Welcome to the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards development center. The adoption of standards for research and measurement in our field requires broad industry involvement, including customers of research and measurement services. This interactive site is where all of that comes together.
Our vision for the public relations industry is:
Excellence in public relations enabled by excellence in research, measurement and evaluation.
Excellence in research requires widely accepted, professional standards to ensure that measurement and evaluation results are reliable, valid, and consistent. Specifically, our vision looks to the day when:
- Public relations research professionals understand the value and benefits of standards and best practices in research, measurement and evaluation.
- Organizations expect in-house departments, external agencies, and research firms to adopt industry standards and best practices as the foundation for research, measurement and evaluation.
- Public relations research, measurement and evaluation teams within organizations, agencies, and research firms progressively adopt industry standards and best practices as the foundation for research, measurement and evaluation.
What are standards?
Standards provide a common language for research/measurement providers, clients and agencies. Thus, they enable comparison, increase reliability, promote efficiency and bring more credibility to public relations.
The International Standards Organization defines a standard is a documented, voluntary agreement containing technical specifications or other precise criteria to be used consistently as rules, guidelines, or definitions of characteristics to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. It is also a living agreement that should evolve over time.
Why are standards important in public relations research and measurement? The simple answer is that the marketplace is demanding standards. If we—practitioners of public relations measurement and evaluation—do not develop standards and best practices ourselves, someone else will do so. Standards enable comparison, increase reliability, promote efficiency, foster competition based on insights, spark innovation, and bring more credibility to public relations.
The challenge facing public relations is the lack of any form of universally accepted and agreed upon measures and processes that can be used to gauge the performance of communications programs. Variation in professional research practices leads to uneven research quality, inconsistency, and confusion among clients, internal and external—the consumers of research, measurement, and evaluation.
The key to successful research, measurement and evaluation in public relations lies in developing a standardized approach. David Michaelson, Ph.D. (Teneo Strategy) and Don W. Stacks, Ph.D. (University of Miami) identify three main reasons for standards in research and measurement (David Michaelson, Ph.D. and Don W. Stacks, Ph.D. 2011. “Standardization in Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation,” Public Relations Journal Vol. 5, No. 2.):
- Standards facilitate comparative evaluation, gauging the absolute performance of individual programs and specific program elements.
- Standards allow the comparative performance of prior and competitive programs, and facilitate performance comparisons within industry and category.
- Standards ensure that data collected for one program, for one business unit, or by one research partner can be compared with results generated by other programs, business, units, and research partners.
Customer role in standards-setting
The marketplace drives the need for standards and the adoption of standards. Our philosophy is that any industry can set any standards it wants. But until large customers say, “that’s what we expect,” the effort doesn’t amount to much. Consequently, the CPRRS is recruiting a customer panel consisting of representations of high-profile corporations. General Motors, General Electric, McDonald’s and Southwest Airlines are already on board. We are now expanding the group to include companies headquartered outside of North America.
International Organization for Standardization Principles
The CPRSS adheres to the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) four key principles in standard development:
- Standards are market-driven and voluntary, responding to a need in the market.
- Standards are based on global expert opinion. Standards are developed by groups of technical experts from around the world.
- Standards are developed through a multi-stakeholder process designed to bring in the viewpoints of client organizations, agencies, research and measurement firms, and academia.
- Standards are based on a consensus. The standards development process solicits input from start to finish.
Based on the ISO principles and guidelines, the Coalition has adopted the following process for standards development:
- Proposal stage. The first step is to identify areas where standards are needed.
- Development stage. The Coalition identifies a working group of technical experts to develop a first working draft, or what we may call proposed interim standards. This group will be large enough to bring in diverse ideas, but small enough to get things done. The work group can bring together a larger group of individuals and organizations as needed to assist in developing the first draft.
The proposed interim standards will be circulated and posted for review and comment on this web site, and on other web sites as appropriate. For example, the social media standards group is posting its work on http://smmstandards.org/. The working group will be responsible for collecting and taking account of comments. The proposed interim standards are initial steps and will be broadened, deepened and revised through the rest of the year.
Successive drafts may be considered until the working group is satisfied that it has developed the best technical solution to the problem being addressed and has received favorable input from the professional community. At this stage, the draft is submitted to the customer panel for review and approval.
- Customer approval. As the ISO emphasizes, standards are market-driven, therefore customers are the final arbiters of when a proposed standard is ready to move forward. The Coalition is developing a customer panel to include about six corporations that are major purchasers of public relations research and measurement services.
- Publication. Once draft standards have passed review of industry experts and customers, the next step is to publish them as interim standards. This is typically where application of the standards begins even though the process continues.
- Validation. Most research standards will require some sort of validation to prove that they actually measure what they say they do. When we have established the relevance and effectiveness of the standards, they can be published as final standards.
- Review and revision. Most standards will require periodic revision due to changes in technology and in the public relations business. We expect that public relations research and measurement standards will be reviewed and expanded on an annual basis.
How you can be involved
First and foremost, participate in reviewing, commenting on proposed and interim standards on the IPR website: www.instituteforpr.org/researchstandards
If you belong to organizations that make up the Coalition, support them in that effort.
Stay engaged at all six stages of the process.
Commit to the standards.
About the coalition
The Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards brings together leadership organizations in public relations. Our mission is sponsor development of a broad platform of standards for research and measurement in our field.
Charter member organizations are:
- Council of Public Relations Firms (http://prfirms.org/)
- Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (www.globalalliancepr.org/)
- Institute for Public Relations (http://www.instituteforpr.org/)
- International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (http://amecorg.com/)
- Public Relations Society of America (http://www.prsa.org/)
Public Relations Standards Areas
Standards for Public Relations Research and Measurement
Where We Are Today on the Standards Effort