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Review of day one of AMEC and the IPR’s European Summit on PR Evaluation

The opening day of AMEC’s first European Summit on PR Evaluation got off to a storming start today with some hotly debated issues around the licensing of press and online content. As more and more of us go to the web to source our news and the ever decreasing circles of shrinking readerships and declining advertising budgets lead to newspaper revenues falling, it seems that the newspapers and associated copyright bodies are keener than ever to target users of online news sources to top up their coffers.

The financial burden of this through the levying of fees for using content will of course put PCA’s (media monitoring companies), evaluation consultancies and ultimately our clients directly in the firing line.  As the debate warmed up gasps were drawn as tables were banged and polarised opinions came to the fore. Who’d have thought it…?

Maren HeltscheMartin Wettergren and particularly Katie Paine started the afternoon session with some great insights into the measurement of social media. Normalise it guys; don’t be afraid and be aware that it should always be analysed in the context of the wider media environment seemed to be consistent threads. Happily, this advice sits comfortably in line with the Metrica approach.

The debate about attributing influence (as well as the level of influence and how to quantify it) came up and is clearly going to be a hot topic for years to come. What I found interesting was how almost exclusively the case studies always seem to result in “… and then when it got into the traditional media, the issue really took off!”. If social media itself is not enough to change hearts and minds then does that make the analysis of it simply an early warning system to what might happen in the “real” media…?  Probably not, but it does mean that although CGM is part of the communications mix, it does need alternative metrics in place to understand its effect. I’m sure the debate will be fascinating as we discuss what those metrics should be.

Later in the day Neil Wholey from Westminster City Council reminded us all that the measurement of communications is not all about media evaluation (let’s not forget that AMEC itself changed it’s name from the Association of Media Evaluation Companies to the Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication) . Increasingly it has to involve market research and the correlation of communications activities with business outcomes. Whether you are a public body or a commercial organisation proving that your communication strategy has had a positive effect on sales, clicks, behaviours or visitors seems to me to be the future of evaluation. As luck would have it the closing debate on Friday is asking just that question… what will our industry look like in years to come?

Let’s hope the answers not AVE..!

Do look out for tweets from the conference – the hash tag is #BMS09 and myself and my colleague Richard Bagnall will be tweeting regularly – find us here: Richard Bagnall and Jason Weekes.

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