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From Communication To Science

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The PR business requires creative people who can explain complicated ideas and situations to the public. One consultancy, however, moved away from traditional communications in favor of the scientific method.

As covered on the blog Evidence Soup, a firm called Burson-Marsteller was emphasizing evidence:

This year, the firm has rolled out a methodology for developing and measuring programs. “The media and communications landscape is changing and so have the needs of our clients,” said Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn. “In a world of citizen journalism, social media, and instant information about events happening around the globe, we are investing in a more diligent and scientific approach to developing and delivering key messages.”

It’s great to see marketing and media moving in this direction. Here’s how the firm describes the benefits (there is, um, a bit of spin applied). “Evidence-based communications ends the guess work. All strategies are based on evidence, not speculation.” (Okay. But trying something creative and new involves unknowns. Don’t let evidence crowd out big ideas and experimentation.) “It is cost-effective… ensuring that each client’s communications dollars are spent on tactics and messages that will deliver results. It is measurable. By… benchmarking at the beginning of a program and measuring effectiveness at the end, clients will be able to demonstrate a positive communications return-on-investment.”

They continue, saying theirs is a holistic approach: “While it is common to use some basic research to drive a communications message or to assess the reach of a program at the end, the Evidence-Based approach is a complete methodology. The approach ensures a thorough use of data and tools designed specifically to insert science into the process where appropriate. It provides proof of PR value to the organization’s C-Suite. By using an Evidence-Based approach, communications professionals can demonstrate the value that PR brings to their organization at large.”

Inspiring the imagery of scientific inquiry to support your new product line is obviously good PR. But there was a big risk that Burson-Marsteller was taking: What happens if the science proves that their PR isn’t all that effective? Somehow, it seems like having a hypothesis that turns out to be false is a much bigger problem for a public relations firm than for the typical research laboratory. After all, a research laboratory is expected to have many failed hypotheses. The same can’t be said for a PR firm.


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At AccelaWork, we recognize and enjoy the certainty of hard facts. There are plenty of great things you can take away from analytics, both standard and some that are more advanced. As we have covered covered before, workplace productivity requires more than good measurement. We must also find ways to embrace individual creativity and reward innovation, which is shown by failure as much as by success. After all, for all the things that hard data can show you, experience, learning opportunities, and failures that serve as stepping stones are much harder to quantify. That said, plenty of businesses have shown what works and doesn’t work in all those instances. Studying what has been done in the past is a great way to predict what may be the best way to move forward in the future.

In science, you can tweak and tinker until you find the right experiment conditions for the result you desire. In business, that flexibility isn’t always an option. No business should become a test tube. If you feel like your company’s processes are not rigorous, reach out to a productivity consulting firm like AccelaWork. We use science and reason to encourage creativity, increase productivity, and foster satisfaction among all stakeholders. Contact our business process consultants to learn more!

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