Today sees the launch of the 2020/2021 ICCO World PR Report. Titled ‘Agency views of the path ahead’, it draws insight from global research of the challenges and opportunities facing the PR and communications sector in the coming 12 months. ICCO is the authority on global trends in PR with its membership network of 41 PR associations, representing PR and communications agencies in 70 countries.
This year’s report, as always, features an important section on attitudes to PR measurement and communications evaluation. ICCO partners with AMEC on this part of the report and asked Richard Bagnall, AMEC’s chair and CARMA’s co-managing partner, to write the foreword to the measurement and evaluation section. We have reproduced this below.
“What a tough year 2020 has proved to be for so many communications and PR professionals all over the world. The impact of COVID has been severe on our industry with over 60% of ICCO members citing cancelled or delayed work and nearly half pointing to a loss in company earnings. As we write ahead of going to press in October 2020, the global situation is feared likely to get worse before it begins to get better, with many expecting significant budget cuts and job losses still to come. 2021 is looking like it will be another very tough year.
“This new business reality means that PR and communications professionals must operate in the age of accountability. We will have to defend and fight for budget every step of the way. To do this, we must prove our value to client organizations in meaningful and credible ways. We cannot afford to be seen as a cost center, just running tasks and activities that have little or no tangible benefit to the client organization. We cannot continue to sit in a comfort bubble counting activity driven vanity metrics that show no link to organizational goals and desired outcomes. We cannot confuse meaningful measurement with counting ‘stuff’. We must defend budgets with proof of value, not just evidence of activity. Measurement and evaluation must evolve quickly to reflect this.
“Happily, ICCO’s members recognize this. Looking to the future, in all regions across the world, ‘data, measurement and evaluation’ and ‘Research, Insight and Planning’ skills are listed as in the top three skill sets most relevant and in demand to the industry.
“The good news is that help is at hand. AMEC, the global trade association that represents best practice in the communications evaluation sector, is focused on educational initiatives to upskill the sector with the confidence and tools to do exactly this. It is reassuring to see that three quarters of the ICCO membership now report that they are using AMEC’s free resources and tools, up from 50% last year. AMEC has created the Barcelona Principles (refreshed for 2020), the Integrated Evaluation Framework, the Measurement Maturity Mapper and the Strategic Planning Guide and made them all freely available in multiple languages. Do check them out at www.amecorg.com.
“The measurement and evaluation news is not all rosy however. Too many ICCO members are still reporting that they use AVE, despite it being globally condemned as a meaningless metric (more here: www.bit.ly/saynotoaves). While the trend for its use continues to be downward, in some regions AVE is still far too prevalent, with the oft repeated excuse that it is being produced ‘because the client demands it’. In this age of accountability and as we seek to elevate our positioning to that of strategic counsellors, we must have the courage to stand up to clients requesting meaningless metrics and all must play our part in the global educational challenge.
“AMEC values our partnership with ICCO. We look forward to working with the global communications industry, helping it to navigate these challenging times with hard evidence of the value and benefits it creates.”
You can download the full ICCO World PR Report here.
Richard Bagnall is the Co-Managing Partner for CARMA International, a global provider of communications evaluation tools, technology and consulting services. He has been a board director of AMEC for over 10 years and currently serves as its chair. He has advised international clients on the best ways to measure the effectiveness of PR and prove its value to the organization for 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 PR measurement and insights, Richard worked in public relations both in house and in agencies.