Copyright 2018

Regulation Francois


The still ongoing Bell Pottinger saga has done massive damage to the local public relations industry with South Africans now mostly equating PR with murky dealings and enflamed racial tension.

PRISA President Kavitha Kalicharan and PRISA Vice President Daniel Munslow made several media appearances to minimise the damage – even suggesting that much stricter regulations will need to be imposed to protect the local industry from reputational damage and to hold practitioners accountable for their communication actions.

Chris Brewer, local advertising legend, disagrees: “PRISA has an admirable Code of Ethics. Whether everyone adheres strictly to it can be argued but the point is that it exists. And that is what we should be promoting – not regulation.”

Globally the marketing industry has come under pressure as brands decrease spending but demand greater results. Business Insider reports that P&G and Unilever reduced digital advertising budgets by up to 60% for the period January-May 2017. Brands are also demanding much more transparent and accredited measurement.

PR measurement and evaluation best practices received a boost when the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) launched a “Say No to AVEs” campaign in May 2017 to eradicate the use of Advertising Value Equivalents in the industry. Global and country PR Awards are also being lobbied not to accept entries based on AVEs.

Barry Leggetter, AMEC CEO, believes an understanding of data, measurement and insights will become a core component of public relations training to further “professionalise the public relations discipline and make the transparency of its effectiveness apparent to all. I can see the time coming soon when it will be mandatory for all public relations professionals to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of measurement techniques and to be able to demonstrate to clients why AVE is a discredited and flawed way to measure PR effectiveness.”

Francis Ingham, PRCA head and supporter of the campaign, believes that embedding meaningful evaluation methods in the PR practice requires encouragement, praise, and education – not naming and shaming those who haven’t yet progressed on their measurement journey. He believes educating the industry is key to driving it forward.

So though the regulation of the industry and particularly measurement and evaluation may not be imminent, those practitioners that cannot effectively demonstrate the value of their activities will soon face irrelevance.

Clients are demanding it. The latest global industry research showed client demand for AVEs had dropped from 80% in 2010 to just 18% in 2017 as best practices are being adopted. It is time to realise that research, measurement and evaluation are fundamental in public relations and can no longer be treated as a quick post-campaign add-on.

Francois van Dyk, Operations Manager - Ornico Group

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