Jim Macnamara’s ‘Measuring Up’
Success in the business of communication is more about to-do lists than wish lists: Make change happen
Christmas and New Year are times for reflection and contemplation of the future. We look back over the year gone – or the many years gone in my case – and make promises and commitments to ourselves and others for the future. In the lead up to Christmas, our thinking centres on a wish list – all those things we want and hope for under the tree. Then there’s New Year which brings out resolutions as well as further indulgence in wishfulness.
Along with self-promises to get fit, spend more time with the family, give up smoking, be nicer to Auntie May and Uncle Bob and so on – most of which don’t survive beyond the end of January – there is usually a high degree of fantasy in our reflections and contemplation. We dream that the New Year will see us win the lottery, get a great new job that doubles our pay, halve our handicap at golf, etcetera, etcetera. In our New Year wish lists and fantasies these achievements come our way with little effort on our part.
It’s much the same in industry and professional matters. This will be the year that our business will turn the corner, and we will take out a swag of industry awards. This will be the year that PR will be invited into the boardroom. This year someone will come up with a magic formula that will measure the value of PR in 15 seconds at the press of a button and play “You are My Hero” while it prints out your value in dollars to the power of ten. You will become the Measurement Maven of the Year and clients and job offers will be queued up in your inbox.
Put rubber to the road and make change happen
Any sound you hear will, in fact, be your alarm clock interrupting those sugarplums dancing in your head. It is appropriate to celebrate at Christmas, engage in a little wistful reflection, and even recharge one’s dreams. But success in the business of communication, like any business, is more about ‘to do’ lists than wish lists. Rather than dreaming of, calling for, predicting or hoping for improvements, growth and advancement, practitioners need to put rubber to the road and make change happen.
At this time of year, I can’t help reflect that it is almost 30 years since Professor Emeritus of PR, Jim Grunig, uttered his much-quoted cri de coeur (cry from the heart) which, unfortunately, is still true today in an alarming number of cases. Grunig said:
“… I have begun to feel more and more like the fundamentalist minister railing against sin; the difference being that I have railed for evaluation in public relations practice. Just as everyone is against sin, so most public relations people I talk to are for evaluation. People keep on sinning, however, and PR people continue not to do evaluation research.”
It is almost 20 years since the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) published its Gold Paper on PR Evaluation urging practitioners to adopt rigorous, reliable and relevant research methods to plan and evaluate their activities. I was one of the contributors to that paper who predicted that within a few years, rigorous evaluation would be de rigueur in PR and corporate communication.
A year later, I set up the Asia Pacific office of CARMA International, believing that media analysis as well as other methods of research to measure communication activities would take off. In my 1990s wish lists, I was going to be rich in a few years and retired at 40! But clients never walked in the door as I wished they would. Building the business and slowly changing attitudes and behaviour of management as well as PR practitioners took ongoing persistent work. And that hard work needs to go on.
These days I have torn up my wish lists. Instead, I have a long ‘to do’ list – research projects planned, articles to write, students to lecture and supervise, presentations to give, clients to counsel and ‘educate’. This is not a bah humbug approach to Christmas or the New Year – we Aussies are in the middle of summer and we know how to party and lay back – but, after recharging the batteries, it is vital to put aside wistful musing and fantasizing and do.
Here's a good start on your to-do lists for 2013
What do practitioners need to do in 2013? A good start is adopting and implementing the range of standards developed during 2011 and 2012 by the Coalition for Public Relations Research Standards comprised of the Council of Public Relations Firms (CPRF), the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, the Institute for Public Relations (IPR), the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication (AMEC) and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). These include:
1. Proposed Interim Standards for Metrics in Traditional Media Analysis developed by the Institute for Public Relations Commission on Measurement;
2. Ethical Standards and Guidelines for Public Relations Research and Measurement based on a paper by Associate Professor Shannon Bowen from Syracuse University; and
3. A social media measurement initiative by AMEC comprised of three key steps so far – a Valid Metrics Framework for social media launched at the 4th European Summit on Measurement in Dublin in June 2012, a Sources and Methods Transparency Table, and a central online repository for definitions and terms in social media measurement.
These are important guidelines and templates. But unless they get on to the ‘to do’ lists of practitioners, they too are just wish lists. Have a doing 2013.
(Thanks for the image to Clean and Scentsible.)
Jim Macnamara PhD, FPRIA, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC is Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology Sydney, a post he took up in 2007 after a 30-year career working in journalism, PR and media research which culminated in selling the CARMA Asia Pacific franchise which he founded to Media Monitors (now Sentia Media) in 2006. He is the author of 12 books including The 21st Century Media (R)evolution: Emergent Communication Practices published by Peter Lang, New York in 2010 and Public Relations Theories, Practices, Critiques published by Pearson Australia in 2012.