DUBAI — Over two hundred of the region’s public relations and communications professionals came together for the first Middle East PR Measurement Summit. Hosted by measurement and insights agency Carma, and supported by the international association for the measurement and evaluation of communication (AMEC), the two-day conference aimed to both educate Middle East PR practitioners on measurement best practices as well as spark debate around issues the communications industry is facing globally.

The first day of the event was dedicated to workshops. Ben Levine, Ketchum’s VP for global research and analytics, led a session on getting the basics of media intelligence right, while an Arabic-language session with Carma’s Mazen Nahawi (pictured) and independent consultant Saad Alrubaiaan focused on Arabic-language media intelligence. The third session was led by Jim Macnamara , Sydney’s University of Technology profession of public communication, and focused on putting academic theory into practice. Victor Benady, global creative director for Grayling, concluded the first day with a session on integrating digital measurement into traditional PR campaigns.

Switching to a conference format, the second day brought together global brands and regional agencies to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of measurement in the region. Up for discussion were issues relating to measurement across integrated campaigns,  as well as the move from outputs to outcomes and how this is impacting the shift from basic measurement metrics to business impact. The conference was rounded off by talks on the issue of measurement automation and implementing measurement in government.

While measurement has come a long way in the Middle East, there’s still awareness that the profession must do more to prove its strategic worth. “We’re asking more the reason why to our clients, and that’s because we’re becoming more confident as an industry,” explained Kevin Hasler, managing director for BPG Cohn & Wolfe. “However, I still get an email every week from a company saying I need so many press releases per week. And I ask why, what are the business objectives?”

Speaking from a global perspective, AMEC’s CEO Barry Leggetter told the audience that between 5 and 15% of budgets should be put aside for measurement, and agencies must push for change when it comes to measurement. “Metrics must be driven by the client, and agencies must ask questions of the client brief, be brave and challenge the brief. That’s the skill of a public relations practitioner, to question the client and the brief,” Leggetter said.

Carma’s Nahawi, who spoke about the concept of tribal relations – the coalescing of diverse groups around ideas – underlined why his organization had arranged the Summit. “I believe in measuring reputation and building reputation. You can’t be the guardian of reputation if you can’t prove that you’re making a difference. As an industry we need to get our act together, we need to prove the value of what we do and engage with the right audiences by knowing what they want and how we can best communicate with them.”