FiftyOneZeroOne

Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

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.

 Last autumn (2010) saw the launch of Unplugged, when first year students at Bournemouth University (BU) volunteered to go without any media (other than a landline phone) for 24 hours. It was covered by a lot of media and BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones reported it on the 10 O’clock News.

It was part of a worldwide experiment and the results have been posted at http://theworldunplugged.wordpress.com/. In them you’ll see the reactions of students, many of whom realised they were ‘addicted’ to media and had short-term withdrawal symptoms.

 There are many interesting outcomes: one was that the students perceived news as all information whether it is from Facebook, IM, Twitter, newspapers, online or broadcast. The more tersely delivered the better, hence the love of 140 character Twitter. This may have important downstream impacts on media literacy and consumption.

 The UK end of the study was run by Dr Roman Gerodimos and Shelley Thompson, a doctoral student, in BU’s Media School. They are now considering how to incorporate Unplugged in their teaching each year, as it provokes a strong reflection of “why do I engage with all these media” (often at the same time) and “is there another lived existence with less media”.

Our new visiting professor at the Bournemouth University Media School, Anthony Lilley of Magic Lantern productions, gave his inaugural lecture on the future of the media last night. It’s a complex and challenging outlook in which the ability to gain and hold attention will be paramount.

Here’s the podcast of the presentation, http://www.cemp.ac.uk/activities/inaugurallecture.php

 

This blog started life after the 2007 International Public Relations Research Conference in Miami, so it’s about to celebrate its 2nd birthday. It’s a really enjoyable conference and this year, around 40% of presentations were from non-US academics and practitioners (but only two from the UK).

 

This year, there has been increasing emphasis on social media and its relationship with public relations and interpersonal communications. Tina McCorkindale reported on a survey of Facebook pages run by or linked to major US corporations.

 

Of 100 Fortune 100 companies, there were 55 Facebook sites, of which 52 could be regarded as ‘positive’ in their content (The ‘anti’ sites were for Wal-Mart, Verizon and ExxonMobil).

 

The ‘fan’ numbers for some sites were quite spectacular with the retail giant Target scoring 191,000 as No.1, followed by Verizon’s own site at 150,000 and Microsoft at 68,000.

 

Some sites were employee run, others by corporate communications staff. The retailer Lowes’s employees have an embarrassing ‘Lowes Hos’ area (with female and male staff identified). Ford and Microsoft look to be heavily managed. The carmaker was described by Tina as “positive heavy” while Microsoft has many deletions of postings on it, possibly taking out negative comments.

 

The Dell site, perhaps scarred by the “Dell Hell” controversy of several years ago, had rapid responses to questions with ‘Janet’ offering solutions to problems, including phone numbers to call.

 

Other phenomena observed included headhunters posting job information on corporate sites to attract staff from them; a low level of information on corporate social responsibility activity; and many sites without recent news on them.

 

Overall, Tina observed that there was “a lot of lack of engagement” which may indicate that corporate comms people see Facebook as another type of corporate website and not an opportunity to engage with customers, enquirers and staff.

 

Mihaela Vorvoreanu of Clemson University has also made an initial investigation into the inter-relationship between Facebook culture and PR efforts, and what is appropriate and inappropriate engagement between corporations and ‘Facebook natives’.

 

Using focus groups with PR students, she found:

 

§        Students didn’t like the loss of exclusivity when Facebook moved away from its original student base and allow access to everyone (including corporations).

 

§        The initial attraction of Facebook was to ‘digitally hang-out’ in which you can keep up with friends, but corporates “are just trying to sell and they have other motives”.

 

§        Facebook natives like to recognise things they like and become fans – “it can be a way to show off what you are”.

 

§        There was a strong belief that Facebook was ‘personal’ and that you should be able to post pictures without fear of potential employers using the site to vet applications. [It appears that many students tidy up sites before they enter the workforce, which they resent.]

 

§        Facebookers don’t mind supporting small businesses and hearing from them as “they have a face” but they don’t want to hear from Sony or “something big and obnoxious like Microsoft”.

 

Mihaela ended her presentation with the rhetorical question – Can relationships (between organisations and stakeholders) be protected by staying out of the conversation? That is, leave the Facebookers alone in their own space for fear of annoying them? It’s a relevant question and links with Tina’s view that the corporates’ own Facebook presences lacks engagement.

 

 

 

It’s hard to argue with the results of a research programme that has been running for five years and is focusing on Best Practices in public relations, but what’s your response to the list that follows.

 

It has been prepared by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication, which each year investigates the Generally Accepted Practices (GAP) in public relations practice in the US. This year, using data from 520 senior professionals, their researchers have identified these Best Practices.

 

        Maintain a higher-than-average ratio of PR budget to gross revenue

        Report directly and exclusively to the C-Suite

        Optimize the C-Suite’s understanding of PR’s current and potential contributions

        Establish effective strategies for

o       Social responsibility

o       Digital media

o       Issues management

        Optimize integration and coordination within the PR/communications function, and between it and other organizational functions

        Encourage across the organization, beginning with communication,

o       Highly ethical practices

o       A long-term strategic point of view

o       Proactive and flexible mindsets

        Optimize integration of PR and reputational considerations into organization strategies

        Measurably contribute to organizational success.

 

Prof Jerry Swerling and co-author Major Jim Gregory say their approach to identifying the Best Practices is “a bit subjective because we cannot scientifically demonstrate causality” but that the consistency of the patterns is unmistakeable. The full report can be found at www.annenberg.usc.edu/sprc and the Best Practices can be found in the GAP V report, Section VII. 

 

 


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