Weber Shandwick Reinvents The Wheel – Supposedly

Weber shandwick everything-pr

Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s largest public relations firms, announced today a suite of communications metrics that will assist clients in determining ROI with regard to on and offline PR campaigns. Arrow, as the system is termed, consists of a library of performance indicators from which correlative data can be gleaned. The system is designed to provide “virtual real time” campaign effectiveness feedback for Weber’s clients.

Arrow was three years in the making, as Weber Shandwick interfaced with clients over this period to combine industry best practices with emerging research methods for a much better image of measurement according to the company’s press release. Evidently Arrow attempts to correlate data within categories against input data via communicative variables. The exact interface or modality behind the system was not fully revealed however. The press release paints a rather vague portrait of a system supposedly using polls, surveys, focus groups, media content analysis, social media analysis, web analytics, competitive intelligence (CIA?), advocate profiling, market mix analysis and lastly advocacy network analysis. Wow! All I can say is that there server capacity must rival even Google.

According to Weber Shandwick’s Executive VP of Measurement and Strategy Tim Marklein, “Every marketing discipline has to sing for its supper in 2009.” This being said, one can only wonder at a Beethoven tune like this press release being belted out on a relative kazoo for Arrow. Of course we could be terribly wrong in our rather curt evaluation, after all, we have not tested the service. But, claiming to be able to do something so complex, with so many dependent variables, requires a little more than a textual press release I should think. The way Arrow is described in this wordy release, one has to wonder how input data for so many fields is even entered.

I hate to be overly critical all the time, but it is jargon and hype like this, unsupported by any substantiation, that make us all look like tricksters. At least a screenshot of the output report seems to be in order here, but even the Weber Shandwick site offers little more than a “sound bit” by way of explanation. Arrow could just as easily be another database, input output system like others already in use elsewhere.

Weber shandwick everything-pr

Okay, maybe not the wheel, but something.

I could be fully wrong, but it looks like Weber Shandwick has been hit by a rash of questions about “campaign effectiveness” to me. Everyone in the industry knows that many potential clients these days would love to be able to get performance based PR, something that any good PR expert will tell them is virtually impossible pre-campaign. Until my friends at Powerset or hakia come up with true a AI (and perhaps not even then), I will believe in Arrow when I see it in use.

Weber Shandwick is one of the most respected names in communications, and I am a little surprised they would tout something without a world of supportive illustration. even if the application is all it should be, it is still bad PR to paint it with a dry brush.


  1. says

    Thanks for the post and feedback, Phil. Your headline certainly got my attention, and I had a good laugh at my own expense with some of your other references.

    Concerns about hyperbole aside, you actually captured the essence of what we’ve been doing pretty well. The main distinction is that we’re not trying to solve it all in software. Measurement is not a “tools” issue as much as it is a “process” issue that has to be customized to the client. Of course, we have some of our own tools and use a lot of third-party tools in our measurement practice, but our focus is to develop the right measurement approach for a client regardless of which tools are under the covers.

    Hope that helps clarify our intent a bit. Your point about having more details available on the web site is well taken — we’ll get some up there soon.

    In the meantime, we’ll keep working on that wheel re-invention and new ways to slice bread as we search for the holy grail…

    • Phil Butler says

      Tim, Thanks so much for your gracious reply to this post. I think that you, more than many we have encountered, realize our take on these “scrutinizations” of the various PR giants. Our intent, is to be a crucible for the betterment of the industry as a whole. In emulating one another, recognizing excellence, and in this case recognizing a little mis-communication from a giant, we hope to really foster change. What you are trying to do is commendable, and our only criticism is in the presentation obviously.

      All of us are susceptible to error, not one of us is perfect. We must however, make the best possible use of our resources and project things very accurately and honestly. As for the honesty aspect, i am more than sure you guys are being so. The projection was a little askew, but more data can solve this. We are open to test your innovation and write about it on this or other more prominent sites if you are game. We would like very much to be a part of something great for the industry. Aside that, please help us contribute to the overall good will of the PR industry.

      Thanks Sincerely,

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