The prize for most depressing research findings at the recent International Public Relations Research Conference 2015 goes to Maureen Schriner, of the University of Wisconsin Eau Clare, Rebecca Swenson of the University of Minnesota, and Nathan Wilkerson of Marquette University. For their paper, Outputs or Outcomes? An assessment of evaluation measurement from award winning public relations campaigns, they conducted a quantitative and qualitative analysis of PRSA Silver Anvil winners from 2010 to 2014. Results showed that The Barcelona Principles and industry standards have been virtually ignored by most award winners, despite PRSA’s efforts to make them tie results to objectives. Only a handful presented evidence of actual outcomes. Most focused on outputs and generalized the results. Since most professions understand that you award the best and what you award should be what you want to become, this was depressing news indeed.
Award programs like the Silver Anvil, the Gold Quill, Sabre etc. charge upwards of $350 per entry. It’s a lucrative business to be in. We can understand why they are willing to accept substandard entries—because it makes them money. They get a bunch of agencies to fork over thousands of dollars and trust that the judges, frequently people like myself and other members of the IPR Measurement Commission, will sort them out. What’s missing is a feedback mechanism that tells people that they lost because they are clueless about the correct ways to measure their results. Sadly, the result is that organizations and their agencies continue to believe that impressions and activity are acceptable measures of success. ∞
Thanks to the Rand Eastwood blog for the image.