Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Transparency And The Truth In Public Relations

We talk in PR about transparency, the need for companies to tell the truth, to avoid hiding or camouflage facts. But how can PR be transparent? Im thinking if there is a link between truth telling and transparency. Telling the truth means giving up all facts and secrets, where as transparency means you need to show your every step.

Do companies want to give up their whole process? Maybe for some companies it is relevant, but companies like Apple live on their secrecy. No one knows about their product before the launch day, and it works for them, and seams like their audience forgive them for the discloser of information. So why do people require transparency and availability to any information they want?

Looking up the definition of transparency: “Transparency is the opposite of privacy.” Of course, you can’t say that about truth, which drives this discussion about the difference between truth and transparency. Truth doesn’t require that “all information…is open and freely available.” Maybe people want the truth and not transparency. I believe with the new online communication, many question if what we read online is the truth, who writes the information, some one we can trust? PR since its beginning have been perceived as a deception practice, which means the transparency in online communication might be our way to put things straight and change this perception by for once telling the truth.

I'm writing this to see what others think, as i want to explore this 'transparency' concept further in my dissertation.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Codes of Conduct and New Media Transparency in Public Relations

Everyone in media and PR are talking about transparency in new media, for my dissertation I'm looking in to what extent is transparency realistic when used in new media?

The idea for this topic came from researching about how public relations has changed due to new media, resulted in coming across the CIPR New Media Codes of Conduct. After reading it and comparing with the original codes of conduct I realised that the new media codes are an addition to the original and the only difference is that when the New Media Codes were written, the word ‘Social Media’ was everywhere.

In the New Media Codes, under the part ‘transparency’ it says: Members' use of social media must be transparent, and they must make extra effort to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. They should, if writing or contributing to a blog which recommends a service supplier, make clear any financial interest they or their client might have in doing so. They should make timely and public declarations of any conflicts of interest or the circumstances which might give rise to them.” Which means, when public relations is using new media they have to be transparent however further down in the codes under Disclosure / Confidentiality’ it says that public relations practitioners have to keep disclosure about their company, clients and competitor.

The opposite side of this argument has been discussed in the US where newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post has social media policy where they restrict employees to post their opinions on social media platforms like Twitter. “For flagbearers of free speech, some newsroom execs have the weirdest double standards when it comes to censoring personal views.” However on the PRSA website the American association has not adapted their codes of conduct for using new media. The argument here is whether this ‘transparency’ can exist in new media without hurting someone?

The BBC’s global news director, Richard Sambrook, was speaking to a media conference about the benefits of social media (2009):

“Objectivity, he then pointed out, had always been an idea important for the news. For him it was once designed to deliver journalism that people can trust. But in the new media age transparency is what delivers trust. He stressed that news today still has to be accurate and fair, but it is as important for the readers, listeners and viewers to see how the news is produced, where the information comes from, and how it works. The emergence of news is as important, as the delivering of the news itself.”

Study Fashion Public Relations at University of Westminster

When studying at University of Westminster you get to be involved in many different and exiting projects. I got an internship with SNOW PR and helped them to arrange the Pam Hogg fashion show at London Fashion Week. Even if fashion is not for you, there are so many opportunities this course can give you.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Digital Climate to Kill Us All

Press Release

Green Leaf Hosting, a London based agency, launched a viral video today for a new campaign called “Digital Crises to Kill Us All”. The video is published on YouTube in order to create awareness about the damage digital centres are causing around the world.

The data centres, which are used to house the millions of websites on the Internet, are now damaging the earth as much as the aviation industry. A large data centre consumes the same amount of power as 30,000 homes. These Data Centres run 24 hours per day, 365 days a year to power corporate websites. A solution is sorely needed, and Green Leaf Hosting is the answer.


Matthew Dowling, director of Green Leaf Hosting, said: “I hope this campaign will raise attention to the raising issue, and since so many of us use the internet more and more, people need to be aware of the damages they are causing. However it is not only an awareness campaign we want to educate people about what solutions they can use.”

In addition to the Carbon Free services, Green Leaf now provides Green Web Design & Development, Graphic Design, Email Campaigns and Online Marketing all from a Carbon Neutral office based in North London. The company’s mission to educate businesses on their impact on the environment and to offer a practical solution has been very well received globally.

Where Green Leaf differs from the average agency however, is its big ‘side project’. It is aiming to be the first agency to offer Carbon Free IT solutions from the UK by using nothing but the wind’s power. This giant project will be funded by sponsorship, grants, investors and profits made from their current services. Green Leaf Digital; a green IT solution that doesn’t cost the earth.

For additional information contact the Press Officer:

Yekaterina Odintsova | 0207 193 2564

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Nestle's Social Media Crisis

Greenpeace started a big global crisis situation for Nestle after posting an online video featured an office worker accidently biting into an orangutan finger instead of a Kit Kat. The video aimed to draw attention to the NGO's ongoing battle with Nestle over them using palm oil in their products.

Nestle have been bombarded with angry consumers on Twitter andFacebook with critical comments. Consumers have accused the company of ‘hiding behind PR spin', calling the company's response to the criticism a ‘major social media fail'. (PRWeek) Digital PR experts said the situation was quickly becoming a social media crisis.

Porter Novelli associate director, digital, Kerry Gaffney said: ‘Nestle's status updates are pushing people on to its official site to see its corporate response. Someone within Nestle is also responding to posts, but they are not corporate in tone and are juvenile. The company should be tailoring its response more to the environment with a more human tone.'

One of the things Nestle did wrong was to use a junior position to respond to the comments, but they should have used a more experienced senior position to deal with the online attacks.

Nestley thought they could get YouTube to close down the video and ignore the situation, which made it even worse, it was like throwing gasoline into a fire. The story blow even bigger! One user commented on Vimeo: "Thank you Nestle...I would never have seen this video if you hadn`t had it kicked off YouTube. Now I`m forwarding it all my friends, through Facebook, and guess what they are forwarding it all their mates. Fire your PR team. They are muppets."

Facebook has been hit worse, people was leaving critical comments on Nestle’s fan page, some criticising the company’s social media approach. For example, "social media is about embracing your market, engaging and having a conversation rather than preaching!" Which then resulted in more hostility from Nestle as they started to delete some of the comments.

After deleting, Nestley started to respond with juvenile statements like: "Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it's our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus."

This situation is a perfect theory example for a phenomenon called the Streisand effect. If Nestle reacted differently to the situation it might not have become a crisis for them. Use PR right: Don’t insult your customers. And in PR 2010, mind your behaviour in social media platforms — especially those particularly created for the fans of your company. Some say It may there is no such thing as bad press, but think twice when it comes to social media. Nestle is a perfect example.

What Nestle could/should have done:

1) When the video came out, respond where the attacks were happening and respond with the same technique.

2) Greenpeace have freedom of speech to spread their version, you spread yours. Never try do delete the content, as people will feel you are taking away their rights of free speech. After all, Nestle have good blogger relationships, they should have used that.

3) Point out that you are trying to make things better, but these things take time. In the meantime all suggestions welcome.

The way Nestle handled things Greenpeace achieved what they wanted with their campaign. Will this result in people stop buying Nestle products? Now on Facebook people are talking about boycotting Nestle products during Easter. The situation has resulted in revenue loss for Nestle; it will take them time to convince their consumers to buy products again.

This whole mess draws attention to what I think is one of the most important aspects of social media, which is the social media crisis plan. Clearly, Nestle had no such plan ready.

NGO Against Public Relations, Really?

Non-governmental organizations (NGO) need healthy relationships with the public to meet their goals. Foundations and charities use sophisticated public relations campaigns to raise funds and employ standard lobbying techniques with governments. A speaker from Friends of the Earth said that their NGO organisation would do anything to separate what they do from anything related to public relations. However, at the end of the day, what all NGOs do is PR!

He said another interesting thing, that NGO is "a brand destroyer". According to this man NGO run campaigns in order to destroy or threaten reputation of big companies. It all comes back to the first statement, how can NGO achieve all that with out techniques used in PR?

A good example of the statement is when Greenpeace ran a campaign against Dove. Greenpeace's forests campaigners were invited to meet with senior executives at Unilever headquarters on Friday 9 May 2008. In just two weeks Unilever had received tens of thousands of protest emails from around the world, because Greenpeace activists brought masses of news media to their buildings in the UK, Netherlands and Italy. Greenpeace achieved that by launching a viral video online called "Dove Onslaught(er)". Public pressure moved Unilever to react.

This was the first success in a broader campaign to secure real change on the ground in South East Asia. The campaign was designed to stop the palm oil industry from destroying the Paradise Forests, and ensuring the protection of the climate and a future for orang-utans. On the Greenpeace website they state: “If others in the palm oil industry are smart, they'll follow Unilever's lead. There's no excuse for wasting time now, so any industry slow-learners could be our next campaign target”.

15th March 2010, Greenpeace kept their word. They launched a viral video “Kit Kat – give the orang-utan a break”.

Greenpeace state they have new evidence which shows that Nestlé - the makers of Kit Kat - are using palm oil produced in areas where the orang-utans' rainforests once grew. Even worse, the company doesn't seem to care. This has now resulted in Nestlé has struggled to contain a bombardment of criticism from angry consumers on Twitter and its official Facebook page.

On Twitter, the firm has been bombarded with critical comments. Consumers have also turned to Facebook and accused the company of ‘hiding behind PR spin', calling the company's response to the criticism a ‘major social media fail'. (PRWeek)

Digital PR experts said the situation was quickly becoming a social media crisis.

NGO might be fighting for a better cause using PR, but I believe the way they do it is harming the overall PR reputation.

Greenpeace vs Kit Kat

Greenpeace vs Dove

PRWeek - Facebook Crises

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Will Social Media Lead the 2010 Election in the UK?

Just as the US elections used social media to communicate with voters, so it is in the UK.

Obama is a ‘role model’ for campaigning online and for his success with online fundraising. According to Business Week, in July alone, Obama’s fundraising doubled that of McCain, generating $51 million. In addition, the Obama campaign has cited that 88% of their donations have come from online resources. This has never happened before. The man knows how to move and engage people; he listens, he reacts, he empowers. The Washington Post has even gone so far as to title Obama as the “King of Social Networking.”

In social media you have to be able to give up some of the power. But how can you when power is what drives an election?

In the past, a campaign team may have overreacted to a video such as Obama Girl or been concerned about not having a say in the messaging behind a video such as Yes We Can. Instead, Obama’s team has embraced these videos and recognised the value and power of user-generated content in moving others to action. However the UK politicians are not fully ready to give up that kind of power. They want to follow Obama’s strategy in their own elections, but on the other hand, do it with much caution. The UK election has gone online, and many are now discussing if it is beneficial for the 2010 election or not.

Even before official campaigning begins, one thing seems clear - this election is going to be fought in cyberspace as well as on the doorsteps (BBC). Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are now seen as crucial battlegrounds, as well as potential forums for political mistakes. The influence of bloggers are enormous, they have the power to very fast spread their view of either supporting or attacking the various parties. These are the reason behind why the UK politicians fear the social media.

The reason social media campaigning was so successful for Obama, was that he was able to reach and influence the younger voters who might well take a steer from their peers rather than traditional media. When it comes to politics, it seems young people are less interested in participating, however with the social media, even when you can’t vote, you are part of the community who can. Which means people can still be heard.

It looks like the UK politicians are sceptical about the social media approach, Mr. Cameron might have made it clear last year that he is no fan of Twitter (BBC), however when they see the results they quickly change their minds. The news comes as David Cameron has said he is considering finally joining Twitter the social networking site (PRWeek), following his infamous ‘too many twits make a twat’ gaffe on Absolute Radio last July.

According to resent statistics conservative party dominates social media platform Facebook as election approaches (PRWeek). The research showed a staggering 4,688 comments and wall posts had been made on the party's fan page. This compared with only 1,229 commented or posted on the Labour Party's page and 727 on the Liberal Democrats. The figures demonstrate a substantial gap between the Conservatives' online engagement tactics on the platform. And still Mr. Cameron is afraid of Twitter; despite the success they have on Facebook. The biggest challenge for the parties will be to turn their Facebook friends into Facebook supporters.

Winning elections is about finding your voters and getting them to vote for you on the day. It is here we will see how effective social media campaign is in the UK.

So what will we see in our first social media affected election?

I predict we will see more MPs surrender to the online campaigns, which will stop them gaining more power. We will see the candidates who use social media getting higher audience, as the online activity creates a buzz around their election. I believe that the 2010 elections will see social media playing a big role for politicians. It will also generate more interest among the younger voters.





Business Week

The Washington Post

Friday, 5 March 2010

Will Women ever run PR?

The debate is, will women ever run PR?

“The past 20 years have seen an influx of women into the practice of public relations, yet gender-based disparities in pay and advancement remain a troubling reality. As the field becomes feminized, moreover, female and male practitioners alike confront the prospect of dwindling salaries and prestige.” Gruning (2001;p.4)

PR is considered a female profession; most students on PR courses are women. Which should imply that women run PR, however that is not the case. Many women have the lower level positions, and as soon as the talk is about managerial positions, they are mostly occupied by men.

The reason behind this I would think is that women need to make a really hard choice: career or family? The discussion is that most women do not want the higher positions as they are forced to do the same job as a man but for a lower pay.

In a study conducted in Melbourne has revealed that most women are opting for a healthy family life rather a career. The survey says women are shifting from a “perfectionist” attitude and rate their family, seeing friends, keeping fit, further study and community work as more important than pursuing their career.

Where as in this study Israeli women managers balance careers, family” the Israeli women believe that you can not separate that, you can have both. Their conditions might not be as favorable, but Israeli women managers refuse to sacrifice family for career. In fact, according to Hagit Yerushalmi, who wrote an award-winning master's thesis on "Women in Management," almost all Israeli women senior managers are married and have children while climbing the corporate ladder, unlike the Americans who usually remain either unmarried or childless until their careers are established or even beyond.

From both studies women feel that there is an absence of female role models in business management. Women in management tend to become invisible. They are either ignored by their male colleagues, or contribute to their own invisibility by dressing and acting in a way so as not to draw attention to their sex.
As to why there is a lack of women in top management positions, Yerushalmi points out that studies have shown that there are "gender schemes" which affect expectations of men and women and how their work and performance as individuals are evaluated.

"If a man is appointed and fails, everyone will say, 'He made a mistake.' If the same thing happens to a woman, people will say, 'Why did we appoint a woman?' Appointing a woman is perceived as taking a greater risk. This is the glass ceiling."

Until women in the western world find a way to have both, career and family, they will only work in PR but will never run it.

Gruning, L., Toth, E. and Hon, L. (2001). Women in Public Relations: How Gender Influences Practice. A Division of Guilford Publications. New York

Lichtman, G. (2002). Study: Israeli women managers balance careers, family. Jerusalem Post Service