Can Real-Time Public Relations Analysis Help Association Marketers?

New research looks at ways that analysis of social media and online forums can help marketers understand their association’s relationship with key stakeholders and evaluate campaign messaging.

How members and the public perceive your association is key to its brand. And while association marketers prioritize managing their brand, there’s often less time spent on measuring member perception and what’s influencing it—especially true when staff and budget allocated to them are small.

However, new research published in in the Journal of Applied Communication Research contends there’s a way for marketers to better gauge key stakeholders’ perception. Researchers looked at the Red Cross in China during a period when the public increasingly had a negative view of the organization and donations plummeted. After studying what happened, Yang Cheng, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and Glen Cameron, a colleague at the University of Missouri, developed an approach that can give real-time insight into public perceptions.

I spoke with Cheng about their research into Contingent Organization Public Relations. The COPR technique is designed to more accurately measure the relationship between an organization and what Cheng describes at its “key public,” which would include interested stakeholders like members, prospects, partners, and sponsors.

Rather than relying on self-reported data and surveys, which provide a very static measurement, the COPR technique uses software—which an association would have to purchase—that scours the web and social media for chatter that gets to how people actually feel about an organization and analyzes it as it pertains to six different relationship factors.

Users can aggregate and collect real-time data from key constituencies and evaluate it to get a pulse of public response to an organization. “If you just want a quick checking of what is happening, based on the software, it could be 30 minutes,” Cheng said.

“We are providing the dynamic, longitudinal view,” she said. “We rely on public statements on social media.”

And while Cheng acknowledges that people do troll online, the goal of this approach is to look for the overall sentiment, not outliers. In the research, Cheng and Cameron looked at several public comments on multiple forums to assess the relationship between the Red Cross and its key public over time.

While the research looked back at how a communication crisis unfolded for the Red Cross, Cheng says insights gained from the research can be applied to real-time situations, particularly when an organization is having PR troubles.

“Crisis is a very big part where we can use COPR,” she said. “When things happen, it’s a key time to check how people think about this. It is definitely valuable for crisis and conflict management. That is the moment when your key public pays lots of attention.”

However, COPR is not limited to a crisis. It could be used to evaluate a public relations campaign. “When you are running a campaign, COPR [can be used] to check people’s sense about your campaign or about specific terms,” Cheng said. “We can get an analysis of what is happening between your organization and the key public.”

Cheng added that COPR techniques can even be used to help with some predictive modeling. “We can do predictions as to what may happen in the future between your organization and its key public,” Cheng said.

What methods do you currently use to keep track of online sentiment about your association? Share your thoughts in the comments.

(Михаил Руденко/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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