Letter from Newcastle: how do learned marketing and PR practitioners keep their cool?

Letter from Newcastle: how do learned marketing and PR practitioners keep their cool?

Measurement, PR management lessons from the 50s, inaugural Comms School session, AI is marketing lipstick, wisdom of middle age, and Insta woe.

Sarah and I have been at home in Newcastle this weekend. The photo is from an afternoon walk to St Mary’s Lighthouse. It’s on a tiny island north of Whitley Bay. I highly recommend a visit to blow away the cobwebs. 

I shared a thread on Twitter this week about measurement that proved so engaging that I thought I’d use it to kick off this week’s letter.

Effective measurement isn’t easy. It’s why PR has adopted nonsense and proxy metrics. But the only way you’ll increase your value and budget is to prove your effectiveness in terms that your organisation understands.

There are two outcomes of best practice PR activity: reputation and relationships. Both are based on building trust between an organisation and its publics.

Measure reputation using periodic brand level benchmarking with stakeholders. Most organisations will have around eight distinct audiences: shareholders, staff, customers, media, suppliers, and others.

Measure relationships by getting as close as possible to an outcome aligned to your organisational objectives. These should be the basis of your PR objectives.

Example metrics, related to PR, might include:

  • Sales: analytics at the top of the funnel

  • Marketing: branded search, conversion

  • HR: absenteeism, effectiveness, turnover

  • Customers: revenue or profit per customer, Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Your organisation will have its own.

Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) is not an indicator of PR performance in any way whatsoever. I recommend exploring the work of AMEC and practical cases from the Government Communication Service if you want to explore this area further.

📒 UK leadership opportunity on internet regulation thwarted by Brexit

This is a dull but important article by me on a report published by the House of Lords on internet regulation over the weekend. The law making process cannot keep pace with the speed of technological change and the growth of platforms and digital markets. The report proposes a unifying internet regulator and a principle-led approach to governance. It’s much needed to tackle abuse, fraud and democracy online. It draws strong conclusions and makes a sensible proposal that could put the UK at the forefront of the world in tackling the power of large internet platforms. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely to ever be debated, let alone actioned, because of Brexit.

😲 PR - the discipline that refuses to learn

Dr Jon White wrote to me this week after I tweeted that he and Dr James Grunig wrote about PR as a management discipline in the nineties. Jon’s book How to Understand and Manage Public Relations (1991) was Sarah’s inspiration for the #FuturePRoof community and books. In an email Jon cited his inspiration as Scott Cutlip’s Effective Public Relations (1952) which was the first text book to align PR with management. It’s a constant amazement to me that learned practitioners aren’t more frustrated and grumpy at the profession’s lack of progress.

🚌 Kicking off Comms School and upcoming #PowerAndInfluence chat

Comms School started as an idea to support students in communications, and as a recruitment pipeline for Metia. A series of Facebook live sessions by Marcel Klebba and I will explore blogging, personal branding and landing a job. Thirty people joined the first session and 300 have watched the replay. Here’s Marcel’s write up. You can join us both on Twitter on Wednesday at 8pm GMT for Ella Minty’s #PowerAndInfluence chat, and you’d be welcome to sign up to Comms School. The next session at 6.30pm GMT, Tuesday, 19 March is on advanced blogging techniques.

🤖 Report: VC finds AI is marketing lipstick

It looks like nonsense, it smells like nonsense, and turns out 40% of AI start-ups are nonsense. A report published this week reported that two-fifths of Europe’s artificial intelligence start-ups do not use any AI in their products. MMC Ventures could not find any evidence of artificial intelligence applications in 40 per cent of 2,830 AI start-ups. Follow this link to download its State of AI report for 2019.

🦉 Wisdom of middle age: Amanda Coleman

It was my birthday this week. Thanks to everyone who donated to my foodbank fundraiser. There’s still time if you want to chip in. I shared an article that I wrote four years about the wit and wisdom of middle age. It’s one of my favourite pieces of personal writing. It inspired Amanda Coleman, head of corporate communication at the Greater Manchester Police to do the same. Happy Birthday Amanda.

🖼 Insta-influencer woe

Influencer relations is a nuanced and complex area of work. You’ll have seen this past week how a picture posted by documentary maker Stacey Dooley on Instagram blew up in Comic Relief’s face. Sarah curated six expert opinions which are worth a read and will make anyone working with celebrities consider best practice and issues management. You may spot a familiar name among the line-up. Nice work, Ellie.

Have a great week.


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House of Lords Select Committee calls for Digital Authority and principle-led approach to internet regulation

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