Public Relations

Six Thinking Hats – strengthening group communication

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Some of you might not have heard of this so I thought I would take a moment to summarise this valuable tool.  It is particularly valuable for generating creativity in group discussions. It gives everyone a chance to contribute ensuring to a successful outcome without conflict.

The Six Thinking Hats is a concept that was established in a book by Edward de Bono, a physician from Malta who has written numerous works about thinking and language and their influence on humanity. The concept helps people think more clearly and thoroughly through the principle of parallel thinking. Parallel thinking guides thought processes in one direction at a time so we can effectively analyse issues, generate new ideas, and ultimately make better decisions. In other words, each member thinks using the same thinking hat, at the same time, on the same thinking challenge.

The aim is for members of a group to go beyond their own opinions and focus more on the best way forward as a group. This is done by separating emotion from facts, the positive from the negative and critical thinking from creative thinking.

In practice, each member of the group takes on a different role by putting on a different coloured hat. From the diagram below we can see that each colour is associated with a “thinking ingredient”.  Therefore, a person with a blue hat might be a good group leader.This person could then agree with other group members on the best order of hats to use. Each hat has a natural pairing with another. For example yellow is positive while black is more negative; red is emotion driven while white is data driven. In general, if you use one hat, you should also use its partner for balance.

Here are some examples of successful businesses that have applied the Six Thinking Hats tool. Perhaps it could work for your organisation?

This image summarizes it well. For more information, check the de Bono for schools site.


Generally Accepted Practices Report

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The seventh GAP (Generally Accepted Practices) study is out. It looks at topics pertinent to successful management of public relations within an organization (both private and public). The survey  includes feedback on key topics such as budgets, responsibilities, use of social media, measurement and evaluation and more. The purpose of the study is to help practitioners better manage PR/Comm in their organization, point out trends which are important for their work and  identify Best Practices against which they can benchmark their own organizations. It is relevant for people working within organizations but also for consultants.

Nonprofit Social Network Report 2012

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An interesting report published in collaboration with the Nonprofit Technology Network, Common Knowledge, and Backbaud. The report provides insights for nonprofits, foundations, media and businesses working with nonprofits about the most important behavior and trends in social networking with regard to marketing, communications, fundraising, programming and IT.

Some of the findings include:

  • The Most Common Fundraising Tactic on Facebook is an Ask for an Individual Gift – i.e. soliciting Facebook supporters for individual donations (e.g. one-time gifts, memberships, monthly gifts). Event fundraising was the second highest category .
  • The Top 3 Factors for the underlying success on social networks are: Strategy (they took the time to develop a vision and strategy for a commercial social networking program), Prioritization by Executive Management (the executive team prioritized social networking for the organization), and Dedicated Staff (they created a new position or added staff specifically focused on the commercial social networking program).
  • Facebook advertising is used primarily to raise awareness about the organization or program,  to increase the number of likes on the Facebook page, and to have supporters complete non-financial calls-to-action (ex. sign a petition, volunteer, attend a free event, etc.).
  • The platforms used most are Facebook, Twitter and Youtube with some now egging with Pinterest (more so than Google+).
  • The metrics most used to gauge the success of the social networking communities are “site visitors”, “reach”, “customer feedback”, while the least used are “user generated content” and “fundraising revenue”.
  • The main goals identified for the commercial social networking program for 201 was  “build base”, “engage members more”, and “do or grow fundraising”.
  • In terms of outreach and marketing methods used to promote the commercial social networking sites, most identified placing links on their orgnizational website as the method used most often. Using email, promoting the social networking presence at events, and placing social network presence on print material, were also identified as frequently used methods. Surprisingly, engaging with bloggers, SEO, and buying ads is apparently not used frequently.
  • Communication and marketing departments are most often responsible for social networking.

Read the full report here>>

The evolution of evaluation by Professor Tom Watson

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This summer, at the annual International History of Public Relations Conference at Bournemouth University, UK, Professor Tom Watson delivered an interesting presentation on the evolution of evaluaiton in PR- Public Relations eratic path to the measurement of effectiveness. As an expert on the history of PR himself, with over 20 years of experience in the field, Professor Watson outlined the role of evaluation and measurement in pr and how it has evolved in the past 200 years.

Some points that are raised in the presentation include the evolution of PR measurement and evaluation as an eradic progress. Development evaluation as a surrogate history of PR. He looks at it in the form of a timeline narrative, starting in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and ending with todays current PR practices.

Have a look at the speech below:

3rd annual AMEC Summit feedback

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At the 3rd annual AMEC Summit in Lisbon some interesting thoughts were shared about measurement and evaluation in PR, particularly linked to social media. From establishing definitions for concepts such as engagement and influence to discussions about AVE’s the conference provided a wide spectrum of input from professionals in PR and beyond. A good summary has been provided by Professor Tom Watson of Bournmouth University. He also presented an interesting workshop on the fundamentals of measurement and evaluation. Read more on his Dummyspit blog in the post on social media metrics.

Another good summary can be found on the PR Media blog.

The presentations can be viewed here.

A structured communication plan is the foundation of a sustainable social media strategy

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Recently I received several calls from organisations seeking advice about how to establish a presence on Facebook and other social media platforms. Most importantly they wanted to hear about the advantages of social media adoption. My first question to them is always: what is your communication objective? This is usually followed by a moment of silence. In fact, most of them do not have a communications strategy.  Yet jumping into social media without a proper communications strategy seems like building a house without a proper foundation.

Social media may produce immediate results but it also presents an opportunity for a long term communication management. You build relationships, gain knowledge, and participate in and shape conversations. But how do you combine the immediacy of posts, status updates, rss, etc. with longterm objectives and goals linked to a communications strategy? To answer that we should review the elements of a communications strategy. These include a proper stakeholder analyses, goals, objectives, and a proper method for evaluating results.

A stakeholder analysis is essential for any organisation. There are numerous methods that can be used which focus on the identification of stakeholders. The challenge is to decide which stakeholders should receive specific attention. One excellent model that can be used was developed by Brad L. Rawlins which prioritizes stakeholders through a four-step process: 1. Identifying all potential stakeholders according to their relationship to the organization; 2. Prioritizing stakeholders by attributes; 3. Prioritizing stakeholders by relationship to the situation; 4. Prioritizing the publics according to the communication strategy. This model helps an organisation decide how much attention each stakeholder group deserves or requires. If you know your publics you can select which platforms are most suited for your specific objectives more effectively. You might set shorter communications initiatives with some stakeholders while others would require a longterm investment. Social media could be used for both.

In communication we distinguish between goals and objectives, in that a goal is a statement rooted in the organization’s mission or vision and an objective is a statement emerging from the organization’s goals. For example, if your goal is to raise awareness about a certain issue or product, your objective might indicate how much awareness and it would specify a time frame. Once an organisation has set specific objectives and decided on which stakeholders to target, specific channels can be identified. These channels may include a more traditional approach such as print journalism or advertising or they may include social media. One advantage social media offers is that you are able to listen to your stakeholders. Effective communicators implement a two-way approach which requires longterm investment. Just posting a message blindly to reach a maximum number of people will not be effective in the long run.

The final step is then to decide on how to measure your results. Here again the most effective approach is a combined measurement, both on and offline. Some interesting references for measurement are Intelligent Measurement and the Metricsman. They talk extensively about the importance of evaluation and measurement but also about the combined approach implementing both online and offline techniques.

One reference which I think describes this point is from the film Field of Dreams, where Kevin Costner’s character hears a voice which tells him to build a baseball stadium. He hears repeatedly “if you build it, they will come” referring to the spectators. And at the end of the film you see thousands of cars approaching the farmland on which he had built the field. But was he ready for all those people? We don’t know because the film ends. In social media it is comparable, you can build your profiles, start posting, commenting, linking and you might generate a great deal of traffic very quickly. But if you do not feed that traffic with quality material they will disappear and it will be counter productive in the long run. Therefore, think and plan ahead. Establish a proper communications strategy before building.

The Internet and human intelligence

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A report has been published by Pew Internet presenting some interesting perspectives about the future of the Internet. More specifically, the report explores how the Internet is affecting human intelligence and how information is being shared.

The report was written following a survey conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. It gathered opinions from 900 respondents including prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers.

Results provided perspectives on questions such as:

•Will the internet enhance or detract from reading, writing, and rendering of knowledge?

•Is the next wave of innovation in technology, gadgets, and applications pretty clear now, or will the most interesting developments between now and 2020 come “out of the blue”?

•Will the end-to-end principle of the internet still prevail in 10 years, or will there be more control of access to information?

•Will it be possible to be anonymous online or not by the end of the decade?

If you are interested in these topics, have a look at the full report The-Future-of-the-Internet-IV.