Posts Tagged ‘InstituteforPR’

Do we have too many conferences?

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Basta!  I had a pretty thick queue for speaking engagements this fall: PRSA’s employee communication section conference was scheduled for Sept. 10-11, but got moved to next year due to low registrations. I was planning to sponsor a speaker, introduce a couple of them, and generally boost my PRSA profile and meet some new folks. I decided not to attend the international conference in San Francisco because I was doing #prsaec.

No prob – the IABC Heritage Region Conference beckoned. I sponsored, and wound up facilitating a breakout session and speaking on the end of conference panel. Sweet! Plus, the IABC PRIME Global Strategic Communication & Measurement Conference was coming up Nov. 12-13 in NYC, and I was speaking on internal communication measurement. Now, that one is cancelled too. WTF?

If I were a baseball player, a .333 batting average would get me into the All-Star Game, but 1 for 3 on speaking engagements isn’t very good. Why is this happening?

It sure seems like there are a lot of conferences. IABC’s world shindig is in June (and in NYC ’13), and PRSA’s big dance is in October. Both the big shows alternate regions, but I know that if they’re in California, I typically pass due to time away from the office and expensive airfare. I like the Heritage Region conference (four years in a row) – it’s a great program and is close enough to drive. With both Heritage and PRSA virtually the same weekend (it was pretty interesting when IABC was in Philly and PRSA in DC), and budgets under pressure — maybe trying to do a September and November gig is a bad idea.

The smaller conferences that focus on a specific domain of knowledge or functional area should have a lower nut to crack on attendance – I’d think 75 attendees in NYC or Chicago should be doable. But IABC is also running a conference the first week of December on “strategic communication for executives.” Then there’s Ragan, PRNews, ALI, WOMMA, all the social media gigs…We’re conferring a lot. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised if some fetes are failing to fill.

The irritating part is booking myself into some things, and therefore missing others — the Conclave on social media standards, for one, and an Institute for PR Measurement Commission meeting, for another.  Plus, I’ve worked on planning several of these conferences, and it’s no picnic. You’d hope that PRSA and IABC would have their act together on how to market these effectively.

What’s the answer?

I have no idea.




The role of scale in social media is oversold

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The next time I see an article saying that social media measurement is about followers, likes and comments/retweets, I’m going to scream loud enough to raise the dead. These are not business results.

Social media measurement takes place across a three-part continuum — outputs, outtakes (or communication outcomes) and business results. Measurement should cover all three parts, including followers, likes, comments and retweets, but we must not mistake those outputs for real business impact. When we focus on the outputs, we’re extrapolating impact and the potential for impact — not measuring impact itself. When we look at the middle part — outtakes — we get wrapped up in web traffic without closing the loop.

Ask yourself WHY you want followers/fans. What is it we want them to think, feel or do? Measure that! Performance against objectives!  It doesn’t have to be sales/revenue/retention, but it’s mighty helpful if it does. Don’t stop at measuring only the things you have direct control over. Connect the dots. Carry your outputs to business results. Don’t rely on mere correlation — track the different inputs that lead to the objectives you’ve set.

What does the headline of this post have to do with these past 179 words?

Followers have to be influenced by you to feel, think or do something that advances your business objectives. There’s some credible research that suggests there’s a plateau of influence, a point at which influence wanes as the network grows larger.  More on this later, but I implore you — there are no shortcuts to establishing the impact proposition of public relations/communications. I don’t think you’ll find it by counting the number of retweets and likes, however easy that might be.

More info for those of you who might read it:

Katona, Z., Zubcsek, P., & Sarvary, M. (2011). Network effects and personal influences: The diffusion of an online social network. Journal of Marketing Research, 48(3), 425-443. doi:10.1509/jmkr.48.3.425

Kitsak, M., Gallos, L., Havlin, S., Litjeros, F., Muchnik, L., Stanley, H., & Makse, H. (2010, November ). Identifying spreaders in complex networks. Nature Physics, 6. DOI: 10.1038/NPHYS1746 . Retrieved April 8, 2012, from

Satell, G. (2011, November 6). Exploding the influentials myth [Web log post]. Retrieved April 6, 2012 from


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.