Mark Weiner, CEO of PRIME Research Americas, presented «Research for PR: The ascent of insights and the decline of data», on October 21 at the 9th Corporate Communication Conference held in Athens, Greece.
In this post, Mark shares his insights about what is driving the change that is taking place in communications, how we can predict behavior with data and the value of media intelligence in PR and Communications practice. We posed these questions to Mark in an email interview.
Q: Communications has changed. How is this affecting the client – agency relationship?
MW: Changes represent both opportunity and risk. For those agencies who are able to adapt to the new elements of communication, they will find success. For those who are unable to adapt, they face the risk that while they stand still, others move forward without them. In my area of expertise of communications research and the clients for whom we consult, the most dramatic challenges include globalization, the integration of traditional with social media, and the desire to connect public relations output with business results
In the first case, globalization is more than just “languages:” to serve international clients both globally and locally, we must demonstrate sensitivity to the local culture. In the second case, for media channel integration, we see how dramatically social media influences traditional and how traditional affects social. To have one without the other presents an incomplete representation and limits one’s ability to plan, respond, manage and evaluate. . In the third case, when one combines the talent of consultants with subject matter expertise with statistical skills and critical thinking and enable them with expert tools, you have the ingredients to connect communications with outputs and business results. Talent and tools along with mountains of data from complimentary marketing, communications and business channels.
Q: Social listening and how can we predict behavior with data?
MW: Rather than “predicting” behavior, I prefer to think about “predicating” behavior, in other words, knowing what needs to be done while there’s time to influence behavior and then doing it. In PRIME’s work, we do this using “scenarios” where we use statistical analyses to play out the eventuality of one decision versus another. Working with our clients and analyzing social data along with attitudinal research and business data, we run advanced statistical analyses to determine the current business landscape and “what’s driving what.” Then, we ask a variety of questions and plug-in different variables to answer questions like “if we double our delivery of this message to this audience using Twitter, what affect would that have on attitudes and behavior?”
In order to predict the future, we must first understand the past without being limited by it. For clients, we provide real-time monitoring and analysis of social and traditional media along with expert consulting. After a period of time, we use the data generated by our clients and their competitors to establish the norm. Many issues bubble under the surface until something triggers a burst of media activity. We spot these outbursts at their earliest stages to alert our clients and to help inform their decision-making so that they can create the future they seek.
Q: How media intelligence is used for best practice in PR and Communications?
MW: Best practice measurement requires client data as well as the data for competitors and the companies and brands they aspire to emulate. For example, there are many cases where PRIME advises clients to go beyond their traditional competitive set to include their “aspirational set” of peers. In some cases, there’s no good to come from being the best of a bad lot. So we identify “the best of the best:” companies with the best marketing, the best financial performance, the best workplace environment and so on because the modern business landscape requires that companies in banking, consumer products and automotive are, in fact, competing for talent, for shareholder attention and consumer support.
In such cases, media intelligence is a unique asset because it both reflects the current situation while helping to shape the future. In one case, PRIME used social listening to uncover a problem that had gone undetected by our client and by their competitors. We were able to alert them to emerging criticism for a particularly important initiative. By notifying the client and quickly analyzing the trend and what was driving the activity, the client activated more than just their PR: people in product development recognized a need to refine the product; people in marketing had to reexamine a new advertising campaign and partner relations managers went into action to support the new initiative. These steps began with media intelligence for the PR department but the findings and recommendations resonated throughout the company. With the benefit of our early warning, the client mitigated the danger and found new ways to accelerate their success in ways that would never have occurred without the benefit of media intelligence.
Q: Any closing comments?
WM: Let me say how happy I am to deliver the closing keynote speech at the 9th Corporate Communications Conference here in Athens. This is my first visit to Greece. It’s a beautiful country with friendly people. I am grateful to my hosts from Boussias, Elena Kitromilidou and Katerina Polymeridou (Executive Editor at Marketing Week) for inviting me.
Mark Weiner is the Chief Executive Officer of PRIME Research Americas. PRIME is one of the world’s largest public relations and corporate communications research and consulting providers, employing more than 500 analysts and consultants in Western Europe, North and South America, Eastern Europe and Asia. Since 1993, Mark has devoted his career to counseling many of the world’s most respected organizations and brands to demonstrate and generate a positive return on their investment in corporate and brand communications. He is the author of “Unleashing the Power of PR: A Contrarian’s Guide to Marketing and Communication,” published by John Wiley & Sons and has contributed chapters to three other texts as well as dozens of white-papers, features and articles. Mark is a visiting professor for The Executive Education Programs, S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and has guest-lectured at many of the world’s leading public relations conferences and professional development programs in the USA, Greece, Canada, Peru, Australia, Brazil, The Czech Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine and the UK. He is a regular contributor to leading communication and public relations professional media and sits on the editorial advisory boards of PR News and The Strategist. Mark is a frequent speaker on the topics of measuring the return on investment of public relations, corporate reputation and integrated marketing communication. Mark is a member of The Public Relations Society of America for which he contributed to the PRSA’s “Business Case for Public Relations” initiative; The Institute for Public Relations, for which he served as a Trustee and the 2004 Chair of the Measurement Commission; AMEC and the IABC. Mark is the former SVP-Global Research Director for Ketchum and the CEO of Delahaye; he was admitted into the PR Measurement Hall of Fame in 2013.