Miami (baby!) AMEC Summit 2023

At the AMEC Summit. Palm trees in Miami, looking south across Bayfront Park.

The AMEC Summit 2023 was in Miami from 15-17 May and as a first-time attendee I want to share some of my impressions and experiences from what was an informative and very friendly event.  

There were many great sessions, and it feels unfair to only talk about a few, but these were some of my particular favourites.

Distinguished Professor Jim Macnamara, PhD, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC, Professor of Public Communication, School of Communication by Learnings from Three Years Leading Evaluation of WHO Communication During COVID-1

Jim Macnamara provided thought provoking insight into the use of measurement and evaluation frameworks. Using his work with the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the COVID pandemic, he made the compelling case that we should use the label measurement, evaluation and learning (MEL) as the correct way to describe this activity. Just calling the work measurement and evaluation suggests that it is a retrospective technique, and by including learning we go beyond reportage and provide insights to adjust our strategy in real time. The WHO document is publicly available and an excellent read.

AI Ethics: access to implementation by John Murphy, Assistant Professor-in-Residence, Digital Media & Design, University of Connecticut.

AI was addressed in several presentations and panel sessions at the AMEC Summit, but John Murphy’s session was to my mind the most thought provoking and therefore most interesting. His thesis was that as communicators we need to put the ethics of AI and the data it utilises at the centre of our everyday practice. That AI does not think about humans when creating outputs was one of the more important realisations. It is therefore important, that unlike social media, there is a level of legislative and regulatory control over AI control. The technology must be used for the betterment of humans as it has the potential to cause great harm.

At the AMEC Summit - the pool of the Intercontinental Hotel just after dawn.

A value point of view: looking beyond your own reflection by Katie Paine, CEO, Paine Publishing.

Katie Paine presented an excellent piece of analysis that showed how so-called vanity metrics can be correlated with other user actions. Using a unique visit to a website as the desired outcome for a campaign, Katie scored a series of other actions that the user had undertaken in social and traditional media to see which correlated with the desired action.

The top positive correlation was neutral social mentions, followed by activity with traditional media and LinkedIn. The largest negative correlation was (unsurprisingly) making a negative comment, followed by activity on Twitter and Facebook. The work required several data sources to be ‘braided’ together to provide this level of insight. Better data literacy and management was a topic that appeared a number of times across the conference programme.

One of these presentations was from Stella Bayles of CoverageBook. Stella presented the results of a survey she had commissioned at the end of 2022 looking at how PR practitioners use data in their practise. There were some insightful statistics: 68% of PR practitioners said they had no one who filled the role of data expert whom they could consult and 98% had no external measurement team to talk with. More than half (57%) of PR agency and freelance practitioners said they lacked confidence in their own data skills.

At Purposeful Relations we help some of our clients with PR training to help them understand and use data more effectively. We can also act as that ‘external measurement team‘ to provide expert guidance and support on more challenging data issues.

This is disappointing though not unexpected, and it will take a concerted effort to integrate measurement and evaluation into day-to-day practise. Stella cited examples of where organisations had developed their companywide data capabilities. This included hiring data experts, it also development of the data skills of all staff. The good news is that new entrants to the profession seem far more comfortable with data that many existing practitioners.

The Intercontinental Hotel from the boardwalk of Bayfront Park

The final session at the AMEC Summit was Julia Petryk, Head of PR, MacPaw, who spoke about the massive impact of the Russian invasion on Ukraine and how as well as keeping the world leading MacPaw running smoothly, she had co-founded the Ukrainian PR army. This group of volunteers spends their time reminding the world of what is going on in Ukraine. As you would expect, it was a compelling and at times very emotional presentation and Julia rightly received a standing ovation at the end.

AMEC Summit 2024 in Sofia

As a first-time attendee the most striking aspect of the AMEC Summit was the networking. Sometimes a little awkward (on my part) I felt welcomed into the AMEC family and I want to give a big thanks to Johna Burke AMEC Global Managing Director and her team for the excellent organisation and Aseem Sood, AMEC Chair who along with the board provided their leadership. I’m looking forward meeting everybody again in Sofia at the AMEC Summit 2024.


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