Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Practitioners' Rough Deal

An excellent post by Stephen Waddington, prompted me to to resond to some of the comments it evoked.

The original post is here and I have extended the arguments below.

The initial comments was:
The challenge of identifying the authority of a blog was raised yesterday at econsultancy’s Online PR roundtable.

Technorati recently changed its blog authority ranking to reflect the real time potency of a blog rather than influence over time. Consequently only very high profile blogs are being rated.

The number of inbound links combined with Google PageRank was proposed as a solution at yesterday’s roundtable.

And then there are a lot of differnet methodologies.

My response was:

Typical of the PR industry, come up with black art reaction and ignore the research - soooo professional. The research work presented by Bruno Amaral this July ( is based on blog discourse. It shows the proof of concept in analysis of (blog) discourse for the creation and development of relationships (oh, and for those who want to know buying and selling is part of a relationship for lots of people as well). What, it seems, this debate might be about is the extent to which there are common tokens identified and expressed with mutual understanding as to the values that are attributed to them by actors which will ensure relationships are created, re-enforced and extended. One way of doing this is to use semantic analysis to identify commonly held and agreed values (which is what Bruno did). This may provide the same answer as a mash up of inlinks, page rank, alexa traffic figures, bloglines citations, number of readers/subscribers, words published per day, number of comments etc. The one thing we do know is that one approach is definitely built of sound science and three years of solid, peer reviewed, research and the other may not be. If one was betting the survival growth and profitability of your company on the methods used, there might be a reason for choosing one methodology over another.
My principle beef is that there is a lot of good research about that the PR industry ignores. A lot of research is conducted in the universities, is converted to dry academic papers and some long and boring books that a few undergraduates and even smaller proportion of PR Masters students have to read.

The chance for a practitioner to get at this stuff is zip.

Its not as though organisations like the Chartered Institute of Public Relations or the PRCA help much - if at all. In the case of the CIPR one struggles to find the courses and conferences that are leavened with expert academic research because the institutions do not list the people and qualifications of the teachers and trainers. Of course, knowing which PR celebrities, old codgers and underemployed practitioners are engaged by the CIPR would be interesting but the web site is a bit shy about revealing this.

On the other hand, there are the academic institutions. These places, where PR academics count how fairies on pin heads communicate and undertake senility surveys of ten past it practitioners. They are stunningly secret.

Sometimes they invite the world into their cloisters and sometimes they are seen at conferences wearing their habits.

I was a bit surprised to discover that universities with PR degrees are staggered that the PR industry needs social media expertise from students emerging into the sunshine of modern practice. This reeks of academia polishing the ivory towers.

PR academics NEVER criticise practice or practitioners. As the financial industry went into melt down not a single PR academic suggested even meekly, that banks like other institutions needed to manage relationships if they were going to lend to each other (and customers?). Not much good at grasping the hour these PR academics.

Here they are without an argument to put about really great measures of successful PR such as ... well we all know how much Advertising Value Equivalents are used.

I really do want to see the survey of top 1000 company CEO's who use the measure, rely on it, base the future of their companies and careers on such a profound measure of ...... ummmmm.....

I know of a university with a PR course that has a PR office that uses Ave's. Where is the PR equivelent of:
Three more scientists have resigned from the UK drug advisory body after the home secretary sacked of its chief advisor, Professor David Nutt, for disagreeing with government policy on marijuana.
So am I really surprised about the comments of Stephen's blog. No.

Am I amazed at the PR institutions and academics lack of spirit in pouring scorn on iffy methodologies. No.

But I believe that practitioners deserve more.