Twitter

more on the death and rebirth of “communications”

By on Feb 26, 2014 in fleishmanhillard, public relations, social business |

On Thursday and Friday of this week I’ll be representing FleishmanHillard at the Global PR Trends Conference in Istanbul. I’ve based my presentation, or at least the 80% of it that will be done before I arrive at the hotel and find a wifi connection, on the post I wrote a few weeks ago on how social business offers an approach for communicators to break out of their functional silo to be at the centre of coordinated, cross-functional collaboration that leads to better results internally and externally. I’m calling the presentation “Communications is Dead. Long Live Communication.” In a nutshell, here’s my argument: Communications (PR) as it has historically been perceived – a stand alone, siloed business function – is dead. This is supported (my personal interpretation rather than an official one) by FleishmanHillard’s award winning Authenticity Gap research, which describes the 9 fundamental drivers of reputation (pdf). Guess what? Most of those factors fall outside the usual responsibilities of PR… but absolutely should be of interest to the reputation builders and guardians of our industry. Communication, the human behaviour, is thankfully for us, essential to the entire human experience, including in business. As we shift from mass production towards mass bespoke (3d printing, Firestarter crowd funding, etc) as a new business model, not to mention the more familiar (for us) broadcast model to direct engagement as a communications approach, we – communicators – are well positioned to become the essential connective tissue, conversation starters, and conduit of organisational ebbs and flows of information due to our well honed skills doing exactly that over the past 50-75 years we’ve existed as a proper profession. To seize this opportunity, created more by the shifting landscape around us rather than any deliberate act, we have to think broadly, and boldly, about our future position within the clients we serve. If you think like me, there’s a strong future for our industry indeed. I’ll post my slides when I have the final version done. See (some of) you in Istanbul where, by the way, we have an a great affiliate. [As always, this blog posts contains my personal views which are not necessarily shared by my...

social business & big data: keys to the strategic positioning of PR?

By on Feb 11, 2014 in fleishmanhillard |

The Public Relations industry has long argued for a place at the top table. We’ve been held back in this ambition by the perception that we become useful only at the tail end of the corporate value chain and by our lack of rigour with regards to measurement. Social Business and Big Data offer PR the opportunity to reposition itself at the strategic heart of the businesses and organisations we serve. Communication: Central to the Human Experience Yet Organisationally Siloed Communication, not as a siloed organisational function but as a human behaviour, has always been central to how organisations and brands, from political bodies to major industrial manufacturers, organise themselves and progress – creatively, politically and economically. Humans identify, through communication, a need or market to address. We establish partnerships around shared objectives and build alliances of shared meaning. Communication allows us to nurture advocates and embrace diversity. In the commercial realm, this isn’t something we see only within more collaborative, horizontally organised businesses – even the military, probably the most top down, command and control of all organisations, is communication-centric: orders are given, targets identified, firing authorised, seize-fires negotiatiated, and amnesties granted. Communications the business function, however, nearly always exists within a silo with defined boundaries somewhere close to the nexus of a brand’s aspirations, how it communicates this to stakeholders, and the actual experience of those who engage with the brand or it’s offering. [See FleishmanHillard’s award winning Authenticity Gap research for insight into how the gap between expectations and actual experience impacts brands.] Part of the problem is that PR Professionals are often only called in after the fact: * once a strategic decision is made, we communicate it’s necessity * once a campaign is defined, we are asked to extend it’s reach and build engagement * once a product or service has been devised, we’re brought in to communicate it’s usefulness * once an industrial mishap has occurred, we’re called in to contain the reputational damage Yet the good news is that Communications does have a privileged perspective within most organisations of any scale, with visibility across operations, strategy, outcomes and, yes, risks, that few outside the closed doors of the board or C-Suite have awareness of. Social Business – A Magic Pill? Social business is a human-centric, insights-led approach to the development and implementation of strategic programmes that bring stakeholders, both internal and external, closer to business critical processes in ways that generate shared value. Social Business is the lever that agencies, and their functionally ring-fenced clients, can activate to break out of our box to become the facilitators of communication and connectivity, helping create richer human experiences and strategic progress. Doing this – being the connector, listener, valued collaborator and thoughtful advisors we can be – catapults us, Communicators, to the centre of organisational strategy. A Model Social Business Programme Usually, it starts with an indepth insights gathering process where methodologies borrowed from ethnography, user experience design and management consulting are leveraged to identify and prioritise strategic objectives, stake holder motivations, existing processes and workflows. Social business practitioners also look for obstructions such as lack of employee engagement, unnecessary constraints upon collaboration, poorly thought out infrastructure and, for lack of a more revealing description, competing egos. We conduct workshops and stakeholder interviews, interrogate data from a variety of digital and social media listening and analytics tools, undertake desk research, and ask tough questions about ourĀ  client’s business strategy. The same methodology can and should be deployed to gain insights from both internal and external stakeholders. We then map the two views so as to identify commonalities and connections between objectives, people, processes and platforms. The final step is to build participatory frameworks that drive collaborative action and strategic progress. It sounds easy, but it requires an extraordinary depth of immersion within a client’s corporate culture and the context in which it operates to fully realise. I’ve been involved in social business programmes that last a month or two, and several that have taken as long as 18 months to complete. Staffing for Social Business If the PR industry is to claim Social Business as an approach, we must recruit, nurture and deploy the right kind of people: those with a strategic mindset, intellectual curiosity, willingness to challenge assumptions, appropriate levels of empathy, and a knack for coalition building. A Social Business strategist is an ethnographer, a journalist, a management consultant, a user experience strategist and a communicator. I’ve worked with many people in our industry with some or all of these characteristics. Being “good at social media” is not a prerequisite, although understanding how technology can enable processes and workflows can come in useful. Can PR survive in a results focused, Big Data, World? The crumb trail of data meanders through the functions of our clients businesses. The Communications industry has been lazy about tracking down the data that demonstrates our value and, instead, often relies upon fuzzy metrics including the counting of outputs and questionable correlations. I strongly believe that PR can contribute to the good fortunes of our clients, but we need to get better at supporting this thesis and Big Data is our opportunity to do exactly that. There is a strong connection, in my view, between social business and big data. Social business is about connecting the dots between people and processes important to strategic success, big data is...