Tag Archives: Public Relations

How I was put off PR for years by a PR stunt which discredited PR but turned out to be the best lesson in PR I ever had


Many years ago, while I was a fresh faced dreamer, taking notes (with a pen and paper!) at the back of a lecture hall, a turn of events occurred, which turned me against public relations and public relations practitioners, and stopped me from finding out any more about what it was all about. But years later, I have seen it in a strangely ironic light (and not in that Alanis Morissette version of irony, which ironically, isn’t ironic).


The story begins with a second-year lecture on cultural theory. I had just returned from a year-out travelling round South East Asia and my idealistic view of the world had been solidified by my experiences. Now, the cultural theory modules were not exclusive to any programme. There were media studies students present, film studies, media production, journalism, and more importantly, amongst others; public relations students.

The lecturer was a popular academic with the student body, he was respected for his views of the world and an inspiration to me, as well as someone who influenced me and others to take certain modules, read books, and experience the media world around us. He is a very cool guy. In other words, his opinion mattered to me, at a time when I was destined to put the world to rights.

During this lecture, one rainy Tuesday morn, on discussing slave labour, and the actions of multi-national organisations, and their damaging impact on the world, he got on to talking about how these companies avoid negative press, and how they manage to maintain a positive image in the eyes of customers, despite their terrible practices in poorer portions of the globe.

A disturbance of the equilibrium
“Anyone in here doing PR?” was the call. Hands sheepishly rise. “Come on! Who is doing a PR degree, and wants to go and work for a big company like Coca-Cola?” The hands that remained in the air were joined by a few more confident extensions of the bicep. “Get out!” Laughter – some nervous, fluttered around the theatre. “I mean it, get out of here!” He added something else about morals, or ethics and the PR students that were brave enough to admit it left the room. The remnants of the group then learned how the Coca-Cola company pays people to say, despite the clearly inhumane conditions and painfully low pay of its workers, things like: “If we didn’t have our factory here, people would have no jobs. We are vital to the economy of this community…”

That was it for me. My moral compass firmly directed towards anything but these objectionable publicists who protect the malevolence of the world for a profit, using the dark arts of persuasion and spin.

The twist
Looking back, now I can see that it was he who was partaking in the spin. It was he who, despite his protestations toward the PR students, was performing a huge PR stunt in a public sphere, against PR.

It was successful too, at least on me, because he reinforced an attitude – I had from limited access and knowledge of what PR is (although that is a whole new subject for another day) – and affected my behaviour. The objective was to cause a change in behaviour, and it was achieved, because most people in that room, like me, became very pleased with the idea that they had some kind of moral high ground.

Acting as a third party spokesperson, and using a favourable case study, combined with emotive language, he effectually used PR techniques to dissuade me, and others, from even considering a career in public relations.

The establishment of a new equilibrium


Now that I understand PR, I can see that he gave me one of the best lesson in PR I’ve ever had.

I haven’t lost much of my idealism. I still endeavour to make my world (it used to be the world) a better place to be, and strive to work in a job that empowers me to feel I have made a positive difference to people’s lives. And this is my PR.

Encouraging democracy and two-way communications, giving people a voice, and using social media to promote the equality of ideas are just some of the things I do every day. Corporate social responsibility, an ethical code, and a code of practice engendered by a chartered institute, are all things that are encouraged and promoted to ensure moral integrity of a profession that has struggled for too long against an unjustified condemnation.

Tagged , , , , ,

8 reasons why all PR is online PR: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love to tweet

  1. 90% of media consumption is done via a screen

Courtesy of the Telegraph

Research carried out by Google has suggested that all but 1/10 of media consumption happens looking at a screen. Although this statistic includes television, it highlights the increased dependency on mobile devices with an internet connection.  According to Ofcom 58% of the population owned a smartphone in 2012, and almost a fifth of U.K. residents owned a tablet; and this number is on the rise. This graphic from the Telegraph shows that internet shopping and social media exceed making calls on our mobile devices.

  1. The demise of the press

Although some newspapers, such as the Sun would suggest otherwise, print versions of newspapers are in rapid decline. In 2005, when the Guardian bought new printers at the cost of £62 million to accommodate their Berliner format, the editor said that this would be the last printers the paper would invest in. The life span of such machines is about 12 years. Many local newspapers have also been forced to reduce staff, relocate and amalgamate to survive.

  1. Real-time news

The role of the journalist is changing and the powers and influence they once had has dispersed. The move to online versions has eradicated the copy-date and phenomenon born from the power of social media, such as citizen journalism has transformed the way people consume news. Traditional sources of information have been challenged putting influential content in the hands of the masses, not just the privileged few.

  1. Online formats allow audiences to engage with content easily

An engaged audience is an audience that can contribute. Media which promotes consumer participation will have a more engaged audience. Modern consumers want to be in control of content; they are active participants in the conversation. Audience contributions give PRs the opportunity to hear genuine opinions and learn about audiences’ wants and needs. This is invaluable information that is easy and in most cases free to acquire.

  1. Your publics will talk about you whether you contribute or not

Influential blogs can cause companies a lot of trouble

Online platforms allow consumers to publish their opinions about you to an audience of millions even if they are complaining. It is surely better to take part in the conversation, respond to their complaints or at least give yourself the opportunity to hear what they are saying. There have been several examples of consumers costing companies big money, and more importantly running their reputations, by refusing to acknowledge the power of the web. See Dell (who spent an estimated $150,00,000 on customer service after the ‘Dell Hell’ blog) or United airlines, who watched their reputation being ripped up to the sound of Canadian band; Sons of Maxwell.

The video has over 12 million views.

  1. There is a lack of trust in large organisations

The opinions of online strangers has more value than your own promotion

People are increasingly looking towards supposed independent, non-bias opinions online before making decisions. Sites like trip advisor are the first port-of-call for many before making accommodation choices for a weekend away. Reputations are organically grown in the field social media where bloggers and posters are influencing consumer decision making. Finding out what is being said and being able to contribute to and influence the conversation is vital.

  1. Television

The way we engage with our televisions is unrecognisable to what it was 10 years ago. Tivo and Sky+ have rendered scheduling and therefore targeted advertising futile. The patterns of consumption is firmly in the hands of audiences who can choose to watch their favourite programmes at any time regardless of when the schedulers chose, and access to inline media players with the click of a button has brought multi-media viewing into our living rooms, offering a huge range of choice thus, segmenting audiences to a much greater degree than ever before.

  1. Online suits PR

The social web suits the way PR has always defined its target audience; a plurality of publics with a range of different opinions, ideas and levels of engagement. Publics are segmented by their increased choices into specific groups and sub-groups allowing for more specific targeting and evaluation.

Tagged , , , , , ,