Update from the Task Force on Evaluation and Measurement Model Standardization

New measurement standards are in your future. Here is a progress report on the search for a standard measurement model. This article is part of our special Future of Measurement issue.

The purpose of the Task Force on Standardization of Communication Planning and Evaluation Models is to research and possibly find consensus on a single model—a standard—for the planning/goal setting and the evaluation and measurement of communication effects. As yet, that hasn’t happened.

Certainly, the models produced over the past 40 years have evolved, but not necessarily towards a single type of model. Perhaps, there isn’t one model but a series of models, one for each unit of analysis. The AMEC Integrated Evaluation Framework seems like a good model for the project or campaign unit of analysis, but what about the other “levels” of analyses? It’s a good question and as yet unanswered.

The Task Force can report progress, however, and has been able to tick off a number of boxes from an on-going to-do list:

1. It has created the largest repository of academic and professional literature on PR/communication evaluation and measurement’s evolution and current status across academia and practice. For anyone interested, Jim Macnamara’s ‘best of’ reading list is a good source for such readings.

Sophia Volk’s paper on the history and evolution of E&M is another tremendous source (Volk, S.C. (2016). A systematic review of 40 years of public relations evaluation and measurement research: Looking into the past, the present, and future. Public Relations Review 42(5), pp. 962–977).

2. The Task Force has also looked at the various “models” that have been developed over the years. Jim Macnamara and Fraser Likely’s article “Revisiting the disciplinary home of evaluation: New perspectives to inform PR evaluation standards” gives a good overview. Alex Buhmann and Fraser Likely’s chapter “Evaluation and Measurement in Strategic Communication” in the forthcoming The International Encyclopedia of Strategic Communication explores these models further, particularly in reference to evaluation and measurement units of analysis first proposed by Jim Grunig.

3. Other Task Force members Rebecca Swenson, Nathan Gilkerson, Forrest Anderson, Michael Ziviani, and Fraser Likely are in the middle of a research project that explores how Chief Communication Officers attempt to overcome common barriers to implementing and maintaining a proper evaluation and measurement system. The evaluation and measurement literature suggests that the barriers to having a sophisticated program include:

  • lack of time to do measurement,
  • lack of budget,
  • lack of executive demand and support,
  • lack of in-house knowledge and skill sets, and
  • lack of industry standards.

This project examines these barriers in relation to various units of evaluation and measurement analysis (message/product/channel; project or campaign; stakeholder programs; organization financial or tangible impact); society (intangible impact).

While preliminary findings have been presented at the recent International Public Relations Research Conference, it’s hoped that a paper will be forthcoming this fall and that the learnings from the research project will be presented at conferences next spring.

4. Sophia Volk and Alex Buhmann are behind an idea on a conference presentation on innovative approaches and new research ideas in evaluation and measurement.

5. Concurrently, David Geddes, Alex Buhmann and Fraser Likely are preparing a white paper on the development of standards: what’s been researched, written and actually demonstrated to date; the roles of consultants and research providers vs. in-house CCOs; the difference between evaluation and measurement definitions and their use in practice; and finally what’s in the way still to adopting a standard if that’s possible.

As the Task Force eats away at the question of model standardization with various projects, some questions are answered but others are created. For more information on the Task Force, contact Fraser Likely.

About Author

Fraser Likely

Fraser Likely is Principal at Likely Communications Strategies. He directs the Task Force on Standardization of Communication Planning and Evaluation Models. He is an Emeritus Member of the Institute for Public Relations Measurement Commission (IPRMC), and a Fellow of the International Association for Evaluation and Measurement of Communication (AMEC).