Sunday, 28 November 2010

To conclude

I have looked at many aspects of public relations during this semester, including: Public Relations ethical perspectives, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Public Policy Issues, Public Relations Crises, Ethics, issues and crises management: Public Relations theory and practice. From all the research I have consummated into myself and the fields of public relations, ethics, values etc. I conclude that, if it was necessary I would be able to omit some of the facts to an extent if it were in the public interest or maybe in the interest of a company that I work for. Yet I do have some limits and can only be pushed so far as I have to fulfill my own values and ethics not just that of a company. I do not think it makes me a bad person to keep some information out of the public eye. In some instances this is extremely necessary. For instance maybe the swine flu epidemic could have been handled better; it created perhaps an unnecessary worldwide panic.

I am extremely loyal to friends, family, and companies I work for etc. I am currently very unsure as to whether this is going to be an asset to me or a hindrance in the future. Nevertheless I also know I would do pretty much anything to get my dream job in FASHION MARKETING/ADVERTISING.

CSR Corporate Social Responsibility and corporate reputation

“The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility is one that has become increasingly popular over the past few decades as populations have become more aware of the implications big business can have on the world around us and “although organisations are not a state, country or region, they are part of the infrastructure of a society and as such they must consider their impact on it” (Trench and Yeomans, 2009).

I have covered some aspects of corporate social responsibility when talking about Virgin and Coca-Cola. However one company that has really turned themselves around in recent years is the retail company H&M. In 1997 H&M was accused of using child labour in the Philipines on a documentary broadcast in Sweden, yet now their website is full of statements on corporate social responsibility and how they as a company are eco-friendly etc.

H&M state under their Corporate responsibility section on the website that:

“H&M’s business concept is to offer our customers fashion and quality at the best price. At H&M, quality is about more than making sure that our products meet or exceed our customers' expectations. It also means that they have to be manufactured under good conditions and that our customers must be satisfied with us as a company. Taking responsibility for how our operations affect people and the environment is also an essential prerequisite for H&M's continued profitability and growth.”

Follow the link to watch a video on corporate responsibility, uploaded by H&M

H&M even have a question and answers section where they have answered the question: “What do you do to safeguard the rights of factory employees?”

H&M’s response was:

“At the core of our programme to improve working conditions at our suppliers is our code of conduct. We regularly monitor our suppliers to see that they comply with the requirements set out in our code. But checking compliance is not always enough to tackle complex issues. We therefore have different initiatives that go beyond monitoring.”

H&M have really taken on board what the critics have been saying. They now make sure the factory workers do not receive under the minimum wage, they do not condone child labour and are now even the world’s largest users of organic cotton, and these are just a handful of the improvements they have made. However are all these changes due to a regard of the public’s interest? Do they actually care about being eco-friendly? Or are they just doing it so as not to earn a bad reputation and for sales to continue to soar (ROI return of investments)?

“Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics” – CIPR

With this in mind it would appear that the current PR practitioners of H&M are very good at their jobs as the improvements seem to be remarkable and vast. There are three core components that make up the process of reputation management. The PR practitioner involved in rebuilding

H&M’s reputation would have looked at: crisis management, social responsibility and issues management. Yet now that H&M have over-come those obstacles; does this now mean we now trust them entirely or will there always be a slight niggling thought in the back of our minds?

Also…check out H&M’s current Lanvin collection, it has been described as one of the most amazing collaborations of all time. It came out on Nov 23rd and is practically all sold out. I’m very upset that I missed out on the coffee-coloured, fake fur coat with the dark brown trim. There is always ebay though :)

Social marketing aspect of truth

Social marketing is an organised application of marketing with its objective being: to create a sense of wellbeing for a specific civilisation/s. Social media has changed the way current society is interacting and behaving. Social marketing is present in social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of years, it is very prevalent that social networking sites have revolutionised the world. Facebook is the largest social networking site, having almost as many members as the population of Brazil. Notably, President Obama also used Facebook to facilitate his election and even large corporations such as Dell are using Facebook to hire new business minds. With that in mind, it is evident that Facebook has changed the way people behave; there is definitely a constant desire to be on Facebook checking what other people are up to, but is this normal behaviour? I personally feel Facebook encourages stalker-like behavior, yet I myself know I am a little addicted to Facebook since I constantly feel the need to check friends’ statuses and having a blackberry to enable me to do that every hour of the day, doesn’t really help. Maybe in the future there will classes to overcome Facebook addiction as well as programs for other addictions. More to the point, have the Facebook corporation already predicted that this would happen and are they currently trying to keep it under wraps from the public? Have they also kept lots of tragic stories such as how rapists have found their victims on Facebook or the case of Katie Piper out of the media?

Katie Piper was a former model and aspiring t.v. presenter who happened to start dating a man on Facebook, but on March 31st 2008 this same man raped her in a hotel room and later got a friend to throw industrial-strength sulphuric acid in her face. Katie later went on to say: “At one point he’d sent so many messages he blocked my Facebook account”. Are Facebook really doing enough to stop instances such as this?

Surely they could have background checks on people and have people with police records taken off the site.

Read more:

As you can see Facebook isn’t all about fun and games, there is a dark side to it too. Yet, I have also found a particularly annoying side to it additionally; Facebook is being used to market events, this means people are emailing me events that I really couldn’t care less about to my inbox. I class this as spam and find it especially annoying when I am having to sift through all of this to find relevant emails from friends and family. Yes, I really won’t be going to those raves half way around the world because: one, it’s not my scene, and two, I don’t live there so I would appreciate not being hassled. I have heard older generations talk about Facebook on this level, however I have never heard people of my own generation speak about it like this, so I would love to know what you think?

Perhaps I am just a scrooge..a little too old before my time.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Is the current celebrity culture changing society?

The part of PR that interests me the most is certainly celebrity PR. In today’s society celebrity, salacious gossip is everywhere you go. Everyone seems to be fascinated as to: what/who celebrities are wearing, who they are dating, their current weight, what they look like without makeup and who they currently hate.

So what is our fascination with these celebs?...are we trying to make them seem less two-dimentional? Are we purely interested in seeing how the other half live? Are we interested in the successes of the Celebrities or focus more on the scandals? These are questions I have asked myself on many occasions.

I have asked family and friends how they feel about ‘our new celebrity culture’ and what fascinates them so greatly about it and found that many people are particularly interested in the people they ‘love to hate’. For example Ashley Cole and Gordon Ramsey have been voted the most hated celebrities in the UK due to both of their ‘love rat’ reputations, yet they still love to read articles about them. It was also true of these people that I asked, that scandalous and tragic articles and headlines attracted their attention more than a positive read. Does it make them more real? Or does it just make us feel better about our own lives?

Of interest to the public or interesting to the public

One of the female celebrities with the most media coverage in the world is Britney Spears. Over the past couple of years Ms. Spears has been subject to some very controversial and shocking media coverage. For instance, in 2003 Britney kissed Madonna on stage at the MTV music video of the year awards, then in 2007 after a strenuous divorce to Kevin Federline, Britney: shaved her head, drove over some photographers, almost dropped her child, smashed a paparazzi car with an umbrella and was in and out of rehab constantly. Are these scandalous articles of interest to the public or just interesting to the public? JUST BLOODY INTERESTING…well unless you are paparazzi, then it might be in your interest!

Yet, to truly know what is of public interest and not just interesting to the public, it has to be defined. This is well portrayed in a model by Peter and Olsen:

To put it into context, the case of Britney Spears’ breakdown can be used as an example. If we are to bear the aggregate view in mind, then the public did need to know what was going on in her life due to over-whelming interest. Plus, the emergent view would also support that notion as many people were talking about the scandals, thus meaning it was of public interest.

The Britney scandals are very much an example of paternalism as the media were trying to drive the public interest agenda. For instance, the writers of the articles may have found other stories more interesting, yet they felt the need to print the Britney headlines, as they know this would maximise sales.

There are more pressing issues other than celebrity affairs which I do dwell on. An issue that particularly interests me is the swine flu epidemic. Did the public trust what the PR Practitioners were saying? Were the public told the full story? Did it just create moral panic? How much did they have to tell the public? What was essential and what has been left out?

Ethical public relations is not an oxymoron

Parsons P.J. suggests that public relations ethics is “the application of knowledge, understanding and reasoning to questions of right and wrong behaviour in the professional practice of public relations”.

The pillars of PR ethics are: fairness (being socially responsible), confidentiality (respecting privacy), beneficence (the act of doing good), non-malefesance (causing no harm) and veracity (telling the truth).

Seib and Fitzpatrick (1995) suggested, “Every profession has a moral purpose. Medicine has health. Law has justice. Public relations have harmony – social harmony”. They also created the Potter box model to try to further explain ethics in public relations.

As you can see from the above model, the values that I identify with are: punctuality, money, security, status, charm, loyalty, respect and hard work.

During a seminar we were given some scenarios where the values and ethics I value may be compromised and I had to explain how I would approach the situation. For instance, you have been working for a fairly large company for several years, you are living with your sister who also works in the same industry, but not the same company and you have discovered something about her organisation (the competition) that would certainly get you ahead in the business. What would you do? Get ahead or stay quiet? This is remarkably EASY for me to answer, as nothing is more important to me than my family- yet if this weren’t a member of my family and a loose acquaintance instead, then I think I would show only a little remorse.

An example of a company with apparent, good organisational values and ethics is Virgin. Virgin states in their code of conduct that:

“You must conduct the Company’s business in an honest and ethical manner, including the ethical handling or avoidance of actual or apparent conflicts of interest between personal and professional relationships, and never act in a manner that could cause you to lose your independence and objectivity or that could adversely affect the confidence of our customers and suppliers or your fellow employees in the integrity of the Company or its procedures”.

There are many companies with a poor ethical stance and lack of values. Such as: Ikea, Primark, Nike, Abercrombie and Fitch, and Walmart, to name a few. However, you perhaps wouldn’t think of Coca-Cola being included in this category. Coca-Cola is the largest carbonated drinkscompany in the world, with some of the most memorable televised adverts such as the ‘holidays are coming’ Christmas ad and the rather humorous Coca-Cola vs Pepsi ads. Yet, it would seem that Coca-Cola are not just experts in the beverage domain, but also at keeping their labour violations under tap. On February 25, 2010, Coke was sued by Guatemalan laborers, who claim that they, “endured a campaign of violence” from the people who worked for the bottling or processing plants owned by Coke (Business Week). Not only was one of the workers shot at and threatened at the bottling plant, but armed men broke into his home and threatened his family (Atlanta Business News). Then several weeks after this invasion, he was fired without reason. As to the crisis management strategies carried out by the PR practitioners of Coca-Cola, I am aware of none, but it appears that on my questioning, none of my friends and family know about Coca-Cola’s labour mishaps. Therefore, it can be concluded that the practitioners did a good job at keeping the issue clandestine, thus not to tarnish and undo the years it took them to create a superior public image for the brand. In companies such as these, where workers are mistreated, it would be interesting to uncover the PR practitioners’ stance on the situation. For instance, where do their loyalties lie? With the client, employer, society, friends, family, self, profession etc?

As a task in a PR lecture we had to complete a quiz to find out about our professionalism. An example of a question included:

Do you always do tasks to the best of your ability?

a. Always

b. Usually

c. Rarely

d. Never, if I can get away with it

The results were that I need to have a look at my personal code of ethics and my work ethic-but there is hope. Yet, I achieved one of the top marks in the lecture theatre. Does this mean that in the future our generation of PR practitioners will actually be able to own the name ‘spin doctors’ and will be less ethical and moral than the PR practitioners at present?

Are lack of values and beliefs, therefore a product of the young society today? Is it because of our social circles? Or how we are brought up?

Values, beliefs and attitudes are learnt, for instance we are not born with prejudices in relation to culture/religion or up-bringing/socialisation. These are all learnt habits, not innate ones.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The end is nigh

It appears very prominent that the party lifestyle of my first and second year at university is well and truly over. Sleeping all-day and partying all night is definitely no longer an option. Totaling up all my assignments due in this semester I have discovered that I have approximately 10,000 words to write in just over 4 weeks. Therefore this year is already proving highly stressful, I have swapped drunken nights out for ….. stressing out in the library and I have swapped sleeping all-day for…. stressing out in the library. There is a saying: take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop. I certainly feel there is a limit to the amount of rest that the quote implies, with that in mind last year I very much took the piss but now I deem life to be something that happens when you cant get to sleep. While others are sleeping, I am creating my best ideas and feeling more productive than ever.

Ultimately, time is unquestionably wasted when you are wasted all the time.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


The end of my second year, studying public relations at university is fast approaching; from then on I will only have one more year fulfilling the poverty stricken, sleep all day, party all night, student stereotype. During my time at university I have worked with some very interesting people, some highly intelligent and several you wonder how they ever got into university in the first place!

A friend once summed up his life as a student for me; his words were ‘I would love to live this life forever as, being a student is like being on the dole, only your parents are proud of you’ Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I have tackled many fascinating subjects and assignments over the two years. However, I have found public relations to be one of the most intriguing of subjects as it appears to be constantly changing. For instance PR has moved away from its traditional concept of one-way communication and is very much focused on the notion of two-way communications and the rise of the blog, social networks, and organisations’ own websites, all things of great popularity amongst individuals of my generation. I am very curious to see how it will continue to change in the future.

Through the extensive research I have carried out during my time at university, it has only been on very rare occasions that I found a book, website; journal etc. concluding the same definition of PR.
Public relations is difficult to sum up in a couple of sentences as there are so many parts to the field. The public relations consultants association best describe it as:

‘Public relations is all about reputation. It’s the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. It is used to gain trust and understanding between an organisation and its various publics.’

The role of the PR practitioner

There are many duties to perform on a daily basis for a PR practitioner. These may involve, writing/editing the in-house journal or magazine, arranging visits, editing company blogs, press releases, updating the website, and crisis management.

Broom and Dozier (1986) defined there being two major roles for the PR practitioner:

  • ‘The communication technician, who focuses on tactical matters such as writing, event management and media management.’
  • ‘The communications manager, who has a more strategic communication perspective and will normally create overall strategy, take and analyze client briefings and deal with issues and crises.’

PR practitioners work for an agency/consultancy, in-house, In-house agency/consultancy or freelancing. Working for an agency/consultancy means the practitioner would be performing as part of a company in their own right, so not being part of a larger organisation for which they have to provide PR. On top of this they have to charge clients for their services. The major advantage to sourcing an agency/consultancy is that the organisation gains an outsiders perspective of the situation. This perhaps enables them to think of new and creative ways to resolve situations. Working in-house means that the PR practitioner would be part of a large organisation; either for a public or private company, public sector body, charity or non-governmental organisation. The practitioner would not be able to explicitly charge for their services and have to work within a set budget. The major advantage to an in house PR team is that the team will know every last detail of that company, whereas sourcing an agency/consultancy will not have this advantage. Working for an in-house agency/consultancy is basically a hybrid of the two just described. It entails being employed directly by the organisation from which they provide PR, they are sometimes allowed to work for partner organisations but they have to fund their costs by re-charging for the services that they provide. And finally a freelancer is a self employed individual tending to work on short term contracts or covering absences or peaks in demand.

In seminars we touched upon which sector we could see ourselves working for; in house or agency. I came to the conclusion that after leaving university I would first like to work for an agency as this means I will be able to work with lots of different organisations rather than just one and hopefully gain a wider range of knowledge in different areas and gather a portfolio of contacts in the field. I have also discovered whilst at university that I do not like to be in one place for long periods of time as I feel familiarity breeds contempt. This may however be down to my youthfulness, with age I may decide that a lack of familiarity is unsettling and I might possibly venture down the path of working in house as by then I could certainly have discovered that I predominantly excel in one area or that I have become fond of a particular company.

I cannot say I know the direction I will take, as to whether I will work in crises PR, corporate PR etc. However I do know; I am never truly happy unless I have a challenge set at my door, in which I confront all my negative attributes and reform each one individually so that it is then referred to as one of my most prominent qualities. I live outside traditional boundaries and need to think ahead of the curve. I enjoy creating new possibilities and ideas, when others focus only on limitations. With my people skills, I have the ability to become a fearless leader who expects others to keep up with my head-turning pace.

Group work

Bruce Tuckman, in 1965 put forth a model on team development; he suggested that there are 4 main phases for a team to undertake in order to work efficiently together and reach a positive result. The first phase is the forming stage; people in the team are likely to stay relatively reserved in order to avoid conflict and as a result, keep themselves busy by organizing all the team members, for instance when everyone should meet and who should be doing what. The second phase is the storming stage, here group members compete to have their suggestions heard and considered. This phase can cause conflict and an idea may be hard to conclude upon. However, without patience and tolerance the team will fail to agree on a concept and will inevitably fail at his stage if motivation cannot be restored. The third phase is norming; at this stage team members begin to trust each other and motivation will increase as the team gets more acquainted with the project. The team may also feel a sense of achievement for getting so far, thus increasing motivation further. The final phase is the performing stage. Teams who reach this point should be able to function as a unit as they have found ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. Team members are now likely to be competent and independent. This leads me on to discuss one of our PR assignments where Tuckman’s model was clearly evident. The task was to act as clients in a team of four and give a brief to another team who acted as an agency. The brief we gave them was to create a campaign to generate a greater awareness and inform 18-25 year olds of the dangers of STIs, how to avoid them and where they can go for help. Then the roles were reversed and we acted as the agency and they gave us a brief to think of ways to promote a website selling festival merchandise. Our team consisted of Sarah, Hannah, Lizzie and I. To start off with, Sarah and I were unsure as to whom the other members of our team were as Hannah and Lizzie rarely attended seminars meaning that initially Sarah and I were doing all the work (this would relate to the forming stage of the model) However, eventually Sarah took it upon herself to organize everyone together, and quite quickly we all managed to identify one another’s strengths and weaknesses and together we made quite an efficient team. Like with most teams, a hierarchy was formed and individuals took on certain roles in the group; Sarah appeared to organize everyone together yet she and Lizzie didn’t put too many thoughts forward. Both Hannah and I worked well together, we feed off one another’s ideas and did the majority of the work; with Hannah doing more of the written work and myself doing more of the creative work. Hannah had a very paternalistic, managerial style as she was an energetic leader with a passion for the work which made everyone more optimistic and motivated. My leadership style was very much autocratic; I did hear other peoples ideas, but I certainly liked to have mine heard and I seemed to delegate who should be doing what, which may have made me come across quite bossy. In future projects, when working in a team I would like to take on some of Hannah’s leadership skills in the fact that I would like to pay more attention to others social needs as this motivated people into working rather than scaring them into working. I do believe that I will be able to adapt my leadership style in the future as Jago 1982 proclaimed:

‘Good leaders are made not born. If you have the desire and willpower, you can become an effective leader. Good leaders develop through a never ending process of self-study, education, training, and experience’

The dream team

When at school and sometimes in the present day of my uni life I have the opportunity to pick the people I would like to work with in a team. I know I definitely always pick my friends first, as I assume that working with friends is easier as I already know their strengths and limitations. However, this is a common misconception that many people make, for working with friends can lead to greater conflict, due to a difference in opinion or on the other hand, little work will get done as a result of socialising. Therefore a ‘dream team’ or ‘successful team’ should consist of a number of different personalities and skills, not just comprised of all your friends.

Before the assignment of acting as clients and agencies everyone had to carry out a Belbin test, this is a self perception test to discover the role you play in a team. The results of the team I was working with were; Sarah came out as a RI (resource investigator, provides inside knowledge on the opposition and makes sure that the team’s idea can carry to the world outside the team) and PL (plant: Solves difficult problems with original and creative ideas, can be a poor communicator and may ignore the details). And Lizzie came out as a Tw (team worker: socially oriented and cooperative). The two results that I came out the highest on were CF (completer finisher, painstakingly orderly, conscientious, with a tendency to worry about all the small things) and RI (resource investigator, provides inside knowledge on the opposition and makes sure the team’s idea can carry to the world outside the team, explores new ideas and possibilities with energy and with others, good networker). I would by enlarge agree with these results especially that I am a ‘complete finisher’ as I am very much a perfectionist and am often told so.

After concluding the Belbin test I carried out several other personality tests to try and discover further, the characteristics of my personality. I revealed that I am very extroverted which I believe is due to the fact that I am incredibly fussy, out-spoken and very much not a shy person. I also rarely tend to work on instinct and would rather have some rationalization behind an answer/project etc. I also appeared to be very judging which can work both for and against my favour.

This test I took however, did not appear to be well recognised so I went on to take the Meyer Briggs personality test, it is a psychometric questionnaire designed to measure psychological preferences in how people make decisions and perceive the world and it is recognised in workplaces around the world. I do enjoy taking these kinds of tests as I like to find more out about myself. Isabel Briggs Meyers said herself:

‘whatever the circumstances of your life, the understandings of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgements sounder, and your life closer to your hearts desire.’

The results of my personality test came out fairly similar to the above chart. The results were that my personality type is ESTJ; this is an abbreviation of 1 of the 16 personality types. It apparently means that I am a much expressed extravert, slightly expressed sensing personality, moderately expressed thinking personality, and moderately expressed judging personality.

  • E – Extraversion preferred to Introversion: ESTJs often feel motivated by their interaction with people. They tend to enjoy a wide circle of acquaintances, and they gain energy in social situations.
  • S – Sensing preferred to iNtuition: ESTJs tend to be more concrete than abstract. They focus their attention on the details rather than the big picture, and on immediate realities rather than future possibilities.
  • T – Thinking preferred to Feeling: ESTJs tend to value objective criteria above personal preference. When making decisions, they generally give more weight to logic than to social considerations.
  • J – Judgment preferred to Perception: ESTJs tend to plan their activities and make decisions early. They derive a sense of control through predictability.

The ESTJ type accounts for about 8–12% of the population and therefore is highly sort after in the work place so that there is a combination of different personalities. Some practitioners have speculated that George Bush is an ESTJ.

To make the ‘dream team’ there needs to be a combination of different team role personalities for instance there only needs to be one coordinator or Shaper (not both) for having more than one leader can often lead to conflict, at least one Plant to stimulate ideas, a Monitor/evaluator to maintain honesty and clarity, and finally one or more Implementer, Team worker, Resource investigator or Completer/finisher to make things happen.

After working with the team consisting of Hannah, Sarah, Lizzie and I; I believe we worked as an efficient team and managed to get all the work done. Yet we were far from the ‘dream team’, the ‘dream team’ for me would mean that everybody did the same amount of work and gave a similar amount of input into discussions and that everybody in the team wanted to achieve the same goals. I also discovered from this team work exercise that I like working with creative, intellectual, hard working and motivational people and have a very poor tolerance for people who do not have at least one of those characteristics.