I’d like to share with you how I spent my free time in December and over the Christmas break. While I did spend some fantastic time with friends and family, the majority of my time was spent researching and writing essays for the CIPR Diploma.

And, much as I may whinge about the amount of time spent on it and the number of invitations I had to turn down, I did read some very interesting books. More on ‘churnalism’ in my next post but for now, how do we evaluate PR?

I’ve read theories, looked at diagrams, scratched my head at ‘gut feel’ approaches and drowned in case studies. And, the only thing that is clear is that, while almost all PR practitioners say evaluation is important to justify our existence to clients, very few PR practitioners are actually carrying out evaluation which is meaningful.

A study of last year’s CIPR Excellence Award winners showed that the ‘best in the field’ are still using rudimentary techniques such as AVE (advertising value equivalent) – which tries to compare apples with pears – and the thud of press cuttings – volume output rather than close analysis of what the coverage has actually achieved.

At Kinetic, we’ve been doing media content analysis (a more detailed look at the possible impact each cutting may have) in one form or another since the company started. But, the biggest obstacle for us in terms of evaluation is lack of client desire. Our clients just don’t seem to value evaluation of impact – changes in behaviour and attitude. They would rather know about volume output and how much they would have spent on advertising instead.

How do we make a difference? Evaluation should be brought in from the start; it is part of the objective-setting process. All of our new business proposals contain measurable objectives and a way of evaluating how well they’ve been met. Just keep plugging away – keep evaluating to the best of our ability – and if every PR consultancy does the same then we’ll eventually reach a point where clients understand evaluation and PR consultancies have the knowledge to evaluate effectively.