3 Cool Things I Learned at IPRRC 2017

Every International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) includes hundreds of interesting papers and new public relations research results. Each year I try to organize the most important and present them to you in The Measurement Advisor. (See, for instance, “6 New Ideas About Social Media That I Learned at IPRRC 2017” and “Public Relations Research You’ll Use: The Best, Most Practical Papers From IPRRC 2017”.) This year there were some papers that stood out as important, but defied categorization. So, here are three cool things I learned at IPRRC:

1. There’s hope for measurement

A high-powered team of measurement gurus, many of whom serve on the Institute for PR’s Measurement Commission, have spent the last year  interviewing and studying the evaluation and measurement practices of private sector communications departments around the world. The group includes Dr. Rebecca Swenson of the University of Minnesota; Dr. Nathan Gilkerson, Marquette University; Forrest W. Anderson, Principal, Forrest W. Anderson Consulting; Fraser Likely, Likely Communication Strategies; Tim Marklein, Big Valley Marketing; and  Michael Ziviani, CEO of Precise Value. While the findings they presented at the IPRRC were preliminary, the insights they gleaned from the in-depth interviews they conducted is worthy of dissemination.

The good news is that there is a dedication to continuous improvement among executives who already have measurement and evaluation programs in place. Executives are working to improve the integration of outputs and outcomes. The more advanced programs combined both internal and external expertise and actively shared insights with peer organizations to effectively spread the knowledge around. The best-in-class examples they interviewed all aligned their activities with larger business and corporate goals. In fact, analyzing the impact of communications was considered a major function of their programs.

However, the news was not great for standards. Most executives used language that was accepted in their organization, rather than the language and definitions advocated by the IPR Measurement Commission and other industry bodies. The researchers posited that maybe as organizations got more sophisticated in their measurement, there might be less need for industry bodies to promote those standards.

2. New best practices for risk and crisis communications

Shari R. Veil, Nicole Staricek, of the University of Kentucky, in conjunction with Kathryn E. Anthony, University of Southern Mississippi, Laura E. Young, Baker University, and Timothy L. Sellnow, University of Central Florida, wondered whether the classic best practices for crisis communications might need an upgrade. The project was funded by a grant from the EPA to identify best practices in a hypothetical intentional contamination crisis.

They identified the following new or modified best practices:

  • Prioritize the safety and well-being of the public.
  • Tailor messages to affected audiences.
  • Acknowledge and account for vulnerable populations.
  • Complete and communicate recovery effort.
  • Provide instructions for self-protection.
  • Accept uncertainty.
  • Do not speculate.

Sounds like good advice to me.

3. Using Facebook to leverage your alumni

It seems like every university these days is trying to figure out new and better ways to communicate with alumni and get them to engage with (i.e., give money to) their alma maters. Robert Wakefield, one of my favorite Brigham Young University professors, in conjunction with Devin Knighton of Purdue University, decided to see if they could use Facebook to improve alumni outreach. Wakefield had a list of 405 former capstone students and figured that some percentage of them might want to connect on a Facebook group page to better leverage them for student mentoring, internship, etc.

In just 115 days there were already 361 members of the Facebook group. A month later, 73% had participated in the group in some way. Another 38% had communicated with Wakefield via private messaging. Today there are 392 members of the group and 78% have interacted with each other.

They used NodeXL software to visualize the network, identifying various types of connectedness between the group members. As it turns out, the relationships were primarily between the alumni, not with the professor, even though he was the original connector. The group was getting together and organizing for other purposes, such as finding employees, interns, and solutions to common problems. ∞

Thanks to geralt on Pixabay for part of the image.

About Author

Katie Paine

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