FiftyOneZeroOne

Archive for June 2011

Recently, I undertook research with Dr Chindu Sreedharan, for the Institute of Public Relations on the skills and training needs of future senior communicators. It was a study amongst top corporate and consultancy communicators in Europe and North America to identify the skills future leaders needed, and training and education to prepare them. A video of my presentation of the report was recently made for the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

One of the key comments that framed the study came from a top European corporate communicator: “It’s no longer sufficient to have a communications background only. Senior communicators need to understand business environment and management styles to be seen as trusted advisors.”

This view that top-level communicators had to understand all the operations of a major organisation was widespread and pointed towards practice developments and education that focus on strategy development and the integration of communication objectives with organisational objectives and KPIs.  The report had three groups of conclusions for early implementation:

 Practice

  • Communication strategy must be linked to or part of business strategy
  • Communicators should understand the whole business environment, not just media and communication
  • Operational experience needed; They need to speak language of the business

 Training and Education

  • Key subjects are business strategy, financial literacy, economics, public affairs and public diplomacy, and relationship management
  • Stronger focus is needed on research and business analysis skills

 Proof of Performance

  • The ability to interpret and apply the most appropriate research methods is more important than technical measurement skills
  • Evaluation frameworks need to be developed for judgement on organisational impact, not clip measurement
  • Planning skills need improvement

 The full report is available at: http://www.instituteforpr.org/ipr_info/future_leaders/

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The “Responding to Extremisms: Media Roles and Responsibilities” conference is being at Bournemouth University on Friday July 15. It’s organised by The Media School in conjunction with Dorset Police. Speakers are from academia, the police, media and think tanks: Responding to Extremisms Conference programme. Register online at http://cerb.eventbrite.com.

It’s great to get recognition when it is well-merited. UK Communications Minister Ed Vaizey has told Parliament that Bournemouth University’s Media School is a world-leader: “It is one of the leading digital media centres, not just in this country, but, I suspect, the world.” He was commenting on the broad involvement of graduates, especially from computer animation, in the digital media sector.

http://media.bournemouth.ac.uk/about/news/2011/june/ne006-bu-praised-in-parliament.html

BU is also a leader in public relations, having been one of the first UK universities to introduce a BA in Public Relations, and still attracts the best UK students.

‘Telling the story’ is the title of Black Sun’s annual analysis of FTSE 100 corporate reports. The report shows that the UK’s major quoted companies are increasingly focused on social responsibility in their activities during 2010.

One headlines was that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been overtaken by Corporate Responsibility (CR), with just 9% of companies using CSR, compared with 53% using CR. CSR was also behind Sustainability (14%) and just ahead of Sustainable Development (8%). Only three of the 100 top companies did not refer to any of the terms.

This change in nomenclature, says Black Sun, shows that companies are increasingly moving from environmental/social terms through corporate responsibility and on to sustainability, although the strong representation of CR doesn’t validate that argument.  A side-light was that utilities companies use CR whilst basic materials companies (miners, etc) use ‘sustainability’.  Perhaps an example of opportunistic use of language?

Black Sun comments that CR, in all forms, has moved from being a “non-essential business element and a ‘nice to do’”.  Increasingly leading companies are “demonstrating linkages between the company strategy, governance and financial performance, and the social, environmental and economic context.”

As for integrating CR, etc into corporate strategy, it appears that 20% have it “integral to the group strategy” and 33% have a standalone CR policy which “complement(s) the group strategy.

For PR and corpcomms people, the news isn’t all that helpful. Although the esteemed academic Prof Robert Heath long ago staked a claim that CSR should be the responsibility of corporate public relations, there’s no mention of the communication of CR (or CSR) in this report and it appears clear that this important element of organisational policy and behaviour is not seen as the preserve of communicators.

Getting ready for a blast of papers and industry promotion on PR ROI: The vexed issue of Return on Investment got special focus on the final day of the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon. I was the academic member of a panel of six that chewed it over.

Although there is a general view amongst practitioners that ROI must have a place in PR, mainly because some clients want to express all organisational activities as financial returns, there is debate as to whether ROI should only be expressed in a financial manner (mainly US) or whether it is applied more loosely to include intangibles (Europe).

In the US, the Council for Public Relations Firms (CPRF) is moving rapidly to offer a definition of ROI with assistance from AMEC. The aim of these organisations is that the ROI formula is adopted world-wide so that there is common language – and clients can see that PR does offer a return on investment. It may be ready by the end of this year.

I still have doubts as to whether ROI, other than in a strictly financial format, can be re-purposed into a more general expression of value creation or contribution to organisational efficiency.  Business managers understand what ROI is, so why would they accept a mixed-concept PR ROI. What’s your view?

In a cross between crowd-sourcing and Eurovision voting, the 100+ delegates at the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon voted for five draft statements of needs that may end up in the Measurement Agenda 2020.

This will be the next stage of international policy development in PR measurement and evaluation, following on from the seven Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles agreed last year.

The statements are:

  • Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement;
  • Identify how to measure the Return on Investment of PR [a crowd source suggestion];
  • Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit;
  • Institute a client education program such as clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs;
  • Define approaches that show how corporate reputation builds/creates value.

The statements will go to conference delegates in mid-July for further comment. They were chosen from statements prepared from responses to an informal survey of delegates and other practitioners undertaken in recent weeks.  The wide range of academic research on PR measurement wasn’t taken into account.

This seems to be a less-than-robust method of data collection for policy-making when, for instance, a Delphi study amongst leading practitioners could have developed the propositions with greater certainty of future application.  Perhaps Barcelona Principle 7: “Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement “, should have been kept in mind.

Recently Prof Ansgar Zerfass of Leipzig University used the terms ‘rituals of measurement’ and ‘rituals of verification’ to describe the demands for numerical proof of communication effectiveness. He was making the point that what was being measured was what could be measured in a quantitative manner, not what needed to be judged such as outcome and value-links. Often process is measured in PR, not whether communication strategies have reached the objectives.

At AMEC’s 3rd European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon, a major discussion about social media measurement has started. In a wide-ranging discussion today, the 170 delegates made their first contributions on whether there was a need for standards in social media measurement.

Three factors were identified – Engagement, Influence and Sentiment. Richard Bagnall made the point that these were often judged with widely varying criteria. The discussion that followed for an hour or more revolved about defining these terms and the types of data that could be applied to them. No decisions have been made but I wonder whether the discussion “can’t see the wood for the trees.”

Surely the main judgement is whether the communication activity, which uses social media amongst its strategies, is effective in reaching its objectives. The AMEC discussion was focused on mining data on the social media-led conversation from user traffic and the level of participation. For example, is there a difference in ‘engagement’ between clicking on an online link and looking at it(read), opening the link and commenting about it (respond) and sending it on to others (share)? Is this ‘engagement’ or ‘grazing’ information? Is it an active or passive process? And can this data on ‘engagement’ indicate future action, advocacy or behavioural change?

Rather than define these terms by a discussion amongst technical users of data, it would make long-term sense to invert the process and approach it from the user point of view. The definition of engagement could then be both more valid in terms of communication psychology and indicate outcomes rather than intermediary processes. Without this perspective, the definitions could become additional ‘rituals of measurement’.

In addition to the discussion, some interesting ‘nuggets’ of social media usage came forward:

– 30-40% of social media users offer up substantial information on their demographics and geographical position which can be used for monitoring and targeted messages;

– Social media, especially Twitter, is farmed by companies for data on customer attitudes towards them and their products rather than analysed for effective communication;

– Many large corporate in the US use Twitter as a listening tool, rather than take an active part in it;

– In addition to AMEC, there are at least seven other communication organisations looking to define methods of social media analysis, with the PR sector trailing behind promotional communications.


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