In the final interview of Show 41 (skip to 36:35) of the csuitepodcast, recorded at PRWeek’s 2017 PR360, I spoke with FleishmanHillard Fishburn’s Deputy CEO and Senior Partner, Ali Gee about her presentation, ‘The Seven Sins of Change and how to avoid them’.
To begin with, Ali explained that in her presentation, as well as behaviour change, change can encompass anything from making people love a brand they haven’t loved before, to driving up share price, engaging employees, or delivering brand and corporate reputation – anything that makes a measurable difference to a business’ or a brand’s objectives. However, her biggest concerns for the PR industry in general is that it can’t always prove what it is doing actually works and that, as an industry, whilst it’s increasingly focussing around creativity, great strategy and content, if the focus is on output and not outcomes, Ali believes PR has its eye off the ball.
In her talk in the conference she said that winning at Cannes [Lions], being in the [PR Week] Power book and pitching and winning is cool, but she asked the audience to truthfully answer what proportion of their work makes a real difference, arguing that in many cases, they won’t know, and in lots of cases, it makes no difference at all.
So below are Ali’s seven sins and how she explained them:
In a new business situation, when a client brief lands in an agency, 9 times out of 10 you are trying to ingratiate yourself to the new prospect, rather than pointing out that often the brief isn’t totally clear in terms of what the client wants. So the sin is that people don’t ask the client “Can I ask you to be clear? What is the change that you want to see?”
In situations where you’ve been made aware of what the change is that the client wants, often, PR people just go straight for it. Ali used the example of helping people lose weight, where PR will think it needs to do is campaign towards that goal, when in actual fact, asking people for a much simpler behaviour change can still deliver that same outcome. In her presentation, Ali used the example of two scientists at the University of West Virginia who, when faced with the task of reducing obesity in the US State, established that the one thing most Virginians had in common was that they drank milk most days. They therefore concluded that if they could secure a switch from full fat to skimmed milk in these people, then the average Virginian’s diet would immediately attain the USDA recommended levels of saturated fat. She explained that asking people to change from drinking full fat milk to skimmed-milk is totally different to asking them to reduce calorie intake, or eat their five a day or do more exercise.
Often a client side sin, where they ask for too much. For example, if a client asks for a 25% in consumer behaviour or shift in attitude to a particular issue, that result is unlikely to be realistic. Ali said that big scale behaviour change doesn’t happen in months and double digit behaviour change takes time and large budgets, usually requiring a multi-layered campaign
Too many campaigns say they are based on research, when in fact they are based on what Ali calls, ‘sight’ research’, i.e., observations of what we see people do. However, Ali believes what’s missing here is the ‘In’ research, i.e., what’s actually inside their heads, or hearts, and why it drives the behaviour you observe. It’s her way of explain why the two elements make up ‘Insight’, and so without both, you won’t be able to deliver a strong strategy that will deliver change.
Ali said that people don’t want to be forced to be different and are happy being in the status quo and that therefore, it’s important to make the ask of people small.
Arrogance or overt pride. In Ali’s opinion, as an industry, PR goes around slapping each other on the back for some great creativity, but sometimes that glamour and excitement of the work is allowed to get in the way of whether the work actually delivered real change.
No, nothing to do with fried chicken! Ali was referring here to people waving their finger in the air in lieu of doing real measurement.
After talking through the list, I asked Ali for one thing, and one thing only, that she would ask the industry to do to help her in her cause, ensuring she follows her own rules by not being too greedy and asking for a small change to start with! Her response was to ask the judges and owners of awards in the industry to literally throw out any entry that doesn’t have proper outcome measurements or where the outcomes that are measured don’t relate directly and clearly to the stated objectives.
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