Why the current #CIPR Presidential election is so important for the PR industry


CIPR

I’ve worked in PR for nearly 26 years. For most of that time I studiously avoided joining the CIPR (or any other PR related membership body). Rightly or wrongly, I perceived the CIPR to be an organisation that didn’t really have much meaning for me personally or indeed properly represented the industry I worked in.

My attitude to the CIPR hit rock bottom around 2006 when an impression of lofty disdain was given out by the then leadership towards social media and digital communication (go here for a flavour of the times).

However, around 2010, things changed. The arrival of Jay O’Connor as President in that year seemed to signal a sea change in attitude. Initiatives like the CIPR Social Media panel were indicative that there was a far higher degree of relevance of the organisation to the wider world.

Since then, I have become a fully paid up member and have become much more actively involved in the organisation. The CIPR today appears to bear no resemblance to the body that I viewed as an irrelevance in the past.

 

So what has this got to do with the current CIPR Presidential election?

Well, a lot.

The person who takes over the presidency in January 2014 will be assuming the position at a significant inflexion point in the development of the PR industry.

Quite simply, if there is to continue to be such a thing as a PR sector, then it’s main trade body has to also justify its existence in terms of leadership, vision, meaning and value.

The CIPR President should have a key role in leading and representing PR professionals to the world.  One of the key challenges for anyone coming into this role is that I believe there are many PR practitioners who hold a view of the organisation similar to the one I held in 2006 – namely, they can’t see the value of being a member – or that the body doesn’t properly represent the PR sector as a whole.

If the CIPR is to continue to have meaning and relevance then it must also seek to bring in more of these unrepresented practitioners.

So what does this mean in of terms of the two candidates – Stephen Waddington and Jon White?

Both are worthy of the job. Both have excellent credentials. Both have put forward good cases so far.

But on balance, I have to say  it is Stephen Waddington who (for me) would be the best candidate to represent the CIPR given the context above.  Someone who will continue to keep the rapid momentum going behind the CIPR that has only really developed in the last 3 years.

If you are a CIPR member, then clearly I think you have a duty to examine the arguments of both candidates – and to vote.

But also, even if you are not a CIPR member, seriously consider joining now and have a real say in this election.

Even if you aren’t a member, you almost certainly know someone who is. Why not quiz them on their views of the election – and encourage them to vote. That way at least you have a proxy input to the process.

In summary, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that this is a pivotal election – both for members and non-members of the CIPR.

The winner of this election will not only play a big role in determining the future of the CIPR, but will also be a bell weather indicator of how the PR sector is likely to go over the next several years.

Voting begins on May 7th and closes on May 21st.

If you have the power to vote, then you should exercise it. And think about the implications for the future of PR when considering who you cast that vote for. There is a lot at stake.

 

Which journalists aren’t worth engaging with on Twitter?


Consider the following argument:

Most journalists are on Twitter.

PRs should therefore spend more time “engaging” with journalists on Twitter.

Seems to make logical sense (from a PR standpoint).

Except that just because a journalist has a Twitter account, loads of followers and Tweets for Britain, doesn’t mean that PRs should attempt to interact and engage with every relevant journalist on Twitter.  The reason being that some are far more likely to share your content and actually talk to you than others.

But how do work out which is which?

One way is to use a tool like Twitonomy.

For example, look at the following analysis of Charles Arthur, The Guardian’s Technology Editor.

charles1

Over the last two months, he has Tweeted (on average) nearly 55 times per day. From an engagement standpoint, he certainly seems to mention other people a lot – and 74pc of his Tweets are actually @ replies to other people. So as a PR, you might think this is a good way to have a dialogue with him (better still of course, would be to get him to follow you – then you can have private DM conversations).

However, Charles hasn’t shared that many links in the last two months – so the chances that he is going to share that press release of yours is going to be pretty low. He doesn’t ReTweet that much either – so don’t get your hopes up on that front.

Going back to Charles’ propensity to reply to people, Twitonomy also reveals who has had the most conversations with in the last two months:

charles2

Not may PR people in that group (Charles himself has already pointed out that he doesn’t think this tells us much – other than that the community of people he has talked to via Twitter over the last two months is pretty broad).

If you were determined to have a go at interacting with Charles, Twitonomy also reveals those times when he most likely to Tweet (and thus presumably be online and on Twitter):

charles3

Based on this analysis, 11pm on Friday night.

Clearly, you need to use these metrics with caution. These stats only relate to the last two months. Even if they did range over a wider time frame, how much you can actually infer from this is a moot point. And a cynic might argue that rather than poring over this kind of data, someone trying to get Charles’ attention would be better off investing their time in actually coming up with a decent story angle.

Having said that, I do think tools like Twitonomy – when used appropriately – can be a useful guide to PRs who want to work out the propensity of target journalists to share links, engage in dialogue and/or RT content.

And armed with this knowledge, PRs can allocate engagement resources appropriately. If the end result is better targetting and more effort in giving journalists more relevant and timely information, surely that can’t be a bad thing.

What do you think? Is there something in this? Or is it complete hokum? The comments box awaits your answer.

Lissted adds sentiment scoring, trends and data export. Creates integrated press monitoring and reporting platform for Twitter


LisstedRealwire’s Lissted platform has added yet more interesting functionality.

First up, sentiment analysis. Each journalist Tweet now gets an automatic sentiment rating (courtesy of the Lexalytics salience engine). This means that you can now filter your journalist monitoring in terms of sentiment as well as by time and/or Klout score – in real time.

In practical terms, this means that you can monitor, say, a particular group of journalists who are talking about your brand or relevant topic – and immediately understand where the most positive and/or negative comments are coming from – and take action accordingly.

Secondly, Lissted now provides automatic trend analysis. At a generic level, you can see at a glance the current most popular topics that the press are talking about in real time. Better still (if you are a Lissted Pro user), you can analyse trends within a defined subset of journalists. So you can monitor trends within a media group that is specifically relevant to you. Certainly takes the guesswork out of what the media really is talking about on Twitter.

Finally, you now have the ability to export data out of Lissted into a spreadsheet. From a reporting standpoint, this really is the jewel in the crown.  For example, you can define a specific group of journalists over a particular time period – and then export not only the Tweet content and associated data, but also Klout and sentiment scores for offline analysis. I can see this being an immensely powerful tool for determining which content has the most relevance, reach and impact. Smart PR pros are going to be able to use this to spend more time refining their content and engagement strategies rather than wasting countless hours just struggling to gather the requisite data.

Coupled with the recent announcement of dynamic Twitter lists, Lissted has evolved rapidly into a robust monitoring and reporting platform for looking specifically at the media on Twitter. Given media relations remains at the core of much PR activity, Lissted certainly seems to provide a powerful means of providing real time insight into the conversations that journalists really are having on Twitter (as well as the content they find most worthy of linking to).

Any PR who has an interest in remaining ahead of the game in media relations would do well to check it out.

Dynamically updated Twitter lists now possible with Lissted


We all know that Twitter lists can be very handy. One of the benefits of a list is that it allows you to keep track of what particular people are saying without actually having to follow them. Monitoring multiple lists in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite is certainly easier than having everything piling into your home stream

However, the main beef with lists historically has been the pain involved in maintaining them. Sure, there are some lists that you can “set and forget” (for example, if you have a fixed list of people that you know will remain stable for some time).

But what if you want to create a dynamic list? Imagine you want to maintain lists of people who match certain criteria? So long as they meet the criteria, they stay on the list – if they don’t, they get removed. PR professionals, for example, may wish to keep tabs on certain journalists because they may have Tweeted or written about things relevant to a particular client. The problem with this is that more often than not, there is a shelf life to the journalists interest and/or relevance to the list the PR person creates.  Trying to manually update a list in this way is a dull, unproductive bore.

Unless I’ve missed it, I’m not yet been aware of any way of automatically maintaining Twitter lists. At least ones that might have meaning for a PR professional.

Until now that it is.

Realwire’s Lissted tool, launched back in June, already provides a neat way of both identifying relevant media for PRs to target as well monitoring journalist conversations on Twitter.

Built on a robust database of over 12,500 individual journalists and media outlets, Lissted lets you have see exactly which journalists are Tweeting or writing about any topic or issue.

Let’s imagine you want to know about any journalist mentioning your client’s name in the last 24hrs. Realwire will happily show you those journalists that have either mentioned the client in a Tweet – or referred to the client in any content they have linked to. You can also view the results in terms of Klout score (handy if you are looking at a lot of results and want to focus on the ones that potentially have the biggest reach and impact). You can also get automatic email alerts when any journalist Tweets or links to relevant content, based on the keyword parameters you set . Having used the tool in anger over the last two months I can vouch for the usefulness of this feature (here are some screen shots of the results in Lissted itself  along with what the email alerts look like).

Now, Lissted has added the ability to create dynamic lists of journalists.

You can see how this can be a real time saver. Here are some sample dynamic lists created by Lissted.

Cabinet Reshuffle

iPhone 5 

Take the iPhone 5 list. This is a list of technology journalists and media outlets who have mentioned the iPhone 5 in the last 3 days. If someone stops talking about iPhone 5, then they drop off the list. Conversely, any new journalist talking about iPhone 5 will be added. You can see how this can be useful. Depending on the criteria you set, you get an automatically updated Twitter list. Being able to keep a rolling track of relevant journalists in one list that requires no manual intervention is really rather good. And if you import the list into Hootsuite, you can further filter on the list by keyword and/or Klout score (so you could filter further on journalists within the list based on additional criteria).

I gather from Lissted that there are additions and enhancements planned for the tool over the coming weeks.

Any PR professional who wants to spend more time on having meaningful conversations with relevant journalists rather than fiddling around trying to maintain Twitter lists would do well to have a look at this new Lissted feature (or Lissted generally if you haven’t done so already).

The implications of Brand Anarchy (and why you should buy the book)


Brand Anarchy

Don’t bother worrying about whether you have lost control of your brand’s reputation. You never had control of it in the first place. However, there is an opportunity to take command of your brand. But it won’t be easy. And you probably should have started working on it yesterday.

This is a core axiom for Stephen Waddington* and Steve Earl* in their recently published book, Brand Anarchy.  It is an ambitious attempt to trace the historical developments that have led to the current state of the PR and media sectors as well as an impressive survey of the major trends and issues that will impact anyone with responsibility for managing reputation today. And in the future.

One of the many things to commend about this book is the breadth of issues raised, analysed and evaluated.  The authors don’t shy away from asking the big questions about the definition and meaning of crucial concepts such as reputation, engagement, influence,  authenticity, participation, analytics and measurement. What is refreshing is that Waddington and Earl demonstrate their hard earned communication skills by writing in a clear and concise style, thus avoiding the Latinate concatenations of more prolix authors who claim authority in the field of PR and social media.

They also have credibility. These guys know of what they speak. They’ve been in the PR frontline for nearly two decades. Both were journalists. Both built and sold a multi-million pound PR firm from scratch. They continue to create and manage communication campaigns for top brands. But as they cogently argue, the speed and complexity of change within the PR and media industries means there is no room whatsoever for complacency – or for anyone to claim they have all the answers.

Another plus point for the book is the breadth of industry observers and commentators interviewed. The acknowledgements page reads like a Who’s Who of the brightest thinkers and doers in the UK PR sector today (indeed, many are regular CIPR Conversation contributors. As is of course Stephen Waddington himself). Following this lot on Twitter would give you a real time intelligence feed into the best insight in the industry today.

Combining this breadth of insight with the authors own tenacious desire to not just accept commonly held (but often mistaken) beliefs about the real drivers of industry change make a refreshing departure from many recent paeans to the power of digital media. The balance of optimism and healthy scepticism is about right.

Unsurprisingly, the ultimate conclusion drawn by Waddington and Earl is that the PR sector needs to develop new skills. And fast.

So. Should you buy the book?

If you want easy, simple answers, then don’t bother.

However, if you want something that makes you think more profoundly about the future of the PR and communications sector (and by definition, your own career and future within it),  then yes, you should.

For the cost of a few pints of beer, I’d wager this may prove to be one of the best investments you could make this year. Or any year.

*Disclaimer: Stephen Waddington and Steve Earl are former colleagues. We all worked together in the mid 1990s in the same large PR firm.  Even though we all went our separate ways, we have continued to meet and discuss the state of the PR industry in real life and online ever since. They have kindly given plenty of airtime to my views in the book. Does that make me biased? Probably. I leave it to the individual reader to decide whether my relationship with the authors adds weight to my assessment of the value of the book. Or not.

One trick ponies make good glue (CIPR Conversation)


(This post first appeared on the CIPR Conversation).

The debate around PR and SEO refuses to go away. However, recent Google algorithm changes seem to have pushed the discussion to the fore again. A common theme is emerging – namely, that, more than ever, high quality, relevant content on trusted, high authority sites is crucial to good SEO – and PR professionals may be better placed to create that content than many SEOs.

Simple, yeah?

One Trick Pony?

Well, not quite. As ever, reality begs to differ. I was particularly reminded of this by Dr Peter Meyers of the Chicago based firm User Effect who has written some excellent blog posts recently on the subject of SEO.

Specfically he points out that: “Every week, without fail, I hear someone ask where they should put their SEO budget – in on-page tactics or in link-building. Unfortunately, there are plenty of SEO companies and consultants lining up to give them the answer – and that answer just happens (“coincidentally”) to be whatever the company/consultant is good at. When you’re an expert with a hammer, you start to think you can nail anyone (wait, that’s not right).”

And of course, these kind of comments could equally apply to PR. If your expertise lies in media relations, then naturally you’ll find it hard not to recommend to a client that a media relations solution is the way forward.

But I agree with Dr Meyers when he says that the honest answer is: “It depends”.

And of course, that is the answer that no client wants to hear. They want “an answer”. Or more specifically they want “THE answer”. That someone is going to take the pain away and deliver the silver bullet solution.

In a similar vein, people sometimes view training as a quick fix. Send someone on an SEO training course and they’ll come back with “the answer”.

Clearly, you have to start somewhere – and for PR professionals, the CIPR already offers workshops and webinars that will provide a rapid fire introduction to SEO basics (as well as other areas of the digital marketing mix such as social media and analytics).

But this is merely the first part of the journey. You can spend your entire life just reading about SEO or attending training workshops. However, there comes a point when you actually have to start doing it.

So rather than waste our energies arguing over whether SEO firms should be doing PR and vice versa, the only real way to find out is as Dr Meyers so eloquently puts it: “Do The F*cking Work.” Sticking with the same core set of skills that may have worked in the past is no longer an option. As I’ve opined before, one trick ponies are going to be a liability. Or as Dr Meyers more colorfully puts it: “One trick ponies make good glue”.

No single blog post or one day workshop is of itself going to solve all your problems. This is your profession and your career. Not only is continuous learning and development a pre-requisite, actually making the time to apply it is mandatory. Even if you can’t immediately find opportunities within your own work to apply these things, then make the opportunities yourself. It costs next to nothing to create your own blog, install Google Analytics and set up a Google Adwords account. Don’t just read about SEO and nod sagely when people stand up at conferences and say that PR professionals COULD have a valuable role in SEO. Actually do it.

Channel 4, LinkedIn, Staffs Police, Synthesio: the social reputation debate at #smwf 27/3/12


I’m very honoured to be moderating a great panel at tomorrow’s Social Media World Forum Europe at Olympia, London on the subject of managing your company’s online reputation via social media.

The panel participants will be:

Colin Smith, Director of Marketing Solutions UK, LinkedIn

Colin Watkins, Digital Communications Manager, Channel 4

David Bailey, Neighbourhood Communications Manager, Staffordshire Police

Catriona Oldershaw, Managing Director UK, Synthesio

If you are attending Social Media World Forum around 3.50pm tomorrow, please do stop by. It promises to be a cracking debate.

Why conversion segments in Google Analytics are sexy as hell for PR (#pranalytics, #CIPR)


I had the pleasure of presenting at the PR Analytics Conference in London last week along with a number of big names in the field including Pleon’s David Rockland and Jim Desler, Worldwide Head of PR for Microsoft.

There was a large audience of senior PR folk in the room. My presentation was about how PR pros could use Google Analytics (GA) to better effect. I had 25 mins to cram in as much as I could.

One of the things I highlighted in my talk was the use of multi-channel funnel analysis in GA.  In simple terms, it allows you to determine the direct and indirect contribution that various digital marketing channels make to your site conversion goals.

However, I didn’t have time at the  conference to go into the use of conversion segments.

Which was a shame because they really are very sexy (no, really).

Here’s a simple explanation for those unfamiliar with the concept.

GA allows you to see what mix of site interactions deliver a conversion eg sale of a product, video view, whatever. It also shows you the value of those interactions relative to the conversion.

Here’s an example. This is for a small (but real) e-commerce site selling a simple £11.99 product (normally you’d have a whole range of different products and different prices – but hopefully you can extrapolate from this).

Converstion Segments in Google Analytics

For this particular web property, it would seem that the most common conversion path for a sale is for people to arrive via one single search before purchasing. There are more complex interactions (not least #8 here which saw the person revisit the site 18 times directly before finally buying something!).

As part of my PR Analytics presentation, I talked about the problem of attribution in marketing and PR with relation to goals and objectives (most sales or comms processes have multiple steps – but which one should get the credit for the final transaction? Should the first step in the process get 100pc of the credit? Or the last step? In the absence of giving fair credit to all relevant steps in the conversion process, many people have opted for the last step ie the step immediately before the conversion.)

In PR terms, that typically means that much PR work would get no credit – because it rarely contributes the last step in the process. Its role is generally assistive to the overall process. However, the introduction of multi-channel funnels into GA last year allowed marketeers (and PR pros) for the first time to see both the direct and indirect value being delivered in relation to a defined goal.

SlingshotSEO recently produced an excellent whitepaper which showed how you can combine conversion segments with a multi-touch attribution analysis to determine which channel you may be overvaluing or under valuing if you are using a last attribution model.

They also had some great insight into the most common conversion paths (based on an analysis of over 23.5m transactions).  Two organic searches seems to be the most popular conversion path with two or more interactions. And referrals and organic search are consistently undervalued as conversion channels.

Which brings me back to the relevance to PR (at least online PR coverage).

Traffic from links in relevant online editorial coverage fall into the referrals bucket. If referrals are consistently being undervalued on a last attribution basis, it does seem to lend credence to the theory that PR does contribute indirect value – and now we have a way to determine exactly what the value of that contribution might be.

But here’s the thing. You have to define at least one goal in order to make this work.  No goals, no insight.

Brings in to sharp relief the fact that without defining concrete goals, you are almost certainly creating unnecessary pain and heartache for yourself. And your online PR efforts are almost certainly not getting the credit they deserve.

I’ll be looking in more detail at multi-channel funnel analysis and conversion segments in my strategic management presentation at CIPR headquarters, Russell Square, London, on Wednesday 28th  March on using web analytics to inform communications strategy and planning.

Is PR still living in the 1980s?


(This post first appeared on the CIPR Conversation site.)

Someone showed me the slide deck for a new business pitch from a very well respected PR firm this week.

The thing that surprised me was that other than one token slide about SEO (which clearly betrayed a lack of understanding of the subject) and a reference to blogging, the kernel of the proposition boiled down to writing press releases, pitching stories to journalists, and organising press meetings. Social Media? What’s that? (I was also bemused that nearly a quarter of the budget was going to be allocated to “account management” – even though there was absolutely no detail as to what that actually meant or entailed for the prospective client).

This proposal could have been written 30 years ago – maybe even longer.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

On the plus side, the agency concerned is clearly doing well (as attested by their recent financial performance).  And if this pitch proposal is representative of their approach, then it would seem there are plenty of client companies out there still happy to consider this kind of traditional PR approach.

So are skeptics right to argue that they don’t need to be paying attention to the calls from people like me to invest more in new skills based around social media, SEO and analytics?

I think the honest answer is: no.

For a start, the agency above are clearly an exception not the rule – certainly in the sense of continuing to be profitable by ostensibly selling the old wine of traditional media relations in a new bottle (with a thin digital label).   The more prevalent message I hear from the world of PR consultancy is that clients are shying away from media relations-only solutions – or at the very least, they aren’t prepared to pay as much for pure press relations as they might have done in the past. Digital expertise and integration is needed now – and the demands on PR consultancies and in-house teams will only get ever greater.

Perhaps some in PR are suffering from what psychologists call hyperbolic discounting:  taking what you see as the sure thing in the present (media relations) over the caliginous prospect some day far away (biting the bullet on digital). Or perhaps the affliction is “present bias” – being unable to grasp what you (your clients) want will change over time, and what you (your clients) want now isn’t the same thing as what you (your clients) will want later.

Either way, I strongly suspect that the kind of new business slide deck I saw this week doesn’t have as long a shelf life as some might think (or want).

Have a hyperbolic weekend.

Andrew Bruce Smith and The Conversation team

Please note, this Conversation Roundup is written in my own capacity.

I am not a spokesperson for the CIPR.

 

PR = reputation management. Really? Who are we kidding?


(This post originally appeared at the CIPR Conversation).

The launch of the VMA Group’s Business Leaders in Communications (BLCS) 2012  study stirred up some heated debate this week. Much of the ire was directed at the apparent lack of interest in social media by senior communications directors. According to the survey, a miserly seven per cent of these senior PR people felt social media was a major communication challenge and less than 15 per cent seek social media skills in candidates.

Speed’s Stephen Waddington blogged about the survey results and his excellent Storify round up of live Tweeting from the launch event captured the flavour of attendees views on the attitudes in the room.

Simon Francis was so incensed he issued a call to arms to have these comms “dinosaurs” outed.

And yet, isn’t this turning into a cracked record?

Peter Morgan, Head of Communications at Rolls Royce was also labelled a dinosaur back in May 2010 when he (in)famously declared that “social media was a waste of time”. He subsequently recanted – but only after Rolls Royce had endured a major comms crisis that caught the company on the back foot with regard to social media.

And as Si Francis also reported from the BLCS 2012 launch event: “David Bickerton from BP admitted his organisation was left reeling from the social media impact of recent events. And, he added, as a result, the company was now ensuring ALL staff have a role to play in the reputation management of the company on social media.”

Is it the case that comms directors only begin to appreciate the need for taking social media seriously when they suffer a major communications crisis?

But if the potential threat from a comms crisis isn’t enough incentive for action, what about the latest Edelman Trust Barometer?  According to Vikki Chowney at EConsultancy: “This year UK CEOs again face a major hurdle in convincing the public that they should be listened to: they were the least credible public spokesperson for a business or organisation, with only 30% of respondents finding them reliable. More credible were academics or experts (by 73%), followed by a ‘person like me’ (60%), a technical expert (56%), or a ‘regular employee’ or ‘financial/industry analyst’ (55%).”

“People like me” are increasingly to be found having conversations on social networks. Does that not suggest that social media might need just a modicum of attention?

However, the thing that irked me most about the BLCS survey was the fact nearly two in three communications professionals see reputation management as their most important function.  I had to stifle a yawn.

Reputation management has been ranked the number one priority for years now. Matthew Freud was quoted in The Economist in January 2011 as saying that “the future of PR is bright because of the growing importance of reputation management.”

In which case, if reputation management has been so important for such a long time – and PR is supposed to be about reputation management – why is PR and comms representation still largely absent from the board room of UK plc?

According to the BLCS survey, a third of respondents say that advising the board/CEO is one of their most important roles, Which means two thirds don’t. And fewer than half report having a major influence on board level strategic decision-making.

If reputation management really is that important then perhaps we need to up our game in terms of understanding how reputation really is mediated today. And proving our value to senior management and the rest of the business. Taking social media more seriously would be a start. As would a more robust approach to measurement (as Stephen Waddington noted, the subject appeared to be absent form the BLCS survey).

Or perhaps we should stop talking about PR being all about reputation management.

Have a reputable weekend.

Andrew Bruce Smith and The Conversation team

Please note, this Conversation Roundup is written in my own capacity.

I am not a spokesperson for the CIPR.

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