Kristin Johnson gets input from industry leaders: how Knowledge Management could support transition from personal to organizational influence

Sample quote from Kristin Johnson’s grad study of authoritative senior professionals from (worldwide) major international organizations and institutions:

“I think that PR has always been about relationships, but it has changed fundamentally in that relationships have almost become the primary responsibility of a PR practitioner—and it’s not just with the Wall Street Journal or New York Times—it’s relationships with everyone who has a significant influence on the reputation of your company. I think it’s great for the function, for the profession, and it’s much more exciting for me to think about managing relationships and issues rather than practicing stereotypical PR, which is…get something from the marketing team that they want to sell, then put a press release together and call a few reporters. It’s a very good development.”
Gary Sheffer, general manager, public affairs and employee communications, General Electric

Eight months ago (in January) I posted on this blog a first ‘provokation’ elaborating -in three consecutive and fairly detailed instalments integrated with great comments by visitors on the same post–on the potential breakthrough for our profession, if only we could learn to transit public relations practice from a personal influence to an organizational influence model, thus transforming one of our most highly’perceived added-values, namely personal relationships, into ‘organizational relationships’.

My initial arguments, at the time, where that this transition could be approached by adopting, adapting and applying, within any organization, advanced knowledge management systems; and that such process would hugely benefit organizations, both by improving their stakeholder relationship governance efforts, and even more by increasing the organization’s immaterial capital: thus significantly accelerating the institutionalization of our profession.

I am now proud to introduce you to a solid research paper written for her graduation capstone by Kristin Johnson, an excellent, (now former) student at NYU’s Masters Course in Public Relations and Corporate Communication (where I teach Global Relations and Intercultural Communication).

In this paper Kristin develops the seed of the idea, and smartly elaborates not only in its conceptualization but, most importantly, in an on-site ‘reality check’ by means of direct, interpersonal and extensive interviews with a selected number of professional leaders; which in turn allowed her to structure an online questionnaire submitted to, and compiled by, another significant number of authoritative senior professionals from major international organizations and institutions around the world.

This effort was stimulated and assisted by the Institute for Public Relations and its Committee on Global PR Research, and is now being posted here and on the Institute’s website for your perusal, in the high hope that you will want to add, criticize, comment and suggest …

In order to allow me to put all these materials (my original first drafts, Antonio Lorenzon’s research, Kristin Johnson’s capstone, your comments…) together in a proper research paper format in the next few weeks, and to submit the final results to the Institute for approval and publication.

I am very grateful for your attention and sincerely hope you will also wish to contribute to the effort.

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4 Replies to “Kristin Johnson gets input from industry leaders: how Knowledge Management could support transition from personal to organizational influence

  1. Yes, Tony, I prefer the term evalutation, too. But it’s really all semantics– the underlying issue with introducing any social media initiatives today is measuring, or evaluating, that “investment.”

    As communicators, we’re excited with the opportunity that this newer channel provides to build relationships. My experience with management, though, is that there is little conclusive proof (statistics, numbers– the product of evaluation) that they should buy in to these tools. It’s difficult to evaluate a relationship building strategy. How do you give a numerical value to something that works best when it’s devoid of the sales pitch?

    This is why we’re seeing an astronomical attrition rate with corporate social media campaigns (75% of these campaigns fail). We have two dynamics: the communicator who sees the value of social media as a relationship building tool that builds brand recognition, expertise and customer loyalty VERSUS the corporate manager who see’s this as a new sales tool.

    Plenty of evaluation tools may exist, but I’m not seeing any of them deemed as a best practice.

  2. Brandon,
    what do you mean by a full proof measurement system?

    Our bok (body of knowledge) is dense with hundreds of foolproof measurement systems (frankly I much prefer to use the term evaluation…).

    Clearly -as we all of us have been saying and writing all along before and since the inception of this blog- public relations (in my view… definitely a profession) containing a myriad of specific practices, it is only consequential that these systems be many and diverse, to be applied according to the related practice.
    But isn’t this true for any other profession?

    What we are striving for in this specific circumstance (transiting personal influence to organizational influence by the adoption of ad hoc km systems) is to add value to the contribution of the function.
    Certainly, once we have the framework of the system in place, the next step would necessarily be how to evaluate its outcome.

  3. I think Kristen’s thesis makes perfect sense; this is what good PR pro’s do. I call this practice “community relations”– developing relationships with members of your target audience through social media initiatives, social networking and/or good old-fashioned face to face.

    Management-types sometimes have difficulty buying into the use of social media/networking tools; they find the results “soft.” My response is this: Never has there been an easier way to conduct free market research on the group of people who care most about your product. Each organization goes about this im it’s own way (at Juice, we use a survey tool called the Juice check. This tool has been evolutionary in helping us understand the needs and realities of our client base). Where organizations are failing, notes Kristen, is in properly managing this information (i.e. making it usable!).

    Anytime PR is shifted from media relations to relationships, I breathe a little easier. The next step towards institutionalization, I would think, would be coming up with a fool-proof measurerement system.

  4. Sometimes there is a sense of serendipity when one’s research and resources dovetail nicely into ah-ha moments. For example, earlier this week I attended a professional development session, where each participant was asked to name one of our Unique Selling Propositions (USP) as an employee (a.k.a. a Strategic Advantage, the name of the session). I said that it was my well-developed network of colleagues, at the local, national and international levels.

    That same day I finally sat down to read Kristen Johnson’s (excellent) graduate paper, only to discover that forward-thinking organizations would greet my personal network and me as a great strength, potentially adding to their knowledge management process and/or competitive advantage. Very exciting ideas in that paper, I hope many more have taken the time to download and read it from the IPR’s website.

    Another ah-ha moment occurred last evening, when I attended Third Tuesday Toronto Meetup (yes, it was held on the first Tuesday). This month’s event featured Niall Cook, worldwide director of marketing technology at communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton, who was speaking about his recent book, Enterprise 2.0. (You can find out what Niall talked about last night, simply by downloading the forward/first chapter, which made up at least 80 per cent of last night’s presentation.)*

    I was thinking that perhaps the melding of Kristen’s employee external networks/personal-to-organizational influence model, together with the best practices of Niall’s enterprise 2.0 model, could finally provide us with relevant and valid reasons for incorporating social media platforms into the 21st century workplace, including buy-in from the leadership team. This would certainly be a great opportunity for the public relations/communication management function.

    *Note: If you want to learn more about Niall Cook’s Enterprise 2.0 presentation at Third Tuesday Toronto, check out the recent blog post by Ed Lee over at Blogging Me Blogging You.

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