Corporates turn to social media in crisis

March 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm (online media, Public Relations) (, , , )

It seems like an increasing number of corporations start to change their attitudes towards social media. Although, it is still seen by many PR chiefs as a source of threat. The are obvious dangers that social media pose to corporate reputation. News travels fast and it is virtually impossible to control information once its out there.
Probably this led corporations to use social media effectively to their own benefit.
On the other hand as Neil Bayley from Porter Novelly suggested this is trend that still needs to develop. The main problem is testing the use of social media in a crisis situation. The ability to respond the right way is an ability that corporation are yet to acquire.

The research done by Dynamic Markets suggest that bloggers are seen as a greater threat than the traditional media.
The agencies that participated in this research claimed that clients had reputation crisis problems that included social media. Almost half of them complained about journalists going to the wrong people. Through social media various sources with various levels of credibility are accessible.  It is easy to see why this is a problem, especially in a crisis situation.

It is necessary foe corporation to ultimately integrate social media in their PR practices. Social media just gets bigger and stronger, as things seem right now.  Companies big or small need to keep up with the digital sphere. They also need to do so with people who are trained and/or experienced in social media. These people are essential to responding well because of their strategic understanding of social media. The other valuable thing to take away from this, is preparation for crisis. Having flexible but tried and tested plans are the best assets a corporations can have in such an uncertain environment.

For more info go to:

Corporates increasingly turn to social media to mend damaged reputations

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Educating for PR

March 28, 2010 at 10:19 pm (Education, Public Relations) (, , )

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

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Stop The Clock for Electronic Art

March 25, 2010 at 8:48 am (online media, Public Relations) (, , , , )

Documentation and Conservation  of the Media Arts Heritage (DOCAM )

This video is to support the research into conserving contemporary electronic art. This is a fragile form of art because of the rapid development technological innovations. The various artifacts are threatened to disappear once the technology that made their existence possible become outdated.
What will be left of them to show for the future?

This is an educational project for MA in Public Relations University of Westminster.

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Nestle vs Greenpeace

March 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , , , )

I was interested in what NGOs can do, to humiliate a brand to influence change of behavior. PRWeek featured this article online, which is a very current example. Greenpeace launched an online PR attack against Nestle because it has been accused of getting palm oil from and Indonesian company that allegedly engages in illegal deforestation.
In the viral video “Give The Orang-Utang A Break Nestle – Greenpeace’s anti Kit-Kat ad” Greenpeace uses quite strong, sometimes graphic images, to demonstrate how this issue threatens wildlife. The video is not the end of the story though. Nestle is having difficulty reacting on Facebook and Twitter as the article reported. Many see responses as a PR trick, which causes even more public outrage.
Kerry Gaffney associate director, from Porter Novelli suggested that there should be some changes made to their response tactics.  She suggested  to change the person behind the Twitter responses to someone more in tune with the corporate tone. She also advised to address the main issues on a Youtube video.

What is missing for me out of all of this, is the lack of emphasis on taking responsibility for the actual problem, or if Nestle is doing something about it than publicize that. As I surfed around on Google, the tops result where from Greenpeace side. They must be doing something Nestle isn’t at this point. It seems to me that the only way out for Nestle is admit their responsibility to get another supplier who is checked. After this is done publicize that they are changing.

Seemingly not trying to make changes just makes matters worse for them. Its bad enough in the current media climate to be connected with damaging the environment, even if this happens by mistake. Not taking fast action  (especially media wise) can do long-term damage to the product and the brand.

Nestlé faces Facebook crisis over Greenpeace rainforest allegations PR Week Online

Give The Orang-Utang A Break Nestle – Greenpeace’s anti Kit-Kat ad

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NGOs for climate change and the environment

March 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , , , )

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:

UK Wind Energy Database  (UKWED)

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:

Greenpeace UK  Website

Friends of the Earth Website

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Political PR and Social Media

March 14, 2010 at 10:26 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

In class last time, we discussed political communication. The impact of the social media on the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign is very interesting.  Barack Obama (then presidential candidate) used social media platforms like Youtube, Facebook among others to attract voters.
The special thing about this strategy is that the internet helps reaching young voters more easily. In the United States and in many parts of Europe (United Kingdom or Hungary for example) many young people choose not to vote. Social media has the potential to reengage them in politics.

Facebook is certainly more engaging than watching a campaign speech on TV. People got the chance in the Obama 2008 campaign to organize themselves locally and online as well. This  gave the opportunity to turn a voter base into a creative fan base.
Of course some might argue that politicians are not celebrities and they will loose credibility if they act like one. I think as long as the (celebrity) politician is a respected leader and lives up to it professionally there is no problem.
A lot depends here in branding and maintaining the image, as well as keeping credibility and public trust through real actions.

Certainly this election demonstrated what political public relations can achieve through social media.  On the other hand this is not a one size fits all strategy. In different countries accessibility to computers and the internet varies. This means that there are places in the world where the use of social media in any campaign would only reach a certain demographic.
The other limitation to this might be the way the individual politician is perceived by the public. President Obama has a very energetic and youthful image. Therefore social media as a new political PR trend and him might be considered a natural match.
A campaign that bases itself heavily the internet might be a very good idea, but before doing just that it is always worth to look at the wider context more closely.

For more info go to:

Barack Obama Website

Barack Obama on Facebook

Barack Obama Channel on Youtube

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You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. PR and cross-cultural boundary spanning

March 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , )

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,

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Cutting edge PR is creative PR

March 8, 2010 at 4:32 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

The visit last week to Fishburn Hedges and this article sparked thoughts about how PR is advancing.

Campaign Planning: Planning a Revolution

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

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Women in PR. Is it just lack of self-esteem?

March 4, 2010 at 11:14 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

In class this week the focus was on women in PR. Women seem to dominate the industry in numbers but not in status. Yes ladies, men have most managerial positions in PR.
The class debate highlighted the issue of the many roles, which women need to fit into their lives: wife, mother and professional. It is not easy to balance these roles, but I think it is possible. These discussions seemed to assume that women operate in a vacuum with no support, like close friends  and family.  Maybe if relatives, grandparents and child loving friends (who might be parents themselves) pitch in on a regular basis and baby sitters and kindergartens, things would be different. I have seen examples. This choice of having all three positions is possible, with lots of long-term cooperation and support. Women who chose to have families still loose maybe a one to three years (assuming the father doesn’t go on leave instead from his job, which is possible in many countries). These years are hard to make up, but it might also depend on when it happens in your career.
So having it all start with a decision, courage, effort and plenty of support.

James E. Grunigs book called Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management (1992.) addresses this issue in the chapter on Women and Public Relations: Problems and Opportunities.
First of all the ingrained  stereotypes of women follow them to the workplace as well. These are not just held by men but by women as well. Therefore women tend to underestimate themselves and the importance of the work they do. This is a self confidence issue.

The other thing that was identified as a structural issue was that the informal networking and decision making channels in the workplace is pretty much for men, by men.  Men in decision making positions often prefer this because they find it more conformable to work with people who are on the same level and from the same gender. This is of course problematic, because in any profession being excluded from these circles is a dead end to the career. Today’s trend in which women form professional     women’s forums are a reaction to this, but I’m not sure how effective it can be. How can two gender based circles, built to exclude each other, work together?

Women don’t just try to from similar structures that had been traditionally built by men but they often try to take on manlike personality traits. Hon Grunig and Dolzier found this is not the solution. Women who behave like men, or are perceived to do so are usually perceived negatively.  They suggest that instead of trying to turn into men, the industry needs to introduce feminine values and change the structure to accommodate women on all levels.
Furthermore the examples of women who made it to the top should be featured to encourage others.

Finally the equalization of women is a large scale social change that is mirrored in the workplace. Remember in many western countries women didn’t have the right to vote and now women have their own rights, lives and pursue all sort of professions.  Since PR is already a very feminized industry, it has good chance to be controlled by women sooner than other more masculine professions. Following this logic current trends are just temporary.

Image from: flickr.com

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PR and Ethics (continued)

March 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm (Public Relations, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

As a PR practitioner would you promote guns, tobacco or alcohol? This was the question we asked in class when discussing ethics.
There are many answers and I recommend the article linked below. Major players had been answering the big ethics questions, based on experiences. Among them:

Jilly Forster CEO and founder, Forster
Robert Phillips, UK CEO, Edelman
Phil Reed, Board director, Brahm

There seems to be an overall agreement that, if you do not agree with what a client does or wants you to do then do not work with them.  Some organizations even have policies against working with tobacco companies, for example.

I think policies are a very good idea to have, because you can notify potential clients on where you stand on this issue. If you as an agency don’t want to work for arms, tobacco or alcohol industry then its better to be open about it up front.  Clients in this industry won’t waste your time and you won’t waste theirs. This is called mutual benefit.  It seems like drawing the ethical boundaries is a responsibility for not just the professional but the PR agency as well. So it is something well worth giving a thought, well before getting to work with clients.  Of course money does complicate things, because having drawn up this ethical standard means  the agency needs to stick to it,  even  if they are in dire need of clients. These three industries do have big cash invested in them.  So if in a bad economic situation it can easily come down to money versus ethics.
In cases where PR people do work with industries that are seen as unethical and harmful to society (not just our 3 examples but think less straightforward like fast food or soft drinks,) They can still do things, to be on the ethical side.

As we discussed in class, for example raising awareness about the issues that the product can cause is one way. This is not necessarily a question about counter-promoting the product you are promoting.   It is more about informing people who might use it, to use it wisely and rethink why they need it. The importance of informed decision cannot be overemphasized.

As for ethical PR, I think even if you are lucky, you can’t avoid ethically uncertain situations. Things are not always straightforward. Situations can exist where ethical codes won’t help, company policy won’t help. It will be down to personal responsibility.

Professional Ethics: Should You promote These Products?

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