Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Vacuous Practitioner and Intelligent Responses

This is a rant about some of my colleagues. It is not about all of them some are quite beyond belief. It is also about some really good news.

It is dissertation time in academia and I am beginning to see the drafts of research by students into various PR activities.

They are researching practice at the sharp end. They are talking to practitioners in major organisations. They are seeking examples of practice and best practice. They are talking to real PR practitioners and it's not pretty.

I have a view of an industry comprising bumbling old men and airheaded kids.

In a major research project into evaluation, there is one sentence from leaders in evaluation and no reference from in-house practitioners about new media.There is no reference about declining traditional media circulation.

These people think AVE's are wrong but are so weak (pathetic comes to mind) that they cannot convince marketing and other managers that AVE's are at best the lowest form of statistical garbage.

In campaign planning there is an almost total absence of robust research methods and very (I mean VERY) little by way of SMART objectives and strangulated strategy which is being confused with tactics.

In on-line PR, practitioners are still stuck on web site building, Spam and SEO and, can you believe it, 'seeding' Usenet. Blogs are mentioned and there is some excitement about them but podcasts and wiki's are not on the horizon and RSS, you understand, is about Really Stupid Spindoctors for all they know.

A major Bank is still printing a glossy tabloid in-house newsletters and shipping them round the world (every country in Europe, Most US States and umpteen destinations in Asia and Africa).

In identifying publics there seems to be a view that best practice is to brainstorm a list of 'stakeholders' and then pick the five that can attract the budgets or the CEO's attention. Its not as though there are not powerful aids available.

One weeps.

The counterpoint is Professor Jim Grunig's new paper in the latest editions of JOURNAL OF PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH. Here is a real breath of fresh air and an answer to so many of the responses the students are bringing to me.

It is cheering stuff.

Entitled “Furnishing the Edifice: Ongoing Research on Public Relations As a Strategic Management Function, this paper follows from a paper I presented to Bledcom ( in 2003 in which I appealed for relationships to be included on the balance sheet. Jim has also come round to this view. He says:

I am continuing to work on the ROI of relationships as the chair of a task force of the Measurement Commission of the Institute for Public Relations, which is studying how nonfinancial indicators of value are influenced by public relations. This task force was initiated by the late Patrick Jackson —the renowned public relations professional. Non-financial indicators of value, or intangible assets, are a hot topic in management and accounting circles. I believe that relationships are the most important of these intangible assets and that if we can show that public relations creates value in addition to financial value, we can show the overall ROI of the function. The British public relations practitioner and scholar, David Phillips (2005), also studied the literature on intangible assets and argued that relationships are the most important of these assets. I believe this approach to ROI eventually will show the value of public relations and encourage public relations scholars to join in the study of intangible assets.”

Here is a powerful insight by an influential academic.


Picture: Sad Clown