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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Ethics and PR

February 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , , )

Interesting debate tok place this week in class about ethics. One group argued that only PR practitioners working for the third sector (like NGO’s) can really to PR ethically.
It is understandable that those who work for society in a direct form (through charities, NGO’s not to mention if this is all volunteer work)  has a higher moral status. On the other hand it is not unethical to earn money while doing your job ethically. This is not industry specific.  Most discussions revolved around the money issue. Of course PR people at NGO’s also need to get paid because they have a life responsibilities and checks like everyone else. Therefore it is no surprise they work and get paid like everyone else. If you look at this from the NGO’s side if your cause is important to you, you want to get the best PR people on your side even if you have to pay for it. Right? Ethically it is nothing wrong with that. If you achieve your cause it was well worth it. Of course we are not talking about overpaying anyone (whatever that means, limits are blurred).

It is also not fair to say that if one belongs to those who do not work for NGO’s than their ethics are questionable. Usually people tend to know right from wrong (regardless of which one they choose) and make steps accordingly.  PR people have a very complex situation with their duty to society, duty to the boss and client. On the other hand when you go into a job like this you need to be able to represent your views as well. This takes the necessary courage to sit down and explain why this is unethical and suggest ethical alternatives whenever possible.  Being unethical, giving in to pressure can get back to you in form of bad professional reputation, guilt (or even legal consequences, but for the sake of argument lets assume laws had been respected). Therefore being ethical is also a somewhat self serving thing. Being “good” to others is being “good” to yourself.

I find it really useful to talk through difficult scenarios. It was great to hear what my classmates had to say. I think codes of conduct are important, but looking at situations can often offer more practical guidelines.  It is definitely the most one can do to prepare for future issues.

For more info on what PR ethics are look up:

CIPR Code of Conduct

PRSA Code of Ethics

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Did you know that seven is the lucky number in social media? Exploring The seven most important benefits of doing PR online.

February 27, 2010 at 9:33 pm (online media, Public Relations, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Did you know that seven is the lucky number in social media?
Exploring The seven most important benefits of doing PR online.

(Press release)

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Banks untrusted or at least trusted less: Should they get used to it?

February 22, 2010 at 10:27 pm (Public Relations) (, , , , , )

It seems like the recession pulled down bank reputation a big deal. Of course this is no surprise. Lots of people are in financial difficulty not to mention  the banks themselves.

But as far as reputation what can PR people do in this sector?

Well, in isolation efforts probably won’t succeed. PR need to be a part of a larger trust regaining plan. Banks changing practices, improving services and hoping that time will dim memories of the credit crunch in people fast.

Meanwhile PR is expected to focus on CSR to show banks do care about community, to improve relations.  This is the perfect time to do some corporate responsibility programs provided these gain visibility in the media and in reports.

I looked into Google to see what comes up. It seems only Deutsche Bank  has a very clearly visible (and perhaps a well search engine optimized) CSR program.

They focus on Education, Art and Social Investment.  Therefore it seems like a well rounded program. It offers something for everyone or at least many people.
These programs take place in the U.K..

I  think CSR won’t fix reputation by itself. It would be naive to assume that.  what the media are interested in is if banks rise or fall. Deutsche Bank according to this recent article seems to rise. This of course can also benefit public trust. It is more risky though. Bonuses  might outrage some people. Especially those who are in debt and feel mistreated by banks.

From a PR perspective this does seem to be the best plan. Emphasize good news, have CSR available and hope to be lucky not get any bad news connected to your name.

Will this work to gain public trust? Will different banks come up with different plans?
We will see…

For more info go to:

Deutsche Bank CSR

High street banks face trust crisis, Reputation Survey shows

Deutsche Bank staff to win 30% pay rises

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Toyota: the PR crisis

February 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

The Toyota story in PR is huge nowadays. There are so many mistakes. It is not just the pedals that have problems. Toyota need to fix is PR as well.
In class we spoke so much about the importance of body language in Japan and how a bad bow can turn things worse.
But what should one think about Toyota if the president Akio Toyoda uses an Audi?
This is yet a another mistake that damages the reputation of Toyota. Those who represent the brand, (especially the president) should put down the flashy car and show that Toyota is safe. This incident really sends the wrong message, right from the center.
Mr. Toyoda was also reported to give only short statements.  This is really unwise as so many others speak question the safety of these cars.
It will take longer to counteract this air of ignorance around the leadership of Toyota than the time it takes to fix the cars. People who have no choice but to drive to carry on with their lives do have a reason to be worried.  Even if statistics  show that the likelihood of the accelerator or the break in the car malfunctioning is minimum, Toyota drivers can’t keep asking themselves: Will I be the next one? Will my car stop?
The slower the recalls and repairs take the more the panic will grow. Therefore the company really needs to communicate and fix, and should have done so from the beginning.
Probably the long term PR priority will be to rebuild the trust and the reputation for safety, by putting it out to the media as often as possible.  Toyota can no longer take trust for granted. I imagine they will need to enter competitions, compare themselves with other cars in the category and prove through there, where they stand.  It some way it is possible they have to start form nearly the beginning (depending on the damage  this crisis end up resulting in). As for being represented it is possible that Toyota will possibly need a new “face” , someone who people can connect with more. This representative has to have a very good rapport with the media. I wouldn’t be surprised if the would  get a (car racing) celebrity on board to enhance the image.

Future will tell how and if Toyota will be the safe brand again.

Meanwhile look at:

Friday Drop Bad week for Toyota UK Head PR Scott Borwnlee

Toyota CEO Will Now Testify Before Congress (Video)

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social media webcast: the many sides of PR online

February 17, 2010 at 10:06 pm (Education, online media, Public Relations) (, , , , , , , )

This video introduces social media in PR. It discusses some of the practical theoretical, positive and negative aspects of it. Social media for example makes it easier to find your target audience. On the other hand it also makes the control of information much more difficult. Is social media the future of PR?

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CSR or window dressing?

February 15, 2010 at 11:45 pm (Public Relations) (, , )

The debate was very interesting. There are so many good examples of CSR (corporate social responsibility) out there.  If it’s done right, it is undoubtedly useful.
So I had a difficult time looking for proof that CSR is wrong or can go wrong.
During my debate I was aiming at drawing attention to the mismatches between CSR programs and the companies that do them. This is just a matter of looking at the CSR program from the outside. It is probably common sense that a polluting industry should be low key about environmental issues unless they are willing to make a real change which would cost them a lot and require fundamental steps. This came to me from the Honda example which is also mentioned in the article linked here.
Of course the HSBC carbon emissions example shows that aligning with a cause that has little do to with them, seems like a safe option but it can backfire just as easily. Especially in this economic climate with the recession going on and many people are suffering from the credit crunch. I do think that climate change needs to be addressed, but there  needs to be balance between imminent problems and more long term ones.
Essentially environmental initiatives can only be funded in a (at least) stable economic status. So in a sense by solving the more urgent problem it can give a better chance at solving the long term one.

It is an interesting article about when CSR goes badly wrong:

Companies Who Care? Jess Worth New Internationalist

The other side, who argued that CSR is useful and honest brought up examples of companies essentially lifting up entire communities through their program. They bring infrastructure, education and jobs to people. It is a very good start but then the people need to take over, build on it.

CSR is only as good, as much honesty, motivation and resources are put into them. By resources I don’t necessarily mean money, but – where appropriate- by encouraging employees to volunteer some of their time to good causes.  It not just brings the cause close to them on a personal level, but it is great team building (and great internal PR) opportunity. During one of my internships my colleagues took me along to some of these volunteering programs. The opportunities are endless, from helping rebuild a bird wildlife education center in the middle of the countryside, or doing huge concerts to visiting the elderly homes or ill children for the day.

CSR has so many potentials to make real difference in a small way definitely and not turn into just window dressing.

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Science in the Media

February 10, 2010 at 9:55 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

Today we had a guest speaker from SMC (Science Media Centre) who introduced us into the world of reporting science accurately. Basically they do the overwhelming job (it’s a small charity with only 6 people) to look at scientifically relevant news and connect top scientist to journalists to ensure the news gets out there with sound scientific basis.
I really like the idea of these news conferences, they are about quality news, quality discussions between scientists and journalists. SMC is there as a science PR (but neutral) third party. As opposed to advocating for a client or organization they advocate for scientific truth. Of course as the speaker raised this issue, they can only do this because they get donations from a variety of sources so they can afford to be neutral.  He explained that he is aware that if organizations like the SMC are funded by big institutions or the government that it is more likely that neutrality come into question or disappears altogether.

I really value the cause of SMC especially in a media environment where concerns about  bird flu, swine flu and all sort of other diseases are very likely to be amplified by the media.
For example in my home country Hungary, there was a huge panic about swine flu. being a small country with a small economy one company got the right to  produce the vaccination. All sort of speculations where made about how will it affect children, babies, pregnant women. There where even rumors that the vaccine itself is dangerous or ineffective. This ended up dividing public opinion into two camps. There were those afraid of the flu and got vaccinated and those who didn’t trust the company nor the vaccine so stayed away from the needle. The government also tried to step in to encourage people to get immunization, but this made thing worse in the eyes of the skeptics.

The point is there would have been an independent organization with authority they could have managed a situation like this much more. People didn’t know who they could trust and panic is the worst thing that can happen. The media added on this, by tracing single cases of the flu, report in deaths, reminding of other past deaths. When there were no deaths, their focus turned   on neighboring Ukraine, where reportedly the absence of a vaccine made life even worse. The information void that the authorities in this case left was huge. This is why these initiatives of science having its own PR, or at least a more media facing side is essential. It benefits the scientists, the media and the public.

For more info go to:

Science Media Centre webpage

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Hungary and Cross Cultural differences

February 7, 2010 at 6:27 pm (Public Relations) (, , , )

The class discussion about  global PR and the difference between various cultures than can affect communication with colleagues and business partners inspired me to look at my own country, Hungary.  We spoke about China and the United States a lot. For me they seem like very straightforward examples because both countries are great players on the global scene. Pretty much, all the cross cultural models I came across while in college were either focusing on the U.S. and China or The U.S and India, and possibly the U.K. and maybe even Brazil. It is not surprising that academics, experts and professionals in many industries are interested in understanding these very influential cultures.  This is a huge investment, because for the worlds major economies to work together, theoretical as well as practical cross cultural understanding is invaluable.

On the other hand as a Hungarian I ask where is my small country in all this, Hungary?

I found a very interesting article on this topic: it discusses the way managers should do business in a culturally adaptive way.  It focuses on cross cultural theory as well.

For more info look up:
Munter, Mary Cross-cultural communication for managers.  Business Horizons; May/Jun93, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p69-81

It also has an overview on  the main cross cultural dimensions. Which will help me to go back to my initial question where is Hungary?

Power distance: in Hungary power distance is relatively low. Usually power is distributed among many people and employers and employees do not keep as much of a distance. Leader are there to tell people what to do, but they can be challenged.

Individualism/Collectivism: Hungary is definitely not collectivist. It is very deeply rooted in the society that people pursue their own goals and ideas. Of course group efforts are necessary but people do not identify with a group.   The groups may change, but the individual goal doesn’t. People work in a group to reach individual achievements and that is absolutely normal. Even in families, parents wouldn’t typically tell their children what profession to choose (unless it’s like a family business, but even then it’s acceptable for the child to break away from family traditions).
Judging from what I know about countries like India or China, leaders would have much more influence over subordinates, they would be like a ‘father‘ to them and the group would be like a ‘family’.

Uncertainty avoidance: Hungary would be relatively high. Hungarians like to receive detailed instructions on how to do things and what is expected from them. These information give a sense of safety.

Masculinity/ Femininity: Hungary is probably more masculine than feminine. Although if you look at the social structure, how institutions are a made up it would first seem feminine. Hungary has lots of welfare institutions from the socialist era. It is expected to be cared for by the government (free health-care and schooling until age of 16). On the other hand people are expected to care for themselves, be assertive on protecting their rights, and have concern for their closer circles as opposed to the society as a whole. This might be a changing tendency as Hungary is changing as part of a larger European community.

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