Posts Tagged ‘conference’

3 new research items that move PR forward

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

ResearchBlockThe research at the International PR Research Conference in March includes several items from Dr. Ansgar Zerfaß of the University of Leipzig, who, as has become usual, is at the vanguard of public relations research. These three papers are leading our practice – and deserve much more notice among those of us who do the work. They join several others that I covered previously.

I’ve written before about the need for practitioners to embrace the academic professionals who are researching our field. Zerfaß brought with him Ph.D. student Sophia Charlotte Volk, who shared two papers co-authored with him (and won a heap of research awards at the conference, including this one) that I’ll briefly describe in successive posts. Talking with Ansgar and Sophia was terrific, and I learned a lot from them.

The Communication Value Circle — Introducing a multi-disciplinary framework for aligning communication with corporate strategy. (Zerfaß & Dr. Christine Viertmann) This research project explores the theories and concepts that explain communication value in the context of business, and identifies and arranges in a system communication goals, and links them to corporate goals. This latter portion of the project establishes that communication contributes to overall business objectives in four ways:

  • Enabling operations through publicity, customer preferences and employee commitment;
  • Building intangibles through reputation, brand and corporate culture;
  • Ensuring flexibility of a corporation through establishing and maintaining relationships with stakeholders, and building trust and legitimacy, and
  • Adjusting strategy through thought leadership, innovation potential and crisis resilience.

Implications:

This work begins to codify, clearly, not only how to describe the impact and value of organizational communication, but to build measurement strategies to demonstrate it.

  • “Enabling operations” speaks to organizational effectiveness, productivity, and sales leadership and the measurement of each.
  • “Building intangibles” can give input to balanced scorecard figures on nonfinancial indicators.
  • The point on building and maintaining relationships suggests measuring the strengths of those relationships.
  • The most important, to me, is “adjusting strategy.” Measurement isn’t only about proving value, it’s about actionable intelligence that allows organizations to course-correct.

Stay tuned for other posts on the IPRRC 2016 research.

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What’s the point of the IABC World Conference?

Friday, July 18th, 2014
Chuck Gose holds court ably at IABC '14

Chuck Gose holds court ably at IABC ’14

It costs a lot of money, involves travel including a spendy hotel, and features 1,300 attendees. Why did I go?

Once upon a time in my career, I was trying to fill in many professional blanks — better understand media relations, gain management knowledge, be a better writer, move up in my organization and make more money.  I went to Conference first in ’95, then again in ’97, and the second time it wasn’t as valuable. Many of the same presenters on hand, and not as much new overall.

Still, I recommended the conference to others, particularly my contemporaries looking to learn.  Then I got busy with career, and started looking for other things to attend — the Institute for PR Summit on Measurement, Joe Williams’ Dialogue in the DesertRagan.  Next, I presented at some smaller conferences and started thinking about the big kahuna again. I went in 2010, and though I met a few people, it was tough — I stayed at a bed and breakfast, brought my wife along and had friends meet us there. I went to sessions, but missed out on dine-a-round and the usual camaraderie, and thus, walked away wondering why I’d gone.

This year, with the conference back in Toronto, I went again. Two dinners with great people I’d never met before. My wife attended the conference rather than waiting for me to be done. We stayed at the conference hotel. It was fun!

Invariably, when I get back from a conference I ask what business value (apart from learning) I received. For these large conferences, I’m often disappointed. My expectations are out of line — I have to treat these things as long-term investments in branding and general awareness. Through that prism, IABC14 was a smash – I live tweeted several portions, and wound up with new Twitter followers and some impressive tweet stats. Whether that means anything at all, I haven’t a clue. And I’m a measurement guy!

Perhaps I’m too much of a capitalist — I want ROI on this, not merely outtakes and outputs. Yet, I know that in the strictest sense, I’ve only been running my own show for five years — others have been at it much longer.  Add to the mix the recent issues IABC has suffered (annus horriblus, definitely), and I need to do a better job of staying in the moment and not expecting the phone to ring straightaway.

I’m also a little late to the game here — and my incipient entry into the second half of my fifth decade has me a little spooked.  The thing is, IABC has been very good to me. I’ve built a great professional network and made good friends. I’ve learned a lot and had the opportunity to teach others what I’ve learned. I’ve been to interesting places and sharpened my saw.

Will I go every year? Have to see. I’m leading PRSA’s employee communication section this year, so will have to go to the PRSA conference this fall (and meanwhile, my expenses are through the roof!), and there are industries whose conferences I should attend as well. (Hello, SSATB, NAIS, WBSA?) I love the IPRRC, and Connect.

I need more clients, obviously! 🙂

 

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Connect with me this fall

Monday, July 16th, 2012

There will be three great opportunities this fall to sharpen your professional saw, and to schmooze with me!  Sept. 10-11, I’m at “Connect 12” the PRSA Employee Communication Section conference at NYU in The City. Oct. 14-16, I’m the bronze sponsor for the IABC Heritage Region Conference in Pittsburgh at the Westin. Nov. 12-13, I’m back to New York for the 2012 IABC and PRIME Research Global Strategic Communication and Measurement Conference (where I’ll be speaking as well as schmoozing!)

Each of these conferences will be terrific. The PRSA section conference will be my first; I went to International in Washington, D.C., a couple of years ago, and managed a section dinner which was great fun. I’m looking forward to lower Manhattan and a chance to meet new folks and connect with friends.  The Heritage conference is outstanding – I spoke last year in Detroit, introduced a keynoter two years ago in Philly, and have served on both the sponsorship and speaker committees in the past. It’s always great to connect with IABC peeps!

Two years ago, I spoke at the IABC Communication and Measurement Conference in Seattle, and I’m delighted my friend and Institute for PR Measurement Commission colleague Mark Weiner (CEO of PRIME Research) invited me to participate this year.  Expect a great program at The Yale Club.

Hope to catch you at one – or all of these!

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Random Reflections on IABC’s 2010 Research and Measurement Conference

Saturday, November 20th, 2010
Working on the post

Sean and Shonali toiling in the service of communication

What happens when you get a roomful of communicators listening to a speaker on measurement? It’s not what you think. In this joint post, Shonali Burke and I sat atop the ivory tower after Day 1 of the Conference – and issued what Shonali’s husband would call “grand pronouncements.”

Shonali: Coming down in the elevator, I chanced upon a conversation between a gentleman attending an event hosted by The Gates Foundation, and an attendee of “our” conference. She said, “[Your conference] sounds so much more interesting. I doubt mine will be as riveting as yours.”

On being asked, she said, deprecatingly, that it was a communications conference. At this point, I couldn’t resist. I said, “You mean you’re not overwhelmed with excitement over the IABC Research and Measurement Conference?” She looked at me as if I was crazy. Just before she found out I was a speaker.

Was I mean? I don’t think so. Naughty, perhaps. Not mean. Heck, if you’re going to say whatever you like in an elevator, so can I.

Sean: Several people seemed quite taken by the morning sessions, though one person I encountered less so. She hemmed and hawed when I asked what she thought of the conference so far, never a particularly good sign. But in the end, she didn’t seem to have a clear set of objectives for attending the conference.

This is a huge theme in my teaching: Objectives are everything. If you don’t know what you’re hoping to achieve, you don’t have much of a shot at achieving it.

Shonali: A common editorial comment I keep hearing from attendees at measurement conferences (or presentations related to measurement) is: “It doesn’t seem like the basics have changed… so what do I take away from this?” It drives me a little crazy. No, the basics haven’t changed. That’s because they’re the basics.

How can you not grasp the importance of measuring numbers that matter instead of numbers that make you look good? What part of, “measure [what] has an impact as opposed to simply focusing on the tools,” isn’t easy to understand?

Sean: Angela Sinickas is a treasure trove of case studies. I have to remind myself to call her for research fodder. I saw Angela at PRSA’s 2010 International Conference, and suddenly realized I’d seen her presentation before. Some of that, no doubt, is that she boasts 23 of the Forbes worldwide list as clients. Maybe it’s rank envy! I love the fact that she represents for measurement, and I wonder what she might do with Dr. Don Stacks and Dr. Don Wright nipping at her heels on projects.

Shonali: What was really interesting about this conference was that it wasn’t the usual [measurement expert] suspects presenting.

Well, not all the usual suspects.

Well, not two-thirds of the usual suspects.

Well…

Sean: Shel Holtz said you have to measure something, and it doesn’t have to be complicated. I always say that getting your objectives right is the single best start to a measurement program. You’ve got to measure something, and starting with progress on attaining objectives is a great place to start.

I also loved that Patti Phillips went 100 percent professor on the crowd, demanding us to calculate.

Shonali: Represent. Ruminate. Calculate. Especially when it’s way after hours.

What else is a conference for?

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Talking About PRSA, IABC, IPR on PRConversations Blog

Monday, July 12th, 2010

I’m honored (or honoured) to have written a guest post on one of the best blogs in all of PR/Communications — PRConversations — thanks to Judy Gombita, who recruited me.  The topic is my tripartite professional association affiliation — IABC, PRSA and the Institute for PR. Namely, are they valuable, necessary and a good value?  The comment stream alone is worth reading, with several luminaries weighing in (and no cursing or objects thrown so far, thankfully.) Give it a read and tell me what you think!

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Getting in Touch with My Inner Geek

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
bit of a mashup from Integrate 2010

Death by IT PowerPoint - well, just illness...

A couple of weeks ago, I attended that IT conference I wrote about before, Integrate 2010: Uniting the World of IT.  The group putting it on was the Greater Cleveland Local Interest Group of ITSMF-USA, which is a professional association for IT Service ManagementAs I mentioned, it was great — I learned something new, met some interesting people and commiserated with yet another staff function that feels unappreciated. Here is part one of some observations about the sessions and speakers I saw.

George Spalding, VP Global Events, Pink Elephant

Spalding is a jovial, pink-faced man with round tortoise-shell glasses and a somewhat unconventional delivery for his speech, “2000 Years of IT Service Management.” He started his piece with a series of slides that took stories from the Bible and refit them into info tech situations. Think “Noah’s Ark” as an IT Enterprise Software project. His point was to show how silly typical IT responses to issues are — “Why do incidents happen? Someone made a change. Don’t we test these things?”

Spalding went on a while with Biblical story-telling, and from my perspective could have shortened the list. His main audience seemed to be charmed — and there was no denying the main messages: “You’re not in the IT business anymore” was the critical nugget — sound familiar? Prior to Y2K, Spalding said, “Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt” gave IT the freedom to do as it pleased. Once the world kept spinning into the new millennium, IT moved into the service business, and now there’s no returning to the old ways. He’s obviously comfortable with this speech and delivery — he could have been even better with some judicious editing, and a bit of presentation skills editing, too.

Michael Lundblad, Rational Worldwide Sales Executive, IBM

Mike Lundblad comes with a story. An ex-Marine officer, he speaks well, commands attention and represents an important company. The content of his presentation, “How to Recover from an Application Heart Attack,” was so far into the IT manual that I really couldn’t wrap my head around it.  He also seemed mainly to be describing products (Rational and Tivoli), rather than offering some type of independent advice or action steps. Of course, maybe that’s par for the course at these conferences — it was my first one!

Bob Balassi, chief technology officer, Maryville Technologies

Bob wore the same suit/shirt/tie combination on the dais as he wore in his program photo. He was a very polished, smooth speaker, but didn’t move at all (missing clicker hindered the show…note: buy your own – and don’t forget to bring it!). The static delivery hurt the presentation, but didn’t kill it. The title of the presentation is too long to include, but it was on what’s called IT Transformation. That’s the wholesale redo of a company’s IT world, moving from being technology driven to business driven. It’s kind of like when PR teams reorg to align more with their clients, rather than their own internal preferences.

His big message was that A) The transformation will continue (209 million Google results); B) Merger situations tend to push IT into the background, but improving these tools in a service format can yield a 25%-40% productivity increase and a rise in net present value of 5%-10% — that’s real strategic value, not just control-oriented window dressing. Could we make a similar claim for a communications transformation?

In another easily adapted bon mot, Bob said change management — both IT and organizational — is critical to success. Adopt-Adapt-Transform is the modality he shared, along with the need to engage employees and top leadership. He said there are stars, skeptics, cynics and slugs (and stabilizers), and you have to know how many of your team are in what category. I could have been hearing from just about any business improvement consultant. He did a fine job, though his PowerPoint was killing me.

More in part two.

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Another IABC International Conference…

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

I recognize that if I’m not a speaker at the big IABC soiree, I’m probably not the target audience for it. I’m not surprised, therefore, that my first blush reaction to the Toronto gathering wasn’t particularly positive.  My goal for attending this year was to meet some new people and make contact with some who I haven’t seen in a while. I hope to eventually get some business from it, but really just need to expand the network.

The programming and format are nearly identical to my first International, in 1995, also in Toronto. That one was a revelation — I was just 4 years or so into the profession, and everything was new.  Every session offered fascinating insights or enhanced skills.  I met scores of people and hung out with many, enjoying my first trip to Toronto and my first extended business trip in several years.

In 1997, L.A. was a different experience. Many of the speakers were the same as two years earlier, and in 2002 at Chicago, there were just a few sessions that really caught my eye. So I took a vacation from the big show until this year.

Things that impressed me:

Erin Dick from Pratt & Whitney — a social media case study that wasn’t from a Silicon Valley firm… Her use of blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr to help support P&W’s client (the U.S.Government) on the selection of an engine for the Joint Strike Force fighter was off the charts — brilliant. And it had a fairly strong measurement component. I decided to Tweet the session instead of trying to take notes. The benefit was that I had a great summary, though my thumbs threatened to lock up from BlackBerry-itis…

William Amurgis from American Electric Power — Looking for use of social media in internal communications? Amurgis delivered. AEP’s blogs, discussion boards, employee-uploaded photos, etc., set a high standard of participation. The company’s intranet philosophy? Enhance employee productivity, reinforce corporate messages and provide a place to meet for all employees. Everything has to pass through that frame, or it doesn’t happen. And, rather than buy software solutions, AEP makes their own. Amurgis has a designer and a developer on his staff.

The UnConference — OK, it was a bit different than other UnConferences (usually low-or-no-cost, open to anyone; you had to buy the day (at least) for the IABC Conference to get in, and it wasn’t cheap) — but the method of operation was different and fun. There was no pre-set program, just a list of ideas posted on the TorontoTalks website (that a few people did discuss first), and three 5-minute “keynotes” — very informally delivered.  The three-hour session on Sunday afternoon was comprised of four 25-minute blocks of time with six possible topics (being held at six tables). We wrote on sticky notes our question or suggested topic, then stuck it on a flip chart in an empty time slot. The writer could lead the discussion, or someone else could.  I talked measurement (what a shock!) with seven other folks and it was fascinating. We didn’t solve the ROI question in full, nor did we get into other facets of communication, but it still was valuable and fun.

The thing is, the (nice) venue, formal structure and overwhelming size of the show made it hard to connect with people. Even the formal networking session (the big one held on the floor of the exhibit show) was just an hour long — not near enough time to connect. (I also didn’t attend Monday’s sessions — none particularly grabbed me. That might have inhibited my networking activities, so shame on me!)

The cost was pretty high for a new entrepreneur, not only in travel but in the conference fee. I’ll be considering very carefully before jumping on again soon. But, if I wind up as a speaker…

{FYI, I’m speaking in November at IABC’s Research and Measurement Conference in Seattle, as well as at the PRSA National conference in DC in October.  I’m also willing to come to chapter lunches, etc., and can make a deal for my PRSA/IABC fellow members!}

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Survey: Internal Comm Effectiveness ‘Important Concern,’ But…

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Researchers Dr. Juan Meng of the University of Dayton (Ohio) and Dr. Bruce K. Berger of the University of Alabama cut to the chase in their research presentation at the Institute for PR International PR Research Conference. Their first finding? “Though communication effectiveness has been an important concern for organizational leaders, the assessment of communication effectiveness has not been widely applied by using business outcome metrics in organizations.” Sigh.

Meng and Berger used both the results from the 2007-2008 IABC Research Foundation/Watson Wyatt international survey of senior communicators, and a series of in-depth interviews with 13 IABC Gold Quill winners to look for process links between internal communication effectiveness and organizational financial performance.

For me, this represents a sort of Holy Grail: we internal comms experts know that our work is impactful, but have lacked the hard evidence of causality that we perceive the C-suite respects and demands. I was disappointed, yet again, though that first finding is by no means the only one.  In brief, the other five are:

  • Measuring internal comm effectiveness should be standard operating practice.
  • There’s lots of measurement going on, evaluating awareness/understanding; engagement; job performance; employee behavior, and improvement in overall business performance.
  • Everyone has good reasons why measurement isn’t as robust as it should be, and they’re the usual culprits — lack of time/money/staff and the pain of finding actual cause-and-effect toward business results.
  • The measurement approaches used are employee surveys, employee participation in communication activities and manager surveys.
  • Four valuable purposes for internal communication: Explaining/Promoting programs and policies; educating about culture and values; providing information about performance and financial objectives, and helping employees understand the business.

At Goodyear, we made great progress toward true outcome measurement for internal communications, but didn’t quite get there. We did establish a strong link between employee knowledge/comprehension, intranet use and managerial behavior, but never got the chance to take everything to the organizational performance level.

At National City Corporation (the regional bank), our focus from the first day I arrived was on external measurement, for a variety of reasons. But the internal side wasn’t ignored — we were a Gallup Q12 company, and despite the wretched economic conditions and horrific, calamitous financial performance of the company, we still topped 94% participation in the Q12.  Right until the last moment, we were using Q12 results in our planning process, as well as beginning to use editorial content more strategically. But, again, we weren’t reaching the business outcomes level of measurement.

Here’s a quote from one of Meng & Berger’s in-depth interviews:

I think the biggest challenge in measurement continues to be convincing clients to spend, not so much the money, but to spend the time. As the industry develops, I don’t have a hard time in convincing them about the validity of measurement, but they are reluctant to actually take the time away from business to actually administer surveys or focus groups or some other measurement tools.

Looks like we have to continue making those tools easier to use and more valuable, even as we continue to scale the mountain tops for the Holy Grail.

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Amazon’s Recovery from Kindle Content Deletion Crisis Evaluated

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

In the middle of 2009, owners of e-reader Kindle got a nasty surprise when Amazon snatched back e-books that it turned out were supplied illegally. Amazon’s supplier didn’t have the rights to distribute the content, so Amazon accessed Kindles and deleted it.

Seems like no problem to me, but then, I don’t have a Kindle. Amazon got to enjoy seven days of flame and shouting for its trouble.

Drs. W. Timothy Coombs and Sherry J. Holladay of Eastern Illinois University (kind of a hotbed of pithy PR scholarship), presented a paper about Amazon’s week from hell at the 13th International PR Research Conference.  Dr. Coombs is a preeminent theorist on crisis communication, the author of several books and papers about it, and a good presenter who carries a quick wit with his slide rule.  He a smart dude.

Apparently, the “Kindle Community” was pretty angry about having “their” stuff unceremoniouslyyanked. Amazon’s notification statement lacked complete information, or ordinary human compassion, according to those who read it:

“The Kindle edition books Animal Farm by George Orwell, published by MobileReference (mobi) and 1984 by George Orwell, published by MobileReference (mobi) were removed from the Kindle store and are no longer available for purchase. When this occurred, your purchases were automatically refunded. you can still locate the books in the Kindle store, but each has a status of not yet available. Although are rarity, publishers can decide to pull their content from the Kindle store.”

Commenters went ballistic, and before you could blink, there were boycotts threatened. So Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos posted an abject apology, saying in part: “Our ‘solution’ to the problem was stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” He beat on his company pretty hard.

Coombs and Holladay found that the florid, nearly over-the-top apology worked very well. 71 percent accepted the apology, nearly 16 percent accepted it conditionally, and just 13 percent rejected it.  More important, more than 21 percent indicated they were more likely to buy from Amazon versus 10.5 percent said they were less likely to buy.

So what’s that mean? It means that Coombs’ main theories of crisis communication are holding steady in the online world — the process of admitting you’ve done wrong, taking steps to rectify the situation and ensure it won’t happen again, and beating yourself up a bit in the process result in restoring positive feelings among your stakeholders.

There surely are crises where this won’t happen — some things are just too bad — but this study gives additional support to the basis for advice during crisis times.

Watch for the complete paper in May when the IPRRC proceedings are released.

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Hooked on PR Research

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

One of the great professional pleasures of my life involves an academic conference filled to the brim with fascinating public relations research. It’s the International PR Research Conference put on by the Institute for Public Relations, and I’ve attended four of the past five years. That it’s held early in March in Miami, Fla., has NOTHING to do with it!

OK, well, it has a little bit to do with it.  The tropical breezes feel especially fine in the icy wake of February in Cleveland, and there is terrific food, shopping, pleasant walks and an excellent pool. But, other than that, it’s all business for three days.

I’ve had the good fortune to present at IPRRC twice; the first time, 2008, I presented a paper with my research pal Dr. Julie O’Neil of Texas Christian University that covered one large company’s internal communication program, focusing especially on the measurement of the work. It won an award, of which I am very proud indeed – the Jackson-Sharpe Award for research by an academic and a practitioner (I’m not the academic, or wasn’t…).

This year, I presented a work in progress, an exploratory study of corporate blogs and Twitter activities, with an eye on whether they’re demonstrating James Grunig’s Excellence Theory – are they conversations? – or other PR theories.

The idea is to see what actually IS in this space for 18 companies – the work is ongoing (frantically; the final paper is due May 1), and I was able to share a few key findings.

  1. There’s a lot of using social media as a broadcasting tool – no two-way, no evidence of symmetry (mutual change) – and persuasion, therefore, still rules.
  2. There are a couple of firms that are doing yeoman’s work and engaging in conversations – there are also seven or eight companies who’ve abandoned their blogs since December 2009.
  3. One industrial giant, interestingly, has subject matter experts blog and then engage engineers and customers in a discussion about improving the product – this is a rarity.
  4. Twitter as link-bait is quite in evidence.
  5. The Cluetrain may have left the station, but it’s creeping along a siding, not hurtling on a MagLev track.

This is hardly conclusive or particularly scientific – that’s why we call the paper exploratory. Dr. O’Neil and I have more work to do this coming month, but this paper is intended to be the first of three. Next step is a qualitative discussion with some of the people behind social media at our subject companies, followed (we hope) by a quantitative survey of users of corporate blogs and their associated Twitterverse (we’ll see; that’s going to take some cash…).

In the meanwhile, stay tuned over the next few days as I recount some of the work that impressed me the most at IPRRC this year.  Once our paper is done, we’ll share.

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