Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Checklist for CSR

As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is increasingly drifting from its moral and ethical base, I have proposed a checklist for communicators to use when reviewing the validity of CSR strategies.

The historic reason for CSR activities being developed by organizations was recognition of their role in society. From the 1950s onwards, forward-looking businesses accepted that their purpose was not only to make a profit but did so in order to improve society.

“CSR” is now frequently used as a marketing ploy with little relationship to “doing good”. It’s becoming another form of ‘greenwashing’ where a patina of social engagement is wrapped around product and service marketing. Even the graphic symbols of CSR frequently show the world being saved and green shoots rising from coins, which are gross over-statements.

The 10-point checklist calls on communicators and executives to ensure that motives for CSR are clear and honorable; that policies and activities are created by consultation; that there is a commitment to CSR, not just a short-term advantage; and resources are in place, along with governance, to make sure policies stay on track.

       Motives? Is something being hidden?
       Dialogue before CSR policies are announced?
       Employees and other stakeholders involved?
       Long-term commitment or short-term advantage?
       Mutually beneficial outcomes or ‘licence to operate’?
       Resources to implement?
       Senior management “owns” the policies? Or a functional task?
       CSR governance structure?
       How will ‘value’ and ‘benefit’ be assessed?
       Is the policy ethical? Can you live with it?

CSR, Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability are valuable concepts and actions that bring business closer to society. I hope the checklist will aid formation of CSR actions that benefit everyone – management, employees and communities.

The checklist was launched at the Middle East Public Relations Association Symposium in Dubai on March 20 and will be presented in Australia at a public lecture to be held at Macquarie University on Thursday April 10.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

PR Evaluation Survey 2 - 45% say there's a "lack of information"

This is the second of two posts on small-scale research into current PR measurement and evaluation practices. See # below for the methodology.

The first posting identified that while 80% claimed to formally or informally evaluate PR activity, 43% continued to use AVE as a prominent measurement metric.

This post reports on who is doing evaluation, the percentage of PR activity evaluated, some attitudes, knowledge of the Barcelona Principles and students’ views on the whether evaluation was being undertaken ethically.

Who did the evaluation of PR activities?
Account team/PR staff – 45.6%
In-house research and outside media analysis company – 26.5%
In-house research section – 16.3%
·         It looks as if self-certification of PR activity is common

What percentage of PR activity was evaluated?
100% - 35.7%
90% - 19.0%
80% - 11.9%
·         Good news – Two-thirds of the 80% who evaluate their PR coverage (53.3%) measure and monitor 80% to 100% of their PR activity

Questions about attitudes to PR measurement and evaluation
1)    PR budget is difficult to obtain: 37.7% agree or strongly agree; 28.2% disagree or strong disagree
2)    There is a lack of information on PR evaluation: 45.3% agree or strongly agree; 34.0% disagree or strong disagree
3)    There is a lack of time for PR measurement: 55.6% agree or strong agree; 24.1% disagree or strongly disagree
4)    PR is difficult to measure: 35.8% agree or strongly agree; 35.8% disagree or strongly disagree
5)    Practitioners fear evaluation: 25.0% agree or strongly agree; 42.3% disagree or strongly disagree
6)    Without measurement, PR’s future is threatened: 64.1% agree or strong agree; 20.8% disagree or strongly disagree

·         Mixed messages – 7% more say budget is difficult to obtain; there is a gap of 11% between those who agree that there is a lack of information on PR measurement (a large 45.3%) and those who don’t; a clear majority don’t have time to evaluate ('too busy doing PR'); there is a balance between those who find PR activity difficult to measure and those who don’t, which is an improvement; Many disagree that practitioners fear evaluation, but nearly-two thirds (64.1%) agree that PR’s future is threatened without the consistent use of measurement and evaluation.

·         The most concerning attitudinal outcome is that 45.3% of organisations say there is a lack of information on PR measurement and evaluation methods. This is a negative comment on the professionalism of many practitioners who can’t be bothered to look at abundant resources in terms of online materials (often free), books and training courses. Measurement and evaluation has been a major education and training topic since the mid-1990s and appears to have been ignored by them.

Students were asked about the percentage of PR budgets that were applied to PR measurement and evaluation. Most, not surprisingly because of their junior positions, ‘Didn’t know’ (53.8%) but the next largest valid percentage was for 1-3% of total budget (17.3%), which aligns with other research in the UK and Australia.

Barcelona Principles
Students were questioned whether the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles (AMEC 2010) was referred to or mentioned at their main placement. Their answers were wholly negative with 55/55 ticking “NO”. Bearing in mind the support that AMEC, CIPR, PRCA, PRSA, IPR, Global Alliance, etc have given to the Barcelona Principles in the past three years, this is a very disappointing result but is similar to US research (Ragan and others) that found low awareness.

Was PR evaluation undertaken ethically
YES – 74.0%; NO – 26.0%
No comment!

# Methodology: PR students at Bournemouth University were surveyed recently about their experiences of evaluation practices during their 2012/13 sandwich year placement. 55 students (85%) took part, voluntarily, in the self-completion survey. As all but one (98.2%) had been on placement for nine months or more in a single organisation, they can be considered valid observers of practices taking place around them or in which they participated. The data were analysed using SPSS which provided descriptive statistics, mainly frequencies. The data used in these posts is based on ‘Valid Percent’ which omits missing answers unless they are a large part of the sample.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

PR Evaluation Survey 1 – 80% do measurement; 43% use AVE

PR students at Bournemouth University were surveyed recently about their experiences of evaluation practices during their 2012/13 sandwich year placement. 55 students (85%) took part in the self-completion survey. As all but one of them (98.2%) had been on placement for nine months or more in a single organisation, they can be considered valid observers of practices taking place around them or in which they participated.

Headline news, using valid percentages, was that they reported

  • 80% of placement organisations undertook formal or information evaluation of PR activity
  • 79.2% of activity was measured in those organisations that undertook evaluation
  • The main measurement was of media coverage, by 10 times (at least) ahead of measurement of KPIs, social media or organisational objectives (in that ranking)
  • AVE was used in 43.2% of placement organisations; On the other hand, it was not used in 56.8% of placement organisations
Calculation of AVE

Students who reported that AVE was used were asked “How was AVE calculated at your main placement organisation?”

Their verbatim replies indicate that (1) AVE continues to be widely used and (2) some AMEC members are actively offering products and services to calculate the metric.

Got it from Precise; PR Value = AVE x 3 divided by 100
Based on rates from Gorkana
By media evaluation agency as percentage of editorial value
[Media coverage multiplied) X 3
Via Metrica and Cision's algorithms
We rang companies for the figures or used Precise or Gorkana
We used Mymarket Monitor to indicate AVE which they used page space to decide value
A piece of coverage that took up 1/4 of the page, for example, was divided by 4 and x (multiplied) by 3 or 5 depending on whether it was online or print coverage.
PR value x 3
PR Value = Advertising by 3
For press coverage a value was calculated at the end of the month
Depending on the size of coverage times x 3
Through Precise Media and AVE reports for each campaign
We would send coverage to an outside agency (Kantor) they would reply with AVE
By measuring coverage, working out the costs of this space by advertising rates and times value by 3
Calculated the published article against (an) advertising rate card. Also against viewers
Not sure: PR Value x 3 (divided by) 100%. Same strategy applied for all.
From Precise media cuttings package

Despite the Barcelona Principles, which were announced with very visible support from CIPR and PRCA in 2010, AVE is as widely used as it ever was. And AMEC members, who wrote and adopted the Barcelona Principles which barred use of AVE, are leading the way in its continued usage.

More research outcomes follow soon in PR Evaluation Survey 2.

Monday, 3 March 2014

A Credo for PR

One of the grand old men of UK public relations, Tim Traverse-Healy, a founder of IPRA and an early member of the UK’s Institute of Public Relations (now CIPR), has prepared a Credo for Public Relations. I recommend that you read it and, hopefully, agree with the ethical and practice framework he proposes.


Now aged 90, I commenced public relations practice in 1947 on my return from service with the Royal Marine Commandos. I am the only Founding Father of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and International Public Relations Association still alive. At the close of my 66-year-long career I wish to record my professional beliefs in the hope that, aided by academics and educators, my assumptions and assertions may be debated from time to time by younger entrants to our craft.

I do not believe that “propaganda” for causes and issues or “publicity” for products and services are per se public relations activities, although they might form part of an overall public relations programme; similarly advertising, promotion, press agentry, and communications. I believe there exist extra dimensions to the practice of professional public relations which must be present in almost equal measure before an initiative can be so termed and which grant it societal meaning and community worth. I submit that, in accord with the universally accepted principles of Freedom of Information and Expression, these ingredients are: truth, paramount concern for the public good and genuine dialogue. And real dialogue presupposes that an institution is fully prepared to change its policies and practices in the light of such activity. Information fuelled by effective two-way communications is the currency of dialogue and controversy is the price that we may have to be paid to achieve credibility.

Communication effectiveness can be evaluated and reputation measured. Audience identification and message construction come within our remit as does the maintenance and protection of reputations based upon deeds well presented. In this interdependent world one of our prime responsibilities is to forecast the likely social impact of corporate actions. Our undertaking to our employers and clients regarding confidentiality should extend to include those individuals in the public sphere whom we may consult when considering the advice we tender. In the overall scheme of things the objective of our contribution to society at large is the achievement of a balance between the intentions of the institutions we represent and the legitimate concerns of their community and constituency. The argument we are like lawyers available to either defend or prosecute is untenable.

To assist meaningful dialogue between parties involved we must understand the theories and techniques of consultation, participation, negotiation, empowerment and conflict. We must appreciate the legal and societal dictates of transparency, accountability, and governance.

Substantially, our Founding Fathers shared this vision of the fundamental philosophy governing and values underpinning our vocation. My earnest hope is that future generations of practitioners will share elements of this Credo.

Tim Traverse-Healy OBE, 1st January 2014

Responses can be sent to Tim at: