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
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