I received a speedy response to my analysis this morning. I have included it below.
I again want to thank Mr. Young for being so responsive in this debate. I see this discussion, and others flying around the PR blogspace, as very constructive overall. I look forward to more such debates, and I hope Mr. Young continues to participate in the various PR blogs, and perhaps one of his own on the issues he and A2 feel so strongly about.
I would love to hear a "big agency" and a "big client" chime in here. Anyone?
Dear Ms. Albrycht:
Again, thank you for your thoughtful post regarding our company and services. A few points of clarification on what you wrote.
EA: I still question how he gets to a number for value creation, as putting a dollar amount (or other numerical indicator) on the value of a placement, for example, is a highly debated topic in the industry. I'd be curious to know where AA [they prefer A2, so I have made the change on this blog to their responses] falls in this debate. If they don't care to share that information publicly, I would ask if they intend to share it with their clients if asked. I know I would ask as a client.
A2: The Yield (value creation) perspective on our Agency Scorecard is made up of between 4 and 5 KPIs (key performance indicators), which we develop with the client and to which the agency agrees--so the yardstick is clear and plain for everyone. We do not try to put a dollar amount on the value of a placement, and we stay out of that long-running debate--which is going nowhere fast.
EA: Let me state my position on AA at this time. I DO believe that objective measurement is a good thing for the agency business. I DO NOT think, however, that it should be the only method of judging performance, as in PR subjectivity is rampant, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Now, AA doesn't state that objective measures are the only way to measure an agency, just that is has been neglected and they are filling that gap.
A2: Performance measurement is NOT the only way to view the agency, no question about it. There are many other viewpoints which we embrace. However, if you look at the highly subjective ways agencies prefer to be measured, on things like “passion and creativity,” you can see why few in the C-suite take agencies seriously. While not the only way to measure agencies, performance management is the ONLY way to unlock the hidden value in the agency deployment, which accounts for between 20 and 40 percent of the client’s budget.
EA: I am in the midst of pursuing a graduate degree in science and technology studies, and I have learned through my work in this area that there is very little that is truly objective in so-called "hard data." Collecting data, choosing a methodology, etc., are human activities -- social activities -- and can therefore never escape some subjectivity. Therefore, I am always skeptical when claims of "objectivity" are made and portrayed as the best solution to any problem.
A2: True, observation does change the observed. There is some level of subjectivity introduced in the implementation of any objective performance evaluation, but a dollar is still a dollar and an hour is still an hour. Agencies can no longer run for cover under the canopy of “you can’t measure PR,” while lip-syncing measurement’s vitality to getting PR a seat at the table. I’ve worked with the leadership of large enterprises and had a seat at the proverbial table. Leadership wants hard data—facts, and if you’re not willing to give it to them you won’t be invited back.
EA: AA's services as I understand them could be quite useful in increasing the performance of public relations overall. However, by focusing their delivery only on the client slide, I think they have created suspicion on the agency side. Why not share their methodology in more detail? Why not invite agencies to participate? Why not be more open?
A2: Your statement that we “have created suspicion on the agency side,” refers to whom? If you can find an agency that will consistently lower its cost and become more productive year over year--we’ll talk to them.
EA: As a company offering a new service, a potentially ground-breaking service, AA has the opportunity to educate an entire industry if they think big enough. But if they take sides, then they create a game with winners and losers, vs. a game where everyone wins in the end.
A2: We side with the client because the game has been stacked against them for too long. Agencies are not going to do anything that is not in their own self interest, and to posit otherwise is absurd.
EA: I could see their services being of value to an agency who wants to spot areas of weakness or inefficiency, for example. Why not teach the agency business how to use "objective" measures? I think some would pay for such a service.
A2: Again, if you can find an agency that will consistently lower its cost and become more productive year over year--we’ll talk to them.
A2: I will close by asking you a simple question. The answer to which holds both the essence of the agency problem and its solution in the eyes of the client. The question is: “What is the nature of a corporate asset?”