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Studying Grunig’s Adaptation for the digital PRO’s.

May 30, 2010 5 comments

The digitalisation of the PR industry has become a slight obsession in the world of PR. PR agencies have blogs, are tweeting for business and encouraging companies to blog for business. Having read Grunig’s Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalization, article, in relation to my dissertation research, the paragraph titled ‘abandoning the illusion of control’ was of interest to me. In this paragraph, Grunig discusses the evident liberal flow if information from journalist to blogger to readers and vice versa. Grunig also goes further to discuss that the traditionalist PRO’s generally believe their place is supporting the Marketing or Advertising Departments, through media publicity.

The fact that recipients of messages from publicity campaigns are referred to as audiences, Grunig, highlights that even this shows control. ‘These practitioners also typically believe that organizations can define, or even create their public’s and ‘target’ them. Then, they believe their targets can be persuaded…’ Grunig further argues, ‘They believe that their behaviors can be influenced… through asymmetrical communication- communication designed to promote the interests of the organization with little or no concern for the interest of the publics.’On the other hand, new and social media authors such as Seth Godin in Tribes, Brian Solis and Diedre Breakenridge in PR 2.0, argue that the digitization of the Public Relations industry has given control back to the audience and message receiver. ‘Social Media is empowering people to become the new influencers…’ What I will be investigating is whether, as Brian Solis and Diedre Breakenridge believe, giving back control to the audiences has affected the transparency of online and digital PR. When an employee of Vodafone used the companies twitter account to tweet homophobic slander earlier this year, Vodafone followers were in uproar over the tweets. Vodafone apologized to their ‘audience’ / followers unconventionally, through twitter, however – this got the message delivered to it’s audience. However, relating this back to Grunig’s idea of control and persuasion, Vodafone UK alone has over 11,000 twitter followers, and over 185,000 fans on Facebook which is a sizeable amount of fans who use the service as a virtual help desk rather than just consume the promotional content. However in support of Grunig’s argument, Vodafone UK’s twitter and facebook pages allow for the company to obtain demographics on their followers / users, thus giving them overall control over the type of promotional campaign they can upload to suit the needs to which their social networking accounts have provided. This does prove Solis and Breakenridge’s point that the audience are the influencers in Social Media, however, taking this Vodafone case study for example, this only occurs momentarily until the company has gathered their audience data which can then be used to shape campaigns and content thus regaining control and becoming the influencer and challenging the idea that ‘Monologue has changed to dialogue, bringing a new era of Public Relations.’ Later on in the article Grunig also discusses the ideas of persuasion. That persuasion usually occurs when ‘messages change the cognitive representations in the minds of publics – representations they typically call images, reputations, brands, impressions…’ He argues that these can be managed through the appropriate department – i.e.: brand management, reputation management and perception management. Each department or sector has a specialty and are experts in managing the information effectively and strategically so that the audience is fed the correct information. The same can be applied to digital PR. The only difference, Grunig implies is that it is only an illusion of a crystal clear two way communications method that is taking place.

There is a controller in the conversation. To further investigate this – PR Week on the 22nd March 2010 reported that the Conservative Political Party were winning the Social Media battle in the run up to the Election Campaign. Research undertaken from February to Mid March found that 4,688 comments were left of the Conservative Party’s Facebook fanpage compared to Labour who had 1,229 comment and the Liberal Democrats with 727 comments. The Conservative’s were also winning in the fan stakes with a staggering 23,800 ‘fans’, dwarfing Labour and Liberal Democrats’ minute 7000 fans. The article also reported that, ‘55 per cent of Liberal Democrat MPs are on the site compared to 38 per cent from the Conservative Party and 34 per cent from Labour.’ Ironically enough, the party with the less Politicians on Facebook have obtained more fans. Despite this, the facebook fanpage offers the audience a chance to read about the changes with the election slogan ‘Vote For Change’ across. Directing this back to Grunig’s idea on control and management – the abundance of information, information on competing parties, Labour in particular, images, conversations, photos and press coverage links give the illusion of a transparent Facebook page for the conservatives. However, referring to the conservative party’s website, viral images of a David Cameron NHS billboard were posted, and audience participation of sending in new ‘photoshopped’ images were welcomed. So, is it possible the 23,800 fans were exposed to the NHS campaign and the spoof internet versions for a comical effect but with a serious intent behind? Either way, the control element still remains, even if it was audience driven initially, David Cameron jumped on the bandwagon, put up with being the butt of the joke for a while and succeeded in leading the Social Media battle against the Liberal Democrats and Labour. And Grunig makes a point of highlighting this in his article. He refers to research undertaken by his supervision that revealed the illusion of control as being a ‘behavioral, strategic management paradigm of public relations as research based and a mechanism for organizational listening and learning.’ With the purpose of listening and building relationships with stakeholders through communication programmes that cultivate relationships with publics that can also be found to be stakeholders relevant to each management function. However, what happens when the whole micro blogging community gangs up on you on twitter?

When South West Airlines removed film director and avid twitterer, Kevin Smith from their flight for being ‘too fat’, an unexpected twitter storm erupted.Kevin Smith tweeted his 1.6 million followers updates throughout the ordeal, gathering support from his fans. South West Airlines’ twitter page was inundated with tweets from angered Kevin Smith fans, which caused the South West Airlines server to temporarily crash. They were urged to issue an online twitter apology to Kevin Smith. Similar to the Vodafone scandal in the way the matter was somewhat resolved it sets it apart from the Vodafone scandal because this incident occurred away from the microblogsphere. This is just another example of Solis and Breakenridge’s idea that publics are the new influencers. Seth Godin, author of Tribes, would describe this as a tribal following with Kevin Smith as the leader. However it defeats the idea that being on Twitter and a socially media savvy company can enhance and build trust with your publics – especially when under attack from another ‘group’ of publics as if you are a company, you will tend to have less ‘die hard fans’ unlike a television personality or renowned creative person, who can easily build a following on their natural charm and personality. So, Solis and Breakenridge have failed to address this issue.

It is extremely beneficial for the public to have companies on twitter and social networking sites, however without a personality, if the company doesn’t have a face the publics can relate to, it defeats the object of building relations with the public. Knowledge of Social Media practices is beneficial ad should not be avoided in an era where digital PR is ever evolving, however where was Breakenridge and Solis’ In conclusion, Shel Israel once mentioned that the PR industry needed to change their ways, and stop pitching on the online platform and Grunig uses his research o the illusion of control to affirm this. It is evident a strong element of control exists within the digital PR paradigms, though it is not as obviously used as in traditional PR. Data has proved to be highly sought after and valuable when it comes to using social networks to identify new audiences, and to satisfy the needs of each and every one of your twitter followers, or facebook fans. But isn’t this just another form of reputation and brand management online? Just like the Vodafone twitter blunder, the company stepped in and acted on twitter because that’s where the damage had been done. There was no point issuing a press release and contacting journalists – who were already following them on twitter anyway, Vodafone understood the power of the microblogger on twitter, and so immediately approached everyone affected first. And however optimistic Breakenridge and Solis are when it come to the benefits and transparency of digital PR and Social Media, the book, Putting the Public back into Public Relations is a guide book for businesses looking to optimize their business in the PR industry, and so bearing this in mind, it is essential for the authors to be able to sell their ideas, capitalize on the illusion on transparency as this is the trending topic and ignore the risks and dangers of companies owning an abundance of audience data that could effectively be used to persuade a public, with what they want to hear.

Bibliography Online: http://praxis.massey.ac.nz/prism_on-line_journ.html (accessed 06.04.10) B. Solis & D. Breakenridge, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is reinventing the aging business of PR. (accessed online: http://proquest.safaribooksonline.com.ezproxy.westminster.ac.uk/) (accessed 09.04.10) http://twitter.com/VodafoneUK (accessed 10.04.10) http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/vodafoneUK?ref=ts (accessed 10.04.10) http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/991885/Conservative-Party-dominates-social-media-platform-Facebook-election-approaches/ (accessed: 11.04.10) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/news/article7027725.ece (accessed: 11.04.10)

Samples

May 2, 2010 1 comment

Public Relations, New and Social Media.

April 1, 2010 1 comment

As a new decade dawns upon us, there is speculation of whether the PR Industry can handle the interactive platform that today’s technology offers to them. Currently, there are 23628 articles in PR Week related to social and new media, the oldest dating back to 1997. With this in mind, a recent article posted on PR Week revealed that only 6% of 4500 CV’s in the PR Industry contain reference to new media tools such as blogging and social media, creating hysteria amongst the PR Recruitment agencies. The news that a blogger was offered payment in return for favoruable feedback on a product by a practitioner resulted in a division in the PR Industry, highlighted by PR Week’s Polls, asking whether practitioners should be allowed to pay bloggers for favourable product coverage. Many argued that is was like advertising, paying for coverage. To some this is worrying, especially now that the interactive realms are changing everyday. 

Looking at the traditional relationship between the journalist and PR practitioner, it is fair to say that communications have in the past been tense but, in this report I will be discussing how the rise of the citizen journalist is affecting the PR Industry and what the future holds for the PR / Blogger online by observing two case studies. 

  • Kevin Braddock’s recent contraversial blog post regarding PR Proffesionals.
  • Neal’s Yard Remedies and the Guardian Online ‘You Ask, We Answer’ blogs. Neal’s Yard refused to answer.

Kevin Braddock

Kevin Braddock 

Just before the end of 2009, freelance journalist and online blogger, Kevin Braddock posted a list of, what he regarded as the PR Industry’s “‘most useless, incompetent PR people’ he had dealings with last year”[1]. The Times Online reported that Braddock compared them to being “only a notch above Nigerian banking spam in terms of usefulness”. Braddock’s main complaint was the blanket distribution of press releases to his inbox, and unsolicited, irrelevant emails. Given the fact that email addresses of the PRO’s were also published, this caused uproar with the individuals concerned. The post was deleted a few days later. His response to PR Week was, ‘I posted the blog because it’s a problem that many journalists have. I’ve since been contacted by people on the list who have apologised.[2]’ Braddock also highlighted that some comments left were of journalists and PRO’s agreeing with him. The division of the industry on this matter is emphasised by the current poll for PR Week asking ‘Is it okay for journalists/bloggers to name and shame persistent PR professionals?’ The results are currently 50 / 50[3]. This also highlights the potential need for a new discipline in the way the PR Industry interacts with citizen journalism. 

The main reason for Braddock’s post was the unnecessary emails he’d received. And highlighting this point was Shel Israel, Social Media Expert at the 2009 Lewis PR Social Media Channels Event. Interviewed by a PR Week journalist, Shel emphasised the concerns he had about the PR Industry’s rather traditional tactics in an interactive platform ‘There are a bunch of PR people who think that their job is to pitch and pitch and pitch and pitch and if they keep going on this route and keep up these practices and bring them into social media, I see a future for them in the restaurant service industry.[4]’ 

Israel makes a valid point. However, the question of why the PR industry is using the blogsphere as a two dimensional tool in a three dimensional environment needs to be addressed. 

I mentioned previously about the PR recruitment industry’s findings of less than 6% of 4500 PR CV’s containing social media key words such as, SEO, social media. Referring back to this article, Ros Kiderley of JFL Recruitment states that there are fewer candidates with social media skills, “’Everyone under 26 has excellent social media skills. It’s integral to what they do. For them, it’s a natural part of PR,”[5]

 

Malcolm Gladwell discusses the story of success in his book, Outliers (2009, Penguin). He analyses his 10000 hour theory, and theorises that it is this amount of time devoted to a hobby that is the tipping point to success. Is it possible to apply the same theory to the research JFL Recruitment has offered? Perhaps the reason why the PR Industry is stuck in this two dimensional platform is because that is what the company’s long serving managing directors have practised since starting their career. Currently dominating the PR Industry from the top of the pyramid are directors and CEO’s with substantial experience in practising the traditional PR and, although there are younger employees joining and contributing with their social media expertise, the overall face of PR social media will remain the same two dimensional pitch style, unless, according to Gladwell’s theory, someone with 10000 hours of social media expertise is at a senior level. 

Neal’s Yard

Attempts for the PR Industry to work alongside the blogsphere have been made, and most recently demonstrated by Neal’s Yard Remedies and The Guardian. Neal’s Yard agreed to participate in the Guardian Online’s regular ‘You Ask, We Answer’[6] features, but failed to respond to any of the comments which overall questioned their ethical practises in regards to the homeopathic products sold. With 214 comments left with no response, instead of working with the news, Neal’s Yard unwittingly became the news. 

Observing this case study it becomes evident that the roles were reversed. The guardian online being sufficiently more blog savvy than Neal’s Yard, acted as the agent / PRO in encouraging Neal’s Yard to participate. However, the tables turned once again when Neal’s Yard used traditional methods of ignoring controversial questions. The Guardian and readers were constantly probing the company for questions, the saga even making to twitter. 

In this case Miller’s theory that ‘“Public Relations and persuasion are two peas in a pod.”[7]’ was unsuccessful, although in hindsight, it was the persuasion of the public that sent Neal’s Yard into hibernation. 

Grunig, A New Model and The Internet Manifesto 

With reference to Grunig’s 4 symmetrical models of Public Relations, a new model could be created specifically for the purpose of operating within the social media realms of the PR Industry. This is suggested as it is emphasised in the Handbook of Public Relations, that ‘Leichty and Springsteen (1993) were among the first to point out that most organisations use a combination of the four models[8]. With this in mind, blogging on the internet has a global audience, and what the PR Industry needs is a better rapport with the citizen journalists as well as their readers. 

The Internet Manifesto[9], published in September 2009 was written by 15 German journalists and bloggers on how journalism works today. With 17 declarations, it places journalism in a multi faceted platform with the ever changing face of the internet. Declaration 12 reads, “Tradition is not a business model.” As a continually fast paced environment, it puzzles me as to why the PR Industry seems to do the opposite when it comes to matters of citizen journalism. 

The evidence points to the fact that bloggers, citizen journalists and online writers are a pivotal point for the modern day PR practitioner. The turn of the century gave rise to the domestic use of the internet as standard, and as the decade introduced itself, Kevin Braddock published a contraversial list of ‘difficult’ PR practitioners, email adresses included. Removing it a few days later, it caused uproar within the PR industry. 

From the recent article on PR Week, posted 13th January 2010, it is apt to confirm that the rise of the Citizen Journalist has had a massive impact on the PR Industry. Reviewing the speech Social Media Expert, Shel Israel gave at the 2009 Lewis PR Social Media Channels Event, it is also evident, and appropriate to say that what Social Media experience practitioners have, are of no satisfactory standard. Directors and Executives are waking up to the news that out of 4500 PR CV’s, a mere six percent make reference to Social Media and key words such as blogging and twitter are mentioned in no more than nine percent of the CV’s[10]. When a global society is built up around blogging, and sharing information over the internet, it is simply unfair that practitioners expect journalists to ply through inappropriate press releases. The introduction of a wire service is what will offer both the blogger and practitioner peace of mind, however does not allow the press release to reach it’s maximum potential. 

In conclusion, I agree with Shel Israel, that the PR Industry needs to rethink their online strategies, especially when concerning bloggers and cititzen journalists. 

Going back to the Internet Manifesto, tradition is not a business, and although visually it may seem as though PR is moving with the times because they are working on so many campaigns at any one time, Shel Israel is correct when stressing to the industry that social media is not a platform for pitching – it is a platform for being involved. The most interesting conversations occur on the comments of a blog, which is why Neal’s Yard had no control of the situation. Citizen journalists have created their own declarations on how they operate and referring back to the case studies it is clearly obvious that they have capitalised on the PR Industry’s weakness, this being the lack of knowledge of the interactive social media platform. 

In an ideal world a new model, similar to the Grunigans’, that takes on board the declarations of the Internet Manifesto should be created. Once this has been created, the generation of PR Practitioners with less than 10000 hours of experience in the blogging field, can be given direction, and their succesors will have a manifesto which operates under the law of the internet, gaining the respect of bloggers and journalists along the way.   

NB: since writng this – Grunig has posted an article where the Four Model’s of Public Relations have been adapted to the digital paradigms.

 


[1] http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/columnists/article6977065.ece 

[2] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/975839/Controversial-list-PR-professionals-removed-journalist-blog/ 

[3] http://www.prweek.com/poll/ 

[4] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/966732/Shel-Israel-warns-PR-professionals-change-times/ 

[5] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/977200/Recruitment-consultants-find-digital-skills-short-supply-within-PR-industry/ 

[6] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/ethicallivingblog/2009/may/26/you-ask-neals-yard-remedies 

[7] Robert L. Heath, Handbook of Public Relations (p.13) (2001) 

[8] Robert L.Heath, Handbook of Public Relations (p.13) (2001) 

[9] http://www.internet-manifesto.org/ 

[10] http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/search/977200/Recruitment-consultants-find-digital-skills-short-supply-within-PR-industry/

Does Global PR dominate the world?

March 31, 2010 Leave a comment

Good PR is always context and culture specific. The idea of a global PR is anathema.

I started off believing that actually, global PR is not culture specific, and does not have the cultural sensitive aspects that a local PR company would, when say dealing with a campaign targeting a small audience.

The moto is, think local act Global. All PR should read local in order to connect with the specific audience. But what about when recruiting for a new audience? Or, gaining widely sought publicity for a cause considered “local”?

The debates on this team argued whether Global PR is just an anathema and that all pr should be cultural specific.
In the debate, Viola and Filippo argued for Global PR, highlighting the way certain aspects of the global pr practices can be introduced to local pr, to gain a wider audience. Sarah and Stephanie argued that cultural specific PR should always be practised as it mirrors certain aspects of the stakeholders’ interests and views thus not overwhelming them with unfamiliar messages.
In the end both teams agreed that a combination of the two practises should be used.

Hill & Knowlton dominating the world with Global PR

Leaders in the Gloabl PR game, Hill and Knowlton have 43 offices in 79 countries, and over 50 associated offices worldwide. However when scrutinised, it is evident to see that the dominating countries are that of which H& K are able to practise PR in a ‘western’ environment. There are 52 H&K Offices in Europe, United States and Canada combined and 14 associates. In the rest of the world there are 27 H & K offices, and 35 associates. So it goes without saying that however locally H&K act in countries where their brand is not familiar, they cannot act locally without the assistance of an associate company.

In Grunig’s recent article on the paradigms of Global public Relations in a age of digitisation, he attempts to make this point highlighting his four models of public relations: ‘our global theory is a normative theory that argues that public relations will be most effective throughout most parts of the world when it follows the generic principles and applies them with appropriate variations for local cultural, political, social, and economic conditions. Its absence in a country, however, does not serve as evidence that it could not be practiced there.’ Before this, Grunig also highlights that the most used of his models, worldwide, is the least effective: the press agentry model. Perhaps some countries are not responsive to what Grunig would call the Press agentry model, because they’ve been exposed to it far too much, and audiences in these countries are searching for a more interactive PR strategy – that they can respond to?

Google blames China for blocking searches

For example, let’s take China – a country the debate team also used to exemplify politics vs PR. China’s political circumstances are such that the internet and interactive PR has becomes virtually redundant. The China vs Google war continues, and only yesterday (30th march) The Guardian reported that Google’s searches were being blocked by China’s “great firewall”, so how can a country with restrictions of what some people would even argue as being a basic need in the contemporary life be responsive to global pr strategies when they can’t even access the internet?

New Media Webcast – Social Media.

February 19, 2010 2 comments