The Best Research from IPRRC 2014

IPRRC 2014 presentationThis is one of three Measurement Advisor articles that cover the 2014 International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC):

by Katie Paine — Who needs brain games when we have IPRRC? This three-day idea-fest that takes place in Miami every spring is organized by Don Stacks of the University of Miami. There are so many ideas presented in those three days that your brain needs a week at the spa to recover. Here’s our list of The Best of IPRRC 2014:  

IPRRC logo

1. Best Performance by a Grad Student

Rita Linjuan Men of Southern Methodist University
Who escorted the IPRRC Board from the conference hotel a mile up the road to our chosen dinner spot in the highest, pinkest heels I’ve ever seen—and did it without tripping once!

2. The Best News for Measurement (Tweetable headline: More people are measuring social media better)

Don Wright and Michelle Hinson, A Nine-Year Longitudinal Analysis Tracking and Measuring Social and Emerging Media Use in Public Relations Practice
Wright & Hinson’s ongoing longitudinal analysis of social and emerging media use in PR continues to deliver surprises, not the least of which is that Twitter has surpassed Facebook as the most frequently accessed medium for PR.  Interestingly, for the third year in a row fewer people see traditional mainstream media as influencing social media. Facebook still scores higher when subjects are asked how important new media is in the overall Comms efforts. But the really good news is that 46%—the highest percentage ever—say they are now measuring social media. And, even more importantly, more and more are doing research focused on impact and outcome measures.

3. Paper Most Likely to Give PR People Nightmares (Tweetable headline: NO, we won’t be replaced by robots, just marketing)

Kirk Hallahan: Publicity Under Siege: Content Marketing, Brand Journalism, Native Advertising and Promoted User Endorsements As Challenges to Professional Practice
In which Mr. Hallahan of Colorado State paints a picture of PR being gradually gobbled up by marketing.

4. Paper With the Biggest Impact on the Profession (Tweetable headline:  We now have standards for how to code media)

Marianne Eisennman, David Geddes, and Julie O’Neil, An Examination of the Validity, Reliability and Best Practices Related to the Proposed Standards for Traditional Media
I’ve already named this validity test undertaken by Eisennman, Geddes, and O’Neil the best new thing in the world. This team has provided the industry with the standards we’ve been looking for, and here’s a warning to everyone reading this. If you aren’t following these standards and procedures in two years, we will hunt you down and name you menace of the month! The next step is to make them an integral part of any RFP.

5. Paper that will be most read and referred to. (Tweetable headline: If you want to increase trust in your business, chose your media wisely.)

Alan VanderMolen, Vice Chairman of DJE Holdings at Edelman, Michael Cacciatore, Juan Meng, and Bryan Reber of the University of Georgia,  The Role of Media Selection in Predicting Trust: Evidence from the Global Trust Study
VanderMolen, Cacciatore, Meng & Reber correlated trust scores from the Edelman Trust Barometer with media usage data to determine the relationship between the type of media people consume and their level of trust in business. Not surprisingly it varies by country. Specifically:

  •  If you are in the U.S. and China and rely on social media as a primary news source you are more likely to trust businesses.
  • The opposite is true in the UK. There, the highest level of trust is seen in consumers of newspapers.
  • Search engine use is linked to lower levels of trust, particularly in Germany, China, India, and Russia.
  • In India and Brazil radio listeners tend to have the highest level of trust in business.

6. The Bleedingest Edge Paper (Tweetable headline: Instagram is the place to be if you’re pissed at a food company)

Jeanine Guidry, Marcus Messner, Yan Jin, and Vivian Medina-Messner, all of Virginia Commonwealth University (always one of the hotbeds of new research), From #macdonaldsfail to #dominossucks: An analysis of Instagram images about the 10 largest fast food companies
Guidry, Messner, Jin & Medina-Messner conducted the first ever analysis of corporate use of Instagram images by the largest fast food companies. Some big surprises here:

  • 55% percent of posts made by employees of the ten largest fast food companies were negative about their employers, mostly about the work environment. Subway was the most likely to see negative posts by employees.
  • Customers, on the other hand, complained about service. This should come as no surprise, since customer satisfaction is almost always correlated to employee attitude.
  • Other than Starbucks, none of the major food companies is really doing anything with Instagram. During the lifetime of their Instagram accounts, Domino’s only posted 48 times, and McDonald’s posted 73, compared to Starbucks which seems to be Instagram obsessed, posting 351 times.
  • Only 9% of Instagram posts actually related to food, mostly it was about service and work environment.
  • 62% of posts on Instagram about your company may be by customers, not you. 33% were posted by employees.
  • On average an Instagram post received 2 comments, but the actual number ranged between 0 and 93. The average number of likes was 15, but some posts got as many as 473.
  • It wasn’t all bad news. 15.7% were positive, and 15% were neutral. Okay, that still leaves 70% that were pretty bad.
  • None of the companies is responding or engaging in a dialog on Instagram.
  • Customer’s posts were more negative than employees, but a remarkable number of the complaints were about Starbucks baristas misspelling their name on a cup. (This is NOT a crisis, folks. Get over it.)

7. The Biggest New Thought Paper (Tweetable headline: We are social capitalists)

Melissa Dodd, University of Central Florida: A Social Capital Model of Public Relations
There are always a lot of big new ideas at the IPRRC, and a number of new theories about PR get their start there. My favorite this year was Melissa Dodd’s. Her paper endorsed a theory I’ve been espousing for years, namely that PR builds social capital and its value should be measured by risk avoidance and lower operating costs, not “likes’ and “Hits.” For more on this read Fussell, et al., (2005).  Her conclusions are:

  • PR professionals serve as the brokers of socially embedded resources among organizations and their publics.
  • Social resources include intangible assets that result from PR pros’ work.
  • When social resources are exchanged for organizational outcomes, they serve as social capital for an organization.
  • PR pros have knowledge, training, and education to maintain and gain social resources on behalf of organizations.
  • When social resources are exchanged for outcomes they serve as social capital value.

8. The Most Needed Paper in the Industry (Tweetable headline: Engaging with social networks is good for your business relationships)

Rita Linjuan Men (she of the pink heels) of Southern Methodist University and Sunny Wan-Hsiu Tsai of the University of Miami: Why Does Social Media Engagement Matter? Perceptual, Attitudinal, and Behaviorial Outcomes of Organization—Public Engagement on Corporate Social Networking Sites
Men & Tsai tackled what could be the biggest question in the field right now: Why does social media engagement matter? The short answer is: It’s really good for your business. Their research studied 250 social network users who followed a least one company on Facebook. What they found was that the more people are engaged with your brand on a social network, the more likely they tend to view the organization as transparent. Why, you ask, does transparency matter? There’s a ton of research that shows that when people perceive you as transparent, what you say is more credible and their level of trust in your brand increases.

Companies that engage in social networks can build a unique character and personality and thus be perceived as authentic. Companies that were perceived as authentic had better relationships with their publics.

Respondents who were more deeply engaged with corporate pages tended to be more trusting of, more satisfied with, more committed to the organization and feel more empowered in the relationship.  In short, relations are enhanced by engaging in a social network.

Conclusion: The value of social media engagement is in nurturing positive public perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors towards the organization. If you want to measure the effectiveness of our social media engagement, measure the efficiency with which it improves your relationships.

9. Best Indicator of PR’s Emergence Into the 21st Century

No fewer than three pairs of Google Glass were spotted.

10. The “Duh” Award

Ann Jabro’s Event Planning as Connection, Collaboration, and Community Building is great research, but the conclusion simply confirmed the stereotypes of PR people: (1.) PR students just love working on events, and (2.) The opportunity to work with nonprofit community partners was appreciated. ∞

About Author

Katie Paine

I've been called The Queen Of Measurement, but I prefer Seshat, the Goddess.

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