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 Free Advice Angela Sinickas Answers Questions from Communicators

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Professional Development / Careers

- Performance Reviews and Bonuses
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Professional Development on Communication Strategy
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Journals about Employee Communication
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Communication Degrees with a Business Focus
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Graduate Education in Business Communication

Public Relations
- Public Relations Benchmarking
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Measuring Public Relations Effectiveness
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Value of Public Relations Versus Advertising
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Impact of News Releases on Web Traffic
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Media Monitoring
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Public Relations Statistics
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Reputation Management

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Performance Reviews and Bonuses

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Q: I am at present trying to identify the best way to evaluate and reward through bonus communication staff. Has anyone a good rule of thumb or formula?

Sue Bourke

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A: Dear Sue:

In a consulting environment, typically the annual pay increase is used to compensate for the variety of less measurable (and more subjective) things communicators do, such as teamwork, professional skills development, leadership, task force/committee work, etc. The bonus is based on a very few things that are highly measurable and tied more closely to bottom-line outcomes.

If your staff works in an agency setting (or are internal consultants in a corporate setting) you can measure the number of their billable hours and the amount of new business they generate. At lower job levels, they would have higher targets for billable time; at higher levels, they'd have higher targets for new business.

If the staff are at a corporation and not structured like an agency, the bonuses can be tied to a combination of things, depending on the job. For a bonus, these need to be quantifiable. Some examples would be:

  • Improving knowledge of certain topics from a pre-existing level to a higher level.
  • Achieving a certain percentage increase in usage of a communication tool, such as visitors to the intranet site or number of people who are not receiving a printed publication.
  • Improving the communication skills of supervisors through a training program (as measured on an employee survey where they rate the skill levels).

Make sure that whatever the target is, it is something that the communicator has real responsibility for and is somewhat under their control. For example, I would recommend holding a communicator accountable for an increase in an audience's awareness and understanding of topics, but not necessarily for an audience to agree with the company's position (it might be a harmful position for the individuals themselves, like the need for layoffs or a price increase).

You could hold a media relations representative responsible for improving the accuracy of news stories over time (although reporters won't ever be perfect!) but you should NOT hold them accountable for achieving a certain percentage of positive vs. negative stories. (The negative news stories running about Ensron and Firestone/Bridgestone certainly weren't the fault of the communicators at the company.)

I'd recommend that you identify the types of things that make sense for your communicators to be "bonused" on, do some baseline measurements of where you are right now on those things, use that information to develop targets, then measure again at the end of the year before determining the size of the bonus.

Angela D. Sinickas

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Professional Development on Communication Strategy

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Q: I am recently appointed to a global communications role based between Paignton in the UK and Ottawa in Canada. As I have not worked directly in communications to this point, I am anxious to develop my communications skills and build my knowledge of best communications strategy practices. My focus is on internal communications for an organization of 10,000 employees globally.

Can you recommend any books, websites or training courses that would be of assistance to me in building my knowledge of the communications area? I will also consider one-to-one training for my own professional development in particular focusing on key messaging.

I would appreciate any advice you could give.

Yours sincerely,

Claire Hurley

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Dear Claire:

Congratulations on your new assignment. I'm sure you'll find communication a far more complex and business-centered function than it often seems to employees and managers.

There are a number of organizations that provide various types of conferences or seminars. Most of them are made up of various speakers from different organizations, so there isn't an exact course curriculum, and the conference quality may vary from session to session. In addition to the International Association of Business Communicators (www.iabc.com), which has a very thorough annual conference, you might want to contact the following organizations for mailings of upcoming conferences. IQPC has different branches in North America and in the UK. LIB and Conference Partnership are only in the UK. The rest are only in North America.

  • Advanced Learning Institute (www.aliconferences.com)
  • The Canadian Institute (1-877-927-7936)
  • The Conference Board
  • Conference Partnership (www.conferencepartnership.com)
  • International Quality and Productivity Center (www.IQPC.com)
  • Learning-in-Business and (in London, can't find a contact)
  • Ragan Communications (www.ragan.com)

This year Ragan had a weeklong seminar that was a fairly structured one covering all the main aspects of managing a communication function. They may be repeating it.

Also, there is an organization called the San Francisco Academy. Each year it accepts about 15-20 communication managers into a program where they meet one Friday/Saturday each month for about 8 months. It is a highly structured program designed to prepare these managers for senior communication roles. It is a virtual Academy in that it has no buildings. Various corporations sponsor it and host sessions in a variety of locations, including San Francisco, Southern California and other places where a number of "students" will find it easy to travel to. The professor in charge of the program is Frank Kalupa, at 512-343-9418.

In addition, there are a number of books and manuals that give you very concrete advice on all aspects of communication. IABC publishes a book called "Inside Organizational Communication." Ragan Communications has a manual called "Employee Communication: The Comprehensive Manual for People who Communicate with Todayís Employees."

Also see the other question in this section on journals about employee communication.

Finally, if there are particular topics that you'd want one-on-one advice about, I can recommend some experts. For example, for supervisor/employee communication I'd recommend Roger D'Aprix or T.J. Larkin. Using intranets and electronic communication, Shel Holtz. Communication strategy, or measurement of effectiveness, we'd be happy to help you ourselves.

Good luck!

Angela D. Sinickas

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Journals about Employee Communication

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Q: Please provide me with a list of me about personnel communication journals. What is your opinion about personnel communications?

Ismail

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A: Dear Ismail,

There are a number of journals that include articles about personnel communication. Here they are, with web sites where you can get more information:

  • Journal of Employee Communication Management and other newsletters from www.ragan.com.
  • Strategic Communication Management and Best Practice Measurement Strategies from www.melcrum.com.
  • Internal Communication from www.informa.com.

Personally, I think employee communication has a very strong connection to the success of an organization, if it is conducted well. I think it is just as important as media relations or customer communication.

Best wishes,

Angela D. Sinickas

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Communication Degrees with a Business Focus

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Q: I have attended one of your sessions in Vancouver, and thought would write you for advice. I am hoping to further my education in communications. Specifically, I would like to obtain an MBA with a focus in communication. Are you aware of such a program either in the States or overseas? Thanks for your time. I would greatly appreciate your guidance!

Theresa Rath

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A: Dear Theresa:

While I haven't found a lot of examples of what you're looking for, I do have a few recommendations from my friends in academia for communication degree programs with a heavy business focus. Here they are, some with more contact information:

  • Royal Roads University offers Canada's first MBA program with a specialty in Public Relations and Communications Management. Contact: Deborah Wickins, MBA Program Manager, Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada, 250.391.6308 or www.royalroads.ca/mba.
  • Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, has a bachelor's in PR granted through the business school. See www.ferris.edu.
  • The University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minn., has a Masters in Business Communications program. See www.stthomas.edu.
  • Universitat Ramon Llull in Barcelona has an MBA focused on managing communication companies. In fact, this master is unique in Europe, but it is mainly focused on audiovisual companies rather than others. Web site: www.blanquerna.url.es. For further information: veronicald@blanquerna.url.es.
  • Syracuse University offers a Master in Communication Management. See: www.suce.syr.edu/ISDP, e-mail: suisdp@uc.syr.edu. Tel. 1-800-442-0501. Maria P. Russell, Academic Director: mprussel@syr.edu
  • Towson University has a new Master of Science in Communications Management. Mark McElreath says it's better than an MBA because it is designed specifically for professional communicators. Call Mark McElreath at 410-830-3803 or email at mmcelreath@towson.edu.

Angela D. Sinickas

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Graduate Education in Business Communication

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Q: I would like to hear input on any doctoral programs that have an emphasis on Business Communications. (I have a masters of science degree in Business Education and Adult and Higher Education.) Thanks.

PS: Maybe I should ask how valid a doctorate program is...

Marcella Enos

 

A: Dear Marcella:

I would suggest trying the same institutions that are described in the previous Q&A thread as having a business emphasis at the master's level.

As far as the value of a doctorate, I think it really depends on what it can realistically do for you versus what else you would do with the time it would take to earn the doctorate.

For example, if you want to teach at the university level or do research full-time (such as with a marketing research firm or ad agency), then a doctorate might be required as a minimum to get the job. If you're looking for a better position in the corporate world, the time might be better spent focusing on getting involved more operationally within your own company. For example, a friend of mine who wanted the VP of Marketing job took a detour and worked as the head of one of her company's sales offices for a few years. That very direct business experience gave her the edge to land the VP job in a way that a Ph.D. would not. She did have an MBA, however.

Also, if you want the doctorate for self-fulfillment or to expand your career horizons, consider getting the degree in some other related field rather than communication. For example, organizational development or adult learning might be good ones if you want to focus on corporate communication.

Good luck with your decisions,

Angela D. Sinickas

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Public Relations Benchmarking

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Q: Are there industry standards or benchmarks for what percentage of various PR activities should be allocated for a project? These activities would include: research; planning; creativity; media placement; design; production; etc.

Also are there benchmarks for the amount of man-hours that should be or are usually devoted to each of these activities?

Lillian

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A: Dear Lillian:

Based on benchmarking studies I've done for specific clients, these numbers, for both staffing and budgeting, vary extremely widely. If you take a look at the Q&A that follows yours, I describe some of the factors that lead to the variations and some places to look for publicly available benchmarks.

Good luck,

Angela D. Sinickas

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Measuring Public Relations Effectiveness

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Q: I have just started a job as Director of PR at the corporate office of a $6 billion global e-information company based in Canada. This is a new position, as is the entire communications department. I am currently attempting to purchase/develop some sort of method for measuring our PR effort at corporate. Most of my media relations goals are related to increasing the profile of the corporation as a whole in US and Europe (CEO profiles, corporate profile stories, etc.).

Could you provide me with any "best practices" in regard to measuring PR? I am currently looking at such products as Bacon's and Burrelles clip analysis reports, but those are so ineffective and inaccurate in really measuring effectiveness, though they may be the industry standard.

Jason Stewart

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A: Dear Jason,

Congratulations on your new assignment!

What you probably need to do is direct audience research in addition to the best type of clip analysis available. For example, do research with customers/prospects, financial analysts, trade reporters, business reporters, potential recruitment candidates, etc. to identify their level of awareness of your company's name and reputation in comparison to those of your competitors'. Then you need to track changes in these audience numbers on an ongoing basis and compare the changes against specific PR campaigns you launch to see what has the greatest impact.

Of course, the key messages you want to track will vary by group. What makes a company attractive to a potential shareholder might be quite different from what appeals to a top-notch software developer you might want to attract as an employee.

You should also explore integrating your PR measurement with advertising and marketing research because PR itself needs to be integrated with them. You might visit the site www.delahayemedialink.com for an interesting case study conducted for AT&T that showed the interrelationships of effectiveness for PR and advertising.

Feel free to call me to discuss this more fully. 714 241 8665.

Angela D. Sinickas

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Value of Public Relations Versus Advertising

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Q: One of my PR firm's clients is having problems understanding what we call "PR value". For us, PR value is the added value that comes with the increased credibility that an article or a news segment has over an advertisement. Unfortunately, I'm having a difficult time finding research to back up our claim. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?

Thanks,

Tim Winchester

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A: Dear Tim:

The most compelling study I've seen is one done by AT&T with the help of a media relations measurement firm. They quantified the relative value of ads and PR, both negative and positive, in a way that helps them determine when it's not even worth advertising because of the current type of media coverage. I believe you can find a summary of the study at www.delahaye.com, or it may now be www.delahayemedialink.com.

Let me know if that doesn't provide what you're looking for.

Angela D. Sinickas

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Impact of News Releases on Web Traffic

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Q: Are you aware of any statistics I can borrow from that would help us predict the effect of a press release on Web traffic? Sounds like an easy question, but my own research has come up dry.

Thanks.

Jill Shuman, Managing Director
Imagitas

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A: Dear Jill:

That doesn't sound easy at all! My first suggestion is to ask the editor of a publication called "Interactive PR," published by Ragan Communications in Chicago (www.ragan.com). They might have published something about this. Another resource might be to contact Delahaye Associates (www.delahaye.com). They do a lot of measurement of news coverage and also of web sites, so they might have some numbers of their own that they developed. Hope this helps. I'd love to have you post anything you find.

Angela D. Sinickas

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Media Monitoring

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Q: I was wondering with your experience if you could recommend a media monitoring service. I have researched Bowden's, and a local (Halifax) company called NewsWatch (a division of the CCL Group) and I'm sure that there are more out there, but who are they and what will they do for me? In order to be able to justify the money the company will put into this, I have been asked to research different companies and prepare somewhat of a comparison of them. I'm just wondering if you've seen anything like that already prepared and available to PR professionals.

I would appreciate any feedback or recommendations you have.

Thank you,

Tracy McMichael

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A: Dear Tracy,

I haven't seen a comparison of different media measurement services, but if one has been done, it would probably have been covered in a PR or Media Relations publication. You might contact the editors of industry publications like Philips PR News, PR Reporter, or PRSA's The Strategist. I believe Ragan Communications in Chicago also publishes one or more newsletters geared to media relations.

I have a copy of the 2001 PR and Corporate Communicators Yearbook published by Tom Moore (301-279-9455) that lists a number of monitoring services. I'll list their web sites below. Some specialize in just broadcast, or just Internet; others do it all. You might come up with a list of criteria of what you're looking for and check out the contenders on that basis from their sites and from talking with them. Some will provide a lot of raw data to you. Others provide a great deal of analysis and recommendations. Obviously, you'd pay more for the analysis, but in the end, it's far more valuable.

Here are some of the Web sites from the Yearbook:

www.baconsinfo.com
www.bowdens.com
www.burrelles.com
www.carma.com
www.delahaye.com
www.dowjones.com
www.ewatch.com
www.lexisnexis.com
www.lucepress.com
www.luceonline.com
www.mediascan.com
www.newsalert.com
www.newsclip.com
www.newsedge.com
www.prnewswire.com
www.romeike.co.uk
www.surveys.com
www.umi.com
www.vidmon.com
www.webclipping.com

Good luck,

Angela D. Sinickas

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Public Relations Statistics

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Q: Can you provide me with 3-5 general public relations statistics that I could use to prove the value of effective public relations?

Thanks,

Julie Baron

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A: Dear Julie:

You can probably take your pick of quite a few statistics at the following site: www.prfirms.org. They've been doing a lot of research recently and have some very compelling statistics. Good luck,

Angela D. Sinickas

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Reputation Management

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Q: I've been reading about the 'Walker Corporate Reputation Report' on the Walker site. (www.walkerinfo.com). After having read the general commercial intro I feel interested, and I've contacted Walker to find out more. On the other hand, I would like to know if you have heard about (or used) this tool, or if you can indicate me a communications professional who has been using it. I'm looking for an objective user testimonial. Please let me know! Thanks a lot in advance. :-)

Rene Willems,
Corporate Communications Manager Strategic Development & Controlling
AGFA

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Dear Rene:

I have heard of Walker, but I have never used their services myself. I might recommend looking at their client list and calling those companies' PR departments for their impressions.

Angela D. Sinickas

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