Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Semantic Public Relations

I am taking the first steps in developing a Semantic Public Relations theory. At a recent celebration of the 21st year of the Bournemouth PR BA course, I bent Tom Watson's ear about how narrow I though PR research was. He was polite as I ranted away and my lurid arm waving did not help the furtherance of the idea on the British South Coast.

The trouble is, they have lots of students and enough to help in the development of, as Kevin Kelly puts it, connecting all the nouns.

Underneath all this is a thought that there is a way to demonstrate that reputation is able to turn intellectual properties, intangible and tangible assets into tradeable value in a relationship (and only in a relationship).

It is a nice thought because it is good for PR and very good for the evolution of Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web.

My question is: Using online discourse and automated semantic analysis, can elements of platform, channel and values be identified to show attributes of reputation that affect the value of people, products, services and organisations.

This is how the scenario goes:
You have a pretty looking (intangible) car (tangible) and you know how to make it (know how) and you know what you need by way of components and logistics (know what) and now you want to sell it.
But until you tell people about it, you cant't sell it. 
So advertise.  You have reach - hooray!  But you did not sell anything. So now you start to tell people about how pretty, how well made, how you acquire components and deliver it to customers.  You make your organisation more transparent.  This transparency means you expose the values that are so important to you. 
There are people out there who find these values coincide with their own and they want to know more about your organisations. They check up by searching for you on Google. If they find nothing, they do not think you have much of a reputation and so don't buy your car.
You do lots of online work and get more of a presence talking about  your values and more people now find you and like your values and the values that make the car pretty. They also can see your online presence and like what they see. 
Here is the catch point. At this stage have you done enough to share your values and build enough reputation for people to trust you and take that extra step and buy your car.
Reputation turns your car from a bunch of tangible and intangible liabilities into an asset.
If we only knew what values comprise reputation so that we can build reputation, then people will pay to acquire those values.

In the scenario above we have a number of clues.

  • We need reach. Lots of coverage. 
  • We need to be transparent and expose values in value rich posts and web pages. 
  • We also need that gossip by third parties about us.The sort of insider endorsement. The stuff of porous corporate walls. 
  • We need richness. Richness which exposes our values. Not just a few brand values but values about the way we work and interact across a wide range of activities.
  • We need to use a lot of online channels where people can find out about our values and use the networks, in and outlinks and search engines to seek out the source of these much loved values. The internet acting as an agent brings the public to us and us to them.

For the last ten years we have known that transparency, porosity, agency, richness and reach are important. They were elements that came out of the work of the CIPR/PRCA Internet Commission.

We have very powerful evidence from the work of Bruno Amaral that the words found using latent semantic indexing act like (and are) semantic values. We also know from his work presented at Bled last July that these semantic values work in networks to draw people under their influence into relationships (we live in an era of near Ubiquitous Interactive Communication which makes the internet network very powerful).

The new element I want to put in the Amaral equation is trust and I am not sure how to identify what it is that engenders trust in internet mediated relationships.

I guess, I am looking for people who would be interested in taking this thinking further.

We are fortunate to have access to Girish Lakshminarayana's LSI software which has the ability to identify semantic values in discourse, we can begin the research on what components are involved in the development of reputation in internet communication.

What is so cool about this is that we already have the corpus (its in the Google cashe), already have the automated semantic tools to identify values and we can create relationship models on pre-existing online discourse to test and evaluate in weeks not months or years.

In a few months, a dedicated research team would have a more than a working hypothesis to change the value of organisations through enhanced reputation management.

In this research we would get tantalisingly close to a new type of value (probably more than one) to compete with money but which also could be exchanged for money in an open market.

Hello Semantic Public Relations. You are very exciting.