Platform: Refining the science of PR measurement - Measuring the impact a PR campaign has upon its target audience is the only way forward for the industry, says Reginald Watts

Congratulations to PR Week for taking up the measurement issue with your Proof campaign. It is almost 25 years to the day since the four-year study I sponsored at Burson-Marsteller, which was carried out by Kingston University, on the effectiveness of public relations published its report.

Congratulations to PR Week for taking up the measurement issue with

your Proof campaign. It is almost 25 years to the day since the

four-year study I sponsored at Burson-Marsteller, which was carried out

by Kingston University, on the effectiveness of public relations

published its report.



The study team created a computer model that might have done the job if

the variables had not been too numerous to make it unworkable.



The problems were two-fold. To get an accurate reading, data was needed

on every variable. On the product side, we needed to know: the variation

in distribution; the variations in POS material and display; the

variations in advertising message and the effectiveness of each regional

sales force.



The cost of collecting the data was enormous.



The second problem was the two-stage effect. Opinion-leader attitudes

had to be researched as an extra variable if comparative effectiveness

was to be measured.



The model looked nice but we decided at that time that even if we took

the variables and inserted average norms this was placing us miles away

from the advertising industry who simply took credit for every increase

in awareness and ignored everything else.



We opted for the reductionist approach. We broke the PR campaign into

the smallest units: an exhibition, a feature article, a conference, then

researched one sample of each activity against a control and multiplied

the data as an average for all similar events in the programme. It was a

step forward, but few clients were prepared to pay for it.



Then we had the good fortune to win a client with vision. Unilever told

us to use advertising methods because its marketing teams would

understand them. We created penetration figures, OTS data based upon a

single insertion, then multiplied this against reading and noting

figures, comparing editorial with advertising. This was correlated and

compared in budgetary terms with advertising against market research

that included psychographic assessments.



It was a step towards measuring impact, not just exposure.



The results made Unilever’s Flora margarine programme one of the most

successful PR programmes in the FMCG field. It was taken seriously

because the PR budget was in excess of a million pounds and the client

wanted to know where the cash was going.



Since then much good work has been done in content analysis by CARMA,

Report International, Media Measurement and others, but few have linked

the exposure element to the impact on target audiences with any

precision.



As the driving force of PR moves inexorably towards the moving image,

with television and the internet taking over as one of the key factors

in our business, I now find myself leading a task force at Bulletin

International developing new techniques for measuring television

effectiveness on a worldwide scale.



Thanks to PR Week, in five years’ time we will see a revolution in our

business. By overlaying data on the screen we will be able to write

programmes with the same precision as an advertising media director,

check the results and, in all probability show that PR has a greater and

more lasting impact than chucking the same amount of money into bought

space.



Reginald Watts, chairman, Bulletin International.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.