The Future Looks Bright For The PR Profession: Lessons From The 2018 PRSA International Conference

While attending PRSA’s International Conference in Austin this year, I thought how proud JJ&W’s founder, Patrick Jackson, would have been of all the conversations revolving around measuring behavioral outcomes and the PR practitioner’s role as relationship-builders and strategists… particularly at a time when our organizations, and our country, need these skills the most.

A few themes from the keynote and breakout sessions:

1.  As PR Professionals, it’s our job to help organizations understand how their key audiences think – how to reach them – and motivate them to behave

There were many sessions offering glimpses into the psychological profiles of Baby Boomers, Gen "X", Millenials/Gen "Y" and Gen "Z".Aria Finger, millennial marketing expert and founder of TMI Strategic Consulting, has engaged 6 million young people with her “DoSomething.org” website.Described as a “global movement for good,”she takes a creative approach to getting Gen Z involved in issues ranging from anti-smoking campaigns to collecting clothing for teens in need by asking them 3 simple questions:

       "What are you passionate about?”

       “How much time do you have?”

        “What would you like to do?”

Check out their website for more examples…including the “Teens For Jeans” partnership with Aeropostle.By the way – their original outreach for “Teens for Jeans” via email registered 89 volunteers – but their text outreach garnered 3,560 responses!Know what channels work best with your target audiences.

2.   PR can help drive the “Purpose Beyond Profit” movement by helping organizations identify the causes that make the most sense for their business.

In the “Digital Transformation of Communications” session, panelists discussed the fact that more than ever, CEOs and businesses are expected to lead change.Patagonia's very clear purpose of making the environment better and Starbuck's“Changing the World One Cup At A Time” campaign are two of many examples cited at the conference.Jonathan Mildenhall, marketing expert and former CMO of Airbnb, talked about the concept of “purpose driving performance”.He described how Airbnb took on the transgender discrimination issue with their “Mankind/Womankind/Trans-kind” universal belonging campaign.They used the triggering event of the ESPN ESPY Awards in 2015, when Caitlyn Jenner received the Arthur Ashe Award for courage, to launch the campaign.How has their approach impacted the bottom line, you ask?Airbnb now has 4,200,000 homes, 70 million guests and the company is valued at $31 billion.

3.    PR has the skills to bring conflicting parties together and facilitate civil debate and “eloquent listening”. 

The current Edelman Trust Barometer ratings show trust is at an all-time low. Keynote speakerRobert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, cites several reasons for the tumultuous, anger-filled environment we have today :

  • Tribal Geography (we live — online and off– where everyone thinks like us; we need to break out of our geographic and psychological bubbles, but it’s uncomfortable so we don’t like to do it)
  • Stagnant Wages:  Median wages since the 70s have not changed very much and there is a general frustration that “the system is rigged against us” – thus explaining the political gravitation to more extreme political figures like Trump and Sanders, who represent a move away from “politics as usual”.
  • Media Stirring The Pot.  The media is good at using anger, fighting and conflict as a way of grabbing reader/viewer attention.  As a society, we’ve lost the ability to listen with respect and engage in civil dialogue.  Reich says PR people can have influence not over the conflict of debates but over the tone of the debate.

There is an opportunity for PR to showcase our trust and relationship-building skills…both externally (i.e. by engaging communities opposed to an issue) and internally (i.e. within our employee work groups), capitalizing on our counseling and organization development skills.

4.    PR can help our organizations “break through the clutter”, by both using what we know about graphic psychology and utilizing emerging technologies.  Fun fact from consultant Christopher Hannegin:  4 out of 5 Smartphone users check their device within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning.  Yes…guilty here! 

And if you don’t believe we live in an over-communicated world, check out www.internetlivestats.com to see how many photos have been posted to Instagram, how many tweets have been sent etc…

According to Hannegin, we need to “tell the unexpected story” and “show familiar stuff in new ways”, incorporating the use of infographics when relaying complicating earnings data for our clients, for example.Stella Low, Sr. VP of Dell, urges us to continue learning about immersive technology and to consider how “virtual reality” and “augmented reality” can be used as new tools in the PR toolbox.

5.    PR is worth its weight in gold during crisis situations.

For years we have been talking about the need for the “court of public opinion” to be considered along with the “court of law” – and it is clear from the number of crisis communication presentations at conference that we have arrived at the decisionmaking table in crisis situations.Higher education consultant Joe Brennan and Eric Stern did a session on the “6 Tasks Every Leader Must Do” in a crisis and urged PR practitioners to:

  • Prepare for multiple scenarios – and while you’re preparing the spokesperson, include your 2nd in command — needs backup!
  • Guide leadership to speed up a traditionally slow decisionmaking cycle – your statement can’t wait in today’s 24/7 news cycle
  • Define the end of the crisis; rituals help to transition (e.g. a candlelight vigil after a shooting allows people time to grieve, and then move on)
  • Conduct a lessons learned review – it’s an opportunity to fix what went wrong for next time – but also, to recognize what went well.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is Senior Counsel and Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm based in the Seacoast of NH.For more information, visit www.jjwpr.com or email her at rschell@jjwpr.com.

Strategic PR Planning Is Critical To An Organization’s Success

If your first thought when presented with a public relations problem or opportunity is to brainstorm tactics – e.g. “let’s do a newsletter” “send a tweet”, “post on Facebook”, “hold a meeting” — then you are planning, but not strategically.

If your first thoughts are: “how does this opportunity fit with our overall goals?”, “what behaviors do we need from our priority stakeholders?”, “what are the underlying psychological or structural barriers in the way of achieving those behaviors?” , “what communication/behavioral theories or case studies could support or guide our decisions?” … then you are being strategic.

I explain to PRSA Strategic Planning workshop attendees that they probably are strategic thinkers already. However, it’s often easier to default to tactics that are in our comfort zone and can be quickly implemented. The problem is that just executing tactics without strategic direction could end up being a waste of our time and our organization’s resources. In today’s environment, public relations practitioners are being held accountable to the bottom line … we need to be able to justify our actions to senior management and provide measurable results, just as legal, finance and other departments do..

The strategic planning process consists of five distinct areas of work: 1) Establishing Direction, 2) Gathering/Conducting Research, 3) Objective Setting by Priority Publics, 4) Determining Strategy, Tactics, Evaluation, 5) Setting Timeline, Budget and Staffing. Once the plan has been determined, we need to stay flexible, knowing the environment we are operating in could change; a “triggering event” could impact the effectiveness of our strategy; or research could show that our priority audiences are not responding to our key messages.

Before we even begin the implementation of our plan, we must have a clear idea of what success will look like …for example: our internal audience will buy-in to and support our process; senior management will lead by example; our budgets and person power will increase; we will achieve the behaviors we set out to change or reinforce; and we will become an integral part of the leadership team charged with achieving the organization’s overall goals.

I’ll be presenting a half-day version of the day-long workshop at PRSA’s International Conference in Austin, TX on October 7. Join me!
For more information about Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com

Patrick Jackson and The Start of Modern Behavioral Public Relations

Pat Jackson, JJ&W’s founder, was a behaviorist. Plain and simple. He taught those of us fortunate enough to work with him over the years to learn to be behaviorists, too.

Behavior change is hard – ask anyone who has tried to go on a diet, stop smoking or change a dominant personality trait – so Pat taught us to look for triggering events that could be a hook into behavior change, and to engineer behavior reinforcement into existing behavior patterns. Most of us, for example, go to the dentist twice a year – and for those who aren’t good about flossing as a regular part of their oral hygiene, those dentist visits become “triggering events” to “cram floss” – usually the 2 weeks prior to the visit, and definitely the two weeks after the visit, when the dentist’s lectures and scary-looking gingivitis posters are top of mind. But it is what happens in between those visits to reinforce flossing behavior that is the key to going from “cram flossing” to flossing that is part of your regular oral hygiene routine.

We’re about to embark on a campaign to educate and change behaviors around an important health problem — Lyme disease. There is a need to educate both children and parent, about Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses so they can take steps to prevent it … and when prevention isn’t possible, to identify and treat it early to minimize long-term effects.
Data is leading us to target kids between the ages of 5 and 15 – particularly those with greater exposure to ticks, such as those kids in outdoor camp programs. This is a fantastic opportunity to partner with local not-for-profits who serve children and their families organizations for the one-two punch of effectiveness, to reach the parents so they can reinforce the behaviors we are teaching. These behaviors include, on the simplest of levels, how to conduct a check for ticks – and if a tick is found, how to remove it and what to do with it afterwards. If we think like strategic communicators about the best time to check for ticks, it’s when you’re naked – so tips that can be posted in the bathroom – and even more specifically, the shower stall — make sense.

In fact, Pat was a big proponent of using the bathrooms to communicate messages, and I had to laugh when I went out to eat one of my favorite restaurants in Amesbury, Mass and saw the poster advertising the fact that the restaurant is now open for lunch, right on the bathroom door. Educating those most apt to come to lunch — a current customer. Very effective!
Whether you are spreading news about new restaurant hours or how to prevent Lyme disease, two cardinal rules prevail:

1. Learn about your target audience and the best place to reach them with your message
2. Think about the natural ways to reinforce behavior change until it becomes a force of habit … kind of like recycling is with many today.

Yes, Pat was a behaviorist, whether he was in a boardroom or a bathroom. He often closed his speeches by talking about how the directions posted near the hand dryers in the bathrooms should have read: 1. Push button to turn on dryer. 2. Place hands under dryer. 3. Rub hands vigorously under dryer. 4. Wipe hands on pants! Because 9 times out of 10, that’s what we all do.

(Want to learn more about Pat Jackson and his approach to behavior change? Check him out at www.patrickjacksonpr.com.)

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is senior counsel and partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm. For more information about JJ&W, visit their website at www.jjwpr.com or email Robin at rschell@jjwpr.com.

Designing Recognition Programs That Motivate Behavior

Whether you’re in charge of designing a rewards and recognition for your organization, or putting an awards program together for your industry, the question to ask yourself is: what behaviors are we trying to motivate? Teamwork? Employee retention? An above-and-beyond work ethic? Awareness? And the million dollar question: Is our current recognition program doing the job?

A few years back, JJ&W was conducting an internal communication study for an airline client. One of the objectives was to get feedback from employees on how they felt about the client’s recognition program. Amazingly, one anecdote came up consistently in the 25 focus groups we conducted. It concerned one of the airline’s toughest financial years. At the holidays, the CEO sent a letter recognizing everyone’s hard work, along with two cookies, to each employee. Here’s what we heard from employees: “If you want to motivate us, don’t give us two $3 cookies in a $6 box…bring in lunch for our crew when we’ve been working 24/7 during a tough weather stretch!” If you don’t know how employees want to be recognized and rewarded …ask! A little research can go a long way in helping you to design an effective recognition program. Note: as a result of the research JJ&W conducted, the recognition program was revamped to include both individual and team awards, given that teamwork at an airline is a must-have behavioral goal. After all, we all want those pilots, gate agents and baggage handlers working together to deliver customer delight!

A few tips on designing a strategic rewards and recognition program:

1. Evaluate your program…is it driving your behavioral goals? The Yankee Chapter of PRSA gives an award, originally known as the Yankee Award, but renamed for JJ&W’s founder and now called the Patrick Jackson Award. The Chapter asks its members to nominate professionals who are not in the public relations field but who successfully use public relations principles to benefit their organization and society, while demonstrating a track record of building public relationships that earn trust. Last year, Van Mcleod, former NH Commissioner of the Arts, won the award posthumously and joined a list of NH heavy hitters including Governor Walter Peterson, Bishop Gene Robinson and former NH Charitable Foundation president Lew Feldstein. The whole idea behind the award is to educate those outside our profession about what PR is and what it looks like when it is done well. The award has been in place since the 90’s, and rather than just keep giving the award, there is a committee in place to evaluate its effectiveness – are we getting the behavioral outcomes we want? Are we educating NH’s senior leaders about the value of PR by giving this award?

2. Consider filling a niche that doesn’t exist. Think about scholarships – there are many schools with awards for financial need and sky-high GPAs. When my high school scholarship committee got together to design the criteria for our class scholarship, we decided to go for a new niche and reward the “slow starter that finished strong”. When we are screening applications, we’re looking for the person who turned the corner in the latter half of their high school career, balancing GPA with work, outside interests and public service.

3. Design an industry award that gives back to the profession in some way. At our 35th anniversary (over 30 years ago!), Jackson Jackson & Wagner established the JJ&W Behavioral Science prize with a donation of $35,000 to the PRSA Foundation. The intent was to honor an individual behavioral science researcher whose scholarly work enhances the understanding of the concepts and theories that contribute to the effectiveness of the public relations practitioner. Since JJ&W’s focus is behavior change, this research is an important foundation to the work we do for clients. Pat Jackson coined this type of giving “enlightened self-interest” — you do good for others but it reflects positively on your organization as well. The winner is honored at PRSA International Conference, with the idea they will conduct a professional development session based on their work, so conference attendees can all benefit. Note: the award is not given every year; just when the awards committee finds a deserving candidate.

Similarly, PRSA established the Silver Anvil awards back in 1945 to recognize the best public relations campaigns in our industry – these are all catalogued on PRSA’s website, www.prsa.org, for the benefit of all members. Last year, NASA was recognized with the Best of Silver Anvil awards for their “Year in Space: Communicating NASA’s Historic One-Year Mission from Space to Ground” program. Click here to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iTaEyl1Mcg

A final thought: if you’re on the receiving end of a prestigious award or recognition, don’t stop at issuing a press release to announce it – go direct to the audiences that matter most. When I earned my APR back in 1991, JJ&W notified our clients directly, and I got some wonderful hand-written notes of congratulations from fellow PR practitioners and friends acknowledging this accomplishment. As a measure of how much those meant to me … I still have them in my possession today, all these years later.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is senior counsel and partner for Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm. For more information about Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

22 Measurement Standards To Help Really, Really Understand Employees And Build Effective Communication Systems To Reach Them

For a long time, the focus for internal communications has been building and measuring employee engagement. How “engaged” are our employees in our organization and in what they do? How does our workforce compare to others? Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools to measure employee engagement and see how your organization rates compared to others. Woo hoo!

But in the words of legendary PR practitioner Patrick Jackson, “SO WHAT?” What does it mean that your employees are on par with or slightly above (or below) others in your industry or region on their engagement score? And, what can you do about it? What does it really mean and how do you raise a low score or increase an already high one?

This month, the PR Journal has published a paper on this very topic that I have been working on, along with my colleagues, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Associate Professor at Kent State and Sean Williams, M.A. True Digital Communications, OH, for the past few years. We recognized a while back that it is the components of engagement that we must measure, in order to affect change — not the overall concept of engagement. “But what are those components?” we wondered.

After conducting both professional and academic literature reviews, a two-round Delphi study with leading Internal Communication professionals (those with 10 years plus of practice in the field and a known thought leader in the profession), plus numerous presentations at PRSA, International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) and elsewhere, we arrived at 21 specific standards divided into 3 “buckets”. Those buckets are:

1) Outtakes (whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messaging),
2) Outcomes (evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors)
3) Organizational Impact (if and how internal communication has influenced organizational performance).

Each bucket has specific standards that can be measured independently of each other and thus be tackled for improvement in many ways– words, symbols, actions, etc. All together, these 21 standards might define “engagement” but without measuring them independently, we really don’t know the root cause of an engagement problem. See specific standards for each bucket below or in the article at: https://prjournal.instituteforpr.org/

We also believe that it is not necessary to measure all 21Standards concurrently or even work on all of them simultaneously to see improvements. Your organization could identify a few in each bucket (or just one bucket) to begin work. Just identifying areas for work is a step in the right direction! Utilize your employee body to help select those standards that need the most attention. Ask them what can be done to improve. Involving them in the process is a great first step to building a new path and a culture builder/healer.

Currently, the team is seeking a few organizations who would like to work with us in identifying how to measure each of these concepts — with survey research and behaviorally with data an organization may already have on hand. If your organization might have an interest, let us know!

Measurement Standards for Internal Communication 2018

Give Where You Get: Social Responsibility Policies That Make Sense

According to the Cone Communication 2017 CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) study, 87% of Americans will purchase a product because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. Two-thirds of Americans will refuse to purchase a product if they learn that the company supported an issue contrary to their beliefs.

It is important for corporations to be transparent about how social responsibility dollars are allocated and what issues they are supporting. Nonprofits also need to be forthright about who is funding them, and how the money is spent.

JJ&W has been a proponent of developing clear corporate social responsibility/giving policies for many years, and urging clients to communicate about them. Whether you are Target (donating 5% of profits in communities where they have stores) or Xerox (involving over a half million Xerox employees through their Community Involvement Program) or Google (with initiatives like Google Green, a corporate effort to reduce the use of resources effectively while supporting renewable power), strategic social responsibility is an opportunity that should not be ignored. Some organizations, like Patagonia, are even choosing their suppliers based on social responsibility practices. They vet suppliers using a 4-fold approach, considering ethical sourcing, social responsibility, product quality and environmental compliance before they select.

Questions your leadership should be asking about their corporate social responsibility policy:

1. Are we supporting causes and issues that have a connection to our business?
2. To what degree are we encouraging employees to get involved in social responsibility activities? (Note: programs designed this way
have the additional payoff of increasing morale and teamwork)
3. How well have we communicated the policy in order to make clear where we are spending social responsibility resources – so we don’t
waste the time of applicants or the department in our organization charged with weeding through the applications?
4. How well have we communicated the results of our social responsibility programs? Have we effectively tracked where employee time and
corporate dollars are spent, and how this time and money has translated into results? Do our employees, Board members, vendors,
customers and other key audiences know about these results?
5. Are we giving where we get business?
6. Are we supporting the masses or practicing focused philanthropy?

In 1991, JJ&W established the JJ&W Behavioral Science Prize, aligned with our values and in honor of our 35th year of practice. Guidelines specify the Prize should be awarded to a person or persons who has/have contributed a significant body of theory and/or research that enhances understanding of behavioral public relations and whose work is available to scholars and practitioners. Recipients come from the field of public relations, social science and business. (For more about the award and a complete list of winners, visit www.jjwpr.com).

USING DATA TO DRIVE BUSINESS DECISIONS — DRIVING THEME AT SHMD CONFERENCE

Hats off to the Society for Healthcare Strategy & Market Development (SHMD) for putting together an A+ event in Orlando last week filled with substantive presentations and fantastic keynote speakers.

One of the clear themes that emerged from the conference was the need for PR and Marketing practitioners to understand and use data to drive organizational change and decisionmaking. Rick Foster, MD, Sr. Executive for the South Carolina Hospital Association, spoke about his use of data with communities and healthcare providers to reduce healthcare disparities – the Health Equity issue – and how data help them effectively target communities and even neighborhoods with programs to meet their specific health needs.

John Berg, VP of System Marketing for the SCL Health System, urged professionals to go beyond the counting of Facebook “likes” and “shares” in their measurement efforts. “What the President and CFO want to know is, ‘How many new patients did this campaign generate, what was the estimated revenue and how does that compare to our control group?’.

Ty Kennon of Mercy Health Systems, explained “if our department can’t measure it, we don’t do it.” His was the only department to get a budget increase this fiscal year, based on the ROI (Return on Investment) metrics they provided to upper management.
Gail Winslow, Associate Director, University of Massachusetts Medical School, and I presented on “Using Data to Drive Behaviors & Make Effective Decisions”. Gail suggests practitioners begin with a “data audit” to determine what data the organization has already and what additional data might be needed to drive organizational decisionmaking.

In her role as Director of Marketing at Concord Orthopaedics, Gail looked at CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data, state hospital association surveys, new patient data, surgical volume data, customer satisfaction survey results, referral data and conducted a zip code analysis as well as an analysis of payor mix. This led to her recommendation to open a 2nd Day Surgery Center and a 3rd practice location. The 3rd practice location reached its performance goal in the first 9 months of operation and the 2nd Day Surgery Center outperformed expectations at the half-year mark.

In her current role at the UMass Medical School, Gail led the conversion from an outdated legacy data system to Salesforce in an effort to automate data collection that would ultimately show the profitability of business units, build capacity for staff recruitment and allow for trends analysis.

A clear message to practitioners: don’t be afraid of data! If you don’t know how to analyze, curate and translate it now, make that your next professional development goal. If you would like help in evaluating your current measurement program, contact Robin Schell or Stacey Smith at Jackson Jackson & Wagner: rschell@jjwpr.com or ssmith@jjwpr.com, or, for more information on her programs contact Gail Winslow at gail.winslow@umassmed.edu. More about JJ&W at www.jjwpr.com

MEASURING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT — WHAT TO MEASURE & WHY

“Engagement” is, as we like to say, the “flavor of the month” amongst organization leadership, employee communication and human resource professionals.

Getting an engagement score helps an organization know how they compare with other organizations like theirs as well as win headlines for “best places to work” in magazines and newspapers. What it doesn’t do is tell leadership anything about what might be wrong and what to do about it. Does the score reflect a problem with trust? transparency? empowerment? teamwork? satisfaction? something else?

A team of public relations academics and professionals set out a few years ago to dissect employee engagement in order to understand what are the driving factors of employee relations, and what truly contributes toward building a workforce that is committed to and fully productive for the organization. Lead by Sean Williams of TruDigital Communications, Ohio, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D. of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Ph.D. of Kent State and myself, along with 13 other international professionals and scholars, we sought to fully define Measurement Standards for the profession around employee relations.

A glimpse into the soon to be published paper, shows 22 Standards, broken down into three key categories:

 Outtakes — Whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messages
 Outcomes — evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors
 Organizational Impact — Whether and how internal communication has influence organizational performance

What is NOT a category is outputs, what is generated as a result of a program or campaign, and now typically measured by the number of releases, brochure, posters, meetings held, etc. or the number of column inches generated. Outputs were discarded by our group because they show no impact, only production. Using these data points for measurement would be like rating your dentist’s effectiveness on the number of x-rays he took of your mouth to cure a toothache!

Next steps for the committee is to identify methods for measuring each of the 22 Standards — both by self-reporting (surveys) and observation (behavioral indicators already available in an organization). The committee hopes to work with three different organizations to test these standards and their measurement methods — Southwest Airlines is already on-board!

We expect the paper to be published soon, but if you are interested in a bootlegged copy of the 22 standards and their definitions, contact me at ssmith@jjwpr.com.

Changing Behaviors On Concussion Treatment Through “Chalk Talk”

The "4 Steps To Public Behavior Change"  by Jim Grunig, Harold Mendelsohn, Brenda Darvin,  Max McCombs and other behavior change specialists laid out a path of action that has been used with great success by such efforts as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), smoking cessation programs and others.  Now it has been applied to the problem of concussions and learning. 

The Brain Injury Association of NH (BIANH), in cooperation with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College and the Bureau of Developmental Services (BDS), has developed a pilot program called “Chalk Talk” for returning students with concussions to the classroom with the same care taken that they would use to return them to the playing field.

For the past 3 years, BIANH representatives have worked with Concussion Management Teams at 9 high schools and two middle schools to establish a protocol that involves baseline testing before a concussion occurs, and careful monitoring to ease them back into their academic schedule to allow the brain time to recover.

“Instead of sending the student home for 2 weeks, where the temptation to watch TV and use electronics is high, the student recovers under the careful guidance of a team of school professionals.  This may include time out of the classroom in a specially designed location to address issues of fatigue or sensitivities to light or sound,” says Lynne Fleming, Program Coordinator. “It’s a team approach, and the school nurse, athletic trainer, teachers, parents, guidance counselors and Dartmouth Hitchcock’s pediatric neuropsychologists are all evaluating the student’s progress.  They are monitored and given a reduced work load, so they are only sent back to a full schedule of classes when they are ready.”

In addition to comparing post-concussion data with baseline data, parents, teachers and nurses are asked to complete forms to evaluate the student’s progress on a daily basis.  “Having the expertise of a trained pediatric neuropsychologist is key,” says Steve Wade, Executive Director.  “We were fortunate to receive a 5-year ACL (Administrators for Community Living) grant, much of which is used to pay the pediatric neuropsychologists for consulting to the education team.”

In 2012, NH Governor John Lynch signed SB402, otherwise known as “return to play” legislation.  This bill gave schools clear guidelines on returning a student to the playing field after they had sustained a concussion.  Now the BIANH is considering legislation for RLT or “return to learn” to take the protocols developed in Chalk Talk one step further.  “There are 7 states out there with Return to Learn legislation,” says Executive Director Steve Wade, “and we are in the process of studying how it has been implemented elsewhere.  We plan to talk with opinion leaders on the topic of brain injury here in NH about the merits of similar legislation here.”

So the 4 steps to public behavior change,  was ideal for successfully asking for Return to Learn legislation.

The 4 Steps In Action:

Step 1 developed a coalition campaign to educate the public that a concussion is a brain injury and it is critical not to overtax the brain while it is in recovery mode.  This involves identifying opinion leaders on the topic, getting them to recognize the problem and how they could be affected, and giving them opportunities to address the problem (by serving on concussion team task forces, advocating the proper treatment of concussed students, advocating legislation etc.).

Step 2, enforcement, or establishing laws or guidelines that would mandate the behavior change –is where Return to Learn legislation would come in .

Step 3, engineering, or enacting a structural change to work around the situation is what  BIANH has done with the creation of the Chalk Talk program and system for evaluating progress.

Step 4,  social reinforcement –is where the behavior becomes a socially-acceptable norm, and social rewards and punishment take over the job of enforcing it.  Ideally, in the future, every school will have a protocol for returning a student to the classroom after a concussion.   Just as we have learned we need to protect the developing brain from re-injury on the playing field, we now know we need to reduce cognitive demands in the classroom in order to give the brain time to heal.

The “So What” Factor: Migrating From Outputs to Outcomes in PR Research

For years, PR practitioners measured effectiveness by “counting clips” and calculated the dollar value of press coverage they obtained for their organizations. Some PR people are still doing this — mostly, we hope, only when their bosses are demanding it. We have made progress, but we know we have much more work to do to educate management on what Public Relations and Communications professionals can …and should … be measuring.

The good news is, more and more public relations professionals are thinking about what JJ&W calls the “so what” factor – we measured it, but so what? What are the behavioral results? It’s nice that we know how many people recalled seeing our hospital's advertising …but what really matters is, how many people chose our hospital for their healthcare needs?

I’m happy to report that the subject of how PR professionals measure the impact of what we do is being presented on, discussed and debated a lot more frequently than when I started my career 30 years ago. In 2010, the Institute of PR Research formed the Barcelona Principles. There are 7 principles, which are continually discussed and refined, and they reflect the direction PR research is moving in our field. Principle #2, for example, states unequivocally that “measuring the effect on outcomes is recommended vs. only measuring outputs.”

JJ&W has been talking about the importance of measuring behavior for years; Pat Jackson, JJ&W’s founder, together with leading academic professional Jim Grunig, created the Public Relations Behavioral Model and implored practitioners to define the “ultimate desired behavior(s)” they were seeking — in order to have a clear behavioral goal against which to measure success. It’s nice to see the scales in our field tipping in the behavioral direction.

At the International PR Research Conference in Miami this past March, practitioners from all over the world shared ideas on measuring ROI (return on investment) relative to PR activity. Visit www.instituteforpr.org to download and listen to some of those conversations.

Both keynote and breakout session speakers at the PRSA District Conference held on April 28th in Corning, NY focused their remarks on delivering measurable results.

• Ross Levi from the NYS Division of Tourism talked about the impact of the “I Love NY” campaign and its efforts to broaden tourism beyond NYC to all parts of NY – generating a staggering $102 billion in tourism dollars for the state.

• Katie Paine of KD Paine & Partners urged PR practitioners to “measure behavior, not activities”. Instead of doing research to measure our performance, she said, PR should be conducting research that will produce better results for our organizations

• I added to the District conference research conversations by presenting with my colleague Dane Wiseman on the topic, “Your PR Data Has A Story”. Part of dissecting the behaviors we want to reinforce or change is finding out what motivates our audiences, and what’s blocking the behaviors we want from our audiences. We need to make sure our research is asking the right behavioral questions so we have the information we can use to develop the right PR strategies.

For a copy of my Powerpoint on “PR Storytelling with Behavior-Based Data”, email me at rschell@jjwpr.com. For more information on Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA, Senior Counsel & Partner,       Jackson Jackson & Wagner