If you happen to come across this and wonder what ever happened after all that trauma, you’ll be pleased to hear that I passed, and amazingly with a distinction for my efforts. Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way. I’m now blogging at http://mithumukherjee.wordpress.com/.
Finally, today I compiled my 60 page report and spent over 2 hours – yes 2 hours people – watching Staples make a pretty poor colour print job and charge me £63 for the privilege.
Whinging aside, I can feel a huge wave of relief washing over me. In the end I got the word count to 6518 – well within the 10% margin on the 6000 word limit, which for me was quite impressive.
I don’t think I really got to where I expected with my results, in fact my journey was quite a surprise to me when I actually got my head down and started writing up results. My final project moved me a long way from my original starting point, which was the premise that there is Word of Mouth activity happening in social media channels, and that PR practitioners can use this in relationship management. Where I ended up instead was the importance of relationship management as a precursor to word of mouth: where PR’s role is to build strong relationships with stakeholders in social media, and use these strong relationships to leverage word of mouth.
So, as I say, not quite where I expected I would end up, but I’m fairly happy with the final version.
Obviously I can’t post all my results on here, but when I’ve had a few hours of bouncing off the walls and throwing out the mountains of paper that have surrounded me for the past few months, I’ll put up some of the key findings in more detail.
All’s left to do is hand in the final project to London Met, which I’ll be doing with great joy tomorrow morning :)
Ahhhh….now where’s the bottle opener…
I’ve closed the survey to start analysis. At close of play it’s a grand total of 66 responses – thank you so much to everyone that filled it in.
For interest, a breakdown of where people came from:
37 links came in via a personal email
6 responses via the PR and Communications network blog
18 responses via postings to Facebook
and 5 from visitors to this blog.
So all in all really not bad at all…review of findings and stats to follow over the next day or two.
When I looked at my stats this morning there were 36 survey responses, then when I looked again at lunchtime there were 62!!!
I don’t know which kind soul has passed on the link to their friends but THANK YOU!!!
Just to see if there are likely to be any more, I’m going to leave it open a little bit longer and write up the results for the depth interviews first. I’ll close it later on this afternoon, but I’m really really pleased with the huge increase in responses :)
That’s it. I’ve set myself goals. I have Monday to Thursday to get this thing finished. I need to finish it by Thursday so I can spend the weekend tidying, checking references, and getting it printed. After that, that’s it: I’m handing it in before I head up to Edinburgh for a friend’s wedding and that is that.
I have to thank all those lovely people who have filled in the survey, have blogged about the survey, and have participated in the depth interview. I could still do with more responses, but I need to close the results tomorrow midday, so I can start doing my analysis. I’m up to 36 responses now – which is still not great but it’s much better than where I was at earlier in the week!
If you’re reading this right now, why not fill in the survey?
Right, back to writing up…
After a really poor start with the surveys from my facebook link (seven at the last count), and a couple from the PR and Comms Network blog (thanks again to Alain and Alex), I started a rampage through various other channels last night, including posting links from a number of other facebook groups, and sending out some begging emails to friends (what else are friends for…!). I know this is only academic so at the end of the day, I will just have to write up whatever results I get, but after spending so much time on this thing, it would be a real shame not to have a more representative sample. Please fill in the survey – pass it on, share it!! It’s for a good cause…
Hot on the heels of my interview yesterday evening, I got through another interview with Marc of Mantra PR today (thanks again Marc). Mantra made it into Brand Republic earlier in the year when they launched Spider – a social media consultancy, so they were a great group to be speaking to.
Again a lot of the same themes came out around the role of relationship management in PR. Marc highlighted again the need for social media communication to be “open dialogue”. The movement from one-way towards discussion and conversation is probably the biggest change everyone so far has highlighted.
What we also discussed, which was great, was the role of influencers online. Marc had a very interesting take on this that I’d not previously thought of, but totally makes sense: the role of bloggers as being more akin to that of journalists in traditional media, where relationships are cultivated on a one-to-one basis. What this means is it’s a lot harder to identify who are the real influencers online, as there’s a much wider body of people who might have something to say about a company. There is a lot of research to do, and lots of relationships to manage. As Marc put it,
“we see every online audience as important as each becuase every single person online as a voice which could affect a company’s reputation.”
In terms of WOM, Marc felt this had to happen in an open way. Again this was about creating dialogue, and as Melanie also alluded to yesterday, the role of the PR is then to step back and let those messages spread on their own, without our involvement. There’s little control over this, and of course there’s a danger there will be messages generated that aren’t what you would want. But there’s also a chance of serendipity and your messages passing on to people and audiences you’d never have previously had access to.
So, end thoughts: treat bloggers like a journalist, and as individuals.
I just conducted my first of hopefully three (maybe more) depth interviews. Melanie Seasons very kindly gave up 40 minutes of her afternoon to talk to me about her take on PR in social media. Thanks again Melanie!
The discussion continues to suggest to me that PR can and does benefit from leveraging word of mouth in social media.
Melanie viewed PR and relationship management as pretty much synonymous. Regardless of stakeholder group, it is a core objective of what we do as PRs. So in social media terms, she explained that a large part of her role in digital communications is building credibility to win over stakeholders, putting information out to key influencers in the blogs and on social media. Instead of the traditional media model, in social media with the emphasis on user-generated content, the influencers become the journalists, so it is them that PRs need to be developing one-to-one relationships with to enable effective message dissemination.
Importantly though, at least at Melanie’s agency, social media is still an “add-on” to traditional campaigns. I didn’t really explore with Melanie whether she sees that changing in the longer term, but we did discuss the benefits of social media over traditional. For her, and I strongly agree, it’s all about the trust. Which brings us round full circle to it being all about word of mouth – and leaving the community to share ideas.
What I still can’t quite understand is therefore why in an environment where practitioners are using WOM, and are using it successfully to carry out relationship management, why is there nothing in the academic literature that discusses this within Public Relations?
WOM is not just a marketing-driven thing. There are real tangible benefits for PRs to make use of it.
Finally quick reminder about the survey – very very very low uptake so far, and I need to write up my results next week, so please fill it in or pass it on if you’re reading this!!!
Please take part in my survey, now live on surveymonkey. Which incidentally is a great tool if you are conducting online surveys. I first came across it at work a couple of years ago, and rate it very highly.
I’m obviously still keen for informal thoughts on the role of PR in social media, and am also still looking for more people to take part in longer depth interviews on PR and social media. If you are interested, work in PR, and have views, please help!
I’m still confident there is much to say on the role of influencers in social media to drive forwards relationship building between an organization and stakeholders, although I’m less confident on how the relationship works.
The long-awaited survey will be tweaked and launched very very soon. More to follow on this.