Posts Tagged ‘PR evaluation

Recently, I undertook research with Dr Chindu Sreedharan, for the Institute of Public Relations on the skills and training needs of future senior communicators. It was a study amongst top corporate and consultancy communicators in Europe and North America to identify the skills future leaders needed, and training and education to prepare them. A video of my presentation of the report was recently made for the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

One of the key comments that framed the study came from a top European corporate communicator: “It’s no longer sufficient to have a communications background only. Senior communicators need to understand business environment and management styles to be seen as trusted advisors.”

This view that top-level communicators had to understand all the operations of a major organisation was widespread and pointed towards practice developments and education that focus on strategy development and the integration of communication objectives with organisational objectives and KPIs.  The report had three groups of conclusions for early implementation:


  • Communication strategy must be linked to or part of business strategy
  • Communicators should understand the whole business environment, not just media and communication
  • Operational experience needed; They need to speak language of the business

 Training and Education

  • Key subjects are business strategy, financial literacy, economics, public affairs and public diplomacy, and relationship management
  • Stronger focus is needed on research and business analysis skills

 Proof of Performance

  • The ability to interpret and apply the most appropriate research methods is more important than technical measurement skills
  • Evaluation frameworks need to be developed for judgement on organisational impact, not clip measurement
  • Planning skills need improvement

 The full report is available at:


Getting ready for a blast of papers and industry promotion on PR ROI: The vexed issue of Return on Investment got special focus on the final day of the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon. I was the academic member of a panel of six that chewed it over.

Although there is a general view amongst practitioners that ROI must have a place in PR, mainly because some clients want to express all organisational activities as financial returns, there is debate as to whether ROI should only be expressed in a financial manner (mainly US) or whether it is applied more loosely to include intangibles (Europe).

In the US, the Council for Public Relations Firms (CPRF) is moving rapidly to offer a definition of ROI with assistance from AMEC. The aim of these organisations is that the ROI formula is adopted world-wide so that there is common language – and clients can see that PR does offer a return on investment. It may be ready by the end of this year.

I still have doubts as to whether ROI, other than in a strictly financial format, can be re-purposed into a more general expression of value creation or contribution to organisational efficiency.  Business managers understand what ROI is, so why would they accept a mixed-concept PR ROI. What’s your view?

In a cross between crowd-sourcing and Eurovision voting, the 100+ delegates at the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon voted for five draft statements of needs that may end up in the Measurement Agenda 2020.

This will be the next stage of international policy development in PR measurement and evaluation, following on from the seven Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles agreed last year.

The statements are:

  • Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement;
  • Identify how to measure the Return on Investment of PR [a crowd source suggestion];
  • Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit;
  • Institute a client education program such as clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs;
  • Define approaches that show how corporate reputation builds/creates value.

The statements will go to conference delegates in mid-July for further comment. They were chosen from statements prepared from responses to an informal survey of delegates and other practitioners undertaken in recent weeks.  The wide range of academic research on PR measurement wasn’t taken into account.

This seems to be a less-than-robust method of data collection for policy-making when, for instance, a Delphi study amongst leading practitioners could have developed the propositions with greater certainty of future application.  Perhaps Barcelona Principle 7: “Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement “, should have been kept in mind.

Recently Prof Ansgar Zerfass of Leipzig University used the terms ‘rituals of measurement’ and ‘rituals of verification’ to describe the demands for numerical proof of communication effectiveness. He was making the point that what was being measured was what could be measured in a quantitative manner, not what needed to be judged such as outcome and value-links. Often process is measured in PR, not whether communication strategies have reached the objectives.

At AMEC’s 3rd European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon, a major discussion about social media measurement has started. In a wide-ranging discussion today, the 170 delegates made their first contributions on whether there was a need for standards in social media measurement.

Three factors were identified – Engagement, Influence and Sentiment. Richard Bagnall made the point that these were often judged with widely varying criteria. The discussion that followed for an hour or more revolved about defining these terms and the types of data that could be applied to them. No decisions have been made but I wonder whether the discussion “can’t see the wood for the trees.”

Surely the main judgement is whether the communication activity, which uses social media amongst its strategies, is effective in reaching its objectives. The AMEC discussion was focused on mining data on the social media-led conversation from user traffic and the level of participation. For example, is there a difference in ‘engagement’ between clicking on an online link and looking at it(read), opening the link and commenting about it (respond) and sending it on to others (share)? Is this ‘engagement’ or ‘grazing’ information? Is it an active or passive process? And can this data on ‘engagement’ indicate future action, advocacy or behavioural change?

Rather than define these terms by a discussion amongst technical users of data, it would make long-term sense to invert the process and approach it from the user point of view. The definition of engagement could then be both more valid in terms of communication psychology and indicate outcomes rather than intermediary processes. Without this perspective, the definitions could become additional ‘rituals of measurement’.

In addition to the discussion, some interesting ‘nuggets’ of social media usage came forward:

– 30-40% of social media users offer up substantial information on their demographics and geographical position which can be used for monitoring and targeted messages;

– Social media, especially Twitter, is farmed by companies for data on customer attitudes towards them and their products rather than analysed for effective communication;

– Many large corporate in the US use Twitter as a listening tool, rather than take an active part in it;

– In addition to AMEC, there are at least seven other communication organisations looking to define methods of social media analysis, with the PR sector trailing behind promotional communications.

In this update, thanks go to Cheryl Ann Lambert of Boston University (films), Scott Davidson of De Monfort University (documentaries) and Tom Hove of Michigan State University (novel). Other recent updates include a novel on PR (called Public Relations – a novel of the utilities field) – from 1936 by Louis Lefko – one of the first ever written? –  and a major expansion of the book list, with thanks to Conor McGrath and Phillip Young. It also includes five novels on PR mentioned by Edward L. Bernays in his seminal Public Relations (1952).

The backstory: In 2007, I asked PR educator colleagues in the UK for help in developing a list of films, television and radio programmes/series and books that either featured public relations as a core issue or referred to it in a passing way. They responded enthusiastically with suggestions that went back into the 1950s and forward to the present including films on current release and a soap opera set in a real PR consultancy in Manchester, UK. It was added to in 2008 and in January and February 2011 with other references. Now it’s even bigger and we have gone back to the 1930s.

Here are the lists we have developed – Can you add to them so that we have a world-wide resource on the visual and fictional presentation of PR?


Wag the Dog

Thank You for Smoking

America’s Sweethearts

The Sweet Smell of Success

The Devil wears Prada

The Control Room 

Hancock (Alcoholic superhero cuckolds his PR man)

The China Syndrome

Sliding Doors – key character works in PR

Bridget Jones’s Diary’s_Diary

Days of Wine and Roses

Four’s a Crowd

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit

Phone Booth

Primary Colors

Sex and the City (movie)

Waikiki Wedding

Jersey Girl

The Island

In the Loop…

St Trinians with Mischa Barton as PR guru JJ French (second clip below)

Movie trailer  

Mischa Barton 

In her recent research paper on ‘public relations characters’, Cheryl Ann Lambert (Boston University) analysed the characterisation of PR people in 22 movies since the mid-1990s. We had already listed some of the movies – and here are 13 new movies to consider. Cheryl Ann’s paper will be published in the Proceedings of the International Public Relations Research Conference later in the year.

For your consideration (2006)

Gordy (1995)

Independence Day (1996)

Mars Attacks (1996)!

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous (2005)

Paperback Hero (1999)

People I Know (2002)

Showtime (2002)

State of Play (2009)

The American President (1995)

 The Big Tease (1999)

 The Kid (2000)

 Valentine’s Day (2010)



The March of Time – Post-War Problems And Solutions 5 – Modern Main Street, U.S.A. (1953)

Archival newsreel segments include Public Relations — This Means You (1947) about the engineering of the public’s consent by business; available as VHS tape (1998).

The March of Time – Public Relations – This Means You – (Volume 14, Episode 4) – Nov. 28, 1947

SYNOPSIS: Early Public Relations in US, many PR greats, John D. Rockefeller Sr, Lights Golden Jubilee, Freedom Train. Runs: 16:03. Available from HBO Online.

Roger and Me

Century of the Self

The War Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room   

The Corporation  

The War You Don’t See (John Pilfer)

Steel City


Scott Davidson recommends these documentaries on US political campaigning

 Our Brand is Crisis (2005) Documentary on US political marketing and its consequences

Street Fight (2005): Mayoral elections doc in New Jersey

K Street (2003) HBO series on Washington lobbyists which mixed actors with real life characters such as James Carville



Absolutely Fabulous

Absolute Power

The Thick of It

Some Mothers do Have’Em’Ave_’Em – Series two, episode three – the public relations course.

Party Animals

The West Wing

Spitting Image

Spinning Jenny – A new twist to PR film / TV with an interactive internet-based soap opera set in Manchester’s Brazen PR and made by online entertainment service

PoweR Girls

Sex and the City

Spin City

The Spin Crowd

PR (CBC, Canada)

Kell on Earth – Kelle Cutrone’s series about her fashion PR agency, people’s republic

The Silent Speaker – two-part Nero Wolfe Mystery (2002)



* Recent updates includes novels identified by Conor McGrath, Phillip Young and Tom Hove.

M.C. Beaton (2004) Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death, Robinson Publishing  ISBN 1845290801. (First published 1992)

There is a series of (so far) 21 Agatha Raisin books by MC Beaton (Marion Chesney). Agatha is a public relations consultant-turned-detective who occasionally resumes her former career.,  

Martyn Bedford (1997) Exit, Orange and Red, London: Black Swan, ISBN 0593039866

Christopher Brookmyre (2000) Boiling a Frog, London: Abacus, ISBN-10: 0349114137; (2004). Be My Enemy, London: Abacus, ISBN 0349116814

Christopher Buckley (1994) Thank you for Smoking, Harper Perennial, ISBN 0679431748; Paperback Random House, ISBN 0812976525; (2005) Florence of Arabia, Random House Trade, ISBN 0812972260; (2008) Boomsday, Twelve (Allison & Busby), 978-0446697972

Alistair Campbell (2007) The Blair Years, Random House; Paperback August 2008, ISBN 0099514753

John Christopher (2009) The Death of Grass London: Penguin Modern Classics, ISBN 0141190175

Denise Deegan (2003) Turning Turtle, Avalon, ISBN 0717135691

Eric Dezenhall (2003) Money Wanders, St Martin’s Press, ISBN 0312311346; (2004) Jackie Disaster: A Mystery, St Martin’s Press. ISBN 0312307713; (2005) Turnpike Flameout, St Martins Minotaur, ISBN 0312340613; (2005) Shakedown Beach, Minotaur, ISBN 031230773X;

John Dos Passos (1930) The 42nd Parallel. Perhaps the first great novel (first part of the highly acclaimed USA Trilogy) to include a major character from public relations, J. Ward Morehouse. Mariner Books, ISBN: 9780618056811(Recommended by Tom Hove)

David Gates (2000) Preston Falls, Orion, ISBN 057506823X

Lauren Henderson (2002) My Lurid Past, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 0751532614

Carl Hiaasen (1993) Native Tongue, Pan Books, ISBN 0330321935

Wendy Holden (2002) Fame Fatale, London: Headline Review, ISBN 0747266158

Jim Kelly (2003) The Water Clock, London: Penguin, ISBN 0141009330

Richard T. Kelly (2008) Crusaders, London: Faber & Faber, ISBN 0571228062

Sophie Kinsella (2009) Confessions of a Shopaholic, London: Black Swan, ISBN 0552774812

Anonymous [Joe Klein] (1996) Primary Colors, Grand Central Publishing, ISBN 0446604275

Graham Lancaster (1997) Grave Song, Coronet ISBN 0340667117

Louis Lefko (1936) Public relations: a novel of the utilities field, Philadelphia: Dorrance & Company, ASIN B000879T9I

Christopher Matthew (1986) Family Matters, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0340394374; (1988) The Simon Crisp Diaries, Coronet, ISBN 034043077X; (2001) Knocking On, John Murray Publishers, ISBN 0719562244

Val McDermid (2009) A Darker Domain, Harper, ISBN 0007243316

Gregory McDonald (1988) Fletch and the Man Who, Warner, ISBN 0446303038

Kevin MacNeil (2005) The Stornaway Way, London: Hamish Hamilton, ISBN 0241143209

David Michie (2001) Conflict of Interest, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 0751529567; (2001) Pure Deception, Little, Brown, ISBN 0316855375; (2002) Expiry Date, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 0316859451

Mark Mills (2009) The Information Officer, London: Harper Collins, ISBN 0007276885

Andrew O’Connor (2006) Exclusive, Poolbeg Press, ISBN 1842232398

Daniel Price (2004) Slick, Villard, ISBN 1400062349

J.B. Priestley (1969) Out of Town, London: Penguin, ISBN 0140030131

J.B. Priestley (1996 reprint) The Image Men, Mandarin, ISBN 0749322969

K. Sampson (2000) Powder, London: Vintage

Murray Sayle (2008) A Crooked Sixpence, Brighton: Revel Barker, ISBN 0955823846

Michael Shea (1996) Spin Doctor, London: Harper Collins, ISBN 000649322X

Martin Sixsmith (2005) Spin, London: Pan, ISBN 0330426761

Raymond Strother (1991) Cottonwood, Penguin, ISBN 0525249524

Mimi Thebo (2002) The saint who loved me, Allison & Busby, ISBN: 0749005041

Sloan Wilson (1955; 2002 reprint) The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Four Walls Eight Windows/ Capo Publishing, ISBN 1568582463

Robert van Riper (1958) A Really Sincere Guy, David McKay, ASIN: B0007E5TB4

Penny Vincenzi (2007) Almost a Crime, Headline Review, ISBN 0755332652

Bruce Wagner (1998) I’m Losing You, New American Library, ISBN 0452278686

Keith Waterhouse (1977) Billy Liar on the Moon, London: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140042830

Daisy Waugh (2002) The New You Survival Guide, London: Harper Collins, ISBN: 0007119062

Des Wilson (1992) Campaign, Time Warner Paperbacks, ISBN 074740769X

* PR novels mentioned by Edward L. Bernays (1952) Public Relations, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, p.149

Rion Bercovici (1937) For Immediate Release, New York: Sheridan House, ASIN: B002J4GJP0

Charles Harrison (1948) Nobody’s Fool, New York: Henry Holt and Company, ASIN: B001CJVDTA

Jeremy Kirk (1951) The Build-up Boys,  Rupert Hart-Davis, ASIN: B000FMPQRA

Sinclair Lewis (Reprint 2005) It Can’t Happen Here, New American Library. ISBN-10: 045121658X (Originally published by Doubleday, Doran, 1935)

Rex Stout (Reprint 2009) The Silent Speaker (Nero Wolfe Mystery), Bantam USA, ISBN-10: 0553234978 (Originally published by Viking, 1946),



Absolute Power



Johnston, J. (2010) A history of Public Relations on screen: Cinema and television depictions since the 1930s. Proceedings of the First International History of Public Relations Conference, Bournemouth University, July 8-9, 2010. pp. 188-209. Available at:

Miller, K. (1999) Public Relations in Film and Fiction. Journal of Public Relations Research, Vol 11, No.1, pp. 3 – 28

This is a last call for your views on the use of the term, Return on Investment (ROI), in PR. I’m researching into practitioner use and understanding of ROI and will report on my findings to PR Moment’s ROI Conference in London on March 3 and at the International PR Research Conference in Miami a week later. It will also be reported on this blog.

I’ve prepared a short survey (just click through to it) which takes 10 minutes to complete. Already, early data responses are showing up some strong differences between areas of practices and on specific propositions.

As ROI is often a judgement on communication effectiveness, I hope you will take part in this very relevant study. Comments and feedback are welcome, too.

AMEC chief Barry Leggetter has been interviewed on CIPR TV about the end of AVEs and what comes next. Go to but skip the first five minutes.

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Tom Watson

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