What a grand Summit! One hundred highly privileged senior representatives of major corporations, public relations agencies, universities and research companies met in Portsmouth (New Hampshire) this week for the Institute for Public Relations’ Summit on Measurement, which IPR’s Ceo Frank Ovaitt proudly described as ‘the annual meeting of the best and brightest minds in public relations measurement, evaluation and research’! Don’t really know how true this is….but the Summit certainly exceed, at least, my expectations!…Here follows a brief summary of contents (although most of the presentations will be shortly available for download form the Institute’s website –www.instituteforpr.org)… followed by a couple of considerations.Unfortunately I arrived late, and lost the first presentation by Don Stacks, of the University of Miami and by David Michaelson, principal of David Michaelson & Company LLC, New York so I can’t really say anything about this one. Sorry guys….Then we listened and dialogued with Bert Reeger the Dutch head of global communication planning and operations of Shell International, who illustrated how one the worlds largest oil companies, constantly under pressure in many areas of the world, scientifically observes the development of its stakeholder relations and the dynamics of its corporate reputation on a global as well as a national level in its major 15 strategic markets. Possibly the most interesting part of the presentation was when he detailed how both national and global leaders of the organization integrate and incorporate the findings of these analysis in their strategic and operative planning processes.On the big theme of measuring return on investment in public relations, Mark Weiner, CEO of Delahaye research company, and Jim Allman, Ceo of Devries public relations who works for some ten major Procter & Gamble brands, showed how the world’s largest fast moving consumer goods company succeeded in demonstrating that every dollar invested in marketing public relations gives an average return of sales of 2.8 dollars against 1.1 dollars for advertising and 85 cents for promotions!
Matt Gonring, vice president marketing and communication of Rockwell Automation together with John Gilfeather, vice president of GK Nop, Roper Public Affairs and David Kistle, vice president of Padilla Speer Beardsley, intellectually titillated participants with a fascinating description of an ongoing process of radical repositioning of his company, driven by the results of dashboard research results on stakeholder perception and correlated quality of relationships systems.
The first day ended with a lively debate between two four mixed participant teams: the evaluators vs. the measurers which, brilliantly moderated by the witty Canadian management consultant Fraser Likely, discussed issues such as:
°does research cost too much for public relations?
°is it true that public relators do not research because they don’t have the time?
°do agencies object because they are afraid to measure results?
°do organizations object because their pr directors don’t know enough about it?
°do research companies harm the dynamics of the market by being too specialized and oriented towards quantitative measures?
Of great interest, the next morning, an exhaustive session in which Andrea Done, head of issue management and employee communication of United Technologies and Jonathan Low, partner of CWW, talked about the process and anticipated some early results of an ongoing measurement program of external communication (about to extend into internal, as well), from which I will cite only that if 100 is the capitalization value of the Company, 27% of that value can be traced to its external communication activities!
The final session, moderated by Larissa Grunig, professor emerita of Maryland University, featured a dialogue between Jim Grunig, professor emeritus at the same University and Jim Macnamara, Australian and Ceo of The Mass Communication Group and Carma International, Asia Pacific, on ‘where we have been and where are we going’.
While Jim G. expressed fear that ongoing research efforts are insufficiently conceptualized before going into the field and therefore run a constant risk of proving nothing significant; Jim M. attributes most of the responsibility of lack of serious research in pr to associations who are much too ‘media relations’ driven in their professional development programs and to universities who have yet failed to take sufficient notice of recent developments in communication theory.
All in all, a truly interesting and worthwhile two days into the best practices of communication and public relations measurement and evaluation.
There are however a couple of points I would like to make:
a- if we all seem to agree, or at least, so it appears…. that the utmost value effective public relations brings to the organization is the improvement of its decision making processes which also consequently accelerate the implementation of those decisions, there seems to be insufficient analysis and methods on how to measure this value….. and, by the way, this would also help to further integrate our discipline into management circles as well as business school education… as it is evident that decision making processes are more and more complicated by an ever increasing number of publics which either today have the right, or in any case demand to participate….. while at the same time those decisions need to be quickly and operationally implemented, if they don’t want to become outdated or simply wrong, and often even counterproductive, because the scenario has in the meantime changed….
Way back in 1998, I had been asked by one of the worlds major telecoms to look into how public affairs processes were influenced by internal decision making processes in the global headquarters of five major global corporations. The most astonishing common element I found in my analysis was that the time it took for policy decisions to be taken and to reach the advocates, whose job it was to influence public policy processes….made it so that those same corporations (and not the legislators…mind you!) were the principal culprits for the poor quality of resulting legislation, because by the time the advocates achieved to influence those decisions, the situation had in the meantime changed and the new legislation was in the best of cases useless, and in the worst of cases harmful!
b- I very much agree with Jim Macnamara’s opinion that professional associations bear a substantial responsibility for not sufficiently pushing the measurement and evaluation issue in their professional development programs. In announcing this Summit I recently attached in a post an excellent paper by Anne Gregory and Jon White describing the process followed by the UK CIPR on this theme, and would strongly recommend that all concerned professionals lobby their association leaderships to at least read that paper and begin to operate in the same direction. Until more than 60% of all measurement in the world remains at the level of Advertising Value Equivalent measurement, or even involved in more sophisticated media monitoring systems (another 30%…these were the results of a global poll amongts practtioners presented at last year’s summit), we either cannot seriously say to our clients or employers that we are truly accountable for what we do, or we cannot continue to say that public relations is much more than media relations. No?
ps.I also mention here because I believe it is relevant that the UK based Amec (association of measurement and eavaluation of communication) has reknewed and relaunched itself, accepts also individual members and could well be worth a try. Go visit the website at www.amecorg.com