Outcomes from AMEC’s 2011 Lisbon PR Evaluation Conference

I attended AMEC's conference on the future of evaluation in PR last week. Despite a significant amount of banter on the plane about how interesting or otherwise the conference may turn out to be, it provided some interesting insights. There is no silver bullet for PR evaluation For those less familiar with this debate, PR people are different. We work across different sectors, (for example: financial PR and consumer PR) across different geographies and have different objectives (for example: crisis management versus a product launch.) So despite PR people looking for a universal solution to PR evaluation for close on 30 years – it ain’t going to happen. It’s boring but... Therefore, in the absence of a silver bullet, it’s all about laying down your objectives at the start of a campaign and seeing whether you hit them. AMEC have updated its PR measurement evaluation metrics since the Lisbon summit. So what are these metrics?  Are they a foolproof one-stop shop for you to copy and paste into the evaluation slides of your new business presentation? No. But they are a good place to start when planning the evaluation of your PR. Will you be able to pick holes in them? Probably. But they are not attempting to be a rule book, they are a guide. What are the challenges ahead for PR evaluation? This is, essentially, what this conference was about, and for me the key word coming out of Lisbon 2011 was standardisation. PR professionals need to standardise terminology so that comparisons can be made between sectors, between geographies and between companies. More formally, AMEC did a (not statistically valid) survey asking PR professionals and AMEC members what they felt were the most important themes for PR and social media evaluation over the next couple of years. This threw up a couple of interesting word clouds: 1. The Biggest Challenges to Measuring the Value of Public Relations 2. The Greatest Barriers to Adoption of Standardized Research Techniques On the back of this research AMEC put together 12 objectives that delegates were asked to vote on, in order to prioritise what delegates felt were the most important. The top vote getters in rank order were: 1. How to measure the return on investment (ROI) of public relations (89%) 2. Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement (83%) 3. Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit (73%) 4. Institute a client education program such that clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs (61%) Who will drive the measurement of PR? Remember AMEC is a trade organisation of media evaluation companies, including a few of the larger PR agencies. So its remit is to raise the awareness of best practice in the hope of improving how PR measures itself. It is not going to be able to single handedly improve the way PR measures its impact. And while trade associations, both in the UK and US have commendably backed up AMEC’s  agenda, the reality is that to get change in a commercial market, you need to follow the money. Do PR agencies make money out of PR evaluation? No. Some make a bit. But most treat evaluation as a low priority. Their interest is in doing great client work and making a profit. Which leaves us with clients. All the trade associations in the world can bang the drum.  PR media like us can do our bit but until clients insist on better measurement of PR, there will remain pockets of best practice but universal measurement terminologies and metrics will remain a pipedream. The happy news is that brands like Microsoft, Philips, Unilever and P&G are now taking PR evaluation seriously; the hope is that other leading brands will follow. The trick will be for firms globally to standardise the terms and methodologies they use when measuring the results of their PR and social media work. When and if this happens (and it won't happen overnight), PR will most likley start to command larger budgets on a more sustainable basis.
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