Why is there such a pronounced gap between theory and practice? At one extreme are many practitioners who ‘just do it’; at the other are the academics whose theories may never be put into practice.
It’s rare for UK texts on public relations to embrace both aspects (it’s been a common feature of US texts for decades). Evaluating Public Relations by Tom Watson and Paul Noble is an exception. Its early chapters review the literature on the meaning and purpose of public relations and the principles of communication psychology. Its later chapters are a ‘how to’ guide to doing research, setting objectives and measuring outcomes.
Yet many readers of this blog will share my surprise at this statement: ‘The monitoring of online public relations is one of the ‘black holes’ in the evaluation lexicon’. It’s surprising since there are many more metrics available online than have ever been previously available to the practitioner. Take the example of Jakob Nielsen’s tenth anniversary Alertbox. Not only does he know which of his articles have had the most readers, but he’s able to monitor the impact of his advice on standards of web design and usability. You couldn’t do anything similar offline, quickly and affordably.
By meeting the needs of educators and practitioners, this book has wide appeal. Perhaps it works because the authors have strong credentials in both camps. Tom Watson was a prominent PR consultant in Britain and is now a senior academic in his home country (Australia). My one-time colleague Paul Noble is simultaneously a lecturer, trainer, writer and consultant.