When science meets media


Thanks to http://www.smbc-comics.com

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MMR frenzy 2.0?

I remember the debate vividly.

The notion that if your kids have the MMR jab, there’s a chance they get autism was being touted around by the press. They was one problem with this. It was the opinion of ONE scientist.The whole point of science is that it constantly calls into question theories which are then reviewed by other scientists. It’s only when there’s a general consensus that the theory is put forward as policy. (Kind of like the way democracy works).

It never seizes to amaze me how ignorant the press can be when it comes to understanding how science works. Roll on seven years and this ilk of debate has reared its ugly head with the dreaded swine flu and its advised treatment Tamiflu. The press once again have resorted to taking the advice of ONE paper in a journal to stoke up some public hysteria. The point of peer review is that other experts give their opinions on the research for a consensus to be reached.

But then again, I suppose that doesn’t get headlines like “Tamiflu is risk to pig virus kids”

Can social media turn PR from dark art to science?

There’s no denying social media has bought a level of science to the somewhat dark art that is PR. A recent (and excellent post) by Dave Fleet offers some really good examples of how and why PRs need to stop hiding behind the ‘creatively’ banner and get to grips with numbers.

I have to agree.

(Disclaimer: My grounding is in engineering of which mathematics played a huge part). That said, throughout my PR career I’ve listened to arguments about measuring the value of PR and anyone who has spent any length of time in the industry will have dealt with the dreaded AVE metrics.

An old colleague of mine once said to me, “What’s the point of trying to measure PR? You can’t measure influence”. I had to agree with him to a point as the metrics we had at our disposal seemed largely irrelevant to our clients business.

This has changed now. Using tools such as bit.ly means we can provide some level of quantitative analysis to the ‘conversation’ or ‘influence’ we’re paid to generate.

We PR types always complain that we aren’t taken seriously enough at board level. Social media and, more importantly the analysis of how it impacts a business, will at least allow us to make some inroads.