Growth in PR consultancy expected to continue in Q3
ICCOs Q3 Trends Barometer published today throws a harsh light on the reality of evaluation in international PR consultancy. 39% of respondents rejected Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) as a legitimate approach to measurement of PR campaigns, but 13% endorsed them. The remaining 48% believe they are “sometimes” valid, depending on the nature of the campaign.
Despite the lack of endorsement of AVEs by consultants, more than half included them when asked which evaluation metrics they actually use for reporting campaign results to clients.
The same survey shows that 62% of survey respondents expect PR consultancy business to grow over the next quarter. 29% predict it will remain stable, while just 10% (all from South Africa, Ireland or Spain) say it will shrink.
The evaluation methods most used by respondents are “press clippings – number of mentions” (75%) and “key performance indicator or other method defined by the client” (64%). These are followed by “number of unique visitors (digital)” and “AVEs” (at 56% and 55% respectively) as well as “benchmarking surveys – pre and post campaign” (48%).
Less than half (43%) of respondents measure the ROI of PR campaigns in monetary terms, while nearly a third (30%) rely at times on purely subjective evaluation or “gut feel”. A further 15% create other means of evaluation, including: opinion or perception audits, number of new business leads for clients and content analysis of media coverage.
The measurement criteria applied to a given campaign are usually discussed and agreed in advance between client and consultant, according to 65% of those surveyed. Only 4% claim the norm is for no measurement criteria at all to be defined, while the rest of respondents are split almost evenly as to whether it is the PR consultancy or the client who dictates the terms for evaluation.
Respondents were asked whether they agree with the 2011/2012 priorities for developing industry-wide measurement standards as set out at AMECs June Summit, and 90% said “yes”. The remainder raised concerns about client expectations – including continued demand for AVEs – and prohibitive costs to clients for investing in measurement.
 The Q3 Trends Barometer survey was distributed to ICCO board representatives and national trade association board members the first week of July 2011. Responses were received from 20 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey and the UK.
 The priority issues for development are: a) determining how to measure the ROI of PR, b) setting global standards for social media measurement, c) making campaign measurement an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit, and d) educating clients to expect measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programmes.