COMMENT: EDITORIAL; The time is ripe to prove PR’s worth

Surveys which set out to prove the effectiveness of public relations are usually commissioned by the PR industry itself. As such, they tend to be received with a healthy dollop of scepticism by the outside world.

Surveys which set out to prove the effectiveness of public relations are

usually commissioned by the PR industry itself. As such, they tend to be

received with a healthy dollop of scepticism by the outside world.



The latest survey of client marketers from the Institute of

Practitioners in Advertising is therefore a welcome surprise. The survey

was intended to assess the effectiveness of advertising. But an

intriguing side effect is how good the results are for PR.



More than half of the respondents had a annual marketing expenditure of

more than pounds 20 million. No small fry these. When asked about the

relative importance of various communications disciplines, 94 per cent

said PR is ‘very’ or ‘quite’ important to their business - only two

points behind the figure for consumer advertising. Moreover, the score

for PR has leapt ahead dramatically since the last survey two years ago.



But not all the results make such encouraging reading. When it comes to

the ability to measure the effectiveness of different disciplines, PR

lags dismally in fourth place, with a measly four per cent professing

themselves ‘very satisfied’ with evaluation methods. In other words,

marketers know PR is important, but they wish they knew exactly how

important it is.



PR’s inexorable rise up the marketing ladder is also reflected in the

views of the leaders of global marketing services groups, canvassed for

this week’s feature on page 14.



Sorrell, Meyer, Seelert and co are certainly aware of the added value

that PR can bring to their global offering. As such groups redefine

themselves in a quest to become more client focused, it is clear that PR

will be an increasingly important part of the mix.



But neither they, nor the clients on whom they are focusing their

attentions, will continue to be impressed by a discipline which cannot

provide better proof of its own effectiveness. Clients will continue to

fight shy of concentrating more resources on PR if that tangible proof

just isn’t there.



Part of the problem is the relatively high cost of evaluation in

comparison with the PR it is measuring. But the responses of clients

indicate that the climate is right for change.



They also say they feel bewildered by the multiplicity of measurement

methods foisted on them. All the more timely then, that a standard unit

for media measurement is being developed by a PR industry think-tank,

headed by Raymond Wilson of Norwich Union, the National Dairy Council’s

Peter Crowe, and QBO’s Quentin Bell. It is not the whole solution, but

it is a promising start.



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