The new year’s resolution for all practitioners in media relations
should be to agree the introduction of a standard measure of impact.
In 1997 more than ever before communication managers will aim to
integrate advertising and media relations into their campaign plans in
order to improve their market share. This is good for the advertising
industry and more so for the media relations industry.
However, despite more communication managers being aware of the power of
media relations to influence key audiences, the lack of a standard
measurement means that media relations is approached with less detailed
consideration and attracts disproportionately smaller budgets.
In spite of this, the integration of advertising and media relations
will increase for two reasons: first because consumers are becoming
harder to win over because there is too much advertising and, second,
because of the rising cost of advertising.
Increasingly, advertising will be used for generating awareness, in
conjunction with media relations which will be used for influencing
This partnership works well because each channel, in addition to its own
qualities, has an element of the other’s qualities too. In order to
attract its rightful share of budget, media relations must become more
of an exact science. But how?
Advertising equivalents, which are still in widespread use, assume that
media relations does the same job as advertising. This flawed approach
has been holding media relations back.
The answer is to replace advertising equivalents with a measurement of
impact designed for media relations. These should have similar qualities
to those used in advertising (GRPs and TVRs), to enable marketing
directors to understand better the language of media relations and
assess its power.
Thus equipped they will have ammunition to make a case for bigger
budgets for more powerful campaigns.
Nobody I have spoken to is opposed to the principle that we need a
recognised measure. But nobody can agree on how to make it work.
Naturally, everyone has a view and interests to protect, but unless
these can be bridged there will never be constructive debate which
includes participants from all sides of our industry.
Quentin Bell (PRCA), Peter Crowe (IPR) and myself (client side) have
proposed a system of media relations points (MRPs) based on a percentage
of the target audience reached. It has the advantage of being simple and
basic, but relies on the availability of circulation data which some
media owners do not provide.
It is quantitative only leaving the qualitative measure for separate and
more detailed analysis.
MRPs are a good start and, as an industry, rather than seek another
route we should hasten towards a solution to make it work. There is much
to be done in order to plug the gaps and more importantly catch up with
the electronic information revolution.
I would propose that a working group is formed where members of the
evaluation industry, practitioners on the agency and client side, media
owners, academics and representatives of the advertising world would
come up with a solution by an agreed deadline. A short report
recommending an agreed measure of impact in media relations could then
be published. All the project needs is momentum.