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A year after beginning its PR%F campaign in 1998 to encourage client companies to

allocate 10 per cent of their budgets to research and evaluation, PR Week undertook a major
survey to show the uptake of evaluation methods by the PR industry. The results were
disappointing. While the majority of practitioners believed that their work could be measured
across a variety of disciplines, including crisis management, internal communications and
business to business, those working in government relations overwhelmingly disagreed. A
total of 20 per cent of respondents still felt their success could not be measured. There was
widespread agreement that the PR industry needed to improve its efforts at evaluation, and
the vast majority stated that I am personally committed to evaluating PR efforts. However,
when it came to the methods which could be used, the most commonly used method was
media content analysis and press cuttings, closely followed by media reach. This was despite
the fact that only a third regarded the latter as an effective tool to convince budget holders to
part with resources to fund it. A worryingly high proportion of 33 per cent said they relied on
gut feel to judge their success. The main obstacle to planning and evaluating PR activity
was cited as difficulty in obtaining budgets, followed by lack of time. In addition, 43 per cent
of respondents gave no answer when asked to state their investment in evaluation (Cowlett
and Nicholas 1999).
A comparison of theory and practice in the USA was carried out by Ahles and Bosworth
in 2003. By analysis of a sample of entries for the PRSA Silver Anvil awards, they found that
while 82 per cent of the public relations programmes submitted had objectives relating to
changing behaviour, only 12 per cent addressed attitude change, a key component of
behaviour change. Most campaigns had a clear tie to the organisations mission and goals, but
many did not specify a time frame or amount of change to be achieved. While 79 per cent of
campaigns were concerned with increasing awareness, only 45 per cent carried out any
benchmark research to quantify this at the start of the campaign, and there was no follow-up
to assess what had changed. Half of the campaigns stated objectives in strengthening
relationships, but there was no evidence of any benchmarking or follow-up research. They
recommended improving the quality of objectives, and improving benchmarking and followup research (Ahles and Bosworth 2003).
The main obstacle to planning and evaluating PR activity was cited as difficulty in
obtaining budgets, followed by lack of time. In addition, 43 per cent of respondents gave no
answer when asked to state their investment in evaluation (Cowlett and Nicholas 1999).
The value of evaluation
The idea that evaluation is worthwhile and necessary is not new. In his address to the IRR
congress in October 1998, MORI Director Peter Hutton stated,
Evaluation is a sensible part of any PR programme . . . There must come a point when
you have to ask What effect has my PR spend had? and How do I know? In MORI
we have developed a model based on the idea that business success comes from moving
people up a hierarchy from awareness, through trust, transaction, satisfaction,
commitment and advocacy. There are many different ways of evaluating the success of
a PR event or campaign. The most useful, however, will be part of a well executed PR
initiative with clearly defined measures of success which relate back to equally clearly
defined corporate and communications objectives.
Alison Clarke, of Huntsworth plc, agreed.

Evaluation is part of the planning process. It enables one to quantify the lessons learned
and develop benchmarks for future measurement. There are a variety of measurement
tools now available for all kinds of evaluation, from input (analysis of existing data,
focus group, pilot questionnaire), output (statistics on distribution, media monitoring,
media content analysis, communication audit) and outcome (focus group discussion,
surveys, pre and post tests). PR can influence beliefs, attitudes, opinions and behaviour.
If the communications function is to be considered as a managerial one, it must refine
its instruments of measure . . . to prove it is both useful and beneficial.
The media coverage debate
One of the first and easiest ways of evaluating success in PR was to count the amount of
media coverage gained. As the evaluation debate developed, the question of whether press
cuttings were enough exercised many column inches itself. The Association of Media
Evaluation Companies (AMEC) in conjunction with ICO produced an explanatory booklet in
1997 (AMEC 1997): Media evaluation is the systematic appraisal of a companys reputation,
products or services, or those of its competitors, as measured by the presence in the media.
AMEC put forward media evaluation as an ongoing management tool which should be part of
the business planning process. It stated that analysis involved the weighting of significant
elements, the combination of measurement and judgement. This could also give information
about trends, as media analysis would be ineffective in a vacuum. To those who argued that
media analysis was a mere part of the picture, and not a very useful part at that, AMEC
replied that output generated as a result of a PR programme could be measured in articles,
papers, speaking engagements; outcomes could be measured by changes in attitudes and
behaviours; and out-take by the degree to which the audience retained the message. By
using information gained from media coverage in different ways, several aspects could be
measured. Share of voice would indicate the total amount of coverage for the industry or
topic, and the percentage of that from the client. By examining message content analysis the
extent to which coverage communicated the desired messages could be assessed. Trend
analysis could track performance over time and look forward from historical information.