Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Evaluation for PR

Yesterday I comment today on Don Bartholomew's blog about the CPRS MRP system. I expressed a range of doubts and David Jones one of the committee members (and an active blogger) came straight back at me offering me a test drive of the system to try for myself and provide some feedback. I paraphrase his very civilised and interesting comments: 'The Canadian Public Relations Society has created a tool to provide PR practitioners in Canada with a way to evaluate the media coverage they are generating. It is a simple tool that attempts to provide a measure of total readership, listenership and viewership using uniform data. They are also attempting to give PR folks the ability to evaluate how effectively the coverage is getting their messages out.

'This tool does not measure outcome. It is a simple, stripped down tool to allow practitioners to provide their clients and/or bosses with a media coverage report that also gives a snapshot of how effective they have been at reaching their publicity goals. They want to keep working as a committee beyond this tool to continue to engage discussion about measurement on a larger scale through their blog and through interaction with leading thinkers like Don, Katie Paine and others.

"Contrary to Don's post," says David, "we don't use multipliers (we use audited data from third-party suppliers) and we don't use ad equivalencies. There is still work to be done in developing a cost-effective and meaningful way to measure PR outcomes, but this media coverage measurement tool has been an important first step for us and we are keen to hear what you think."

I am both chastened and enlightened and will be taking up his offer.

I thought that this was a good moment to put my current views forward:

The whole area of media out-takes is now much more confusing than it was. I am not convinced that print or radio or TV can be evaluated in isolation. And I am very wary of output being substituted for outcome which I feel is a great danger.

There is a place for viewing print specifically but as part of a relationship using many channels.

I think we have to be clear what we mean by evaluation and offer:

It has application in the formative analysis for setting strategy, objectives and planning; it confirms best application of resource; it aids control of the strategic and tactical public relations programme; it is a continuous and integral part of the total PR programme to inform the practitioner as to whether PR activity is optimised for success and it has application in the final review of efficacy.”

The issue we face is, in a disintermediating world, can we identify the the drivers of organisations and the influences and influencers affecting them. At that point we may be able to usefully identify the channels that affect relationships and the content that makes them affective. Such thinking follows on from a paper I presented last year and which is published this month. This would suggest that in a multi cultural and multi media world we have to deal with evaluation of individual channels and the combined effect of all channels. Print, radio and TV being three individual channels. Print will always have a place. But how long it remains a primary channel is open to question.

The evolution of media is making the whole area most interesting.

As I have commented before: Muti-tasking is growing fast. The number of touchpoint for the Big Brother programme now combines a primary touch of TV, iTV, Web and SMS with secondary touch of newspapers, magazines, land and cellular telephony, email, discussion lists/Blogs and interpersonal communication.

The feature of this form of communication is that there are three types of consumer inter-reactions. These are: a primary touchpoint (TV); plus secondary (iTV, Web and SMS) and tertiary (newspapers, magazines, land and cellular telephony, email, discussion lists, Blogs, Wiki's events, posters and interpersonal communication). Any of these channels can be primary, secondary or tertiary and in any combination for different forms of communication. The most successful PR and marketing programmes will use this breadth of contact points and each offers a different experience.

To make this even more interesting, we now need to research inter-media responses (e.g. print to blog etc) to see what can be developed by way of interpretive behaviour evaluation. Some of the early findings look promising and others not. I note that marketers are suggesting that blogs provide consumer intelligence and I now know that this is far from proven. It is not as simple as the painting-by-numbers brigade would have us believe but it is beginning to show that some content provokes behaviours showing that some articles are read and absorbed and acted upon.

Picture: The News is not in the newspapers