Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A New Dawn for Public Relations

Yesterday, I examined what leaders in PR thought were the key issues and practices for the PR industry in 2015.

I now want to begin to look at a future beyond 2015.

Perhaps it would be good to look at future PR in 2020 and 2025 and then perhaps 2030.

For a practice that has always been the discipline to make known the values of organisations to a wider public, this is going to be something of a challenge. In 2009, Richard Bailey looked two books. They put online PR into the contexts of the day. This is what he wrote:

It’s almost a decade since the first edition of Online Public Relations was written. For the second edition, David Phillips has teamed up with Philip Young. 
While tools and technologies have changed rapidly, what do the authors claim for PR?  ‘For public relations practice the unavoidable conclusion is that nothing will ever be the same again; the advent of an online world means almost every aspect of the discipline needs to be rethought.’
Every aspect of PR needs to be rethought
Fasten your seatbelts; we’re in for a much more ambitious ride. It’s not just the practice that is changing, it seems, but its role and purpose. After a short section on the basic toolkit, this book deals in concepts: transparency, porosity, agency, richness and reach.
We assume transparency to be a good thing, and porosity (leaks) bad. But they are the flip-side of the same concept. ‘As with transparency, there are benefits. The authentic voice of the organization that flows through the corporate shell has tremendous impact outside and may be part of the managed process of making organizations more competitive.’ Yet as the authors ask (in the context of ghostwritten blogs), ‘where does the ‘authentic voice porosity’ stop and managed transparency begin?’
There are big challenges: ‘the practitioner with ‘messages’ to present to a public is now confronted with this changed communications environment.’ As the authors describe, it’s a mixture of one-to-one, one-to-many, many-to-many and many-to-one communications channels.
But here’s the problem. While Rob Brown’s book presents a simple (though not simplistic) view of public relations in the age of social media, Online Public Relations presents a very complex picture. That’s because the authors view public relations operating in the realm of relationship optimization. This implies a practice that will be unrecognisable to many since ‘untruths, half-
Claims become reputation time bombs
truths, hype and extravagant claims become reputation time bombs.’ This is no doubt true, but it presents a counter-factual view of the practice in a similar way to the famous ‘two-way symmetrical’ model, which still feels idealistic 25 after its publication.
So ‘the internet brings public relations closer to the heart of corporate re-engineering, corporate governance, corporate and brand relationships, reputation promotion and issues management.’ It’s a very different picture from that depicted by Rob Brown. If Rob Brown’s book could be renamed Marketing Public Relations and the Social Web, Phillips and Young’s could become Corporate Public Relations Online. I described the first as suitable for undergraduates and confused clients; the second is for advanced students and practitioners.
Let’s summarise some of the changes identified by Phillips and Young. ‘The traditional website has become a place of record and commercial exchange. The new social media web is a place for interactions.’ And ‘the extremes between a press release and a telephone conversation require flexible policies in terms of approval of corporate statements. Social media need the same kind of flexibility.’
Rethink the role of public relations
‘In the past, a PR person might have been judged by the volume of coverage generated for a client. The key today is not volume but influence: that is, how deeply into the networks did the story reach and for how long did it actively set the agenda in the online ‘conversations’?’
At its heart (chapters 15 to 21), the book provides help with developing a corporate internet strategy (‘there is an overwhelming case for improving capability to strategically manage online presence, interactions and stakeholder relations by organizations.’)
The challenge is to bring the linear, rational process of planning up to date to cope with rapid change and uncertainty (even about the very nature of the organisation). ‘Put simply, we need to be able to plan for surprises in this fast-changing world… The idea that one can run a ‘PR campaign’ is now flawed. A ‘campaign’ once had time limits and could thus be dropped after the event, but this does not apply today.’
The book cannot provide a template for your corporate internet strategy, but it does discuss approaches and adapts existing tools and models, and has particularly strong sections on risk assessment and legal and ethical issues.
Best of all, the book challenges us to rethink the role of public relations. ‘The previously unseen hand is moving into fairly sharp focus’ the authors state, in discussing the shift from communicating through journalists to engaging in social media conversations (moving from mediated to unmediated discourse). And ‘the fundamental vector of communication that shapes reputation and an organization’s relationship with its stakeholders has flipped through 90 degrees. Now, the truly significant discourse is that which surrounds an organization, product or service.’
Yet the authors also state, ‘Online PR is not an alternative to other forms of relationship building, communication and interaction; it is an extension of what has gone before.’ I call that evolution. The radical, revolutionary thinking is less about the relationship of public relations to the internet and more about the role of public relations within organisations. ‘New PR is also about new thinking’.
Yes, and here we are harking back to ideas that are a decade and half old. 

It seems Transparency is creeping into everything we do.
Transparency for all

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal said GCHQ failed until December 2014 to make clear enough details of how it shared data from mass internet surveillance.

It was the IPT's first ruling against an intelligence agency in its 15-year history.

The Home Office said the government was "committed to transparency".

In December the IPT ruled that the system of UK intelligence collection did not breach the European Convention of Human Rights, following a complaint by campaign groups including Privacy International and Liberty. So 'Transparency' has even crept into GCHQ! Transparency has an ascendant place.

The way that porosity works is now institutionalised in the web site Wiki Leaks.  Almost no one could doubt the richness of content online. As social media tracks even the place you are and the temperature of the big outdoors in your location, it becomes harder to build and maintain the corporate firewall. Indeed, the organisation seems almost to have no walls. The simple need to acquire global expertise comes in the form of open source and contracted labour.

Organisations are porous as employees inadvertently expose content
It seems there is rich content about everything. It is available in words and pictures, movies and holograms.  Not only is there a lot of information out there, so called 'big data' it is available to be monitored compared, measured, evaluated. It is also the seedcorn for automating PR jobs. Michael Osborne and Carl Frey from Oxford University say that algorithms can now write simple finance and sports news stories once done by journalists - but it doesn't mean those jobs will disappear anytime soon because of the skills they require. It does mean that many repetitive jobs once at the heart of PR will be whisked away. It does mean that the digital environment has so much data that automating cultural activities is now not a mad scientific vision. It is a matter for the here and now.

And, the nature of mobile communications means that from the centre of London to the far flung Scottish crofts, the reach of the internet is delivered in a mobile device in ones pocket.
Rich content reaching us all

Thus the key elements of transparency, porosity, agency, richness and reach still hold good. Reach is much more than being able to converse with the populations of the world. The nature of reach is in its state and its every morphing states in a society which has intelligent networks reacting round the clock.

This is the environment in which Public Relations has to thrive. It is a place where the five elements are not only present but are there by a right of internet passage and not managed or controlled by the PR practitioner. The practitioner has to learn to thrive in an environment where 'the organisation' becomes progressively less tangible and where the digital capability is changing all the time.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is PR in 2015? Industry elites offer a view

The road ahead for PR

A number of questions are being asked about Public Relations.

one of them is 'What is the future of Public Relations?"

To be able to answer such a question, we need to know where practice is today.

The Measurement Standard invited a number of people to offer their view of what would be key in 2015.

They talked of the new and developing areas of practice. We have looked at what they said and then used the new PR tools of semantics to identify what they believe as a group. This is what the leaders in the field said:

“Whilst 2014 saw a continued rise in content, 2015 will see more brands embracing different types of content – beyond the written word or static images – that engages and adds value to their audiences.  We will see a growth in multiple forms of content from far shorter and punchier blog posts through to animated videos and even interactive infographics.  Furthermore, there will be much more emphasis on mobile content – brands are starting to see the value of creating content specifically aimed towards mobile users, especially as mobile marketing is growing at a staggering rate with more and more of us reading content on our mobile devices.  Indeed, taking all this further, tailoring content to be unique and specific to different social networks as well as to specific devices should also become a reality too.”
Lilach Bullock
Co Founder, Comms Axis

“Big brands will truly embrace the scale of digital in 2015, with its ability to match or often beat traditional media reach. In realising digital channels can play this big broadcast role they’ll then start exploring what still makes them different & unique – the ability to carefully target different content at subtly different audiences to ensure maximum impact will be chief amongst the answers. For consumers it should mean far more interesting & relevant adverts that build personal connections with brands at scale.”

Jerry Daykin
Global Digital Director at Carat

“The over-arching trend for digital in 2015 will be about ‘joining the dots’. There has been a lot of activity and investment in people, technology, data, tools, content and so on in the last few years. But it needs to work together better. Be that better channel integration, more joined up processes and capabilities, data and systems that work together more intelligently etc. 2015 will be about getting the digital engine firing on all cylinders.”
Ashley Friedlein
President, Centaur Marketing
Founder, Econsultancy

“What I believe will be big in 2015 is the rise of the internal social network.  For years now brands have been developing a presence on external social media, but have been missing the opportunity to allow their own staff to collaborate with each other, breaking down departmental silos and crossing geographies.  The gold in developing a collaborative culture is unlocking the brilliant minds we sit next to every day, along with the network drives and local files of information just waiting to be shared.
In the future, your value to an organisation won’t be what you know, it will be what you share.”
Andrew Grill
Global Partner, Social Business – IBM

Getting smarter about which parts of the ‘grand vision’ digital brands can land as early birds, which customers notice and will appreciate. Value exchange around customer data is a prime example. Brands collect and hoard. Customers complain about low value for the effort. This is a mind-set challenge of thinking outside-in. Not a question of ‘must have’ tech. “You already know tons about me. Use to empathise around my key situations and personalise your responses. Just needs imagination.”
Thus a hot trend for 2015 will be ‘situational empathy’.”
Martin Hill-Wilson
Digital Strategist

Content marketing will be increasingly used by companies that need to intensify their efforts to produce quality, creative, educational, targeted content on a constant basis. More brands will run social ads to amplify and broadcast their content in their attempts to go viral and to reach new audiences. Furthermore, advertising campaigns will become more micro-segmented thanks to broader targeting options. The end of the Facebook Like Gate has sounded the death knell for massive fan recruitment campaigns, which is a very good thing as it will help to build more qualitative communities and to better collect user data. 2015 will also see some brands experiment with social commerce as new features are developed by social platforms. And finally, brands and individuals alike will continue to adapt their websites for mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).”
Isabelle Mathieu
Consultant, Trainer, Speaker
Social Media and Web Marketing

“Digital has been a race to innovation and for many marketers that felt late; they have invested madly in Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps and anything, which seems cool and new. In 2014 realisation set it in that this approach wasn’t working effectively – fans are not always really fans.   The sense of purpose and the brand’s values will help marketers to leverage digital as a part of their global strategy.  Data will help them to make better decisions, and understand their customers and audience better.”
Gregory Pouy

“If 2014 has been the year of content creation, 2015 will be the year of content ROI. Continue to build content, but be smart about it. It’s hard to produce quality content in quantity, so think about how anything created can be leveraged and re-purposed. Ditch thinking about social as a free-place market. As with any form of advertising, inventory on social is limited and will go to the highest bidder. Measure the effectiveness of your investment by how your work affects your sales, not just your likes and followers.”
Mobbie Minister
Chief Strategy Officer at We Are Social.

“The biggest theme for me next year is data. More specifically how to harness data-driven insight and marry that with brilliant creativity.
We must ensure that our creative output is enriched by the possibilities of data-driven digital marketing, rather than being diminished by the purely rational, data-only approach.
Success in modern digital marketing requires a blend of data-driven insight and creative flair that produces ideas that are bigger than the sum of their parts.
There will always be room for pure creativity and pure data science, but the most fertile ground for brands in 2015 will likely be in the places they overlap.”
Christian Purser
Chief Digital Officer at M&C Saatchi Group

“2015 will be the year of the creation of value through ‘member engagement’ (brands should drop quantitative KPI to focus on more relevant content and qualitative KPI). It will also be a year of transition as the new rule will be «mobile first, web second» both in terms of content visibility and content accessibility (Facebook apps, etc.).”
Christophe Ramel
Social Media Manager (acti agency)

“Even though a number of channels have changed over the past few years and will continue to change, It does not mean ‘to be everywhere at any time’ but to follow a clear target. This applies to the social media giants such as Facebook or Twitter as well as many new channels like Yik Yak or Snapchat that change the communication in social networks annually. It is only possible to keep the orientation in the new channels when one defines clearly which audience should be reached.”
Ira Reckenthaler
Wildcard Communications

“If we consider Snapchat and what it represents – the notion of impermanence – how would our thinking of knowledge management change?
The knowledge base has become the keeper of information. When something resides there, it becomes powerful, unquestioned. But the reality is that it results in complacency, it becomes a dumping ground.
But how would we think about the knowledge base if it was somehow impermanent. Impermanence would force us to make decisions, to decide what was important, what was not, what should be in, what should not.
Once we free the knowledge base, we can truly start to free the way we think. This, together with Don Tapscott’s ‘shared canvas’, Clay Shirky’s ‘one another’s infrastructure’, suddenly takes on new significance. And for me, perhaps the biggest shift may be the start of a new type of worker who recognises that knowledge resides in the individual. The question is, how prepared is the organisation for this?”
Guy Stephens
Social Customer Care Consultant

2014 was a watershed year for measurement. There is growing realisation that media measurement should not define your business performance metrics, but that business performance management must determine your approach to measuring media and influence. The easiest trend to predict is one that has begun, and 2015 will witness the continued maturing of all things measurement. (See”
Philip Sheldrake
Managing Partner, Euler Partners

“Brands will truly become social in 2015. Consumers deluged with inappropriate content will fight back. Much of so-called content marketing is the equivalent of direct mail in the 90s and noughties – too often it’s inappropriate and spam. The difference between what came through your letterbox and what is served on your Facebook or Twitter feed is the volume. Our news feeds are packed with brands trying to hijack a news event or own a moment. They don’t really care about what you think, but in 2015 they’ll have to. The brutal truth is that brands which fail to engage with their audiences on a social level will be ignored.”
Stephen Waddington
European Digital & Social Media Director, Ketchum
President of the CIPR

“I’ve been working with the Managing Director of Social@Ogilvy EAME, Marshall Manson, on our big trend predictions for 2015 and the main one [of the three that we came up with] is that we believe Twitter will move to an algorithmic content serving model at some point in the New Year.
What this means is that, similar to Facebook before it, brands will come under greater pressure to deploy Twitter’s suite of paid products in support of any branded content they create.
We’re calling this ‘Twitter Zero’ and, when it hits, Promoted Tweets will become a necessity.”
James Whatley
Social Media Director at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, London

These perspectives were parsed through semantic analysis software which revealed the key interests:

This graphic was created using Wordle (

Yes, content, brands social Facebook, digital Twitter and mobile are rising up the today agenda very fast. The top of mind practices in 2015 are clear.

Using semantic analysis as a more informative tool a collective view of today's PR emerges. The experts contribution to the Measurement Standard showed specific top of mind practice revealing fast evolving activity in the PR sector viz:

  1. social media experts
  2. social media management
  3. media experts think
  4. digital marketing trends
  5. social media managers
  6. social customer service
  7. media managers can’t
  8. managers can’t ignore
  9. marketing trends social
  10. social media trends
  11. trends social media
  12. use social media
  13. data driven insight
  14. facebook or twitter
  15. social media director
  16. content creation will
  17. businesses use social
  18. change how businesses
  19. know about social
  20. media and digital
  21. year of content


The focus once may have been on media relations, events, lobbies and the like. No longer. The digital prophet has persuaded leading figures in the PR industry to look at a changed area of practice.

This is information we need to teach students the trade of PR. But is it enough. It shows practitioners what has to be in their portfolio of services too.

It is a subject that can be taken a long way. Defining PR has been an interest of mine for a long time. PR can be a discipline that interferes with culture, It is a practice with many faces that seem to go on forever and ever. It can be a business and wealth driver but today there is this new practice that is significant for the future of PR.

Monday, February 09, 2015

The future for PR

As soon as one begins to look at the future for public relations there are significant straws in the wind to help.

The BBC has a perspective for news.

This suggests that automated article creators/journalists will be commonplace between now and 2027.

Huh! The Guardian is reporting automated journalism being used now.

It is pointing to a story about an earthquake last week.

There is a growing pressure on news organizations to produce more inexpensive content for digital platforms, resulting in new models of low-cost or even free content production.

The Associated Press announced that the majority of U.S. corporate earnings stories for its business news report will eventually be produced using automation technology.

‘In AP’s case, Wordsmith will write thousands of earnings stories that would not have otherwise existed. Wordsmith operates at a speed and scale humans cannot match.

What readers make of robot writers is yet to be fully established – most of the automated services’ clients don’t tell them their content is not penned by real people – but a study of a small group earlier this year at Karlstad University in Sweden showed that many cannot tell the difference between bot copy and hack copy.

The investor community is finding this development exciting  and academics are taking a close interest in the subject too.

A special issue of Digital Journalism around the theme “Journalism in an Era of Big Data: Cases, Concepts, and Critiques,”  sheds important light on the implications of data and algorithms, computation and quantification, for journalism as practice and profession.
Huffington Post 

The papers address questions such as: What does automated journalism mean for journalistic authority? What kind of social, occupational and epistemological tensions—past and present—are associated with the development of quantitative journalism?  What sorts of critiques and cautionary tales, from within and beyond the newsroom, should give the media pause? Overall, what does big data, as a broad sociotechnical phenomenon, mean for journalism’s ways of knowing (epistemology) and doing (expertise), as well as its negotiation of value (economics) and values (ethics)?

There is more here.

What does this mean for PR?

Does it mean we set the software to create the stories for news publications, blogs, Facebook etc while we sleep?

Are we going to offer stories produced automatically for of the moment briefing for politicians and CEOs facing interrogators armed with similar briefing material?

What is the legal position of automated content?

Will it be ethical for PR people to go to software that will produce unhelpful content about competitors automatically?

How would one police such dark practices.....

More reading.....................

The Robotic Reporter: Automated journalism and the redefinition of labor, compositional forms, and journalistic authority
M Carlson - Digital Journalism, 2014 - Taylor & Francis

Big Data and Journalism: Epistemology, expertise, economics, and ethics
SC Lewis, O Westlund - Digital Journalism, 2014 - Taylor & Francis

Enter the Robot Journalist: Users' perceptions of automated content
C Clerwall - Journalism Practice, 2014 - Taylor & Francis

Place-Based Knowledge in the Twenty-First Century: The creation of spatial journalism
A Schmitz Weiss - Digital Journalism, 2015 - Taylor & Francis

Clarifying Journalism's Quantitative Turn: A typology for evaluating data journalism, computational journalism, and computer-assisted reporting
M Coddington - Digital Journalism, 2014 - Taylor & Francis

Digital Journalism. Clarifying Journalism's Quantitative Turn. A typology for evaluating
data journalism, computational journalism, and computer-assisted reporting.

The Future of Journalism: In an age of digital media and economic uncertainty
B Franklin - Journalism Practice, 2014 - Taylor & Francis

“Enter the Robot Journalist: Users' Perceptions of Automated Content.” Journalism
Practice 8 (5). [Taylor & Francis Online]                              

Saturday, February 07, 2015

CIPR to build ethics monitoring software?

Neolithic field patterns at Barbury Castle

This blog came into existence ten years ago. An eternity in social media terms.

It has always been controversial and now has to come back to life to examine the next evolution. 

Now I want to build on that history to argue the next big revolution to face PR. 

I want the CIPR to examine if it can avoid building software to judge and monitor the ethical efficacy of its members actions. 

First we have to look at practice as it will evolve to make such a decision so essential. We have to look at the emerging technologies and the role of PR in this new world.

The evolution of that activity which creates cultural acceptance for an organisation including knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society to contribute values through the creation of effective relationships.

It is not going to be easy.

Most will be as uninterested as the practitioner of 2005 was to the evolution of the internet and 'social media'.

Back then, the online PR activists of the day made it quite clear where the new and social media would go. Most people in the PR industry thought them slightly strange. 

It was at a time of some very powerful thinking.

We argued about why the world needed Public Relations

Then, most practitioners thought of PR as rather linea. 

Some of us had different views. We thought that news, views and marketing promotion needed to evolve into multiple touch contact with a range of constituencies. The feature of this form of communication was proposed with three types of consumer inter-reactions. These are: a primary touchpoint (TV); plus secondary (iTV, Web and SMS) and tertiary (newspapers, magazines, land and cellular telephony, email, discussion lists, Blogs, Wiki's, events, posters and interpersonal communication). Any of these channels could be primary, secondary or tertiary and in any combination for different forms of communication. The most successful PR and marketing programmes would, we thought, use this breadth of contact points and each offer a different experience. Imagine, in an era of Twitter and Facebook, that this was revolutionary in 2007!

It was a view of some of the functions in setting objectives strategy and tactic in a public relations programme using PR as the management process that creates wealth.

As this post shows, this process is unique in organisations because it is the only management discipline that has all the tools that can be used in the wealth creation process.

We were in a mood to see PR as interfering with culture and economics.

Now we have to see examine where the PR profession has to go.

This is where I intent to set out the associated agendas.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Competence in Public Relations - is it more than experience?

Stephen Waddington is looking to see if the CIPR can develop a PR competency framework.

Such a big subject and one we have to take seriously.

Knowing the value of a great photographer and designer is an asset and working with the best conference organisers, advertising managers and agencies is a skill set all on its own.

Managing staff and managing the ever contesting senior managers requires a deft touch too.

Online PR adds to and changes the traditional assumptions (imagine, once upon a time there were people who really believed in 'market segmentation' and 'publics' - this was life before social media, of course).

Its evolution is near vertical requires a competency that includes social media knowledge, skills and practice. Competency beyond this summer, (when mobile social media and internet engagement will be bigger than desktop work) has yet to be developed and the CIPR initiative will be very important in this regard.

The power of Grid Computing is so huge that even I blanche at trying to get an idea of its consequences.

In my career, I worked in political PR. A knowledge of constitution, political campaign law and voluntary organisation development were essentials. So to was the nature of building media relations (oh! yes, and writing press briefings, press releases and the associated collateral was part of this activity).

In industrial PR, the relationship between business, investors, banks, suppliers and competitors broadened my experience. Then too, the companies we acquired, and transitional internal HR public relations were critical too. Employment law and best practice requires a lot of reading on airplanes, I recall. Monitoring, measuring and evaluating opinion, action and re-action is part of the job from the six am news to endless minutes and reports and with constant walking through offices and factories to get a feel for what was important before reading and evaluating the top 'share of voice' press 'clips'.

Providing the advisory and collateral are 'always on' activities. Some of us still remember those brick sized mobile phones that were so essential.

Consumer research and campaign development with a close eye on the ethical values at play comes as an added interest and requirement for expertise and then there is the whole subject of issues and crisis management. My career had moved on.

Such capabilities are the realm of public relations; they have to be part of our graduate scheme; they have to form the basis for evaluating the capabilities of and accreditation of our university degrees.

This then is my agenda for 20th century PR competence. Instead of 30 years experience, much of it can be taught. It is the stuff of a first degree in PR.

But now there are bigger skills and capabilities that are needed by the PR profession. As the internet emerged it was imperative to get to grips with it. In my case it was simpler to write a couple of books (before the turn and two after the turn of the millenium) which made me explore this new dimension.

The nature of the new and emerging cyber-social revolution is hard to grasp. So far we have observed and enjoined only the smallest effects. The wearable, nay, nano and mobile-plus semantic form of living is a much bigger revolution which faces the CIPR in the next few years.