COMMENT: EDITORIAL; The final analysis on PR evaluation

The proposal to introduce a standard unit of media measurement - launched at this week’s Hard Commercial Edge of PR conference - is of vital importance for the PR industry.

The proposal to introduce a standard unit of media measurement -

launched at this week’s Hard Commercial Edge of PR conference - is of

vital importance for the PR industry.



This is not to say that it offers a catch-all solution to evaluation -

because it doesn’t. What it does do is provide a useful and user-

friendly way of measuring coverage. And it will also help media

planning, at a time when much of the public relations industry is

still, as one speaker put it, ‘a planning-free zone’.



But more importantly it is the focal point of an initiative which aims

to put evaluation at the top of the agenda and unite the industry behind

that common goal.



People have tried to introduce an industry standard for media

measurement before. And each time it has fallen foul of scepticism,

apathy and self-interest. As one evaluator remarked drily after the

conference, all too often PR people simply ask him to use the unit of

measurement that makes them look the best. If ever there was a reason

why a standard unit was needed, that one off-the-cuff remark sums it up.



The message is now that clients won’t stand for it any longer, and nor

should anyone who is concerned about raising standards in public

relations and proving its effectiveness to a wider business audience.



In supporting this proposal, it is important to stress that this basic

unit of measurement is not the holy grail of evaluation. It is only a

tool. It is part of the answer but it is not the answer in itself.



What this proposal definitely does not do is to attempt to unravel or

usurp the sophisticated methods of content analysis now employed by

evaluation companies. Quite the reverse in fact. The second stage of the

initiative will involve professional evaluators and public relations

professionals in developing best practice guidelines to promote their

use.



The signs are that the groundswell of opinion is behind this plan. The

client demand is there. Now there needs to be a concerted effort on all

sides to make it work.



Evaluation is too important to the future of the PR business to let this

opportunity go, which is why PR Week is putting itself firmly behind

this campaign. The proposal was well received at this week’s conference,

but it is still just an idea. It will only become a reality if PR people

buy into it - both literally and metaphorically - and if they use the

consultation period to make their views known.



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