Posts Tagged ‘#MeasurePR’

Why is telling the truth so hard?

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Creative Commons, by Brian Hillegas

The Institute for PR has published “Ethical standards and guidelines for public relations research and measurement“, which PRNewser’s Tonya Garcia summarized as “Basically, don’t be a horrible, self-serving liar.” The statement, By Dr. Shannon Bowen, John Gilfeather, & Dr. Brad Rawlins, is a stake in the ground, and on the surface might seem to be a statement of the obvious. But PR as a profession still seems ethically dubious — witness the latest in a long line of Walmart amazin’s stories.

Walmart hired Mercury Public Affairs to lobby LA city hall to approve construction of a store in Chinatown. No problem. But when Mercury employee Stephanie Harnett went to a meeting of Warehouse Workers United, which wants to unionize Walmart’s workers, she lied about who she was, claiming to be journalism student from the University of Southern California.

Both Walmart and Mercury declaimed any responsibility — Mercury saying that she was a junior member of their staff and that no one, neither Mercury nor Walmart, told her to do any such thing.  I’d be tempted to write this off as a sad commentary on PR education and the “anything goes” culture of the modern age, but Socrates did a better job of making that argument.

What seems likely is that both Mercury and Walmart tossed her under the bus. Media reports say that Harnett was shaking like a leaf during her ruse, so she has to know that what she was doing was wrong. Of course, apparently she got over it in short order. Her Twitter account is closed (good idea; it can’t have been much fun to read the tweets), and she’s keeping a low profile.

Walmart’s not known as a Pantheon of ethics — the Astroturf campaign, the Mexico bribery issue. And many PR firms seem willing to do whatever will generate revenue, from selling war through deliberate falsehood to representing dictators.  PR ethics can seem like a contradiction in terms.

But I won’t give up, and neither should you. Thanks to Bowen, Gilfeather and Rawlins, we’ve got another arrow in our quiver.


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.


When You Don’t Need to #MeasurePR

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

No Measurement!

Being a measurement evangelist feels like really hard work sometimes. On the one hand, I haven’t been at it long enough to complain — witness the indefatigable Katie Paine and Angela Jeffrey, who’ve been toiling in the trenches for, well, a long time.

But there surely are situations where measurement is unnecessary, right?

For example, you’re, I don’t know, Walmart. Your stock is suffering, there are employee lawsuits, and one of your stores has been destroyed by a tornado. How much measurement do you need to do to know you’re media coverage is, well, tortuous?  It’s likely that no amount of proactive management is going to turn your story around — at least not meaningfully.

Or, you’re a big money center bank — yep, the titans of capitalism currently getting the lion’s share of blame for the financial crisis (some of which is just wrong.) Can’t you make an educated guess about your coverage?

Aside from my personal financial stake in getting Walmart or a big bank to hire me to help them with measurement, I’ll give you three reasons why you should not measure – and three reasons why you should.

Forget Measurement When:

  1. You cannot make a difference. Sometimes business will hand you a dirt sandwich, and you have no choice but to eat it. There’s no need to weigh the sandwich, examine the types of dirt , evaluate the sandwich-maker, etc. Just eat it and move on.
  2. You’re unwilling to do what it takes to make things better.  Often, the worst media situations are when you’re “making tough choices.”  Layoffs, facility closures, moves from one city to another, hiring more executives. The path to turning the story around leads through the organization revisiting its management decisions — deciding not to outsource, keeping the plant open and operating, renovating existing headquarters rather than pitting your incumbent city against somewhere else.  See #1, above.
  3. It’s more expensive to measure than the program your measuring.  Advanced statistics are miraculous. We absolutely can measure the specific impact of public relations/communication activity on the bottom line. We just need a lot of data to isolate our impact from everything else that influences the bottom line.  That costs money (not as much as you might think, but still,) so let’s spend wisely.

Do Measurement When:

  1. You care about whether what you’re doing is working or not. You have objectives, and hopefully, they’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) They have a benchmark, target and timeframe. So, if you don’t measure, how do you know whether you’re making progress?
  2. You know you need to change.  Make data-driven decisions! Your intuition is flawless, of course, but as I’ve said many times, the days of PR/Communications being able to wave a hand and say, “trust me” to the c-suite are over.  A former boss told me, “facts and data win the day,” and that’s good advice.
  3. You need numbers to share with the numbers people.  Qualitative, quantitative, no matter. There are times when the people you need demand numbers. Measure to give them what they need.  Share of voice/discussion, peer comparison of tone of mention, trends in coverage overall, message presence/absence, correlation of coverage to Web traffic. Do measurement when you need to do it!

There is one other reason to do measurement — though more accurately, it’s research we want to do, not only measurement.  It’s the right thing to do. It puts us on a firmer foundation. It informs our opinions and enhances our credibility.

What’s your view?


When they’re not buying what you’re selling…

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Creative Commons

One harsh reality of social media is that you find out pretty quickly where you stand.  One fairly obvious reality is that the Twitter chat I’ve been working on for a while now — #icchat on internal communications – isn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

This is a little depressing for me, personally. But I shouldn’t be surprised. The truth is, the dearth of participation is traceable to a central problem. Me.

You have to shepherd these things – the most popular and vigorous get a ton of promotional support, and the topic of communication within the enterprise isn’t a social media hotbed.  Nonetheless, we’ve had some great discussions, peaking last fall with about 20 participants and more than 200 tweets. Even the smaller chats have been good, including Thursday’s intimate affair (five of us) where we talked about internal communication outcomes.  (Summary post coming, probably on Friday.)

I am conflicted, however, about whether to continue #icchat.  As I have mentioned, for the past (nearly) two years, I’ve considered social media an experiment, particularly Twitter and blogging. Facebook’s become merely a communication medium, but Twitter’s chat function represents my favorite part of the miniblogging tool.  I like the quick pace, the forced brevity. I like the diversity — #PR20Chat, #KaizenBlog, #MeasurePR, #SoloPR.

But I have to tell you – when one gets paying work, it’s bloody hard to market the chat.  I’ve been fortunate to have pretty steady gigs over the past eight months – both academic and professional. I’ve looked at different days and times to try and hit the best, but it’s been most difficult to get people interested.  I’m disappointed that the organizations – PRSA, IABC – and the commercial groups – Ragan, Melcrum – show not the slightest inclination to participate. I’ve also approached a couple of luminaries in the internal comms space about guesting, but after four or five straight scheduling conflicts, I’d better take the hint.

It is remarkably similar to building a business – it takes a while and takes a lot of effort to market.

To that end, I can’t help but wonder whether to pull the plug on #icchat.  I seem to be doing well at building my business (thanks to some terrific colleagues), am considered a worthy professor and still have a healthy marriage, so perhaps #icchat is odd man out. Gotta think about it some more.  So far, I’m planning to hit it one more time, at least, 19 May at 10 a.m. Eastern Time.

I’m interested in your perspectives.


Two Twitter Chats: #MeasurePR Tues., #ICChat 21 April

Monday, April 11th, 2011

This Tuesday, 12 April, I pinch hit moderating the #MeasurePR Twitter discussion at 12 Noon Eastern, batting for the estimable @Shonali Burke. We’re going to talk B.A.D. measurement — BS, AllWet and Dumb.  It’s a continuation of  a theme for me — there’s so much crap measurement and stupid metrics that we need to squash, it’s worth chatting about. Who knows, maybe we’ll get some folks who disagree!  #MeasurePR is at 12 Noon, Tuesday, 12 April.  Secondly, a week from Thursday, 21 April, is the return of #ICChat on internal communications.  Frankly, the participation’s been a little light — maybe not enough internal commsters are on Twitter, or maybe it’s not a creative enough topic from me. Or, I haven’t marketed it enough. Whatever. If you want to talk Internal Comms, join us at 10 a.m. Eastern Time on 21 April.