The evolution of public relations measurement and evaluation

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Watson, Tom (2012)

The measurement and evaluation of public relations effectiveness has long been a major professional and research issue. In the first half of the 20th century, there were two research methods applied, opinion polls and basic media analysis. These were used to plan campaigns and monitor progress of media relations activities. In the second half of the century, as the practices of public relations expanded, greater emphasis was given to media analysis but the evidence of many practitioner studies was that measurement and evaluation was more discussed than undertaken. In the final 25 years of the century, the academic voice began to become more prominent in the discussion and development of methodologies and in nationally-based education programmes aimed at practitioners. The Internet and social media also began to change practices. There were mixed results from this clamour: more practitioners began to evaluate public relations activity (but many still applied discredited measures) whilst new techniques began to be introduced. Document analysis has prepared a timeline of the development of public relations measurement and evaluation. This paper explores the academic and professional themes that have characterised the development of this important public relations practice over the past 110 years.
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