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What matters in PR? With Paul Hender, CARMA (Part 2 of 2)

“What Matters in PR” shines the spotlight on PR leaders in the industry. We speak with our own Paul Hender, Group Chief Operating Officer, CARMA. In part 2 of our conversation, Paul talks us through how market research is a crucial part of PR measurement and gives us guidance on how to get started.

Read Part 1 here, where Paul takes us through his career journey and gives us a fresh perspective on the three critical use cases for data and insight in the boardroom.

Tell us about a highlight in your career that led you to where you are today.

I was lucky enough to be part of the team that designed the Integrated Evaluation Framework for AMEC.

AMEC brought together people working in the UK Government, leading PR agencies and esteemed academics, and insights professionals like myself, in a room all together, working out how we could develop a single framework that can be used widely across the industry.

That was a fruitful exercise because we have created a framework that connects communications objectives with research inputs, activity, outputs, outtakes, and outcomes, that has galvanised the industry. I think that’s a good thing for all of us because it elevates Communications as a function and makes us work smarter to make better decisions.

What are the pros and cons of social listening?

Social media intelligence serves as a proxy for market research.

It can provide useful insights into how audiences think and behave, as well as their likely responses to various stimuli.

A mobile phone company I once worked at, looked at how people are communicating on social media, to influence decisions like the colour of the phone to be produced.

The product development team initially deemed a gold-coloured phone as a poor idea. However, insights from a younger audience in France, for example, suggested that gold phones would actually work really well.

The researchers were providing information that contradicted these initial assumptions.

But there’s a huge caveat to this; there’s a danger that social media is over-interpreted as representative of an audience’s views.

One of the downsides of social media is that it is self-selecting in terms of the people who are commenting on it.

So you tend to get more extreme or minority views that are strongly held, which may not accurately reflect the perspective of the silent majority.

And so, it’s important to not rely on a single data source. It is better to think of data holistically by bringing together lots of sources, so you can build collaborative evidence that improves the confidence in the quality and accuracy of the insights.

How important is research in the world of PR?

I think about research as an imperfect map of the real world.

My favourite quote is by the econometrician George Box, who said: “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

“All pieces of research act like maps and models; they are wrong because they are low-resolution ways of viewing the world and they will never represent the exact real behaviour.

But if you add lots of these different low-resolution maps together, you get a more high-resolution view of what is actually going on.

Paul on the importance of Market Research

CARMA’s market research team is currently engaged in some very interesting work for some of the world’s largest commercial organisations and governments.

To support social listening and media intelligence, we integrate our findings with traditional research methods that include questionnaires we design to survey a representative sample of people. We then overlay this research with other outcome metrics.

What is the biggest hurdle to cross in getting started with measurement?

Just by starting these conversations, you will have light bulb moments along the way.

Some organisations have started creating fancy econometrics departments to formalise bringing together datasets. But, you don’t have to go down the full PhD route of building very cool, complicated statistical models.

You may say, “Well, hang on. Our product marketing team has all this primary research we’re doing on whether people like our product or not. Our PR team has reporting on traditional media coverage. Our digital marketing department has data on social and website analytics, and the business intelligence team has the actual business outcomes. Let’s get together and put these things together and we can actually start understanding how they work!“

Paul on how data points sitting in silos can come together

When you develop a culture of teams talking to one another, soon you can start to build a clear picture of all that has happened within days of a campaign or product launch.

And if you do this across multiple campaigns, you can start seeing what works and what doesn’t, and start identifying the bigger picture or changes in people’s opinions.

Read other What Matters in PR? interviews here.

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