Posted by Cognito on Sun, Dec 11 2011

All Posts by Cognito

360 degrees of Influence?

Photo of a Pumpkin Pie

PR practitioners are constantly asked to demonstrate 'results'. Be they media hits, search engine optimization or actual inbound leads, the trend in the online age has moved away from trusting the effects of PR towards pushing PR people harder to come up with the demonstrable outcomes of their efforts. For the most part this has been a positive force in the industry. Gone are the days of Rolodex Man (who I never much cared for) and talk of the 'dark arts' of the relations public.But are we throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Are we, in our quest for only measurable outcomes, leaving other - crucial - areas of influence on the sidelines? As a PR director I know that I am much more fond of selling a program with definable and measurable results than one with unpredictable payoffs. So going after the traditional media or research analysts would be a good place to start over work with influential industry consultants, respected academics, or conference organizers where the outcomes are opaque and largely unmeasurable.

For the most part this doesn't seem to trouble clients who are very happy to pay a fixed amount for a known-quantity of influence. And quite right too. But it troubles me. In fact, it keeps me awake at night. What is the value of a private conversation between a consultant and a prospective client which we may never see published or hear about? Might it be worth 100 website hits? Or 15 feature articles? Would, I wonder, PR practitioners do a better job if they were told to focus on the entire universe of influencers among a client's constituencies rather than just on those that produced a quantifiable output. Would, in other words, public relations be more effective if we cared less about measuring the outcomes? I am well aware how sacrilegious this statement sounds.

In an ideal world, of course, we would be able to measure everything; the known and the unknown, and it may be that the ubiquity of social media will enable us to square that circle and measure the previously unmeasurable. We are starting to see this as certain consultants and event managers become active Twitter posters and reposters, but what about those key influencers who are still effectively operating in the dark? The invisible hand of the market if you will. Might there be a case yet for a little less measurement and a little more trust?

Public Relations, Social Media,
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