then, while planning or evaluating the

management of that reputation, you must take into account all its

relevant audiences, including staff, shareholders and external media. It

is essential that the industry starts thinking in terms of evaluating

outcomes, as well as outputs and starts talking more directly to its

target audiences.



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