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Are we really making a difference? The gap between outcomes and evaluation research in public relations campaigns

By Robina J. Xavier, Amisha M. Patel and Kim A. Johnston

Abstract

Public relations helps organisations establish reputations (Plowman, Briggs & Huang 2001), improve community relationships (Ledingham & Bruning 2000, Stark & Kruckeberg 2001), resolve conflict (Coombs 2001, Ehling, White & Grunig 1992, Grunig 2001, Springston & Keyton 2001), and change attitudes and behaviour (Cutlip, Center & Broom 2000), Grunig & Repper 1992, Hendrix 2004). Such outcomes are valued by managers (Guth & Marsh 2003, Newson, Turk & Kruckeberg 2004) who increasingly require evidence of public relations' contribution to organisational goals. Although practitioners use both formal and informal methods to evaluate their effectiveness (Walker 1994, Watson 2001), it is unclear how their reporting f public relations success measure up to actual achievement of outcomes.----- Public relations evaluation has received much attention in both academic and practitioner literature (Baskin, Aronoff & Lattimore 1997, Cutlip, Center & Broom 2000. Dozier & Repper 1992, Hendrix 2004, Waler 1994, Watson 2001) In 1994, the International Public Relations Association in conjunction with the Public Relations Institute of Australia produced a gold paper on public relations evaluation, stressing the need for professionals to demonstrate their professional accountability through evaluation.----- Guided by these recommendations and academic literature, this study uses fives year of public relations campaign data gathered from 118 award case studies to identify evaluation methods and examine the reporting or public relations evaluations against set outcomes. Finally this paper poses a set of initiatives to enhance public relations accountability through effective evaluation and advance the profession's ability to make a difference

Topics: 150502 Marketing Communications, evaluation, public relations, campaigns
Year: 2004
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.qut.edu.au:21014

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