Archive for March 2007
Picture a sushi bar with small packages of food moving around on a circular conveyor or a tapas bar (without alcohol) with bowls of olives, plates of meat and cheese to graze on and you have an idea of the style of the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) held recently in Miami. Some also refer to it as “speed-dating for public relations research”. Starting at 8am and continuing apart for coffee breaks and a 90 minute lunch break till 4.30pm for three days, IPRRC moves at a cracking pace of five speakers per hour, each allotted 15 minutes to present their paper and engage in a short discussion. No PowerPoints are allowed. Delegates choose four sessions to attend per hour and “rotate” every 15 minutes from speaker to speaker. By the end of the hour, the speaker will have presented four times to round-table audiences and collected a wallet or bag full of business cards and requests for the paper.
The first morning to the uninitiated delegate passes in a blur of concepts, issues, research methods and types of presenters. But you gather speed and get to enjoy the rapid engagement with new and old ideas, especially from those who get to the heart of their argument quickly and allow time (5 to 7 minutes) for discussion. The array of papers is bewildering. Broadly the topics covered were public relations theory, internet, blogging and new media, ethics, corporate social responsibility, evaluation, issues management, corporate communication, lobbying, media analysis and research methodology. Some of the big names in US academic public relations were there including Carl Botan, David Dozier, Vince Hazleton, Dean Kruckeberg, Douglas Ann Newsom, Don Stacks and Judy Turk. As well, Krishnamurthy Sriramesh came in from
Singapore, although he is a former PhD student of Jim Grunig at
Maryland. But there were also doctoral students pitching early stages of their research, academic staff members and practitioners presenting solely or with academics colleagues. The key presentations came from:
· Dean Kruckeberg and colleagues on an ‘organic theory’ as a social theory of public relations. This rejects segmentation and reinstates the concept of the “general public” as exemplifying society as a whole. It seems that US PR academics have discovered Habermas and the “public sphere” rather late as this was a concept that arose on other occasions, too. · Brad Rawlins on measuring the relationship between organisational transparency and trust, which is moving the Hon & Grunig work of measurement of relations between organisations and publics into a more sophisticated area. After some years delay, this is developing as new area of research especially as the Brunning & Ledingham paradigm of public relations as relationship management is moving from a comfortable homily to being tested in practice.
There was a wide range of research into the impact of blogs and wikis in communication, which included a paper from Donald Wright and Michelle Hinson on their impact on traditional mass communications models, which they expect to be profound, and from Bill Sledzik on how blogs are expanding the role of public relations practitioners. Overall, IPRRC is a valuable survey of public relations research from a North American perspective. It’s also an event at which everyone is welcomed and discussion goes on for many hours into the evening.
Welcome to DummySpit – an academic/practitioner’s view of current public relations research and best practice.
Academic research into public relations measurement and evaluation is overlooking industry studies and initiatives. This can be found in two areas of communication activity. The first was the introduction and use of scorecards to plan, monitor and measure communication, with a strong emphasis on linkage between public relations activities and corporate or organisational imperatives.
The second is the use of internet tools, such as blogs and wikis to almost immediately measure the impact of events and communication activity. There has been some research by practitioner-academics who have noted scorecards as they have been introduced from management theory, but no robust research programme has been undertaken to determine the validity and reliability of the scorecard’s performance as a measurement and evaluation tool. Given that some public relations activities that can be monitored by almost immediate techniques and tools, such as blogs and wikis, do new theories and approaches need to be developed which conceptualise this capability? Most models of communication imply there is a period of gestation in which the recipient of messages processes them before acting, but with immediate response and debate now available, does this need revisiting?
It’s a great opportunity for academic researchers to re-engage with practitioners who, let’s face it, are running way ahead of them on the use of new technologies and social media.
Why “DummySpit”? Think about it – “spitting the dummy” is having a blast on important matters