Measuring PR in isolation is intellectually myopic

This from Jim Macnamara moments ago at the IPR measurement summit.  Jim is a panelist on the topic of measuring integrated communications.  The angle of the dangle is essentially informed by a cultural studies perspective:  brilliant.  It’s rarely injected into a PR context (and it’s a perspective that I’m sympathetic too having done both PR and cultural studies grad work and having written a now dated thesis on the topic).  Jim’s key point is really that because how an increasingly fragmented, multitasking prosumer audience receives and processes (and subverts or re-appropriates for that matter) and is influenced by a message is a multi-faceted mash-up (advertising, traditional editorial, out of home, social media, word of mouth, etc.) and in some senses cumulative, measurement must be equally complex and integrated.  “Measuring PR in isolation is intellectually myopic,” noted Jim.    He’s pointed to an unfortunate reality that marketing research, advertising measurement, PR measurement and–recently and increasingly–web and social media metrics have and continue to largely exist in silos.  So where do we find the corrective lenses for myopic measurement in Jim’s view?  Research needs to look at a wider perspective.  But considerable barriers exist not the least of which is that there is big money on the table for the various companies promoting their respective media or tools.  Jim notes that communications practitioners themselves (advertising, PR, social media) will not be the drivers of the change necessary to unlock this matrix of influence and unlock the black box of proprietary methodologies / algorithyms etc that some vendors hold so closely to their chests.  Rather change will be lead, Jim says, by independant research firms–some of which are already taking up the challenge.  Jim suggests that we need to start looking at deep interviews, experiments, social network mapping.  

All this is an extension of a path that Jim’s been on for some time having recently published a paper called: A Fork in the Road of Media and Communication Theory and Practice which esentially uses, again, cultural studies, to point out that PR practice has not kept pace with communications theories (particularly those to do with reaching and audience and the complexity of the audience) proven long ago in the cultural studies body of work. 


2 responses to “Measuring PR in isolation is intellectually myopic

  1. Hi Alan, great insight into events at the summit – so wished I could have been there! All the best, Michael

  2. Alan,

    Thanks for posting this and for bringing attention to the Institute for Public Relations and our Measurement Summit. As a firm believer in integrated marketing communications research and evaluation. I am also a big proponent of applying statistical models to marketing and communication to understand which individual or combination of marcomm elements drive business as well as marketing performance.

    I agree with Jim’s position but I’d like to offer an additional perspective: In my experience, the obstacle which manifests itself as “silozation” is the human inclination towards territorialism. As long as organizations continue to reward/motivate silo behavior, it will continue to exist.

    On the other hand, there are organizations that seek to discover “what works” regardless of individual interests. In these organizations, they motivate behavior to make what works work even better. These select companies are the ones who dominate their industries.

    This sort of change doesn’t usually emanate from PR but we can all make a difference in some small way by seeking opportunities for greater integration and by being open to the opportunity when it is presented to us.

    I enjoy the blog; thanks for your hard work

    Mark Weiner

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