This piece first appeared in Open Africa, a custom digital publication by Ornico that features interviews, insights and business lessons from some of Africa’s leading CEOs, innovators and decision makers.
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The last 18 months have seen Africa frequently featuring on the global public relations and communications stage. Not only did Johannesburg play host to the annual IPRA conference (International Public Relations Association), but Nairobi also played host to the first World Conference on Public Relations in Emerging Economies (WCPREE) in November 2015.
Hosted by the Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK) and its international partner, the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the event featured some of the world’s top minds on public relations and communications. With more than 400 delegates from around 25 countries in attendance, it was a major event on the global communication stage. Global Alliance is one world’s biggest PR and communication management associations and institutions, representing 160,000 practitioners and academics around the world.
Dr Gregor Halff, the then-chairperson of the Global Alliance, noted the following in reflection to the Nairobi conference: “Having heard all speakers and discussed with most delegates, I detected two competing narratives for our industry: On one hand, we need more joint standards across markets, especially for education, for good practices and for measurement; on the other hand, we need to celebrate differences between markets and learn from them.”
Africa’s PR community goes global
The African Public Relations Association (APRA) annual conference in Nigeria also featured global leaders such as Bart de Vries (IPRA president) and Maxim Behar (ICCO president). For the first time, communication measurement featured heavily on the agenda and a large demand for more knowledge and standards was expressed.
In 2005, Dr Jennifer Scott from Ogilvy PR lamented that “PR people have a collective failure to be curious about why what they do works.” A lot has happened since then, with the first declaration of the Barcelona Principles of PR Measurement in 2010 and the updated version in 2015.
The International Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) announced a major leap forward with the launch of its Integrated Evaluation Framework at its annual international summit, held in June 2016 in London. This framework, developed by the top minds in global communication measurement, provides the PR industry with a fully interactive step-by-step tool which will greatly demystify best-measurement practices as advocated by the updated Barcelona Principles 2.0. It is a great planning tool and matches communication activities to objectives and eventual outcomes.
The summit was attended by 400 delegates from more than 40 countries, but less than 1% of delegates were from Africa. However, the presence of APRA president, Yomi Badejo Okusanya, could be a catalyst for the acceleration of measurement on the continent. Ornico, the pan African brand intelligence research firm, further made history by winning two gold awards at the AMEC Awards 2016 — a first for the continent [note: Van Dyk heads up operations at Ornico]. So, despite its small presence, African measurement has certainly shown that it can compete with the best in the world.
Insights over AVE and monitoring
An AMEC 2016 survey further indicates that 72% of global respondents agreed that clients are increasingly placing emphasis on insights over monitoring. The old practice of ‘press clippings’ and related Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs), or even PR Values, are disappearing. The question of calculating actual ROI is becoming more critical for clients.
Most respondents (81%) believe AMEC should make it clear that the industry has moved on from the debate about AVEs. Respondents further indicate that client demand for AVE scores is declining. While in 2015 27% said all or most of their clients demanded AVEs, this has now dropped to only 14% of respondents for 2016. Best-practice educational drives such as Measurement Month certainly appear to be paying off.
Africa faces a unique opportunity in that the greatest effort in promoting best practices is to unlearn previous poor practices. Many of these measurement practices, such as a reliance purely upon AVEs, has not featured in much of Africa — measurement being mostly non-existent in the continent.
The need for better use of communication resources is clear.
Independent PR Measurement
“PR measurement is a welcome and necessary development in PR practice in Africa. PR agencies can [not] and should not mark their own work. There is therefore an overarching need for independent PR measurement agencies applying the right tools and methods to complement the services offered by PR agencies in the continent”, says Topcom’s Temi-Tope Ogbeni-Awe.
Stanley Ogadigo from the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) concurs: “Audience research that ascertains the level of positive attitudinal change in relation to executed PR campaigns or activity is now key to PR measurement in Africa. Today, any PR measurement devoid of impact and real values cannot match the current trend and reality in the business of public relations.”
(The Pan African Media Research Organisation (PAMRO) is one of the bodies that is developing and promoting harmonised media research across Africa. Multinationals struggle to compare their performance across different African markets, which makes it more difficult for them to make good investment decisions.
Management consultant and educator, Peter Drucker, famously said that business has but two functions — innovation and marketing. Communication plays an absolute crucial role in making organisations meet their business goals and objectives. New measurement best practice ensures that communication is aligned with business objectives, and clearly shows how this function helps to achieve these objectives. However, even on a global level there is a major need to recognise that different companies are at different stages of their measurement journey. And here lies the opportunity for Africa. We should learn from the difficult lessons many in the world have learnt before. It is possible for communications professionals on the continent to leapfrog the rest of the world. However, it will take some strong commitment and leadership.
PR professionals may soon become irrelevant
Communication professionals ignore best measurement practices at their peril, and may soon find themselves irrelevant. Africa now remains the only continent which offers massive growth opportunities for multinationals as other regions become saturated. These multinationals, being exposed to international best practices, will demand this from their local agencies and partners.
It is critical that African PR and communications arm themselves with knowledge, or they will face stiff competition from their international colleagues — and eventual consolidation into international businesses.
About Francois van Dyk
Francois van Dyk heads up operations at Ornico, the Pan-African brand intelligence research company. He studied and taught public relations before entering the world of media research. He currently serves on AMEC’s Education Committee and the IAB South Africa’s Measurement Council.