My reflections on public relations Master’s presentations in Syracuse

Today was a quite a day. Even though I was staying at a beautiful hotel, the Sheraton in Syracuse, which is part of Syracuse University, I didn’t get to sleep until about 3am! I guess the excitement of the drive and the day got me wired…

I woke up early, got dressed in my blue cashmere blazer and taupe pants. Ready for a day of executive education presentations. We had an 8.30am breakfast meeting and then it was off to attend Dr. Terry Flynn’s wrap-up session with his Master of Science in Communication Management students. I got to listen to each of them sum up their key learnings for the term. It was fascinating because they came from the four corners of the United States and represented some of the biggest corporations, not-for-profits, military and government offices.

It was fascinating to listen to how public relations is a much more developed function in the United States than in Canada. However, the same question came up over and over again – a lack of measurement and measurable items. Terry’s favourite line, and also the title of our latest paper together is “Public Relations: Taught but not Studied,” really rang true.

After lunch, we listen to two students present their capstone projects for their Master of Science degrees. They were really good. One was an executive at Intel who talked about building reputation in the Fortune Most Admired List and the other was an executive with an Industry Association who talked about crisis communications and the recent challenges in the toy industry.

After that, Terry and I went for a walk around Syracuse, and I bought my brother, Christophe, and myself, a Newhouse t-shirt each. Then we went for a pleasant dinner at a restaurant in Little Italy called Aunt Josie’s – it was great! I had the cavatelli and broccoli and a really nice pinot grigio.

Now I am sitting in my hotel room, thinking about the day and letting it all sink in.

There is so much to be explored in the domain of media measurement and public relations campaigns. Here are some questions I pulled out of today:

  • How do we measure behavioural change?
  • How do we measure the value added by an effective PR campaign? Marketing has this down pat – why is it so challenging for PR?
  • How do we measure reputation and reputation change?
  • How do we measure the strength and value of relationships?
  • How do we measure the impact of anecdotal communication on organizational outcomes?
  • How do we reinforce public relations as a strategic function that needs a seat at the c-suite table?

These are fascinating questions that will define the future of the field. I think the answers will come from a combination of quantitative and qualitative measures and a more clearly defined place for PR in the “dominant coalition” of a given organization.

Ok … time to try and sleep.

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