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Evaluating Public Relations

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Evaluating Public Relations

A Best Practice Guide to Public Relations Planning, Research & Evaluation

Kogan Page,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Stop worrying that evaluating PR campaigns will inhibit your creativity, and start working from knowledge, not emotion.

Editorial Rating



  • Overview


This highly academic treatment of the theory of public relations extensively discusses the importance of evaluation. The book focuses on research about evaluating PR campaigns, including comparisons among various kinds of studies. Essentially a textbook, it goes into great detail about the specifics of research papers, their conclusions and their academic models. Authors Tom Watson and Paul Noble encourage PR practitioners to adopt a scientific framework for evaluating their work. To this end, they include checklists, case studies, flow charts, references and many bullet points, but their excellent insights and intentions do not make the book any more practical for the professional. While evaluating any business activity is a good practice (and PR professionals readily agree that it would be helpful), the reality is that very few PR firms will be able to apply this book to their hands-on, creative daily business. Because of that constraint, getAbstract recommends this investigation primarily to academics, theorists and long-range strategists.


Public Relations History

Historians trace public relations, a relatively new profession, to the early twentieth century in the U.S. They credit P.T. Barnum with being the first to use public relations techniques, to promote his circus. However, nations also used PR during World War I to motivate their citizens, control information and disseminate government propaganda.

During the 1920s, Edward Bernays used PR innovatively to influence public opinion. Bernays advanced the profession by applying social science concepts and developing a results-oriented focus. However, most public relations professionals continued to practice it without any real framework. When clients or academics asked PR professionals what their work achieved, they often responded that it produced "goodwill," which was difficult to measure.

Modern public relations includes press agentry and public information. It employs two-way models, both symmetric and asymmetric, that create messages designed to change public opinion. Practitioners often measure their results informally, for example, by counting the number of client mentions in the media - but such measures are not necessarily accurate.

About the Authors

Tom Watson is associate professor and head of the School of Communications at Charles Sturt University in Australia. He has more than 25 years of experience in public relations. Paul Noble is an independent trainer, consultant and academic with more than 25 years of experience in consultancy management.

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