The communication process more important than outcomes on PR Conversations

The continuing adventure of the world's first international, collaborative public relations blog

Process is more important than outcome

When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.

–Point #3 from (internationally renowned designer) Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Currently I’m transitioning from thinking-mode process to writing for my June Bytes from the PR Sphere column (which covers the intersection of public relations and social media for business) for Windmill Networking. Those musings keep intermingling with this post I committed to writing for PR Conversations. Please know that it doesn’t matter which blog I’m writing for, it’s simply impossible for me to dash something off. And, as I’ve recently finished reading Clay A. Johnson’s The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, for the first time I’m deliberately amalgamating and cross-pollinating my research, thinking and writing process and efforts, with the goal of producing two original and distinct, but complementary, posts.

If the public relations discipline (or occupation, as co-editor Heather Yaxley prefers) ultimately is about reputation, value and relationship building (h/t Terry Flynn), this blog has a responsibility to produce content for consumption that:

  • is targeted to and focused on the evolving needs of public relations
  • expresses dollops of critical and dashes of original research and thinking (and informed opinions)
  • demonstrates when theoretical concepts are effectively translated into practice
  • is timely or relatively timeless
  • holds innate respect for our return and new readers’ attention and time

Besides readership, hoped-for outcomes include:

  • high-ranking search engine results and (primarily organic) SEO
  • ready acceptance by mainly senior, respected and/or high-profile individuals to contribute a guest post or be interviewed
  • relevant comments that augment and enhance blog post-generated civil discourse/conversations and introduce us to new information “consumers” of PR Conversations; and
  • third-party endorsement and shares (more later)

…in that order of importance.

But whether or not we achieve those outcomes, the self-imposed rigorous editorial process of topic and/or subject expert selection won’t change for Heather Yaxley, Markus Pirchner and me. This includes colleagues recruited or accepted to contribute guest posts or to be interviewed.

Ours is a blog where the focus and process is on achieving long-term and -tail quality content, rather than quantitative outputs.

What our editorial process doesn’t focus on

From my perspective, what you don’t find on this blog from regular or guest contributors:

  • stereotypes about what PR comprises (except in a contemplative or myth-busting capacity)
  • mainly negative, pile-on posts about a company or individual
  • self-serving promotional posts for business
  • posts introducing the (newest) bright, shiny tools or platforms (particularly related to social media), unless the subject expert believes it is viable and established enough to incorporate into integrated communication efforts
  • overtly personal posts (not to be confused with our various areas of special interest—for example, you might have noticed I’m a film aficionado)
  • pure marketing-oriented (or IMC) viewpoints
  • repeated use of the condensed “numbered lists” format (a notable exception is our all-time-most-popular, joint post, Using Twitter for PR events—which isn’t “billed” as a list)
  • short-term “campaigns”
  • gratuitous shout outs and links to colleagues

Additionally, there isn’t a single, country-centric point of view permeating PR Conversations—we proudly wear the badge of honour of being the first international, collaborative group blog, boasting an equally diverse readership through search, word of mouth and recommendations/endorsements from:

The ultimate endorsement

I can’t think of a more gratifying compliment to our group effort than hearing that Richard Bailey opined at a meeting of CIPR tutors/markers at the PR Academy that PR Conversations was the only public relations blog “robust” enough to be accepted for citation by students of the CIPR professional qualifications. Thank you, Richard. You haven’t been commenting here much of late, but it’s wonderful to know that you are still consuming our content and endorsing it as PR-citation worthy and “nutritious.”

Valued, focused content rules

On a 2009 post on his Flack’s Revenge blog, Bob Geller (a past guest contributor on PR Conversations and current Windmill Networking colleague whose column focuses on content marketing and social media) wrote,

“Our time is a zero sum game, and people are increasingly distracted with ever-more content choices.”

Shades of prescience about a need for The Information Diet!

Recently I had an email conversation with Bob about this same subject. He indicated, “In my view, more people are sharing thoughts and content on Twitter and thus less often leaving comments right there under the blog post.”

On the surface, it would seem that if you have an active “blog-commenting community” and individuals promoting and talking about your blog on Twitter and Facebook, etc., your “PR” blog is a high-profile and hot commodity, differentiated from the pack (particularly as many early-adopter bloggers are posting less frequently and/or shuttering their properties).

Not so fast.

I point you to a more recent post from Neal Schaffer (April 2012), I Blog for Content, Not for Comments. Surprised? This is one of my all-time favourite posts by Neal, primarily because it resonated with what we attempt to do here.

In this excerpted concluding paragraph from Neal, substitute PR Conversations and “public relations” for Windmill Networking and social media and see if his thoughts apply to this blog:

“I and every other Windmill Networking blogger under my editorial leadership are here to offer you content, content that is as unique as it is insightful, shaped by our professional experiences and sometimes personal passions. Our goal is to educate and hopefully become one of your primary sources for social media for business insightful advice that you won’t find on those “other” sites.“

Windmill Networking is a highly trafficked blog, with daily visitors numbering in the thousands, not just hundreds. But in a recent exchange with Neal about promotion of blog posts, he surprised me with information about how the combined traffic from established sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GooglePlus was actually quite small. According to Google Analytics, the vast majority of readers arrive as a result of indexed and authoritative search rankings on specific topics. Also worth noting, although not quite as large a percentage, 85 per cent of traffic to Windmill Networking comprises new visitors.

When I look at the Google Analytics for PR Conversations—although our traffic numbers are more modest, given that our focus and target audience is smaller in scope—I believe, proportionately, similar statistics hold true. Certainly the numbers of comments and/or shares for the majority of our posts (compared to some “popular” PR/marketing blogs) aren’t reflective of our healthy traffic numbers. And some of our most visited blog posts were written years ago—a standout example is Benita Steyn’s King III Report posts. I suspect for many South African practitioners and students, Benita’s posts are the #1 go-to place for research. We even had one request come through PR Conversations to purchase a copy of the (actual) report!


I’m not fishing for comments, but here are areas in which I think we could still improve:

  • the gender balance of guest contributors, subject experts and (role model) profiles being more reflective of the actual demographics of our discipline/occupation.
  • increased diversity from a global perspective

Do you agree? Are there other areas that need more focus?

I do wonder how you first found our blog and whether information provided on PR Conversations has actually shaped your practice or played a role in your career or studies.

Finally, I muse over whether people feel intimidated about commenting, perhaps because of the strong personalities and opinions (myself included) that occasionally colour the conversations. Alternatively, the “weightiness” of some of the comments—which sometimes are the length of a more typical blog post!

Of course I’d like to hear from new commenters amongst our thousands of readers from different parts of the world (instead of The Usual Suspects), not only to provide us with suggestions, but to affirm we’re basically on the right process track in regards to your needs and wants, so that “we will know [you] want to be [here]” and along for our PR Conversations adventure and journey.

Comments (or shares) would be a great outcome of this post, but even if you don’t choose to make your “consumer” relationship known and be part of our organizational narrative, rest assured we’ll continue to focus on the process of devising and feeding you a high-quality communication information diet in order to remain a valued and trusted resource.

Our reputation (and Richard Bailey’s continuing endorsement) depends upon it.


Addendum: Given that some are paying a great deal of attention to Buce Mau and his entire 1988 Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, (not just the #3 concept that I quote from and focus on at the beginning of this post), I thought I’d provide some background on how the Manifesto came to my attention, and links to interviews, etc. with Bruce Mau, so you can hear about his philosophy and intents from the “designer’s mouth” rather than by third-party interpretation and (negative) criticism.

I first learned about the 1988 document listening to (award-winning) Mary Hines’ CBC Radio show, Tapestry. Here is that show’s description and a link to an online audio archive:

January 2011, CBC Radio’s Tapestry show: To Err is Human:
Today on Tapestry we’re looking at the upside of getting it wrong. We all know that to err is human, but for some the fear of making a mistake can lead to a diminished experience of life. We’ll talk to celebrated Canadian designer Bruce Mau about the importance of making friends with failure.

On a side note, when I shared the link to this Bruce Mau audio interview on some Twitter chats, the Tapestry account tweeted the following: @ cbctapestry: @jgombita @brucemaudesign Happy to hear it, Judy. Want to tattoo the entire Incomplete Manifesto on me. So full of good stuff….

I have also watched (in its entirety) this Bruce Mau Lecture, from the 2010 . I have yet to watch this Charlie Rose Interview with Bruce Mau (2002), but I have read this Interview Magazine (Sept. 2009) The Cult of Mau interview. Finally, I attended the (University of Toronto) Rotman School of Management’s, The Future of Creativity: Bruce Mau Design’s Paddy Harrington session in March 2012. You can watch an excerpt here on “Why networked teams are the future of innovation.”

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39 Replies to “The communication process more important than outcomes on PR Conversations

  1. No. I chose to use one of Bruce Mau’s points as part of the framing device for this post. I included the name of the document and the link for veracity. You chose to explore the entire document and sneer.

    As per your injunction to “let’s move on,” this isn’t actually your post or blog. You can only take ownership and decide the direction of your individual comments and when you yourself choose to stop commenting..

    Anyone who has been observing the bread crumbs of discussion might be interested in one of my more popular columns on Windmill Networking, Decorum Byte: Don’t be Negative; Practice Positive PR2.0

    Anyone else who is interested in providing suggestions about future enhancements to our communication information diet, please feel free to weigh in. Please don’t be dissuaded..

  2. No, not at all. It was you who first highlighted the link, not me, between this blog and some wider premises it accepts as givens – it was those that I was probing (not least the whole culture of process). Let’s move on. Good luck.

  3. Heather, your point about targets in the UK proves my point. New Labour were the masters and advocates of process management…and their targets embodied that approach par excellence. Teachers could no longer teach… nurses no longer nursed and police couldn’t police…they all became process-driven bureaucrats with waning influence in society. Leadership requires a certain freedom…

    Moreover, the whole stakeholder obsession is really just an expression of lack of confidence and authority at the top… but effective PR is about helping leaders lead…not denigrate themselves.

    This is a serious discussion, and I think PRC is seriously wrong.

    1. Are you deliberately attempting to hijack the comments section (again), Paul, by continually introducing things that are not even in my post? Where on earth did I talk about helping leaders lead? What stakeholders, exactly, is it I’m obsessed with?

      Quite frankly, I have no idea what your objectives are, or hoped-for outcomes, when you do this number on PR Conversations.

    2. We probably should agree to disagree, but I think we have a fundamental difference of opinion regarding process here. I believe that teaching, nursing and policing – are the process, and agree that is the job of the trained expert to execute with desired outcomes set by them, in agreement with senior management, and where appropriate, the relevant ‘stakeholder’. For example, as a patient, I should be involved in my nursing and care outcomes, with the expert guidance of the professionals. My objection is when prescriptive outcomes drive the process – which isn’t good leadership in my view. So perhaps we agree that there needs to be a level of freedom to lead – and prescribing either a process or specific outcomes isn’t helpful in that regard.

  4. I’ve been thinking about outcomes, processes and so forth for some time – partly as a result of writing six chapters about PR planning for a new book – which I won’t plug yet as it isn’t published until September 🙂

    But something that strikes me as critical if we as bloggers, PR practitioners or leaders focus primarily on outcomes is that the means to the ends can become twisted. We have seen this frequently in the UK over the past few years with a valid attempt to ensure our public services deliver better value for money. The problem arises from setting targets – goals or outcomes – to be achieved. This has led to ‘gaming’ of processes to achieve the required outcomes. For example, less bright children being prevented from taking exams unless they will definitely pass as their failure would affect the statistics.

    We also see this in social media with the focus on achieving followers, hits and so on – and that’s not the outcome we set out to achieve with PR Conversations.

    Of course, one can argue that it is the wrong outcomes driving the wrong processes – but ends and means both should be considered by those who set out to lead. Otherwise, we just encourage the wiley and their unethical means…

  5. I very much appreciated this post … but honouring Judy’s call to the ‘usual suspects’ for moderation, I had so far refrained.

    Yet, in rereading the post this morning and the many comments, I decided to come in the conversation adding something that could maybe be of interest.

    This blog–many might know but certainly not all–became in April 2007 after seven months of life as Toni’s Blog.

    Allow me to include part of the post that annoounced this change:

    …..but I very much hope that–as diverse as the topics will surely and hopefully be–the overall approach and attitude will be coherent in the sense of ensuring a continual quest for concepts which might assist the professional community worldwide in expanding its curiosity, its knowledge, its relationships and–most of all–its attraction towards a better understanding of the changing environment as well as the changing approaches with which public relations may contribute a better quality of life for communities in every part of the world……

    As one may easily gather, if our role is to develop relationships with publics on behaf of clients or employers, it is tautologic that the process is always more important than the outcome:

    to the point that the outcome is the process.

    I commend Judy for elaborating intelligently on the concept that fits perfectly not only with the ‘real mcoy’ of our ‘raison d’etre’ as public relations professionals, but also remains fully coherent and greatly enhances the raison d’etre of this digital space.

    1. Thank you, Toni. When you “bequeathed” guardianship of PR Conversations to Heather Yaxley, Markus Pirchner and me, we took on the responsibility with a similar understanding, simply putting some of our own “design” components and flavouring into the mix.

      Regarding The Usual Suspects, it’s not that I didn’t want to hear from valued past contributors and commenters, it was really more that I wanted individuals who had been silently consuming so far to feel comfortable enough to weigh-in, in that their thoughts would be valued and hopefully their opinions wouldn’t be challenged or mocked–certainly not by me–in the process.

      I hope you have a chance to read The Information Diet; I think you’d quite like Clay Johnson’s approach to valuable content and how our brains are impacted and/or how are behavours manifest themselves (like the “confirmation bias” concept). And also, if you have time, to check out some or all of the Bruce Mau information.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding to this post’s “narrative.” 🙂

  6. I’ve added this to the post proper, but am also making it into a comment so it’s not missed by repeat visitors/commenters:

    Addendum: Given that some are paying a great deal of attention to Buce Mau and his entire 1988 Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, (not just the #3 concept that I quote from and focus on at the beginning of this post), I thought I’d provide some background on how the Manifesto came to my attention, and links to interviews, etc. with Bruce Mau, so you can hear about his philosophy and intents from the “designer’s mouth” rather than by third-party interpretation and (negative) criticism.

    I first learned about the 1988 document listening to (award-winning) Mary Hines’ CBC Radio show, Tapestry. Here is that show’s description and a link to an online audio archive:

    January 2011, CBC Radio’s Tapestry show: To Err is Human:
    Today on Tapestry we’re looking at the upside of getting it wrong. We all know that to err is human, but for some the fear of making a mistake can lead to a diminished experience of life. We’ll talk to celebrated Canadian designer Bruce Mau about the importance of making friends with failure.

    On a side note, when I shared the link to this Bruce Mau audio interview on some Twitter chats, the Tapestry account tweeted the following: @ cbctapestry: @jgombita @brucemaudesign Happy to hear it, Judy. Want to tattoo the entire Incomplete Manifesto on me. So full of good stuff….

    I have also watched (in its entirety) this Bruce Mau Lecture, from the 2010 Liverpool Biennial. I have yet to watch this Charlie Rose Interview with Bruce Mau (2002), but I have read this Interview Magazine (Sept. 2009) The Cult of Mau interview. Finally, I attended the (University of Toronto) Rotman School of Management’s, The Future of Creativity: Bruce Mau Design’s Paddy Harrington session in March 2012. You can watch an excerpt here on “Why networked teams are the future of innovation.”

  7. Bill, I don’t claim to be the person (or to know who is) you are looking for in Europe. In terms of track record: my unique claim to fame is to have rehabilitated Chernobyl so that it is no longer the main problem the world’s nuclear industry faces (otherwise I failed). As I face the challenge of middle age, I’ve decided to put my experience and reading to best use by focusing on the wanabees in the spirit of influencing the next generation of communicators. My take is that the Academy has failed them because it has been shallow and lightweight, something I’ve expounded on many times here. The fact is, there is little critical thinking going on and there’s too much talk about process leading to progress blah blah and too much waffle about linear (nonlinear) this and that, two, three, one way communication….it is all dominated by repetitious platitudunious bollocks. So, the first step to making progress is to have an honest interrogation and account of the problem…so as to recognise it.

    In short, we need to raise the level…and it starts with critique. Then the young will run with the ball because they will see where to put it with clarity….bring it on. Only then can PR make a real difference that contributes to human progress.

  8. Bill, I’m happy to be labelled obstreperous for reminding people that process-driven leadership is an oxymoron. Good luck with your search… Meanwhile, we have a love feast here in the comments. But real rascals escape the confines of process-driven management and the limitations of bureaucracy and they initiate and lead and show the way for others to follow as a consequence. But people here have seemingly lined up with Mau’s lack of vision by advocating that we’re all leaders… as in everybody is equal (bye bye authority and expertise and anything unique or that smacks of elitist toxic leadership). Or as they say at Davos (at least the weak leaders in weak economies do) all stakeholders are equal. Put another way, PRC is asking people to swallow the notion that process is an end in itself… something to be celebrated (something that is liberating and creative and flexible). I say, leadership is really out of fashion today, and the tone here reveals that and celebrates it. But people who change things – in reality – ask obstreperous questions and act and speak differently.

    1. I don’t consider you obstreperous because you are well informed. But perhaps I should expand on what I meant by rascal. An outlier, someone who defies the accepted norms but nevertheless has a real impact. Someone who knows who Benjamin Sonnenberg was (there was a rascal) and doesn’t mind being compared to him.
      Someone like Bobby Zarem in the U.S., or (who is it in Europe?)

      1. I not only know who Benjamin Sonnenberg was but have a copy of the unauthorised biography on “fabulous life and times” of “America’s Greatest Publicist” to hand. Not really clear why you feel he was a rascal however. He struck me as interesting, yes and inspiring in terms of rising from nothing to a great house in Gramercy Park and renown in securing major clients. But ultimately I found him to be disappointing and rather sad; he came over as mean, self-centred and even cruel to those who looked up to him. What did he create or leave? How did he change anything or inspire others? Undoubtedly memorable and skillful in what he did – but did he have ‘real impact’ beyond his life and times?

        1. Heather, if you read Isadore Barmash’s book, “Always Live Better than Your Clients” (a Sonnenberg motto), you know that he not only secured major clients, he wouldn’t deal with anyone except the top person. If a mere vice president called Sonnenberg to discuss something, he simply hung up on him.

          That was his major contribution to the practice of PR, then and now, IMHO.

          But he was a rascal, as full of tricks as a circus magician. Barmash tells how Sonnenberg used his wiles to get advance proofs of stories in TIME Magazine, then sent the proofs to the subjects of the stories with a note implying that he had something to do with the coverage.

          He could also be generous. When Margaret Rudkin wanted to get a new oven to expand her fledgling business of baking homemade bread, she asked Sonnenberg for a three-hundred-dollar loan. Sonnenberg, an old friend of the Rudkins, said, “Why of course, my dear Margaret.”

          The Rudkins gave Sonnenberg a one-third interest in their new little company, which they called Pepperidge Farm after the Connecticut farm where they lived.

          1. Happy to talk more about Sonnenberg – but his focus on dealing only with the top person was ultimately also his downfall. What he didn’t seem to reflect was the need to make connections with those on the way up either himself or through his team of people (although of course he treated most of them like factory workers). That failure meant when his high level contacts retired, those coming in after had not bond with Sonnenberg.

            In terms of him being a rascal, I was referring to your expansion on the term as “An outlier, someone who defies the accepted norms but nevertheless has a real impact.” The examples you give (and there were many more) were of wiles that today would be considered highly unethical (probably were then too).

            HIs generosity was certainly legendary and the use of social occasions to build connections and hence business was fascinating. He certainly struck lucky with the Rudkins and I agree that this is one of the examples of where I liked the man. Sadly, his treatment of family, employees and those he felt didn’t pay him for his advice (which they hadn’t sought as a client) was less admirable…

  9. Congrats on being called “robust” (whatever that means). But you need to interview/find more strategists and more rascals (not obstreperous jerks, but true rascals who’ve had an impact on the practice), That will enhance the robustness.

  10. Well said Judy. Having been one of your guest editors I understand the rigour and expectations of your editorial calendar. You and your colleagues have done the industry and the academy a great service in providing a forum for the discussion, debate and dialogue of critical issues facing the practice and profession. In fact it is because of the quality of the exchanges on this site and the important topics that you cover that I assign it as required reading for both my undergraduate public relations and my graduate communications management students. The international scope and the diversity of perspectives (from your editorial team and your guest contributors) make this site a must read. Even reading the contrarian perspectives of some regular commentators is critical to the development of global perspective for our students (even if some of the regulars are difficult to digest).

    1. Thanks, Terry. I think the first time you made an “appearance” on this blog was when I did a 2007 post about you getting provincial government approval to start McMaster’s Master’s of Communication Management Degree Program, back in the first official year of PR Conversations’ existence (after morphing from Toni’s Blog).

      And, of course, your first guest post (hopefully not your last), A defining moment for public relations, was hugely popular from both a Views and commenting count, and received a lot of link love from PRSA and its #PRDefined initiative.

      Thank you for your ongoing support, as well as from Mac’s Alexandre Sévigny and Communication Management degree program grad and college prof, Rebecca Edgar, both of whom I got to know through you (although Rebecca and I still have to meet “IRL”).

  11. Checking in after being offline working on my complementary Windmill Networking post. More thoughts later, but I can tell you one thing I did to was link “relevant comments” to our PR Conversations (exclusive) Talking Points section.

  12. I see nothing wrong with finding the process as important as the outcome. I would quibble with the title of this post but not the intent. Sometimes process is rich with intangibles and builds bonds that it becomes as imporant and sometimes more important than the actual outcome.

    What PRC does is engage in meaningful conversations for the sake of seeking comments, different points of view of consensus . Nothing wrong with that.

    On the other hand, if I wish to advocate a certain point of view and drive to an outcome, then communication is strictly a process or a means to an end.

    What Heather is saying makes sense to me. We can enjoy the banter and exchange points of view without wanting necessarily an outcome.

    The goal is to keep the conversations evolving and engaging. If a consensus emerges or a solution found to a particular issue raised, so be it if that is the point of the conversation.
    Like it or not we are building relationships though the process.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read the entire post, Jean, and not simply stop paying attention because you didn’t like the title, or Bruce Mau quote!

      I won’t pretend this was my most brilliant post title, ever (unlike Terry’s great “A defining moment for public relations.” but it did serve to grab your attention (even if it initially annoyed), and it allowed m to create a framing device, distinct from my Nutrition Byte column that will publish on Windmill Networking.

      As blogs are an online medium, much of the promotion of the content is through Twitter. (Is that how you found out about it?) Twitter is easy, but it’s also really competitive regarding eyeballs for attention and clicks to actually read an article

      See this post:

      You know, Jean, I think one of my strongest columns on Windmill Networking is, “Social Capital Byte: Institutionalizing Parity in B2B Relationships.” But it didn’t get tweeted that much. And it didn’t seem to get read as much, either. In talking it over with Neal, he said it was probably because the “institutionalizing” and “parity” words likely weren’t eye-catching enough….or people didn’t know what they meant. So, even though “Social Capital Byte” at the front end was trendy, the more serious-sounding words later on basically nullified the front end grabber.

      Sometimes I spend almost as much time thinking about a blog post title as writing the darn thing! 🙂 But not this time.

      If you agreed with the intent, but quibbled with the title, what would you have called it?

  13. Heather, sorry, but I find your answer evasive. All this stuff about Michelin stars, journeys and process is part of the planning is flannel. Unless I don’t know what I’m talking about “outcome” is number one because tactics, strategy, process or whatever, have no meaning unless you know what you want to achieve: the article above says something completely different. The article stakes its ground from the off declaring “When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been.” That’s hogwash and you must know so.

    As for Mau..he represents a modern trend which has positioned designers as facilitators of processes in a cooperative embrace with stakeholders, in which there are no leaders because everybody is a leader. That undermines the value of his trade’s expertise. Moreover, the acceptance of the premise does much to undermine the concept of leadership and to denigrate authority because it denigrates itself etc… but it is exactly the line advocated by Grunig and many other people here on PRC who waffle on about empowering stakeholders.

    Whenever somebody tries to pin down a point to examine what it all means and question whether what’s being said makes sense… there’s real a wriggle. That is not a robust – or academic – response that backs the many claims (one’s people back off from when I take them seriously) the article makes about what makes PRC unique.

    “PR Conversations was the only public relations blog “robust” enough to be accepted for citation by students…”etc. etc..

    No, this blog cannot escape taking a lead and hide in the crowd protected by jargon about processes…pretending to be unconcerned – not driven, even – by outcomes.

    1. Sorry that you think I was being evasive and using flannel – but in the context of PR Conversations, outcome was not number one as Judy, Markus and myself set out to take on the blog without doing more than setting out a rough ethos of what it would be about.

      I haven’t read Mau and already stated that in the context of a PR planning project, then generally yes, it has to have clear objectives (outcome measures) in order to inform the other elements of the plan.

      However, seeing the world entirely in a way that actions can be driven by a linear focus on the outcome within a rigid process/system at all cost is not likely to be effective leadership. Leaders have goals of course, but whether these are ultimate outcomes that are achieved is unlikely in practice. Reality often requires an adaptive strategy, and potentially working with others to reach an end point which is mutually satisfactory. Far too much time and effort is wasted in organisations in putting together a ‘feelgood’ plan to achieve outcomes reflecting a myth of rational management. If the process allows flexibility and reconceptualising outcomes that has to be a sign of an effective leader – not something wishy washy but real and pragmatic.

      To an extent (as I’ve said without reading Mau), I can understand how setting outcomes at the start may only give you a vision that is based on a starting point. There’s certainly room for serendipity, opportunism, imagination and exploration in life, planning and on PR Conversations.

  14. As ever, you are unable to address the key points. The reason is obvious.

    Process is always secondary to the objective…it is a means to an end. Einstein was a bit like Henry Ford – he pictured it and then worked backwards to see how it could fit together. Theodore Levitt’s classic Marketing Myopia (explaining and advocating Henry Ford’s methodology) and the entire systemic fundamentals of Einstein’s approach to making progress says Mau – and by default PRC – is empty headed. Unless that is – you wish to challenge the world’s leading thinker on marketing (Harvard’s Theodore Levitt) and the world’s leading …Einstein…by trumping them with Mau’s manifesto? Good luck!

    1. Paul – whilst I would agree with you when talking about PR planning, that having the outcome in mind is essential before deciding the strategy/tactics etc, the process is part of the planning that presents an overview in which objectives are determined. It isn’t a totally linear process, but adaptive – and that can refer to amending an objective or the strategy/tactics – as part of the process.

      But back to Judy’s post. For me, in terms of a project like PR Conversations, this is not, and was not, undertaken to achieve a specific objective as we see with many other blogs. We didn’t want to become recognised as Rock Star bloggers, or rank highly in various lists, change the world, flog books or gain work on the back of the blog. Continuing the journey metaphor, what we set out to do was to enjoy the journey and not worry too much about the end destination. Indeed, I don’t think we do have an end destination in mind, but enjoy stopping en-route to see what we have achieved.

      If we are today a sort of Michelin starred restaurant, with ourselves and guests as respected chefs, then that has been secondary to our goal to create written food which feeds our cognitive souls. We just like to read and think, talk and have conversations. It is no more sophisticated than opening a bottle of wine and having a good old chat if we and all the PR Conversations readers/writers/participants could get together around a table once in a while.

      And, as I do like a bit of car analogies, we most certainly would not see our goal like Henry Ford of producing a five dollar car off a production line. That was his desired outcome and process – ours in just different. I’ll save the discussion around systems theory for another day.

  15. Resting website’s your credibility on Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (that’s its official title) reveals how shallow – and unconsidered and unacademic – PRC has become. In contrast to his:

    “When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.”

    A much better thinker said:

    Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.
    Albert Einstein

    Moreover, Mau’s 10th manifesto point is complete poppycock:

    “Everyone is a leader. Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.”

    If everyone is a leader – nobody is (including this website).

    The funny thing about Mau’s conception of what drives progress (process) is that it matches Grunig’s. United the two of them stand in seeking to hog Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner. As for the other 42 points on Mau’s manifesto… what a new-age hippy joke! Do I really need to go through each of them point by point ripping them to pieces? Get real. PR deserves better than this rot.

  16. Interesting insight on the PRC ethos Judy. I came to this place before its current incarnation when Toni Muzi Falconi urged me and a handful of others to contribute insights on the global aspect of public relations while I was charing the Global Alliance.

    It was my first blog experience and is still no 1 in my books albeit for entirely different reasons now. It is read by a lot on influential colleagues. It does not shy away from controversy and is open to suggestions.

    I cant seem to get the ‘global’ away from me and PRC is my fix although I confess I am not a daily reader. Currenty, my arm has been twisted to manage the Melbourne Mandate global conversation.

    This is the sucessor to the Stockholm Accords and we have just selected our co-chairs to lead the three working groups. I think this would make a wonderful interview for PRC.Hint hint.

    Dan Tisch and/or I would be pleased to share some insights on how we plan to co-create this global advocacy document on the road to the World Public Realtions Forum in Melbourne.

    1. Oh, I would have quoted you just like Richard! I do so appreciate these three statements, Jean:

      1. It was my first blog experience and is still no 1 in my books albeit for entirely different reasons now.

      2. It is read by a lot of influential colleagues.

      3. It does not shy away from controversy and is open to suggestions.

      We don’t post daily (aim for weekly), so it’s OK if you are only here one day a week…..

      Your hint hint is so subtle. Tell you what: find a FEMALE to interview (or be interviewed) for the GLOBAL Melbourne Mandate and we can talk, as it would be win-win re: PRC “needs more of.” (Maybe Catherine Arrow could be pulled in, given that she’s a hop and skip away in New Zealand.)

      I’m not surprised you remain involved with the Global Alliance and its initiatives, Jean. I think of Toni and you like the association’s “Two Dads.” (Just not married-to-one-another Two Dads.)

      Thanks for weighing in with some feedback, encouragement and suggestions. And I really enjoyed my time in Melbourne; I hope you do, too.

  17. Judy – thanks for the post which I support very much in setting out the PR Conversations ethos. I’ve just finished a post on my personal blog ( – oops, blatant plug!! But reason for linking to this is that I feel what we are trying to do relates to the story of the young Scottish girl and her school dinner campaign.

    PR Conversations is about digesting real cognitive ‘food’ not fast, feel-good processed, feed-me-quick snacking. It takes time to read and think about PRC posts on the whole, and as with Benita’s King reports, they become a classic ‘meal’ that is discovered and returned to over and again.

    We like a strong, informed, narrative and care about what is being said, allow posters the time to express it and encourage a clear, but considered way of conveying the narrative. The downside is that this can come over as a bit worthy – like eating your greens instead of a naughty cream cake. I don’t believe we do take ourselves too seriously and we enjoy a debate (throwing around the cream cakes and lobbing a healthy vegetable or two) and welcome those who want to join our food party.

    The popular Twitter post proves we can deliver a tasty, appealing snack too, but it still aims to be real sustenance and not something light, fluffy and forgettable.

    1. Darn you, Heather, upping me on the food analogies! And even working in a PROCESSed food “bite.” (Wish I’d thought of that.) 🙂

      It’s true we’re not to every reader’s “taste.” But, quite frankly, I wouldn’t be interested in being involved in PR Conversations if it was just like every other “PR” blog.

      We’re not like every other blog. According to Richard Bailey, we’re in a class totally by ourselves!.

      I liked your post on Greenbanana. Martha Payne has been in the news in Canada as well. I think what impressed the most was the calibre of her critical thinking and writing. Let alone the “influence” she had on some big names. That is the beauty of social media: a young girl in Scotland mobilizing the world and getting changes made, not to mention raising funds for another continent.

      Our current Canadian social media rock star is Hélène Campbell, quite recent double-lung transplant recipient, who first was on a personal mission to increase organ donations (via signed consent forms), who captured the attention of Justin Bieber and Ellen DeGeneris. Here is her blog, which she continues to maintain:

  18. Judy,

    One word: Brilliant. You continue to amaze me with not only how eloquently you describe what could be difficult concepts to some, but also for finding ways to describe what I was unable to put in words.

    Process. Yes. Some communication might be forced to focus on outcomes based on what part of the organization one represents. But from a Public Relations perspective (not that I claim to be an expert or even experienced at PR, which I’m obviously not), the process you have indicated makes total sense. Sure, you are trying to develop relationships with stakeholders which might be considered the desired outcome. But it has to be done authentically in your own style representing your culture.

    I enjoy my continued learning from you – and always look forward to your posts wherever you might blog!

    1. Thanks, Neal. Your April post and the statistics you shared with me about Windmill Networking really helped to consolidate my thoughts for this post. And I’ve been wanting to introduce Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth (in some capacity) for awhile….so it all just gelled.

      I have always thought (and said to you) that the absolute focus on quality content (and now contributors) on both PR Conversations and Windmill Networking was similar–it’s why I agreed to take on the “PR” columnist gig.

      Pshaw about you not being eloquent or communicating your thoughts. Even if you had asked me to (copy) edit “I Blog for Content, Not Comments. Surprised?” I doubt I would have changed much, if anything.

      One comment that applies to both blogs: given how much search rankings play in traffic to blogs, shouldn’t people really be spending more time on GooglePlus? I mean, if there’s one place that makes sense to combine shares and search results, surely G+ would be it (over Twitter or Facebook).

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Neal. Now I just have to get my (complementary) Byte column done…..

  19. It is hard to believe that those old posts on governance are still being visited! But I must say, the King III Report is going from strength to strength (and not only in South Africa). Judge Merwyn King is an exceptional man. He will be 75 next month but is still going strong in changing the world (inter alia as the Chairman of the Global Reporting Initiative and the International Integrated Reporting Committee, Adviser on governance to the World Bank and the UN—the list is pages long). It was an eye opener as well as a humbling experience to listen to his CV last week during the Awards Ceremony of PRISA (Institute for PR and Communication Management — Southern Africa) where he received the PRISA Gold Medal –only presented in exceptional cases.

    During the function, mention was made of a chapter that Estelle de Beer (who co-authored some of my PRC posts on Governance), Ronel Rensburg and I had written for the Festschrift to Honour Professors Jim and Lauri Grunig for 40 Years of Public Relations Scholarship, to be published later this year. Titled “The Pretoria School of Thought: From Strategy to Governance and Sustainability”, our chapter is a historical perspective on the development of Strategic Communication Management at the University of Pretoria over the last 18 years (its foundations, of course, being the Grunig teachings/books). You will understand that we were thrilled to death when Judge King asked for a copy of our chapter!

    But more significant is King’s interest in the strategic role of PR. This started when he became the promotor for Estelle’s PhD in Governance, Sustainability and Strategy. Then, in response to one of our PRC posts, Toni Muzi Falconi commented during the participation phase on the King III Report. Toni’s suggestion that Chapter 8 be named “Governing Stakeholder Relationships” rather than “Managing Stakeholder Relationships” was accepted by the King Committee. Toni invited Judge King (and Estelle) to Italy, which in the end led to King being a guest speaker at the Stockholm Accords 2 years ago.

    With such friends in the Boardroom, who knows where PR can go!

    1. Thanks for agreeing to turn your update email into a comment here, Benita (you even expanded it!). South Africa is indeed a world leader in governance and sustainability reporting and formalizing the strategic role of public relations. (Not to mention the truth and reconciliation process, which I learned about in a fabulous film at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival, “One Day After Peace.”)

      Congratulations on the inclusion of a book chapter. Plus on the one part of the email you left out here, Benita:

      You receiving the PRISA President’s Award for “personal effort and achievements on behalf of
      PRISA and the profession.”

      Well deserved! Thank you for remaining an active “alumni” contributor here on PR Conversations. Even if your (damn) King III Reports keep dominating the Most Viewed page. 😉 (It’s a game for Heather and me when one of our posts knocks one or both of them out…always temporarily, it seems.)

  20. Judy, love the title and focus of this blog post. It is great to see the results of your thinking and some of the thoughts we exchanged reflected here. Glad my words were helpful, thanks for including these and mention of (and link to) my blog. Seems like you and team are already doing a great job in the areas that you mention, but I will be sure to continue to read and let you know if I see room for improvement.

    1. Thanks for the earlier conversations and being first out of the gate to comment, Bob. This post changed a fair bit, between conception and end result, and to a certain extent it was because of the things I discussed with (first) you and then at least a week later with Neal. Now I just have to write the companion one for Windmill Networking!

      You aren’t too shabby yourself when it comes valuable content, both on Flack’s Revenge and your #WMN column. We really do check out the calibre of thinking and writing before asking someone to guest post here–you made the cut with flying colours, as I recall.

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