Institute for Public Relations Summit: Session One

The first session at the Institute for Public Relations Summit on Measurment was entitled “An Integrated Approach to Communication Measurement” and featured panelists Jim Macnamara, Ph.D., from Sydney, Australia, and Derek Tronsgard, Director, PRIME Research. Dr. David Rockland, Partner and Managing Director, Ketchum, moderated the discussion.

Dr. Macnamara led off with an analysis of marketing/advertising measurement and how advertising has gotten the huge share of spending on corporate communications. For half a century or more, the final ROI analysis for advertising that has been used to justify ad spending has relied primarily on correlation of spending with results. Ad spending goes up by x, and sales go up by y, so there is assumed (logically) to be some relationship.

But correlation does not prove causality. Many other factors enter into the purchase decision, and in the age of the prosumer, who may get messages from MySpace, her iPod, Facebook, a traditional magazine (for bathroom or lunch reading), billboards, bus signs, AIM, YouTube (and literally dozens more sources), identifying what factors “caused” or influenced a decision is going to become even more difficult in the future.

And people aren’t “audiences” any more, if they ever were. In today’s world they are producing content (commenting on blogs, blogging themselves, uploading videos to social media sites, sharing photos online) that also creates influence.

Interestingly, Dr. Macnamara talked about one company’s campaign that started with PR and got to a certain plateau of awareness/message recall, and then when the advertising phase started there was only maintenance of that plateau level, no increase. He also mentioned some AT&T modeling mix research from the 1990s that pegged advertising and PR as having equal impact on the purchase decision.

One of the problems Dr. Macnamara mentioned is the “silo” nature of Advertising, PR and New Media, all of which do their own studies “proving” that their tactic is working. He and Derek Tronsgard said they see an advantage of bringing these separate studies together, which could provide better information for the organization and also save money.

Derek had a great point at the end in response to a question about how non-Fortune 500 companies can afford measurement. He pointed to the low-cost tools available and recommended that companies start small, that these provide good information – maybe not perfect, but good info that can help you make decisions. Examples are online survey services and free blog monitoring.

This is consistent with what I will be presenting tomorrow, and with the “It’s All Free” section of this blog. Barriers to entry – whether in engaging in social media or in PR measurement – are getting lower or in some cases are nonexistent. The enemy is procrastination; it’s time to dive in and learn, and then when it’s time to spend some real money on solving a problem you’ll have a better idea of what solution you want to buy.

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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