Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

PR measurement: 3 reasons for hope

Friday, September 27th, 2013

A couple of years ago, I wrote that with so much BS in measurement (particularly in social media) that I was wearying of the chase. Now I’m more hopeful, not because there’s less BS, but because people are getting a bit more wise to it.

Here are three reasons why I’m feeling good about measurement:

1. The social media measurement standards coalition:  There now is a document outlining professional standards for measurement in social media! Thanks to MANY people — Katie Paine at the top of the list — and the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), Council of PR Firms (CPRF) and the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) — and the #SMMStandards Conclave, plus the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), Chartered Institute of PR (CIPR), Federation Internationale des Bureaux d’Extraits de Presse (FIBEP), Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management, Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), Digital Analytics Association (DAA) and Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

2. PRSA’s “value of public relations” project: David Rockland of Ketchum spearheaded the effort to enlist the U.S.’s main professional association for PR, and the academic community, in a conversation about the value that public relations brings and how to prove it effectively.  The very conversation was off limits when I joined the PR measurement world just 9 (!) short years ago. Goodness.

3. Classes in Measurement making it into college PR programs: I built a Measurement/ROI class for Kent State in 2011, and have taught it now three times for grad students in-person, and twice in the online masters’ program there.  People who take this class have better, deeper, more cogent and more effective final projects than those who don’t, according to the school.  Strategic thinking and planning changes among these minds as a consequence of taking merely an intro course in measurement.  These are the future leaders of our profession, and among the greatest achievements in my professional life is contributing that class to the curriculum.

I’m more hopeful now, even amid the continuing battle for social media’s soul between the “marketers” and other communicators, than I’ve been in years!  How about you?

 

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I miss blogging

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

OK, I’m kind of lying. I don’t miss the blogging I did four years ago. You know, the blogging I did because I didn’t have a job or clients and needed to do something productive.

I talk to people “in transition” frequently. I try to say “yes” as much as possible, because I remember what it’s like. Communication AMMO still has just one employee, and it only now seems like it’s going to allow me to earn a living for a while. But it’s a darn site better than the waiting many of our colleagues have gone through for the past few years.

Blogging is a little bit of an ego trip, so obviously, I’m not doing it right. The frequency of posting is way down, and so to is the number of people reading my fevered musings. I’m not feeling very fascinating these days. I’m putting most of my energy into work for clients, work for classes taught and work for volunteer opportunities.

I DO feel like I still have something to say. So, don’t be too surprised if I’m a little more visible than in recent months in this space.

In the meantime, if you are in position to hire people, don’t turn your back on folks who’ve been out of the game for a while. If you can use an extra hand, reach out to a colleague working on launching their own gig. Be generous as you can be, even if only with your time, your support, and your coffee.

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2013 and the secret weapons

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

I can’t help but mention that in addition to a rocking good batch of client work that continues apace for at least the next five weeks, and the start of a new semester and its associated teaching responsibilities, I’m again sick.

I caught some sort of dread bug back at the beginning of December. It morphed into a sinus problem, consumed the drugs that save us all from the fate of our ancestors in such matters, but now has turned into yet a different sort of plague.  If it were 1850, I, the Esteemed Spouse, and several friends and family members would be hauled out of the neighborhood ala the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Ring out your dead!!!!)

It’s not fair. I’ve done my sick routine for far too long, and it’s distracted me from matters both prosaic (it’s a new year! I should write something profound about the state of measurement/internal comms/ what have you!) and more important (the US election! Congress! Taxes!)

Oh, well.

The secret weapons of 2013, actually, are found in the presentation I’m giving about online influence at the International PR Research Conference. The IPRRC is a fave, it’s academic as all get-out, fraught with Ph.D. students and their profs, and a few practitioners who get treated REALLY WELL. OK, it’s kind of a head trip to publish a paper and present to people whose material I teach in grad classes (Hazelton, Botan, and Smudde, to name a few from past conferences). But it’s also the frickin’ bleeding edge of PR research. More people in the practice should attend, if only to call BS on some of the less practical research (though there’s blessed less of that these days – everyone is pretty interested in what’s actual rather than ideal.)

I just did a lit review and came up with an idea to use qualitative research to help shed some light on online influence. There’s so much total BS out there!!!

The secret weapons aren’t just in my work – I’m an egomaniac, but only a little.  It’s on that knife-edge of research that our PR academics are honing. I still feel a bit like the 13-year old sitting at the adults table at Thanksgiving for the first time!

Spend a few bucks, come to Miami in March (a dreadful hardship for any northerner, I know), and drink from the firehose of knowledge.  And, find the secret weapons!

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IABC Heritage Region Conference: Outstanding

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Professional association conferences can be rather tedious affairs. They’re hard to program owing to the wide variety of experience of membership, the need for a balance of presenters between people who are selling something and those who are merely sharing, and no small disparity in skill as a public speaker. I know, because I’ve worked on several of them. One conference I’ve come to appreciate is the  International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) regional conference for members in the upper-right quadrant of the U.S. — the Heritage Region. When the Heritage conference came to Cleveland in 2009, I ran sponsorships, and in 2010 for Philadelphia, I was speakers co-chair and introduced a keynote speaker, and in 2011, I spoke in Detroit.

This year, Pittsburgh was the venue, and I sponsored the event and conducted a breakout session on employee engagement. It was an excellent conference, filled with first-rate programming at a fraction of the cost of other, larger ones.

I met some new people (which is the main goal for me at these things, along with having the chance to present), and heard some excellent communicators share interesting perspectives on our profession and its future. Here, briefly, a few of my observations:

Alison Davis got us started with an inspiring, if familiar, call to earn our stripes as strategists. Davis is a good speaker, and my only complaint is that the message is pretty basic stuff (see above on comment about the difficulty of programming when many levels are in the room).  But her methods were fun to hear, and she used Joan Jett and Bob Seger to open and close her talk.

Dina Wolfman Baker reorganized her communication department to align with an organizational refit, and started the process with primary research among 30 stakeholders, plus a time study to see where staff time was being spent. It’s rare, in my experience, to see so strategic a method for reorganization. The process too frequently is more political and financial — wider spans of control, certain number of reports by budget, etc.  Baker’s insights emerging from the research weren’t limited to structural questions, either — one factiod — a disconnect among leadership in expectations regarding willingness to accept advice from communicators and sharing strategy with them. The new structure brought more focus and expertise to bear on the topics that mattered most to the organization.

Robin McCasland runs internal communication for an IT services firm facing cultural change owing to acquisitions. She focused on the combined company’s shared distinctiveness and the appeal to a higher purpose to reinvigorate leadership enthusiasm and employee identification with the essentially new firm. But, she doesn’t ignore, either, the very real need to ramp up understanding of the industry and business among employees as the company looks to grow.

Erin Dick, whom I try never to miss on a dais, gave a terrific talk on a familiar topic – the ever increasing pace of change in society, including in the communication field. Dick is a high-energy, entertaining speaker who really gave a clinic on how to give a presentation. Great multimedia, enthusiasm and excitement (and some really cool, even scary new tech that’s already here, not just in the future.)

Jeff Hutson, who I got to introduce, had the unenviable position of kicking off the second conference day at 8 a.m. after the inevitable dinner out at the end of day one. Jeff is a research geek like me, and he shared some practical tools to help math-o-phobic communicators get over their fear and embrace the numbers — or at least, embrace someone who knows how to embrace the numbers. This notion informs a class I teach at Kent State University on measurement and ROI in communications — the goal isn’t to teach people to do measurement, it’s to help people do an RFP and evaluate the people who’ll do the work.

Betsy duWaldt, a colleague and Kent and former head of internal comms at First Energy Corp., is finishing up her Ph.D. at Duquesne, and she shared First Energy’s path to reinventing its employee communication — including a fascinating look at how the CEO won over a skeptical workforce. (Sorry Betsy, no photo!)

D. Mark Schumann, amid his trademark flowing mane of steel-grey hair and frequent self-deprecating quips, called on us to reinvent our profession and ourselves in our third keynote, then presided over a panel discussion where four breakout facilitators (including Moi) shared details and action steps that participants suggested to complete that reinvention.  It was a great close to two great days.

I may be largely “done” with IABC’s international conference, but the Heritage is a must for me.

I’m seeing a lot of IABC this fall — I’m speaking in mid-November at the IABC/PRIME Research conference in New York and talking employee communication measurement. Should be a great time — and another great, small conference from my longest-tenured professional association.

P.s. Why do I think IABC, PRSA, etc., are valuable, and what are my concerns and complaints about them? See this post on PR Conversations.

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Considering the state of online influence

Friday, April 27th, 2012

How do we measure influence?

If you read these humble musings semi-regularly, you know that I’m rather suspicious of most so-called measures of online influence. Too often, it’s black-box, secret sauce, cloak-and-dagger, and one really can’t judge the veracity of the claims.

I don’t want to single any company out, so suffice to say that whatever science is behind those claims, I have been looking for independent, scholarly research that might back it up. Conceptually, I ask myself: “Is online influence different from offline influence? How might we measure it if so? If not?”

This pondering, and the requirement to write a literature review for Dr. Danielle Coombs’s qualitative research class, pushed me into examining research from several different disciplines, including marketing and communication, psychology, sociology, information technology and even the hard sciences. In so doing, I believe I’m building a foundation for my eventual master’s thesis.

I am interested in the influence process as qualitative in nature, rather than strictly quantitative. Predictability isn’t necessarily what I’m striving for (thus guaranteeing I won’t get it published…), but rather trying to understand the process as it is.  You’ve heard the claims — retweets and @replies as evidence of influence (Kaushik’s RTs per 1000 followers), shares and likes on Facebook, etc.  We know that it’s quite variable according to who you are and what industry you’re in, who your audience is, and so forth.

In short, where’s the beef in this influence sandwich?

I’m unsatisfied by publications from research firms and others with a vested interest, which is a huge challenge. I have found so far that there’s not all that much in current scholarship that is directly related to the online space, and much of what there is dates from three to five years ago, an eternity in internet time.

So, stay tuned – I have no intention of abandoning this effort, and to the extent there is interest in what I’ve found so far, I plan to share.

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Political PR might be the root of all evil

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Kent State’s ever quotable Dr. Bob Batchelor just gave his “Is PR Evil?” lecture and posted about five minutes of it on Facebook. He says, “yes, PR is evil.”

I disagree. The majority are thousands of practitioners working every day to conduct themselves ethically, and represent their organizations accurately as they support business objectives. To say, as Dr. B. does, that failure to enthusiastically fight the gender gap is evidence of evil, diminishes evil. Al-Qaeda is evil.  Bernie Madhoff is evil.

There are myriad reasons for the gender gap, and sexism does not account for them all, as this report from Education International explains. I do not doubt that pay equity is a problem in many cases, but singling out the PR industry’s perceived inaction as evil is a gross oversimplification.

Dr. B. says that whenever he interacts with a corporation, he winds up using words like diabolical, Satanic, wicked, bad, dark, sinister, infernal, unholy, ugly, vile, slimy… Really? Every corporation?  What is your point, sir? That corporations are evil? That only government can save us from their rapacious ways? Right. Because government is so pure!

If any part of the PR industry might meet Dr. Batchelor’s description, it’s political PR.  Politics requires the basest elements of press agentry — a willingness to misrepresent at best, to ignore objective truth, to lie if necessary.  It’s a bipartisan effort that leaves citizenry contemplating polar versions of events, perspectives and paths.

Witness the discussion on national health insurance — it’s a right, it’s an assault on liberty, it’s an expensive boondoggle, it’s a money-saver, it’s a requirement for a just civilization, it’s a violation of the Constitution.

How about tax policy? It’s fairness for the rich to pay more, because they can afford it. It’s wrong for nearly half the people to pay no taxes at all.  It’s Robin Hood economics, it’s essential to our way of life, it allows us to rebuild the middle class, it’s a zero-sum cash grab that makes government more powerful…

And so on.

The political machine cares only about the perpetuation of government, and they fight over who gets to run things.  By the way, government creates no wealth at all. It exists at the sufferance of those who work in the private sector, and relies entirely on its ability to collect money from the private sphere. That’s not a political statement. It’s a fact.

At least business has a transparent mission: to make money for its owners, which means those of us working for and with business have a transparent mission as well – to help the organizations attain their business objectives. This does not argue for an absolute lack of regulation, however. Even Adam Smith believe business needed to be properly regulated.   So you won’t find me demanding an end to food safety, clean water and many other regulations, which, of course, marks me as an apostate among my more conservative friends.

Name-calling doesn’t help, either, whether it’s Birthers claiming the President is a socialist Muslim or Richard Cohen referring to Rick Santorum as “Mullah Rick.”

If anything, it’s political PR that sets out business issues in black and white terms, supported by governmental regulatory schema. Businesses are cast as the enemy, business people as the scourge of the earth.

Now, what is evil?

 

 

 

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Surprise! Innovation is a Change Issue

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

As part of my Knowledge Management class, we’ve been looking at innovation, specifically the twin paths of evolutionary innovation and disruptive innovation articulated by Prof. Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School. The base concept is that incumbent companies always win in an evolutionary innovation race (a sequential improvement or step-change – think hybrid cars), while new entrants always win in a disruptive innovation race (think iPods.)  But I could see how even evolutionary innovation could be considered disruptive.

This casts the innovation cycle as a change management issue, and that made me think of Harold Innis, the Canadian political scientist whose landmark collection of essays, The Bias of Communication (1951), precede Marshall McLuhan (the Medium is the Message.)

I wrote a paper on how Innis, who saw almost all technological improvements in communication as the path to decline for societies, might view Facebook (answer: not happily.) This material came back to me as I thought about the concept of disruptive innovation, which gets written about favorably nearly all the time. After all, do we want to give up discount retailers, community colleges, cell phones and doc-in-the-box medical clinics?

Christensen likes disruption — he sees it as the only way we move forward. But I can think of the dark side of such changes fairly easily.  Ask Kodak about digital cameras. They had the technology well in place for eons, but failed to grasp how it would change conventional photography.  Of itself, digital photography is more of an evolutionary innovation, but ever-smaller chips and other, seemingly less important innovations shrunk the cameras, improved the quality and let Canon and others rule the space.

Innis would call that shot — he’d have seen the negatives early on.  It’s a change issue, and in a change, only infrequently does everyone win. Usually, someone loses. We have cheap cameras, and professional photography is going the way of the iceman.  I’m now looking at innovation as a problem, and suddenly the reasons why companies grapple to make the creative, innovative and inventive processes cogent and repeatable makes a lot of sense.  So too the difficulty of organizational learning, and of knowledge collection and application, and the issues around losing talent.

Innis said:

Mechanization has emphasized complexity and confusion; it has been responsible for monopolies in the field of knowledge; and it becomes extremely important to any civilization, if it is not to succumb to the influence of this monopoly of knowledge, to make some critical survey and report. The conditions of freedom of thought are in danger of being destroyed by science, technology, and the mechanization of knowledge, and with them, Western civilization.” (Innis, 1951, p. 190)

Just thinking out loud here.

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The ‘Professor’ Becomes The Student

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

It's 1992...AGAIN!

For 15 years, I’ve known that when my corporate career wound to a close, I wanted to teach, write and speak. That always has meant I’d need to get an advanced degree, and the question only was exactly when that would happen. The master plan was to start a master’s degree in 2009, which would have been the start of my second year at National City Corp. You want to make G-d laugh? Make plans.

My experience at regional bank National City began in January 2008, just in time for the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. By the end of the year, PNC had acquired National City with government help, and in short order, Communication AMMO was born. I flirted briefly with the idea of enrolling in a master’s program right away, but jumped on the small business train instead. Now, after nearly 18 months toiling through the Great Recession, and a year after beginning my teaching career at Kent State as an adjunct prof, the academic fire is burning pretty brightly in me.

So, I decided to start the next phase of my communication career with pursuing a master’s in public relations from Kent State University.

This presented an interesting sidebar — in my Theory of Mass Communication class, seven of my fellow students took my PR Theory and Ethical Practice course last fall, and one of them is in the PR Tactics course I’m teaching this fall.  No copying off Professor Williams!

I’m excited and a bit terrified — I was last a student about 20 years ago, and wonder if I still remember how to study.  Preparing to teach is an education in itself, but being accountable for academic readings and schoolwork is a dim memory. The first week of classes (I’m taking two) is under our belts, and I still have time to complete the initial assignments. I count that as a victory!

With three speaking engagements this fall (PRSA International, the Parma, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce, and the IABC Research and Measurement Conference), the two classes, the one I’m teaching, the twice-monthly Twitter meeting, #ICChat, and the position as membership director for IABC Cleveland, I’m not going to lack for things to do.

I hope to still remain active here and elsewhere in social media, but don’t be too surprised if my frequency drops and length of post shrinks.

Of course, there no doubt are many of you who are hoping for just such a reduction. Anyone want to write a guest post?

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