It's been said that what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Is it time to think about research and evaluation in that context, too?
Measurement has always been the bug-bear of the PR industry, with calls for standard common measures and a pure, golden bullet, to take this 'headache' away from PR practitioners and let them 'get on' with their excellent work. But therein lies the problem. No one measure answers ALL questions or needs. No one approach will do. 'Getting on with the job' depends as much on the insights and data it uses to determine direction and convince others, as the activities that surround it. Measurement depends on where you are and what the need is. Otherwise the real danger is that the wrong exam question is answered really well, with 'E' for effort as the result.
The Barcelona Principles, set by amec and the CIPR rallying other leading industry bodies to common understandings, is an important beginning, with its seven guiding principles on best practice, including that of focusing on outcomes not outputs. This Summer's Measurement Summit in Lisbon took it a stage further in setting the course for the future by building in education and models. These are essential building blocks towards what ultimately matters - getting the thinking and behaviour right.
Research among practitioners, measurement experts and summit delegates keep assuring us that we know what we should do. Like eating our daily allowance of vegetables. We know what's important. We know AVEs (advertising value equivalence) is sugary-sweet and oh-so-tempting, but empty in terms of contributing to organisational results. We also know that the strength and credibility of public relations depends on insight and data. As time goes by, we are learning how to do it and take clients with us. But like our green leafy friends, we don't always embrace it as usefully as we should do,. The healthy, desired outcome - applying measurement meaningfully for the organisation and non-PR colleagues - should be the ultimate measure of success for us all. If the PR industry doesn't rise to this challenge and opportunity, the ringing in our ears may not be wholly welcomed or uncalled for.