For the latest issue of the CIPR student email I wrote a short article entitled “Context is King”. A title inspired from Brian Solis’ observation that it is the contextual nature of content that now holds importance. From a PR perspective this outlook describes a shift in Grunig and Hunt’s four models of communication (Included below as a brief overview):
- Press Agentry model – A communication method developed in the 19th Century with P. T. Barnum at the helm of propaganda. One way, rarely trusted and frankly dated in today’s technological society. Can you think of a message that doesn’t receive feedback of some sort now?
- The Public Information model – This model is all about truth (apparently). This is again another form of one way communication but, in my eyes, no longer exists as every message has a response.
- The two way asymmetrical model – This is a two way communication approach that adjusts based from audience response. Its messages are fairly accurate, can roughly be compared with contextual advertising.
- The two way symmetrical model – This is a conversation. Whether a conversation with a PR professional can ever be balanced remains open to debate.
In each one of these models there is an element rarely commented upon, noise. It exists in-between the output and input of a message. In traditional PR messages can be drowned out by noise, in digital PR that noise is gold dust.
As we know the internet plays host to a vast amount of data which is essentially qualitative in nature. By this I mean:
- Qualitative: Facebook status, Twitter Updates, Blog Posts, News Articles, etc. The written word.
- Quantitative: 001010101001010101010101. Horrible numbers. Hell. Death.
Measuring quantitative data is extremely easy for a mathematical whizz. Accountants do this task all the time and unfortunately this is how the majority of online social media progress is measured too. All of that juicy qualitative data is forgotten. Why? Because the PR industry does not handle mathematics well. The next step of digital PR will rely upon assessing qualitative data. A few members of the PR industry have decided to take that dangerous leap into assessing reputation (to essentially provide better ROI) through evaluating the meaning behind language… using computers.
The task is not impossible and in many circumstances it is already being implemented by a range of technology companies. The process begins with Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) which is a mathematical process for a computer to identify the meaning behind words through applying weightages. It is a process used by Google to make their search accurate. Search results are recognised against key terms, who have their own weight and Google will decipher what a user is really looking for. This is why typing Tiger Woods into Google will bring up a range of golf related websites, Michael Jackson will link to a variety of music websites and Gordon Brown will result in political websites.
For those of you looking for a succinct explanation of this process then hop over to David Phillip’s blog. He is proving to be of excellent support for my dissertation which is focused upon measurement and Latent Semantic Analytics. It is a process which I have described previously on this blog but it does have a flaw.
The issue with the process is that it requires mathematical understanding. This makes the process seem overly complicated but in reality only the output matters. All of us would find it difficult to describe (in detail) how the inner workings of Facebook operates, how Twitter works or how your car engine runs. Yet we all use products each day; enjoying their functions but ignorant to their processes.
As of this stage I won’t go into the research steps necessary on my blog to show the initial power of semantic analytics (I’ll see if I can get my dissertation published first) but I felt I should have written this blog post about it. Only a few PR professionals are getting to understand the power of Semantic Analysis in terms of recognising values behind stakeholder groups. Within the next two years the process will have a self-service algorithm and PR profession will be reaping the benefits.
Ultimately this blog post is here to say digital public relations is not just about measuring numbers. What your stakeholders are saying holds more importance for evaluating reputation. Online communication does not just have an output and input – it has juicy noise that can be evaluated.