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Barry Leggetter, executive director of the international Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC), says it’s time for PR to prove its worth

It’s not enough to assume you are making a difference, you need to prove it, says Barry Legetter, executive director of the international Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC.)

Remember the biblical saying, “physician, heal thyself”. You probably haven’t heard it for a while but we all know what it means. Attend to one's own faults. Take control and you can solve the problem yourself.

The peculiarity of this problem – the failure to get PR professionals to take programme measurement seriously – does not make sense. After all, especially in a tough economic environment, doesn’t every PR professional want to prove that their programme is working? Commercially being able to demonstrate the effectiveness of your agency’s work is at the heart of the client-agency relationship.

As the global standards body for communications research and measurement, AMEC is clear that it has to step up its work to establish a uniform currency for media evaluation. But this presents a challenge. Looking at new research, shows that PR consultancy professionals still need to be persuaded about the value of external programme measurement. Yet research and measurement should be an integral part of every PR programme. And I mean serious programme analysis based on business goals and outcomes – rather than the increasingly questioned use of Advertising Value Equivalent (AVEs).

A little blunt, I realise, but it summarizes where much of the global PR industry is at this time in its approach to programme measurement. And it is important to do something about it. There are exceptions, of course, led by global PR groups who have invested in internal research and planning teams.

Our aim for the summer of 2010 is to improve the reputation of communications measurement by raising the “standards floor“ and by demonstrating the value of measurement to both business and not-for-profit communities. We can most effectively do this through market-research-led programme analysis which will add value to clients’ businesses because it delivers evidence-based insight.

The latest International Business Monitor study published this week, shows that corporate PR teams are twice as likely to see the value of external programme measurement as PR consultancy professionals. AMEC figures show that 83 per cent of end-user client professionals are increasingly seeing the value of research and programme by external specialists, compared with 41 per cent of PR consultancy professionals.

Let’s pause there. Why is that? Is it because working in-house for a major corporation your department’s performance metrics are more finely calibrated than the standard performance return expected by clients of its consultancy teams?

We know too from the research study of our members that demand for AVEs continues to be strong (79 per cent). But not for long!

This summer, AVEs need to be put in their place once and for all. It is the reason why we are organising a leadership debate on measurement standards, at a European Summit in Barcelona. For the first time, leaders of the Global Alliance, PRSA, AMEC, ICCO and the IPR Measurement Commission will come together on the same stage.

The challenge for these five organisations is to agree on standard metrics and measurement techniques which will then be adopted across the industry internationally. The aim is to get a set of standards for which every organisation – whether government, non-profit or private enterprise – should expect to be accountable and show proof that their programmes are working.

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