Today the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) releases the 2021/2022 ICCO World PR Report.
Last year’s 2020/2021 ICCO World PR Report was, in places, a tough read – bringing home the fears and impact of Covid on Public Relations and Communications. But it also highlighted the hopes and confidence of international PR leaders that the industry would bounce back. And, in the 2021/2022 report, the evidence shows that they weren’t wrong.
As ever, the PR Measurement and Evaluation section provided thought-provoking insights. The foreword has again been written by CARMA Co-Managing Partner and AMEC Chair, Richard Bagnall. Here is what Richard has to say on the world PR report as a whole and then specifically on what the data tells us about the state of communication measurement and evaluation:
“ICCO’s World PR Report this year makes for some fascinating reading. After the shock of the calamitous world events in 2020, it is great to see the PR and comms industry recovering so strongly from the pandemic. Optimism abounds across the world for the future growth of the market. More agencies than not believe that profitability will increase. Opportunity exists in multiple areas with clients looking for support with corporate purpose initiatives, managing reputations and digital services.
There is confidence about future investment decisions and priorities.
The long list of areas where investment will be made features both ‘measurement, evaluation and analytics’ – where one in four ICCO members are expecting to invest, and ‘research, planning and insights’ where 18% are expecting to invest in 2022. This investment reflects some of the perceived challenges expected for the future. Approximately one third of all respondents see these same two investment priorities as top three issues for forthcoming skills challenges. They are topped only by ‘strategic consulting’ – which surely can only occur at an agency that has a good grip on research, planning and insights as well as its measurement, evaluation and insights.
We need however to see a lot more focus on getting these investment priorities right as there are other areas of this report that concern me, especially in relation to the great scourge of the measurement industry, the dreaded AVE.
A shocking 52% of ICCO’s survey respondents state that they use AVE as a metric, despite all the education work that has been done in the industry by the likes of AMEC, the PRCA and ICCO to eradicate its use. Since 2010’s Barcelona Principles, AVE has been globally acknowledged as an ‘invalid metric’ that is not worth the paper it is written on. For a sector that knows how important ethical behaviour is, its continued widespread use in PR agency is simply not good enough. To blame its use on ‘client demand’ – which 38% of the respondents have done in this report – is not acceptable. Where is the courage to take an ethical stand and a strategic consulting position and advise the clients that are asking for it that it is a waste of time and money? Those looking for help on how to do this can find 22 reasons that they should not be used over on AMEC’s site here www.bit.ly/saynotoaves. It’s not just AVEs though. The top three metrics cited as being provided to clients are ‘media clippings’, ‘engagement metrics’ and ‘AVE’s. These are all activity driven metrics and are all ranked in the survey results well ahead of the metrics that actually measure the benefits that our work brings to our clients (metrics like awareness, web traffic and business results).
As we move out of the pandemic into the anticipated better days ahead, it is time for the PR agency sector to wake up.
There is no more time for excuses, blaming others or inaction. Economic uncertainty around the globe driven by unprecedented debt levels, socioeconomic and political challenges means that budgets will be tight and client organisations will be expecting a meaningful return for their investment. They are looking for organisational-relevant results that support their objectives, not to be serviced by ‘busy fools’ confusing meaningful evaluation with activity driven ‘counts and amounts’. Your client does not benefit from activity that cannot show any link to relevant results. If the counts and amounts of vanity metrics and AVEs are what you rely on for your measurement, you run the risk of your agency being seen as a cost centre and not a value creator.
If that is you, it is time to lean in, learn and embrace the approaches to provide meaningful measurement and evaluation. Join the 73% of ICCO members who already use AMEC’s tools and resources. Head on over to the AMEC website where we provide multiple free resources to help you with your measurement journey, adopt best practice and solve these challenges. But hurry! There is now no time to lose.”
Richard Bagnall is the global co-managing partner for CARMA International, a leading global provider of media intelligence and communications evaluation services, and the chairman of the industry’s global trade association, AMEC. Richard has advised international clients on the best ways to measure the effectiveness of their PR and prove its value to the organisation for more than 25 years. During this time, he has built and led some of the world’s foremost communications measurement consultancies, including Metrica, Gorkana and PRIME Research. Prior to his career in measurement and insights, Richard was a PR himself, having worked both in-house and in agencies.
Richard has contributed to several published business books on measuring communications and is an active long-term member of the UK Government’s Cabinet Office Evaluation Council. He co-authored the UK Government’s Capability Review of Digital Communications. Richard is a Fellow of the PRCA, an Honorary Lifetime Fellow of AMEC and has been inducted into PR News’ Measurement Hall of Fame.
CARMA is the world’s most experienced media intelligence service provider. Established in 1984, the company has grown today to work with over 3,500 brands and organisations across the world. CARMA helps its clients use media intelligence to navigate and understand the disrupted media landscape, operate strategically, and demonstrate success with industry-leading Media Monitoring and communications evaluation programs. CARMA blends expert technologies, powering real-time data insights, with a global team of experienced PR measurement consultants. Led by Co-Managing Partners – former FIBEP Chair Mazen Nahawi and current AMEC Chair Richard Bagnall – and with 450+ staff across five continents, CARMA’s unparalleled experience, expertise and client service makes it the first-choice media intelligence provider for any organisation looking to understand the media and refine and prove the value of their public relations.