The International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) 2017 was held in Orlando, FL earlier this month to support socially-beneficial public relations research that increases understanding and builds relationships. Now in its twentieth year, IPRRC has become one of the top events to share innovative PR research and participate in active discussions with academia and practitioners about the nature of the industry. Previously held in Miami, the event has now been moved to Orlando – just a few blocks from PAN Southeast – and saw its largest number of scholar and PR professional attendees.
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From March 8-12, I had the pleasure of learning and discussing the latest trends in PR research. Below are three major takeaways.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as part of a brand’s identity
The nature of CSR has certainly evolved over the last decade, but there still seems to be a preconceived notion that only companies involved in socially-stigmatized or vice industries like oil and gas, alcohol or tobacco have a responsibility to its publics. Scholars and practitioners alike discussed how every company has an obligation to act responsibly and engage in public good. CSR, in essence, has to be organic and truly part of the brand’s identity in order for it to be effective and not raise major skepticism. CSR has also become an expectation from the modern-day consumer. The growing millennial generation is increasingly looking to spend their discretionary income on brands that are socially responsible as well, like Toms Shoes, and believes organizations have a responsibility to solve societal problems.
Defining the role of the PR practitioner
Our industry has been agile in order to keep up with the evolution of traditional PR, social media and now digital marketing as part of a practitioner’s scope of work. Through these changes and new challenges, practitioners have managed to continue providing strategic insight to clients about earned, owned and paid media by navigating the balance of how PR generates sales leads. However, PR practitioners have been remiss in clearly articulating their ever-changing role with clients as well as top management in corporations. Scholars shared that PR leaders have to use common language to explain their role and the benefits it provides to organizations. It’s also important that clients have a clear understanding of how PR practitioners have contributed to brand awareness as well as to the company’s bottom line.
Need for standards for measuring PR
What’s the ROI on PR? It seems to be a question PR practitioners are often asked by clients and top management. There is a need for the industry to better define standards for measuring and evaluating PR. Should we look at Google Analytics and social media analytics? Are there other tools for measurement, such as TrendKite and NetBase, and how should practitioners be using these tools? At PAN, we’ve developed an integrated measurement approach that allows us to benchmark client performance over time so we can accurately define how PR has contributed to growth; whether it’s referral clicks from a contributed article we garnered or a boost in Twitter followers due to a social media campaign, PAN has developed a proven approach to demonstrate how our PR strategy works. After all, the proof is in the numbers and we’d love to see more practitioners realizing the benefits of measurement in PR. Find out more to our approach with measurement and analytics here.
Overall, IPRRC was an exceptional event and it was wonderful to learn the latest research in academia and share insights on how it can be applied to the practitioner world. In the coming year, I hope the industry makes greater strides in terms of CSR, defining the practitioner role, and also developing standards for measurement in PR. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.