IPR Research Symposium in London

Saturday 10th September the American based Institute for PR (IPR) organized a research symposium as a ‘Thank you’ to their European supporters, to discuss the latest insights around internal communication, listening, social media, and behavioral insights. Seven speakers presented during four hours interesting insights of their work and were also able to address many questions from the audience from academia and communication professionals.


Dr Jim Macnamara (University of Technology Sydney) presented and discussed the key findings of his two-year, three country study “Organizational Listening: The Missing Link in Two-Way Communication, Dialogue, and Engagement” of how organizations listen – or don’t – noting that listening is an essential corollary of speaking (i.e., dissemination information) in excellence, dialogic, relationships, and engagement theories of PR. An excellent presentation with many links to the practice of (not-)listening.


Kathleen Sprehe (Director of Reputation Research & Strategy at APCO Insight) gave more insight in her presentation  “Measuring Corporate Reputation Through Opinion Research and Digital Analytics” in how do companies ensure they are communicating effectively to key stakeholders. She used a case study of the company Flex – formerly Flextronics to demonstrate the impact of opinion and digital research in the evolution of a brand.

kathleen-spreheDr Sarab Kochhar (Institute for Public Relations) addressed the importance on strategy communication titled: “From Content to Context: Reshaping Employee Engagement”. She showed the results of how more than 1,500 employees in five countries are confident they understand the core purpose of their organization and find meaning in their work, but believe organizations have much work to be done in prioritizing and communicating strategy internally. She presented some good take-ways which definitely will find their way into practice.


Dr Stephen A. Greyser (Harvard Business School) was able to give some exclusive branding insights in his presentation “The Branding and Identity of the Nobel Prize”. He explored the communications issues that arise when dealing with the Nobel Prize process. This research project is the first (and so far only) field-based research on the topic. The study has been accomplished with the cooperation of the Nobel Prize network.


Dr Marcia DiStaso (Penn State University), shared in her presentation “The Science of Influence: How Social Media Affects Decision Making in the Healthcare, Travel, and the Financial Industry”, some really interesting outcomes. As organizations are increasingly focusing their efforts on content marketing and digital influencer programs, but how influential do consumers say social media and various sources really are on their behavior? She shared the results of a consumer survey in the US to determine what factors and sources on social media influence purchasing and decision-making in three industries: healthcare, travel and financial. It was clear that this is only one of more studies in this field to come, focusing on different business areas, geographies and stakeholders.


Mark Weiner (PRIME Research) addressed in his presentation “Irreversible: The Public Relations Big Data Revolution” one of the hot topics where communication professionals are struggling with; Big Data (see also EACD European Communication Monitor 2016). In his session he defined Big Data as it relates to public relations, described data integration for public relations, and drew from three case studies from Southwest Airlines, MasterCard, and Cisco Systems of which he presented the first two. This presentation led to the question on “How are universities preparing future communication professionals who need to know a lot about big data, social science, finance, marketing, politics and…..communication?”


The last presentation by Dr Jon White (Henley Business School) on “Behavioral Insights: Foundation for Public Relations Practice” led to some interesting discussion across the group. He addressed how the growing interest in the application of insights from applied psychology has special relevance to public relations’ itself. “An applied social science that influences behavior and policy,” as said by Harold Burson. He explained how behavioral insights research is vital to the public relations practice and how it is connected to other social sciences.


The content of the presentations led also in the following cocktail reception to a lot of lively discussions and especially the conclusion that there is still a lot of room for further research in the field of PR and communication at both sides of the ocean.

A great thanks to IPR for organizing this event!


Author: Ger Peerboom

Seasoned communications professional with a successful track record impacting the performance of major organizations. Used to working closely with the C-suite and cross-functional teams to realize enterprise goals with the introduction of enhanced integrated communication and branding approaches.

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