Friday, 25 June 2010


Guestpost by Richard Houghton FPRCA, President of ICCO, and Ex-Chairman of the PRCA

It’s more than 11 years since I was the PRCA representative on the first PR Planning and Evaluation Toolkit, a joint publication with the CIPR. An online version PREFix followed and there are now more books, guides and websites on how to evaluate campaigns than you can count.

Despite the level and quality of information available I think it fair to say that evaluation of PR campaigns is by no means ubiquitous and that in many case advertising value equivalents (AVEs) are the sole measure used, despite their obvious failings.

Last week in Barcelona at the 2nd European Summit on Measurement 150 measurement and PR professionals may have taken the first steps to making PR evaluation a core part of all campaigns.

The main participants in the Summit Principles debate - the Global Alliance for Public Relations, the IPR's Commission on Measurement and Evaluation, the PRSA, the ICCO and the US Research Agency Leaders Chapter of AMEC – helped to create the seven key principles of evaluation that were endorsed at the conference These were that:.

1. Goal setting and measurement are important

2. Media measurement requires quantity and quality

3. AVEs are not the Value of Public Relations
- Do not measure the value of PR or future activity
- Where comparisons are made validated metrics should be used
- Multipliers should never be applied unless proven to exist

4. Social media can and should be measured

5. Measuring outcomes is preferred to measuring media results (outputs)

6. Organisational results and outcomes should be measured whenever possible

7. Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement

What does this mean to PRCA members?

We’ve gone on record endorsing the principles as an important starting point for achieving two things. Firstly, we want to drive acceptance that evaluation of PR campaigns is crucial for the planning of future campaigns and demonstrating value.

Secondly, we are looking for wide understanding and acceptance that not all measurement methods are equal and that there are some basic requirements that need to be met for the evaluation process to be successful.

The PRCA’s Best Practice Committee, chaired by Alison Clark of Huntsworth has evaluation as one of its top priorities and we will continue to develop the PRCA’s services in this area including training, tools and best practice.

On the vexed question of AVEs, my view is that if clients want them, then most consultancies will provide them. But at the same time the failings of the method should be highlighted and every effort should be made to provide alternative and comparable evaluation methods that are relevant to other ROI measures used by the client.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard,

    As you know, I was in Barcelona as the chair of the CIPR's measurement group, and it was a pleasure to meet you.

    I agree with your write-up here, although I may be a little more determined, if that's the right word, to resign AVE to history.

    "AVE is not the value of PR", and in ten years of co-leading a PR consultancy I found myself asserting this fact time and time again. We listened to earnest requests from clients and prospects alike, and then invested the time with each and every one of them on this issue. We prepared them to go back to their organisations and explain the fallacy of AVE, and worked with them to construct new outcome-based approaches to PR campaign measurement.

    I'd like to say this was without exception, but one global consumer brand wouldn't budge!

    It was hard work, and we ended up having to see more than a few CEOs to explain ourselves, but they came round.

    Of course, none of these outcome-based approaches were as simple as AVE, and none had the addictive ease of simply slapping a pound sign on the front of a simple formula. But clients developed the pride of knowing they hadn't fallen into the trap of measuring what we can and not what we should.

    Katie Delahaye Paine has an elegant way of asserting this point too in my interview with her and Barry Leggetter post-summit. The interview is embedded in Jay O'Connor's blog post here:

    I'll reach out to Alison too now I know she's on the case.

    Cheers, Philip.