Posts Tagged ‘Online PR

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.

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,


If you have used PR research and measurement extensively in one of your PR campaigns this past year, you should consider entering the Jack Felton Golden Ruler Award for Excellence in PR Measurement & Evaluation

Entries of all types are welcome – including research using social media!  The award recognises superb examples of research used to support public relations practice. Winners are feted at the Institute for Public Relations’ Summit on Measurement in October held at Portsmouth, NH, near Boston in the US, and it’s quite a big deal. But hurry!  Entries are due on Saturday, August 15. 

Here’s How to Enter, and see these examples of previous winners’ entries: Padilla Speer Beardsley’s Winning Entry 2007 or Shell’s Award Winning Entry 2008 for ideas – and there are more on the site. 

By the way, the Award was named for Jack Felton, who was formerly CEO of the Institute for PR, and instrumental in creating the Commission on PR Measurement & Evaluation.  He is highly respected and much loved throughout the industry worldwide.

I have been involved in discussion recently on the formation of an Evaluation Standard for government PR. It has brought together PR consultancies, evaluation providers and government communicators to seek consensus on the subject.

My role as the token academic has been to prepare discussion papers and facilitate discussion. To set the basis for discussion, I asked everyone to agree definitions for key metrics of PR evaluation such as Opportunities to See, Prominence of Mention, Reach, Tone, Effectiveness and Results. We used the IPR’s Dictionary of Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation, edited by Prof Don Stacks, for this. Despite its cross-Atlantic pedigree, everyone agreed with the definitions.

The reasoning behind this initiative is that government, in its many forms, is a major purchaser of media analysis from commercial suppliers. It wants a ‘level playing field’ of metrics so that comparisons can be made between campaigns and also between methods of communication. For advertising and direct marketing, it has a bank of common metrics used but, for PR, media evaluation suppliers provide different bases of analysis either via algorithms or ‘PR value’ calculations. The dreaded Advertising Value Equivalence is also used in some circumstances, which is an interesting concept suggesting that governmental communications is related to revenue generation. So it is a bit of a muddle.

The first stage of discussion has been positive and we await the next stage. So my question is what would you include in a set of standard PR evaluation benchmarks?

Have we already identified the key terms or should measurements like ‘volume of articles’, ‘event attendees’, ‘behaviour change metrics’ and ROI be included? There are many other factors that could be considered at Output, Out-Take or Outcome levels. Your views are welcomed!

“Those aware of the social media research landscape know that several studies have indicated social media has overtaken pornography as the number one use of the internet,” is a headline from the fourth annual study on the impact of social media on the practice of public relations by Prof Don Wright of Boston University and Michelle Hinson for the Institute for Public Relations.


When presenting this finding at the IPRRC in Miami, the audience collapsed into laughter but it got the essential message that social media is here to stay and of rapidly increasing importance. The study researches opinions of PR practitioners, mostly in the US and Canada, but also from four other continents.


Other headlines were:


§  Traditional news media receive higher scores from PR practitioners than blogs and social media in terms of accuracy, credibility, telling the truth and being ethical

§  73% of practitioners believe blogs and social media have changed the way their organisations or clients communicate

§  85% believe social media complement traditional news media

§  92% think blogs and social media influence coverage in traditional news media.

§  88% believe blogs and social media have made communications more instantaneous

§  93% of this year’s respondents spent part of their average workdays with some aspects of social media.


All these results are increases from last year’s report.


For a longer discussion of the paper and the full report, go to:


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.




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Tom Watson

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