Last week AMEC concluded the first 2 days of its first ever virtual summit. The programme continues with more virtual events until November, but for now here are the main takeaways from the Summit this year.
This year, I feel I should point out that my observations are more personal in nature than last year. I did not observe as many overall ‘trends’ in the industry this year, so I have focused on what I personally liked and learned from the most.
Personally, I think that the combination of the case presentations from VisitBritain, Microsoft and the World Bank alone were worth the price of admission, and everything else is just a bonus. But depending on your experience and interests, you may of course see things differently.
1. Search Listening is gaining momentum in measurement
Just a few years ago, Search Listening was not really a topic that received a lot of attention as a research or documentation method for measurement.
That seems to have changed, and last week Sophie Coley, Co-Founder and Strategy & Content Director at SearchListening.com, gave a fantastic presentation on its many applications and strengths as a supplement to e.g. Social Listening and Keyword Research.
2. Mix media monitoring with marketing research for a powerful measurement of outputs and outcomes
A challenge for many current media monitoring and analysis platforms is that they have historically been built to crawl and index news, web and social media sources. Thus, they are very good at providing the client with the Output part of their measurement needs – but often fall short when it comes to measuring Outcomes (defined as audience knowledge, trust, perception, advocacy etc.).
At the summit, Florian Laszlo, Managing Director at OBSERVER, did an excellent presentation on how to mix traditional publicity measurement methods with methodology taken from the marketing research sphere – such as polls, surveys and focus groups – to also get the Outcomes.
For our industry, I think it was an important truth to tell – that as our clients’ needs change (in part because AMEC encourages measuring Outcomes and Impact), so must our offerings as an industry change with them. If we do not expand beyond Outputs and provide services and platforms that can cover the entire Output-Outtakes-Outcomes-Impact process, we will become obsolete.
3. Funnels and customer journeys can help you map out and measure your role in an ecosystem of effects
One of my absolute favourite presentations this year was Caitlin Johnson, Senior International PR Manager at VisitBritain, who provided an insight into how Britain’s national tourism agency has been on a measurement journey, moving away from vanity metrics and towards measuring outcome and impact from their communication.
Caitlin’s presentation was loaded with tonnes of great examples and explanatory slides and visuals and is worth checking out for anyone working in PR and interested in measurement and evaluation.
What I found particularly interesting was the way VisitBritain had mapped out their own role in the customer journey to more tourism. Realising that their organisation played a key role in creating the initial interest before later handing over the ‘customer’ to local and regional tourism operators, who again later hand over the tourists to destinations, hotels etc., allowed VisitBritain to map out how their communication is essentially a ‘top-of-the-funnel’ function.
This realisation allowed VisitBritain to construct specific communication initiatives to enforce these stages of the customer journey. It also saved them from having to worry about later stages, such as creating advocacy, because that step essentially relies on the tourists’ experience at the destination – i.e. somebody else’s concern.
It was a fantastic example of how multiple organisations can work together on one joint customer journey instead of working in individual silos with a much lesser effect.
4. Keep your eyes open for Open Data sources
With the increasing focus on user privacy, data protection laws and the industry’s phasing out of various cookie-based tracking, the well of data might seem to be drying out. But in his presentation on Smart Cities Dr. Jonathan Reichental mentioned that there is much Open Data available out there that does not contain any personal information and therefore can be freely used by anyone.
He recommended in particular checking out:
www.dataisbeautiful.com (redirects to a Reddit page)
5. Change your Mindset: From Taking Credit to Taking Action
Another of my absolute favourite presenters this year was Jamin Spitzer, Senior Director of Comms Insights at Microsoft Corporation. He was the most inspiring speaker at the AMEC Summit in Barcelona in 2018, so my expectations this year were high – and he did not disappoint.
Jamin spoke about Microsoft’s journey over the last couple of years and touched on a wide range of issues dealing with implementing a measurement and evaluation culture, strategy and practice in a global company.
One of the things that really hit home with me was his talk about comms changing its mindset from ‘taking credit’ (i.e. pointing to publicity created) to ‘taking action’ (creating actionable insights and helping the organisation move forward).
To me, that very simple phrase perfectly encapsulates what we as an industry should be striving for: Making ourselves relevant by delivering value that is forward-looking, not simply documenting the past.
6. The World Bank is an example to follow and take inspiration from
On the first day of the AMEC Summit 2020, the World Bank was awarded the Platinum Award for the most effective in-house communication team. Therefore, my expectations for their presentation on Day 2 were very high.
José de Buerba, Head of Business Intelligence and Digital Governance, Communications at the World Bank, did not disappoint 🙂
There was simply too much fantastic material in that presentation to be summarised quickly here, but de Buerba took us on a journey into the very heart of the World Bank’s measurement and evaluation set-up.
We got to see their processes, their dashboards, their reporting styles and score cards, and to hear about what they had learned along the way about measuring Outputs, Outcomes and Impact. We got to see how they link and align organisational goals with communication objectives and then further back to specific communication activities that work to ultimately support the goals.
It was one of those rare moments where I, as a PR measurement professional, felt privileged to be allowed to see so much detail of another organisation’s operations – because usually such things are kept very confidential by most organisations.
I will be re-visiting and re-watching de Buerba’s presentation on-demand several times in the coming weeks and months to make sure that I have noted all the fantastic details, because it was really a tour-de-force that we could easily have spent two hours on and not the 30-minute slot in the programme.
7. Artificial Intelligence can be ‘hacked’ by feeding it wrong information
Dr. Ahmed El Adl‘s presentation at the AMEC Summit 2020 was one of those that I did not expect to enjoy as much as it turned out I did. Strictly speaking, the topic does not have any bearing to my daily work, but it was fascinating to get a ‘peek under the hood’ into the technology that will greatly affect all our lives in the future.
One comment that particularly caught my attention was when Dr. Ahmed El Adl explained how artificial intelligence is dependent on the information, it is being fed. As such, while A.I. is supposedly able to defend itself against traditional hacking and intrusion into an IT system, it is vulnerable to being supplied with false information that will steer its self-learning capabilities in the wrong direction.
Due to the technicality of his presentation, I will not try and summarise all of the presentation – merely encourage you to check it out if you buy a pas for the virtual summit.
8. Data is a powerful tool for storytelling
Several presentations this year emphasised the use for data in storytelling and communication. Michael Kaye, Global Communications Manager at OkCupid, showed a hilarious example of how the dating website used their extensive knowledge of their users (from surveys) to come up with interesting stories to feed to journalists.
OKCupid had the data to identify the new trend that increasingly people are meeting each other based on how they feel about certain issues, such as climate and the environment.
9. Too much single-purpose PR-tech is preserving communication and marketing in different silos
The summit featured a really interesting conversation between Ben Chodor, President of Intrado Digital Media, and Katie Creaser, Senior Vice President of Technology PR at ICR, about the evolving partnership between markting and PR.
And although they seemed to agree that the lines are gradually blurring, Katie was quick to point out that PR’s traditional reliance on single-purpose tech hasn’t helped our industry understand marketing, which is much better at integrated workflows.
Katie’s remark is particular interesting in the light of the trends we saw at last year’s summit, which featured cases where companies such as Adobe were streamlining monitoring, analysis and reporting – making greater use of one-stop-shop solutions for all their needs.
10. Worrying signs that the PR industry lives in a perception bubble of its own making
Fred Cook, Chairman of the global agency Golin and Director of the USC Center for Public Relations, ended the summit’s second day by sharing a lot of interesting revelations from the center’s latest research on activism.
The study is definitely worth checking out for anyone working in PR and communication. One of the most startling charts, I found, was this one illustrating the enormous gap in perception between what PR professionals believe and what activists are saying about which channels are effective in communicating about activism.
To put it bluntly: the study indicates that to a great extent PR professionals are relying on their own (unqualified) opinions and beliefs about how they think activists are operating and can be reached. The PR industry fails to do research, fails to question their own precognition and therefore fails in handling activism – to the detriment of the brands they are working for.
I had planned to devote an entire blog post to the reveal of the latest edition of one of AMEC’s most famous achievements: the Barcelona Principles 3.0
But it turns out, AMEC’s already got that covered. Via the link above you can access an excellent article by Ben Levine who led the work group that updated the Barcelona Principles from the 2015 version 2.0 to the new 2020 3.0 edition. There is also a link to a very thorough presentation from a recent webinar, AMEC did on the topic, that explains how each of the seven principles has changed and evolved and why.
The AMEC Summit 2020 continues virtually until November
If you haven’t already purchased a pas, I would recommend that you check out the entire programme. Not only have I only touched upon 10 of the 21 presentations from the first two days of the summit – but the programme continues all the way until November.
Right now you can see a list of virtual events that will take place and more will be added going forward, making the virtual pas even more of a bargain than it already is!
And remember: with the virtual pas you will also be able to access the initial two days of the AMEC Summit 2020 on-demand via Intrado’s platform.