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Elhing wrote about and interesting issue, which is education in PR. There are growing numbers of undergraduate and graduate programs for PR. The reason education is needed is because it helps Public Relations to grow from occupation to a profession.
Students learn ethics, theories and technical skills over a course of a few years. They don’t just go into public relations with the knowledge to produce effective messages and do campaigns. They come out of universities having learned much more than that, like how to negotiate and handle stakeholder relationships in the long-term.
Yet, as Ehling argued, all to often PR is confused with publicity. Publicity is of course important for any organization to design messages, but it should not be confused with PR. Moreover PR should not be seen as a message and campaign producing “machine”. Stakeholder relationships are important and PR as a profession, can only reach its full potential, if it is granted authority to engage meaningful two way conversation as opposed to a one way communication as publicity.
The problem is that sometimes its easier for management to take a shortcut using PR for its technical aspect. This is a short-term fix for problems. Negotiations have a longer lasting effect, but do require more time.
The big question here is: if PR is only seen as publicity and used in this function, then what is the role and practical value of teaching PR on graduate and undergraduate levels for years? Obviously PR is still on the road to become a respected profession. There are institutions like the PRSA, code of conducts and a growing professional literature. All these contribute to the cause, to get PR seen as a profession.
On the other hand, PR is also done by people who are coming from other professional backgrounds. Many of them do their job well.
Being a PR practitioner is not like being a doctor. Nobody dies (hopefully) if you haven’t been trained in exactly what your occupation requires.
It is also worth to point out that PR is a complex profession and people do learn it for years for a reason. If it is done by people who are from different professions, they might not have all the potential set of skills. They also don’t study theories, models and strategies so much in depth without a university education.
Therefore the PR done by them has a higher likelihood of being reduced to publicity. This is not to say that it will, some people, read PR books, others just have a great talent.
Nevertheless education for PR and how its value is perceived is an issue to think about.
For more on this topic see:
James E. Grunig, Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management (1992.) Chapter: Public relations and Professionalism (by William P. Ehling)
Image: Yahoo Images
Today in class we had a guest speaker form the NGO called Friends of the Earth speaking about PR and NGO activities.
Advocacy for environmental causes like climate change and renewable energy became a huge trend. Especially after the famous Al Gore documentary “The Inconvenient Truth”.
For the sake of argument lets not see climate change as something definitely proven by scientists and treated as fact by many people. Looking at it form a PR perspective it is a cause. A cause that some people believe in other don’t, there are debates about it, parties fighting for or against it. It this respect its like any other cause, that succeeded in making it to one of the major topics in our time.
The fact that virtually everyone in modern societies know about climate change, renewable energy and recycling etc shows how big power advocacy can have. They influence public opinion, government and businesses. Nowadays if you are an environmentally conscious person you change elements of your everyday life. For example, ride a bike to work, take your trash to special community bins for recycling. Maybe you are one of those people who look out the window and see a wind farm, or use solar panels on your house.
In the UK for example renewable energy plans have already materialized into actual working projects.
A whole list of examples can be found on the following website:
People can argue for and against climate change but can’t argue the impact it had on our way of viewing and (often doing) things. Governments also need to focus some of their resources on environmental issues, because of the combined power of the public, environmental NGOs and pressure groups.
Companies especially the ones operating in more hazardous industries are under extreme scrutiny to do reduce the damage that result in their operation. Their license to operate, their support and image depend on it.
Of course those who followed the international media are aware that NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth often attract media attention through a stunt or by making fun of a brand. On the other side as Mr Southworth our guest speaker pointed out, NGOs also negotiate and collaborate with companies. The important thing is to identify the target audience and get them to listen and talk to you. The tactics depend on the individual situation. If a company is willing to be among the first to change their behavior than they can get the support of an NGO. It is a win-win situation.
Definitely it seems like a tough job to be a PR professional in the NGO sector. It puts a wide variety of professional and personal skills to the test. On the other hand working for a good cause has its rewards.
For more info go to:
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. PR and cross-cultural boundary spanning
What do Tesco, Coca-Cola, and Santander have in common? They are all international corporations that employ and reach out to people from all around the world. To enable people to work together with very different (cultural, social, business) backgrounds, intercultural understanding is invaluable.
When a company wants to expand to another country intercultural boundary spanning comes into the picture. To establish good working relationships with the local stakeholders -let them be government officials, investors or consumers, – an in depth research needs to be done about the culture.
What are the local customs?
What is expected from me as a foreigner?
What is expected from my company?
How do negotiations take place?
What is considered appropriate/ inappropriate?
These are all important questions to ask and answer before doing business in any other country. Boundary spanning looks at these expectations and potential risks, to take the best action possible. PR practitioners as part of their role, are often in direct communication with external groups. This means they represent the company and are the first people to gain information from the outside. For them to do their job properly as Burk argued they need to be trained to be sensitive to cross cultural differences. He also pointed out that the problem is that in practice there is little done to educate employees in this area.
From the PR perspective the risks are obvious. If a company gets the cultural things wrong, representatives (PR people, agents, board members) are found to do something inappropriate or embarrassing, it can damage the chances of business success.
Therefore research into local culture and training pays back. Especially if this training is given to the right people, in the right positions.
Sharing experiences about doing business in different countries can contribute to PR and to business a great deal. Intercultural awareness can help tackle issues with ignorance and bias that stand in the way of success.
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, right?
for more info go to:
Burk, John (1994) Training MNC Employees as Culturally Sensitive Boundary Spanners.
Public Relations Quarterly; Summer 94, Vol. 39 Issue 2, p40-44,
The visit last week to Fishburn Hedges and this article sparked thoughts about how PR is advancing.
The industry is moving towards a creative and chaotic world. The professionals PR agencies look for, need to be well versed in this brave new world. Strategies fundamentally change, as everything becomes faster thanks to the new media. Therefore those PR practitioners are sought after, who know how to use tools like blogs and Twitter wisely.
Their ability to think outside the box and constantly seek out new angles is also essential. Everything is about invention and about avoiding duplication. Each brand is like a different individual.
This kind of PR is needed for brands, so that they stay in the public focus. They need to do this through reinventing themselves to avoid becoming boring. Simply updating old products or launching new ones is no longer enough. Companies need to be more aware of social factor and the trends in business and this can be done through PR.
The understating of these trends and behaviors serve as the information basis to embrace or change it. Since these are also fast moving now and can pop up from anywhere, the PR practitioner needs to be ready for that.
Agencies like Fishburn Hedges deal with exactly this chaotic world. They know that a year from know, what we know today may be completely outdated. They have an accepting and embracing attitude towards this.
Working in this industry is becoming more and more interesting and it is difficult to predict what will be next. This constant demand for development and improvement seems to stay. Being a PR practitioner is a real life long learning process.
For more info go to Fishburn Hedges website