DUBLIN—Any campaign to provide public relations professionals with evidence of the need for improved measurement and evaluation should begin with an emphasis on establishing clear goals and objectives, according to attendees at the AMEC (Association for the Measurement and Evaluation of Communications) Summit in Dublin.

Attendees were asked to choose six out of 10 possible education priorities, and more than 90 percent selected “help PR people establish appropriate goals and objectives,” a reflection of the belief that one of the major challenges in establishing meaningful metrics is the failure to focus on real business objectives.

The second priority was to provide public relations people with a clear understanding of the differences between outputs, outcomes and business results (82 percent), followed by a greater understanding of how executives in the clients’ C-suite define business results (73 percent).

Those three priorities appeared to reflect a widespread belief among Summit attendees that there is a disconnect between how PR people view their role and what C-level executives expect from public relations. Earlier in the day, Chris Foster (pictured), a strategic communications consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton had told attendees: “The way we are talking about what PR can do may not be translating into what the C-suite wants to hear.”

Public relations professionals need to reframe the discussion around communication and about measurement, he suggested. “There is a debate around the value of communication. I believe in the power of communications to solve some of the biggest business problems that we are trying to solve. We have to think about the value of what we do in terms of solving problems for clients, because if you solve a problem then value is not an issue.”

There was also significant support (71 percent) for the proposal that AMEC create an “industry standard” for measurement that can be universally applied—the Institute for Public Relations Research & Education recently advanced its interim standards to a review panel—and for a focus on developing case histories that provide concrete examples of best (and perhaps also) worst practices (68 percent).

However, 61 percent of attendees believed that there was a need for more research, including listening to the target audience of any education campaign, before launching such an initiative.

There was considerably less response for a focus on the relationship-building aspect of public relations rather than the media relations aspects (36 percent) and for starting a campaign with an attempt to provide basic numeracy skills to PR people (30 percent).