MADRID--Ketchum CEO Rob Flaherty today pledged to lead an industry-wide effort to adopt PR measurement standards within six months, while addressing the AMEC Summit in Madrid.

Flaherty said that he would aim to persuade his counterparts at other big global PR networks - specifically mentioning Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Fleishman-Hillard and Burson-Marsteller - to adopt standards that are currently being developed by AMEC, the PR measurement organization.

He noted that unless the industry moves quickly, it risks being usurped by companies from other industries, who are already more comfortable with broader business and marketing analytics.

Speaking after his address, Flaherty told the Holmes Report that if he was unable to convince fellow agency CEOs "it would be a loss to the industry, rather than to me."

To many observers, the PR measurement debate sometimes appears as old as the industry itself. Many measurement initiatives, furthermore, have foundered because they are too agency-specific - bespoke systems that are used by individual firms to create a competitive edge.

When quizzed about this by the Holmes Report, Flaherty said that there would remain "plenty of space" for firms to add their own specific stamp onto shared measurement standards. He argued that the initiative should not fall prey to competitive pressure, because of its overall benefit to agencies and clients. 

The standards themselves are being developed by AMEC after the adoption of the Barcelona Principles three years ago. Two years ago in Lisbon, the organization launched a 'valid metrics' framework that it hoped would lead to an accessible, comprehensive set of standards, rather than searching for an elusive 'silver bullet'.

Consequently, the standards that are to be unveiled in more detail tomorrow are the result of two initiatives. One comes from the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards, a broad effort that includes the Council of Public Relations Firms, the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, AMEC and the Public Relations Society of America.

Separately, social media measurement standards have been developed by the #SMMStandards Conclave, an initiative that includes PR trade bodies along with digital groups such as WOMMA and the Digital Analytics Association.

Earlier today, separately, AMEC, ICCO and the UK's PRCA launched an online guide to PR measurement, featuring case studies and best practice on PR measurement. 

Flaherty's approach was supported by Phillips comms head Andre Manning. 

“If we cannot get our act together, there’s a danger that companies like IBM, who have acquired analytics companies, will do it first,” said Manning. "I’m aware of the competitive edge [between agencies], but if the whole industry and function will benefit, why shouldn’t we go for it?"

Manning added that industry needed to be "brave enough to go for one standard."

However, not all delegates were convinced. One attendee, who declined to be named, noted there would be resistance to a large American PR firm attempting to lead the effort.