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.