Friday, June 22, 2007

In reply to Frank Ovatt

I was going to post a response to Frank Ovatt's post The Fork in the Road to PR Research . To do so would be churlish. He is the messenger for Dr. Jim Macnamara.

I sense there is academic frustration.

There is such a focus on the dead tree society that the Institute for Public Relations (IfPR not CIPR) needs to re-consider whether it follows or leads.
Does it inform the CEO or measure the flack?
Does it take seriously that the 'eFootprint' of an organisation is an asset.
Does it recognise with over 10% of the economy of the UK online and a similar proportion in the USA this asset is probably the most important one every company has.
Can it take seriously that most of this asset is mediated by social media. Does this mean that its research will now turn from the dead tree society to what are the components of this asset?

There is a presumption that public relations is communication, the servant is the master. This has to go. Juts stop thinking it.

There is a presumption that the technical is the practice. Marx would be driver to PR's fireman.

Is it that our view of 'public relations' is modern or post modern or Dickensian or pre Dickensian. Are practitioners mere Sophists?

Is a PR person performing the antithesis of a dialogue with Crito?

Dr Macnamara says: "A large part of the PR industry has not yet engaged in any substantial way with new media and concepts such as Web 2.0. Of those that have, the primary focus is how to produce Web sites, produce blogs, produce podcasts. Yet more outputs; more focus on process and practice. It is comparatively rare to find practitioners monitoring and analyzing the use, impact and effects of blogs, for instance, and it is rare to find them at the forefront of policy making and planning, advising their organizations on the implications of new media." To be sure there is an industry involved in doing what he says, but there is another one that is more than well aware of the evolving paradigm. But the real paradigm is not found in such musings. This revolution is much bigger.

He also suggests that "Professional development programs are heavily orientated to practical skills development." Sure, there is a need for a lot of grease monkeys. They perform an essential role in delivering PR - skills that have to be re-learned every month. Yesterday video for YouTube, today a word for Twitter, tomorrow another web widget.

But is he suggesting these are the people who are really in charge of PR? Do all practitioners not have responsibility - just the accountability? They sound like National Health managers. Just tick the boxes and survive. Is this PR?

Modern advertising and direct marketing, for all its ROI is now in flux. Its best efforts are parodied in YouTube; its spin, bling and hype exposed in blogs and its very tenets are changed by the day. In an era of Instant Messaging CRM is but a computer programme loaded with spam. As advertisers desert newsprint and creative television advertising to lavish their largess on a Google computer algorithm, what social science and psychology or cultural studies underpin their hopes?

When the copywriter is the consumer which rules apply?

But relationships, the convergence of values, remain the stuff of organisations and civilisation.

Who cares about six sigma, KPI's, balanced scorecards, dashboards and ROI when ubiquitous communication allows values, the foci of power, to morph and move inside, and often outside, organisations? What do managers care for when their power base shifts by the Twitter Tweet?

We are worrying about evaluation of another age. We are back in positivist/antipositivist debates of industrial capitalism. Yet, as post industrial capitalism fades from view, its failure manifest in the markets it cannot optimise in India, China and Mexico, do we still hanker after the paths of the past.

Who, in the measurement obsessed, and little practised, PR world asks what are we for? How can our client flourish in the micro payment, invest at the point of consumption world that races towards us with 'Google docs' and brand new mobile phone capitalisation of $75billion in pay-as-you-go mobile in rural India.

There is no six sigma when quality is a value that infests an organisation; KPI's are irrelevant when the nexus of human values denotes an organisation; Balanced scorecards obfuscate the value of relationships; dashboards mechanically display the mechanical and ROI has no meaning if relationships are not(the premier) asset of all organisations. Straw men in the Value Systems world.

The $600k that is YouTube is a lesson for PR. Google paid for a computer programme and machinery of a few thousand dollars worth and $1.6 billion for relationships.

Relationships sharing knowledge remain the most expensive part of the whole life cost of a car - by factors.

If cultivation theory is the limit when neuro-psychology tells us so much more and Facbook confronts Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann we do have a long way to go. We do not see what is really happening to and among real people.

Is Macnamara's fork in the road mere fumblings along an ancient byway, blinded to distraction by the glare and bustle of the highway. It light in a different direction?

It is time for Public Relations research not pseudo-marketing, pseudo-management and pseudo-accounting? We need it to better inform 'management' to help fix that transitory nexus of values that make the relationships we call the firm and then re-cast the nature of the firm.

So where are we? Journalist advise out political elite with, as Macnamara points out, no knowledge of W. J. McGuire’s (now dated) stages of communication; Joseph Klapper’s limited effects findings; Roland Barthes “death of the author”; Leon Festinger’s Theory of Cognitive Dissonance; Umberto Eco’s theory of aberrant decoding; social cognitive theory and modern scholars in the public relations field. Add to that Cluetrain Manifesto, Evans and Wuster's "Blown to Bits" and Fred Wenstøp and Arild Myrmel's "Structuring organizational value statements ".

Lets make no bones about it, the billions of Chinese texting messages are now mightier than media mogul; shareable, global, free at the point of use word processing and spreadsheets are in the hands of billions of Indians. The of Microsft's Office is only paid for out of sluggish organisations pretence of assets to defend their walled gardens.

Where now?

Learn why people smile when you give them a rose.