Posts Tagged ‘PR Research

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.

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.

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.

This is a last call for your views on the use of the term, Return on Investment (ROI), in PR. I’m researching into practitioner use and understanding of ROI and will report on my findings to PR Moment’s ROI Conference in London on March 3 and at the International PR Research Conference in Miami a week later. It will also be reported on this blog.

I’ve prepared a short survey (just click through to it) which takes 10 minutes to complete. Already, early data responses are showing up some strong differences between areas of practices and on specific propositions.

As ROI is often a judgement on communication effectiveness, I hope you will take part in this very relevant study. Comments and feedback are welcome, too.

ROI or Return on Investment is a much-used public relations term. Its beginnings are in financial management but it’s less well defined in PR practice.

I’m researching into practitioner use and understanding of ROI and will report on my findings to PR Moment’s ROI Conference in February and other conferences in the coming year. I’ve prepared a short survey which will take 10 minutes to complete. It will give data and insights on which further research in the UK and other countries will be based.

As ROI is often a judgement on communication effectiveness, I hope you will take part in this very relevant study. Comments and feedback are welcome, too.

The International History of Public Relations Conference (IHPRC) has a new Facebook site – ‘International History of Public Relations Conference’. It’s a slight change from the previous site which had the title of “The First International, etc”. Now that we are planning for the second IHPRC and a continuing existence, the title needed change. Become an IHPRC friend and spread the message. You can also follow the conference and other PR history resources at

Is there a specific “PR personality”? I don’t think there is and the issue is debated in the latest PR Moment  in Are you a natural at PR? It also features research from Bournemouth University BA Public Relations student, Shannon Bailey.

The First International History of Public Relations Conference is to be held at Bournemouth University in England on July 8 and 9, 2010. The Conference was announced recently and already has had very positive indications that people and papers will be coming from afar afield as Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Germany, North America and the UK.

The Call for Papers  (below) is now being distributed and it offers a very wide range of PR history themes and the opportunities to present Research Papers, Working Papers and Posters.



 8-9 July 2010

Centre for Public Communication Research (CPCR)

The Media School, Bournemouth University

Poole, England

Academics, practitioners and research students are invited to submit competitive abstracts and papers for presentation at The First International History of Public Relations Conference.

This conference will be the first international opportunity for academic researchers, historians, interested practitioners and research students to meet, present papers and discuss this emerging area of research.

Full Papers – 3000 to 6000 words

Working Papers – 1500 to 3000 words


Papers and posters for presentation at the conference will be selected, after peer review, on the basis of abstracts, of no more than a single page length. Author details must be printed on a separate sheet and the author(s) should not be identified in the abstract.

Manuscripts of the selected papers are to be submitted using Harvard referencing and according to the Journal of Communication Management editorial style found at: . The manuscript should be in MS WORD format, in 1.5 line spacing and 12 point font size.


Submission of abstracts: December 7, 2009

Acceptance notification (by email): January 18, 2010

Submission of selected papers: April 26, 2010

All accepted abstracts will be published in the conference programme, which will be available online. A selection of full papers will be published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Communication Management in late 2010.

Conference Themes

As this is the first international conference on the History of Public Relations, the range of conference themes is wide and those listed below are the starting point for consideration, rather than a finite list.

  • Public relations in history before it became a named or defined discipline
  • Alternative approaches to the history of public relations, e.g. on the basis of culture (personal networks and influence) or via definitions of public relations
  • The evolving naming of the field from propaganda and press agentry to corporate communications
  • The history of public relations and its developing or diverging relationships with other disciplines like marketing, HR, legal and corporate governance
  • The evolution of public relations in nations or parts of government or industry
  • Seminal personalities or events that shaped the formation of public relations as a discipline (This can also include challenges to the “Great Man” or “Great Woman” approach)
  • Key books or articles (or series of both) that have influenced public relations
  • The history of political public relations and lobbying
  • The history of public relations education
  • The evolution of public relations theory(ies) over time – from propaganda to dialogue; the history of schools of thinking in public relations
  • Formative influences on public relations theory and practice, such as in or by government, industry or consultancy
  • The formation of industry and professional bodies and their impact, over time, on public relations practice and education
  • The evolution of public relations education, training and continuing professional development
  • The impact of technology, over time, upon public relations practice and theory
  • Archival sources for the history of public relations
  • The theories and processes of researching the history of public relations
  • Oral histories of public relations; the role of this methodology

Please send abstracts to Dr Tom Watson, Conference Chair, The Media School, Bournemouth University, email:

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Tom Watson

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