Next Thursday and Friday (September 28-29) in Portsmouth (New Hampshire,USA) the Institute for Public Relations will be holding its annual Measurement Summit. The program sounds highly engaging and this is very good news for us, as we are all very much aware of the importance of this issue for the future of our profession…..In short, there is no longer any possible alibi for serious professionals to doubt that public relations can be both evaluated and measured, nor is there any possible alibi for any serious professional to imply that there is one tool, or one methodology, or one solution to do this.If I look at the many different ways our profession is practiced around the world by its 3 million plus operators, it is certainly not surprising that we face a serious identity challenge and, at least from this point of view, projects like the xprl one (see recent post, and I here attach –xprl game on– its latest document issued by the project’s steering committee); activities of bodies such as the Global Alliance (see other posts in this blog); global congresses like the upcoming World Bank one on Communication for Development (see post) and all of the excellent IPR activities, are all attempting to attract the attention of the professional community not so much in having one way of thinking (this would be preposterous and absurd), but to accommodate these many diverse ways of thinking in a relationship, information and communication environment, to which all may have equal access.
In terms of the evaluation issue, in my view one of the most interesting recent explorations is that of the British Chartered Institute of Public Relations, possibly the best and most seriously directed professional body in the world today, which is so vividly and essentially described in the attached paper prepared by two of the UK’s most reputed scholars and professionals, Anne Gregory and Jon White.
I had received this paper in draft form some weeks ago and found it extremely informative, clear, and rational. Here attached –pr-19-gregory and white edited by Peter Kahrel.doc– please find the final version I have just received from the authors.
Anne, as visitors of this blog well know (as she contributed with an astounding post on the role of pr in integration and cohesion in the UK -see post), is Professor of Public Relations at Leeds Metropolitan University, while Jon White is honorary professor, Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham; visiting professor University of Central Lancashire; and visiting fellow, Henley Management College.
Just a couple of quick references to stimulate your appetite:
°from a footnote: There is a management cliché that suggests what cannot be measured, cannot be managed. This statement has sometimes been invoked to suggest that public relations, because it cannot be measured, cannot be managed. However, turning the statement around, what can be managed can be measured. Clearly, public relations can be managed, and is therefore amenable to measurement—or, as amenable to measurement as any other management discipline.
°from the paragraph of conclusions: It also allows the debate to move on, to the application of standard and accepted management approaches such as project and program management to public relations practice—in short, to improving the capabilities of practitioners as managers. It also points to the next stage in establishing the value of public relations, which is to be found in its contribution to improved decision-making (which improves management practice), to organizational functioning and ultimately organizational value. Judgements of organizational value—by investors or government funding agencies, for example—are based in large part on the sense that they have of management competence and organizational strength. Public relations has clear contributions to make to both, and it is time that practitioners and the professional associations that serve them moved to focus on the value of these contributions.
This argument of the contribution of public relations to improved organizational decision-making appears crucial to our now fully justified quest for active participation in the top levels of organizational management. However it must be substantiated and explored in all its possible dimensions. I am confident that the Portsmouth Measurement Summit will come up with many new insights…