Help needed: What do PR practitioners need to know about monitoring and analytics?

The CIPR’s Social Media Panel has announced an ambitious programme of activity for 2013. Working with newly elected Chair, Stephen Waddington, the Panel are pushing forward on a number of projects, including:

  • Updating and expanding the CIPR’s Social Media Guidelines
  • Updating the CIPR’s Wikipedia Best Practice Guideline
  • Developing a guide to social media and the law for PR practitioners
  • Mapping the roles and skill sets for future PR pratitioners in a digital media environment
  • Not to mention the launch of Share This Too, a follow-up to last year’s Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR Professionals

One other work stream (that I’m taking a lead role in helping scope and develop) is the creation of a directory of social media monitoring and analytics tools to support modern public relations practice. While there are a number of ‘buyers guides’ for social media monitoring tools out there, one of the most frequent enquiries from PR practitioners to the CIPR is for guidance on monitoring and analytics, understandable given it’s a crucial activity for planning, managing and evaluating campaigns, its a rapidly growing field and an increasingly specialised areas of practice.

The scope for this document is still be scoped out by the team working on the document, but is likely to cover:

  • Use cases for and the role of social media monitoring in PR
  • Some commercial context to help practitioners understand the monitoring/analytics technology marketplace
  • Best practice case studies

As I say, the final document will be finalised shortly – but there is still time to gather input into what a successful document might look like from broader sources.And this is where you come in! To help ensure the final document is as useful and up-to-date as possible I’d love it if you had suggestions or ideas as to what information you think PR practitioners should know about social media monitoring and analytics. What should be covered? What do you want to know?

I should stress this isn’t going to be a totally comprehensive offering – it’s designed to be practical and useful without covering all angles – but the more insight we can gather from practitioners the more robust it will be. Please leave any comments below.

I’d be particularly interested if you had case studies to share? Feel free to drop me an email at simon [dot] collister [at] gmail [dot] com. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Networks, roots and relationships: a sign

Returning to work after the Xmas/new year break I found a surprise on my desk.

Someone from Brazil – still unsure who – had sent me a gift package from the fabulous sustainable and eco-friendly skin and bodycare people, Natura.

Aside from some lovely natural cosmetics the package also included this insert with an inspiring inscription which I wanted to share:


It’s also a very presceint inscription as I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and writing about networks – including the organic variety – of late. I’ll take this gift as a sign to share my thinking.

The PhD

I’m currently researching a PhD with Royal Holloway, University of London’s New Political Communication Unit supervised by Dr Andrew Chadwick.

I’m interested in understanding how the increasing socialisation of communications by the social web is changing the way the media operate and what impact this has on politics, power, democracy and organisational communications strategy.

Specific areas I’m currently researching include:

I’ll be updating this page as the PhD develops as well as blogging more specific iterations of my research.

My current working title is technically: “Who Governs and Who Ought to Govern?”: Framing, Democracy and the Networked Information Economy – but who knows exactly where I might end up.

More to come…

Wikichains – great idea if it leverages the power of networks

Screen shot 2009-12-07 at 18.25.29

I discovered WikiChains today, a rather intriguing and potentially amazing website.

The project is put together by Dr Mark Graham from Oxford University’s Internet Institute and would appear to be a not-fpr-profit enterprise (calling on volunteers to help create content) – although this isn’t stated explicitly.

WikiChains aims to use crowd-sourced data to shine a light on the production chain of products we use in our everyday lives by tracing and highlighting the origins of these products and exposing the ‘reality’ of its journey from raw material to home.

In it’s own words, the site:

encourage ethical consumption and transparency in commodity chains. … The core activities of WikiChains will involve the setting-up and maintenance of a wiki website. This website will encourage Internet users from around the world to upload text, images, sounds, and videos of any node on any commodity chain.  … The hope is that ultimately a large enough body of data will be assembled to allow consumers to find out information about the chains of all mass produced commodities.

This is no small claim and so far, while the total number of articles seems to be low (thetre;sno root inde that I can find) the range is broad, spanning Thai silk through to Morrocan Soapbar.

But I can’t help wondering why – given the intellectual prowess of its founders – they persist in thinking that the site will somehow slowly grow itself.

True, some outreach might help to increase the number of entries on the site but I can’t help thinking: this should be a WikiMedia Fundation project.

Our strategic advice for clients in the social space is always don’t try to build a new community. Instead, see what your networks are already doing, join in and empower them to improve their effectiveness in achieving shared outcomes.

Leveraging the WikiMedia and Wikipedia community seems a no brainer given the sheer volume of information that already exists (some of which is no doubt going to replicated by WikiChains) and the collective action already undertaken by the Wikipedia contributors to further knowledge creation.

It’ll be interesting to watch WikiChains develop (the have their organisational development plan on the site) and see in which direction the project grows.


Test post from me iPhone innit

Edelman Mid-Year Trust: Everyone distrusts politicians. The end for democracy? (Clue: No)

My former employers, Edelman, have started publishing mid-year updates to their tradtitonal annual Trust Barometer.

I was pitched some of the key findings by their NY office which contained mainly key US or global insights. The main take-out for me was that trust in business was on the up – which I find frankly amazing given the near utter collapse of industries and household names which were the bedrock of the US economy.

Discussing this with Edelman UK’s marketing manager (@belautel) brought up the subject of the Obama bounce. Perhaps, but even so Obama hasn’t fully delivered on all the great promises he made prior to being elected. Maybe here’s a lag in the survey data – or maybe Americans are just generally a lot more optimistic!

Anyway… to the UK results which, unsurprisingly, demonstrate that an up-lift in trust for business has not materialised.

What is interesting – although equally unsurprising – is that trust in politicians remains awful across the board:

  • 71% distrust government vs 12% trust
  • 71% distrust MPs in general vs 10% trust
  • 71% distrust Gordon Brown vs 16% trust
  • 51% distrust David Cameron vs 29% trust
  • 52% distrust Nick Clegg vs 16% trust (16% don't know)
  • 49% distrust their local MP vs 25% trust

Frankly, that’s damning.

But what I wanted to pull out of this data was a wider point related to the Internet and democracy.

Jump back a couple of weeks: I went to see the Spanish academic, Manuel Castells, speak last month at the launch of his new book, Communciation Power (hopefully, a more detailed write-up on this soon). I won't serve up the background on Castells; Wikipedia has it here.

In a nutshell Castells in the forefather of the concept of the ‘Networked Society’. Importantly, he was saying a long time ago that changes to the structure of organisations, society, space, power and communcation were causing (among other things) a crisis of legitimacy for politics, government and the state.

His latest book brings these themes up-to-date and in-line with social media – an even more powerful communications shift removing power from insititiotions and ceding more to the public.

Castell’s would probably argue that Edelman’s results reinforce this shift. But I think that would be an over-simplification of a number of wider issues.

For example, if people distrust politicians so much why do people continue to vote? Admitttedly, turn-out figures decrease election-on-election but there is no mass revolt or attempts to create a new system in its place.

Maybe this is because we are generally apathetic. But there's a body of research (shortcut here to a PDF with a good round-up) has indicated that distrust in politics can go two ways.

Firstly it can cause people to become disillusioned with the politics and stop engaging with the ‘democratic’ system. This would seem to indicate that as more and more politicians are exposed as untrustworthy; fraudulent; all-round generally unpleasant people(!)  more and more people will dis-engage from democracy?

Well, perhaps, but the second trait of falling trust in politicians is this: as more politicians are exposed as untrustworthy, the average voter starts to make more relative, value-based judgements about democracy.

Rather than not voting because a politician is untrustworthy, they decide that out of all the untrustworthy politicians, they'll vote for the least untrustworthy.

So, rather than a catastrophic failure of democracy which will lead to a radical, internet-based, fully participatory democracy we might end up with a middle-ground: a terminally broken system where the least worst option is the best.

Of course we may find that the reforms currently propsoed to deal with corupt, untrustworthy politicians solve all our problems.

Happy weekend!

Tags: Edelman, Trust, politics, Manuel Castells

Proudly announcing Harry Collister


I am absolutey thrilled to announce the arrival of Harry Albion Collister who was born on Saturday 20th December. Both Harry and Mum are home and doing great. Needless to say we're all looking forward to a family Christmas together!

As Seen in PR Week: 28 November 2008


As seen in PR Week, 28 November 2008. It's very cryptic and also disheartening. I did email Mr Reputation Doctor for a consultation but she or he failed to respond.

I think authenticity, transparency and trust will be another casualty of the economic atom bomb that the financiers have unleashed. It's must easier to pay a one-off fee to salve reputational issues than *actually* invest in listening to your customers and improving the way you do business.

I only hope I am wrong.

Technorati tags: reputation, trust, economy, PR Week

Bit of a refresh around these parts

So after thinking about it for a while I decided to stay up late at the weekend and give my blog a new lick of paint and layout.

I had a few instant comments via Twitter saying the new layout is cleaner and makes the blog easier to read – which is good as that’s what I had in mind.

I also took the opportunity to update my Essential Reading aka blogroll.

I’d love to get any thoughts or feedback etc on the new design (actually I like to think of it as an ‘undesign’) and if you;re not on my blogroll but think you ought to be then let me know.

Tell Cap’n Ahab I can spot measurement on the horizon

I wasn’t going to post about my colleague Jonny Bentwood’s efforts to pull together a formula for measuring online influence until I’d read it. But as serendipity would have it, both Doc Searls and B.L. Ochman have both added to the debate.

First of all, in Can PR get past spinnage? Doc suggests that seeking to fit traditional metrics or measurement paradigms to a radically altered form of communication won’t cut it. Specifically:

“Focusing on influence alone suggests that PR is just looking to expand the spin business from old media to new, and from old targets to new ones. There are other corners of the prism, other angles to come at the problems and opportunities in around conversation and relationship…”

I agree entirely with this perspective. As I alluded to in a previous comment on Doc’s blog, the risk for the PR industry is that it attempts to re-model the social web into ways in which existing practices and business models continue to work.

This worries me. While the industry can talk about how this new medium has radically changed the communications landscape we can’t then pretend we can measure it in just the same way, using exactly the same metrics as before.

It won’t work.

Meanwhile B. L. Ochman argues that while her presence on another ‘Top 100/10/25 etc’ is flattering, lists in themselves are not an effective way of measuring popularity/influence/whatever:

“the criteria for each list is largely subjective, and, as soon as there’s a list, there’s someone who figures out how to game the list. Not to mention that most lists are created as a way for the creator to game search engines so the list-maker’s site will increase its search value. Therefore, just about all such lists are meaningless.”

Again, I agree. In fact perhaps lists are almost the wrong tool entirely to measure the social web.

The social web is multitudinous, easily sorted, filtered, and organised by abnd around the individual. It works in a million – and probably more – ways tghat can be adapted and re-shaped to a your personal perferences .

There doesn’t have to be just one way of organising something any more. And in this respect lists are exclusive rather than inclusive. That is proprietary – which is not how things are done any more.

Luckily for me both Doc and B. L. admit to not having the exact answer to this problem (is there one?). I’ll get back to you on that one!

Technorati tags: PR, public relations, measurement