Latest PR Research sheds light

Research is ImportantThe International PR Research Conference is a boon to public relations people like me, because it enables us to dig deeply into the state of the profession as researched by the academy, often in partnership with the practice. I wrote an appreciation of the conference over on LinkedIn, and this new post on my blog is the first of several going into some detail on what I found most useful.

Dr. Denise Bortree of Penn State examined 194 video sustainability reports from a variety of organizations, seeking trends. Her findings? Building legitimacy is the main goal — it’s less about the actual documentation of activity and more about the result of that documentation. Classic outcome measurement, as these organizations obviously see benefit in being perceived as sensitive to their non-financial obligations.  The UK and Europe are using video more frequently than do other regions of the world. These types of reports are seeing a recent rise in popularity.

Radford University’s Dr. Lynn Zoch and Dr. John Brummette looked into the connection between personal and organizational values, examining 10 annual reports from Fortune 500 companies and a series of depth interviews with PR professionals and organizational leaders to evaluate the link. This is the first step in a wider study, but the initial findings are that values do matter quite a lot on both sides of the equation. This supports the concept that several organizations have expanded lately — EY for one, focusing on purpose and hiring only people whose personal purpose aligns with the firm’s.

Several researchers from Purdue University, led by Dr. Alessandra Mazzei of Universita IULM, Italy, evaluate the role that organizational authenticity and employee empowerment have on the practice of employee endorsement of their organizations.  This “megaphoning” depends a lot on the quality of relationship between organization and employee (no surprise there). Particularly during a crisis, having employees who trust their organization and who feel motivated as a result to take action in support of their organization leads to positive behavior.  Marketers trying to make people into “brand ambassadors” through some sort of training or indoctrination should take heed — build great relationships internally and people will be ambassadors without any such program.

More to follow – This post is already kind of long, so part two coming soon!







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2 Responses to “Latest PR Research sheds light”

  1. Brian Massie says:

    The stars must be in alignment. KSU’s Sean Williams and RU’s John Brummette (both former professors of mine) are together on the same page on the web. Dr. Zoch never taught any of my classes but at times I wish she had.

    Always a curious one and a skeptic of mission statements, I have to wonder how much authentic alignment of values happens. My skepticism is based on the data I have that deals with employee knowledge of organizational mission statements, values, and goals.

    An excerpt from an article I wrote for a PR News book: “Most employees don’t read the part of the employee handbook that covers the “strategic vision” and “organizational values.” Many new employees are too busy meeting people and figuring out the logistics of the job to get around to it, and most never do. Thus, evidence of vision and values must be in plain sight and part of organizational operations.”

    As far as hiring someone based on value statements that occurred during an interview, people have been known to say what they need to say to get the job. Talking points might be more natural for communicators but plenty of people in different fields have used them to act as though they’ll blend in. Of course, no hard data exists to support my assertion. Nor does any data I have exist to show what the turnover rates are for those who do that.

    So many mysteries. So much room for more research.

    • Hi Brian! Thanks for weighing in here. I think I’m not doing justice to the Radford scholars’ work here – it’s research in progress, and I summarized quite a bit. I will agree that most people don’t pay attention to what’s written, but I think they do sense the say-do disconnect that occurs when the organization isn’t living in a way that matches their organizational values.

      As for the rational actor theory of employment (Why do I want this job? C’os I need a job!) that’s out of scope for the moment. Sounds like a good research project!
      Thanks again for your comment.