An Armchair Conversation to reclaim Public Relations

Written by: Georgia Stephens,


Set in cosy 332 Manhattan café, Canberra, the first PRIA ACT Armchair Conversation took place between two Fellows, Tom Parkes and James Mahoney.

With a glass of red and canapés, Tom interviewed Jim about public relations, in particular the importance of strategic communication. Full of anecdotes and evidence, Jim shared his research findings, experience and advice with a captive audience who left revived about their purpose in professional communication.

Jim recalled a stage in his career when it was a struggle to convince senior practitioners to take a strategic approach to communication – a must for an organisation to succeed.

“The problem for PR practitioners is we tend to have all this accountability but no authority. We need to think strategically and avoid getting drawn into just digital media.”

“For PR to prove their worth to an organisation we need to demonstrate our understanding of how the business operates, pre-empt issues and create a communication strategy that supports an organisation’s short term, midterm and long term horizons.”

Jim believes our current politicians are an example of defaulting to tactics rather than strategy, “Everything they do is for media exposure, their channel, and their short focus – reactive.”

Strategy on the other hand requires analysis about who you want to read the story, and creating the right situation to do it – an environmental scan – one of Jim’s must do’s as a PR practitioner. “You need to be aware of what’s happening all around you. Read the news every morning – watch ABC news of an evening – watch the 7:30pm report tonight. View!”

With his hard hat on, Jim was honest about many topics, including the public sector’s need to begin evaluating properly, starting with smart objectives. “Too many people produce outputs rather than focus on outcomes which requires measurement.”

In summary, Jim’s top advice is:

  1. Don’t accept the status quo – challenge it;
  2. Always think strategically; and
  3. Don’t default to tactics.

Researching, Measuring and Evaluating PR Success

Written by Sarah Alvarez for the PRIA.

From Optional Extra to Valued Must-Have: Researching, Measuring and Evaluating PR Success

With lines blurring between public relations, marketing, advertising and communications it is increasingly important for PR practitioners to be able to tangibly demonstrate the outcomes of their efforts and the value of public relations to clients. In response to this the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) Registered Consultancy Group (RCG) Research, Measurement and Evaluation (RM&E) Committee released its Principles on Best Practice in RM&E and Media and Social Media analysis guidelines. At the end of last month PRIA held a special panel event in Sydney to discuss the guidelines on how to best implement research, measurement and evaluation in public relations. The panel consisted of:

PRIA’s RCG RM&E committee members;

Carol Moore, Director of Moore Public Relations and
Michael Ziviani, Founder & CEO of Precise Value, Co-Chair AMEC Asia-Pacific Chapter

With special guests;

Rhys Kelly, Head of Communications at The Smith Family
John Vineburg, PRIA NSW Council President and Senior Project Officer (communications) with NSW Health and
Professor Jim Macnamara Associate Dean (Engagement and International), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of UTS.

The panel discussed the guidelines, which were the outcome of extensive thought, discussion, experience and effort. They also gave some practical examples of how to apply the best practice RM&E principles. Here are some snippets of what was covered;

  • PR professionals need to stop demonstrating their value based on comparisons to Advertising. Advertising equivalent values for earned media are not valid measurements of success, using them does a disservice to the work that PR professionals do, there is no proof that PR content is more credible than advertising.
  • How you, as a PR professional, measure success may not be how your client measures success.  It can take time to really work that out, but it is paramount that you do, and will benefit you in the long run.
  • Research provides the foundation for success. Research doesn’t have to be costly, but it should be part of your budget, it will enable you to set objectives that are SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).
  • PR campaigns need to be measurable wherever possible. If PR professionals don’t communicate and report their successes in measurable ways, clearly demonstrating how their efforts have produced desired outcomes they leave themselves vulnerable to having others claim credit for their work – and also their budget.
  • It is not big data that makes the difference it is big insights. The data you get through research measurement and evaluation from your campaign should teach you something.

“Research measurement and evaluation needs method and structure to deliver good insights…good insights create valid understanding… understanding has high value to senior management. Using research, measurement and evaluation properly provides feedback to review and refine what you do and then do it better” – Michael Ziviani

If you want to learn more about the guidelines or how to apply best practice research measurement and evaluation in your PR and comms practice, or learn how you can implement the guidelines you can read more on the PRIA site, or attend PRIA’s full-day RM&E workshop in Sydney on 19 August where you and your staff can explore the detail of best practice RM&E and how to adopt the principles to benefit your business and your clients.


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