Principles of Public Relations
by Arnold Anderson
Public relations is how a company interacts with the public, maintains ties to its community and gets important company information out to consumers and other interested parties. A small business needs to be adept in the practice of public relations and avoid looking to public relations practices only as means to react to a scandal. Practicing public relations means following basic principles that develop a positive reputation for your company in the marketplace.
Never deceive the public with any information you release. A lie will be uncovered and the resulting fallout from deceit can be worse than the issue you were trying to cover up. Present the facts in a way that sheds as much positive light on your company as possible.
Every piece of public relations material that comes from your company should have contact information that includes a contact name, phone number, email address and mailing address. Give the public a chance to follow up on the information you released and the media a chance to present further information if they find the story interesting.
Using a press release distribution service can cost money and make the process of getting information out to the public an expensive proposition. Prior to releasing information, target the audiences that you feel would have the greatest interest in your press release or marketing data.
A well-written press release can help the public understand the point you are trying to make. Including a pertinent picture with your press release can give the public a visual image that will either add emphasis to your message, or clarify any potential confusion that your message may cause.
A public relations professional's best allies are journalists. Good media relations will not only get your press releases printed in spots where the public will see them, they can also result in personal interviews that will gain your company even more exposure.
Understand all of the public relations tools at your disposal and know how to use them. Press releases, speeches, personal interviews, seminars, web broadcasts and direct mail pieces are just some of the tools a public relations professional can use to reach the target audience.
Some public relations pieces can be scheduled for release well in advance. For example, the announcement of a new product is something a public relations professional can coordinate with the marketing group to get the timing right. But a public relations group should also be prepared to release important information on a moment's notice to coincide with a scandal or corporate emergency.
Reporters cannot confirm information in time to make print deadlines if you are not available at all times. Availability is critical for a public relations professional, and that means giving all of your contact information to the media and remaining on call at all times.
Your company should not wait for moments to present public relations materials. You should remain active in finding new ways to get information to the consumer or media. Make yourself available for speeches and seminars, and become an active member in professional and civic organizations.
Never release information until it has been thoroughly checked for accuracy. Develop a fact-checking system for press releases and all public relations materials that will get the information to all pertinent parties to sign off on before it is made public.
1. Name basic principles of public relations according to the article.
2. Comment the following statement: “Never deceive the public with any information you release”.
3. What should contact information include?
4. Why is it important to include a pertinent picture with your press release?
5. Why should PR-professionals have contacts with journalists?
6. What are the main PR-tools according to this article? Add your tools. The figure given below can help you.
Fig. 6.1 PR Tools
7. Why is availability critical for public relations professionals?
8. Why is fact-checking system for press releases so important nowadays?
9. What principle of public relations is the most important for you?
10. Summarize the text.
ETHICAL PUBLIC RELATIONS: NOT AN OXYMORON
By Steven R. Van Hook
The Public Relations department is frequently the ethical heart of an organization. Internal and external PR communications control of the flow of good and bad news to the staff and community. The PR team copes with company crises. PR pros sit at the elbows of top officers drafting a company's mission statements, its strategies, its vision.
PR people are often put on the spot — if not to determine the morality of a course, at least to help envision the fallout. Fortunately there are valuable touchstone tools for finding our way.
We might dive deep into pools of ethical thoughts by such as Bentham, Kant,Rawls and Machiavelli. Ethics theories range from Utilitarianism ("The greatest good for the greatest number") to Deontology ("Do what is right, though the world should perish").
Or, more to the point, we can examine codes of standards through public relations guilds such as the IABC and PRSA. On a global scale, there's the International Public Relations Association Code of Conduct adopted in Venice in 1961.
The CSEP project gathered 850 codes of ethics culled from professional societies, corporations, government, and academic institutions. And we can exercise a quick reality check courtesy of PR Watch, a watchdog group combating "manipulative and misleading PR practices."
Throughout the many schools of ethics and conduct, there are some common threads.
Many For example: Don't lie. Ever. One thing we've learned well in recent decades is that the uncovered cover-up frequently incurs more wrath than the original offense. Even the highest potentates with all the levers at their power cannot keep a lid on a secret boiling over. People perceive public relations as something less than respectable — as clever strategies to convince the public that what's wrong is right. Some see public relations professionals as manipulators of the public mind, rather than conveyors of truth.
That is likely the reason most every code of conduct, especially those targeted at the PR profession, stresses honesty above all else. Too often our conduct falls short of the code. Spin substitutes for truth. Perception substitutes for reality. Victory substitutes for success.
The shadings are subtle. The arguments are heated. The proponents are ostracized. But it does matter, both in the big picture and the bottom line.
Theologians say it. Physicists say it. Even squinty-eyed comptrollers now realize it. In our interconnected systems, everything matters to everything else. What we are is a composite of our daily decisions, thoughts and actions, large and small. As business writer John Ellis says, "The truth matters. Loyalty matters. Lies matter. Values matter. You know a Dilbert company the minute you walk into it. Dilbert-company employees know the exact calibration of corporate dishonesty."
An organization's ethics flow from the top down and back up again, and permeates throughout the company mindset. A stranger off the street can sniff it out just by walking in the door. Nothing is hidden, especially in this wired age where news — especially bad news — gushes in an instant.
These matters must preoccupy the devoted PR professional.
We might remember, too, that public relations is a two way street: not only do we represent our organization to the public, but we must also present the public back to our organization. We should help our colleagues understand how the public perceives our actions.
Just like little Jiminy Crickets, public relations professionals are often the conscience of a company. It’s not always a popular spot to be in, but it is our duty. It's what we're paid to do. And, as we sometimes confess to one another, it's what we largely love most about our job.
1. What is the main idea of the text?
2. Why do some people see public relations professionals as manipulators of the public mind, rather than conveyors of truth?
3. Do you agree that what we are is a composite of our daily decisions, thoughts and actions, large and small?
4. Comment on the following statement: "The truth matters. Loyalty matters. Lies matter. Values matter. You know a Dilbert company the minute you walk into it. Dilbert-company employees know the exact calibration of corporate dishonesty."
5. Why does the author claim that PR is a two-way street?
6. Why is The Public Relations department frequently the ethical heart of an organization?
7. When and where was the International Public Relations Association Code of Conduct adopted?
8. Is ethical PR an oxymoron nowadays? Why /why not?
9. What ethical dilemmas can PR face?
10. Summarize the text.
PUBLIC RELATIONS ACROSS CULTURES: BUILDING INTERNATIONAL COMMUNICATION BRIDGES
By N. Paune
The Public Relations (PR) industry is responsible for creating and maintaining relationships between clients and customers. Through areas such as brand management, advertising, media relations and crisis management, PR practitioners seek to foster interest, trust and belief in a product or company. PR practitioners are aware of how best to carry this out when dealing within their own nations and cultures, however, when dealing with a foreign audience it is critical that cross cultural differences are recognised. By way of illustrating the impact cross cultural awareness can have on the success or failure of a PR campaign a brief example can be cited: Pepsodent tried to sell its toothpaste in Southeast Asia by emphasizing that it "whitens your teeth." They found out that the local natives chew betel nuts to blacken their teeth because they found it attractive. Had the PR company behind this campaign analysed the cross cultural issues related to Pepsodent's product, the failure of this PR campaign could have been avoided. Cross cultural differences can make or break a PR campaign. It is therefore crucial that PR practitioners dealing with PR campaigns that incorporate a cross cultural element analyse likely cross cultural differences. A few key areas shall be highlighted in order to help PR practitioners begin to consider how culture may affect future projects.
Language and Culture
In order for a PR campaign to be successful abroad, an appreciation of the target language and its cultural nuances is necessary. The PR and advertising industries are littered with examples of poor translations and a lack of cross cultural understanding leading to PR failure. For example, when Ford launched the 'Pinto' in Brazil they were puzzled as to why sales were dead. Fortunately they found out that Brazilians did not want to be seen driving a car meaning 'small male genitals' and promptly changed the name. Translation of documents, slogans and literature must be checked and double checked for meanings and cross cultural nuances. This should not only take place between languages but also within languages. Even in English there are cross cultural differences in meanings. For example, the airline UAL headlined an article about Paul Hogan, star of Crocodile Dundee, with, "Paul Hogan Camps it up" which unfortunately in the UK and Australia is slang for "flaunting homosexuality".
The Spoken Word
Areas where the spoken word is used in PR, such as press conferences or interviews, should be prepared for within a cross cultural framework. In short, speaking styles and the content used differ across cultures. British and American communication styles are described as 'explicit', meaning messages are conveyed solely through words. Correlating background information is deemed necessary and divulged, ambiguity is avoided and spoken words have literal meaning. In many other cultures, communication is 'implicit'. The message listeners are likely to interpret is based on factors such as who is speaking, the context and non-verbal cues. Spoken words do not fully convey the whole story as listeners are expected to read between the lines. With relation to content, speakers must be aware of the cross cultural differences in humour, metaphors, aphorisms and anecdotes. In addition, references to topics such as politics and/or religion can be a very sensitive issue in other cultures. When the spoken word is used the cross cultural distinctions of the target culture must be incorporated in order to help the speaker appeal to and identify with the audience.
The Written Word
Press releases, features and copywriting all require a certain amount of cross cultural sensitivity when being applied abroad. Journalistic traditions, writing styles, news worthiness, delivery systems and whether a 'free press' exists are all areas that will affect how the written word is tailored.
In addition, the most important point, from a cross cultural perspective, is how to write in a way that engages the readers in that society or culture. Some cultures may prefer colourful and inspirational writing, others factual and objective. Some may be motivated by language that incorporates a religious or moral tone, others by a money-orientated or materialistic one.
When writing, the first step should always be to look at and integrate the cross cultural particulars of the target audience.
PR practitioners employ many different communication channels when trying to circulate information relating to their campaign. The main channels of communication in the UK or America are the radio, the press, TV, internet and public spaces. However, these channels may not always be applicable abroad. In many countries the radio, TV or newspapers may not be the primary source of information. Literacy rates may be poor and/or radios may be expensive. In Africa, only 1.4% of the population have access to the internet. Even where such channels of communication do exist, such as TV, some methods used by PR practitioners, namely guerrilla marketing, would be interpreted differently in foreign countries. For example, interrupting live TV may be laughed at in the UK but in other countries it would be seen as irresponsible and rebellious. The usual channels of communication in some countries would simply have no effect in terms of PR. In such countries, local alternatives need to be sought such as religious leaders, tribal chiefs, school teachers or NGO's. Information coming from such figures will not only reach the audience but be perceived as more credible than if it were from foreigners.
The use of publicity materials in PR campaigns such as logos, slogans, pictures, colours and designs must all be cross culturally examined. Pictures of seemingly innocuous things in one culture could mean something different in another. For example, a company advertised eyeglasses in Thailand by featuring a variety of cute animals wearing glasses. The ad failed as animals are considered to be a low form of life in Thailand and no self respecting Thai would wear anything worn by animals. Similarly, logos or symbols are culturally sensitive. A soft drink was introduced into Arab countries with an attractive label that had a six-pointed star on it. The Arabs interpreted this as pro-Israeli and refused to buy it.
The above cited areas are but a few of those that require decent cross cultural assessment by PR practitioners if they wish their international and cross cultural campaigns to succeed. The aim of implementing a cross cultural analysis in PR is to build campaigns that target the audience as best as possible, meaning appealing to their world view while avoiding offense.
1. What is PR industry responsible for?
2. Why is an appreciation of the target language and its cultural nuances necessary for a PR campaign abroad?
3. When is a spoken word used in PR?
4. What are British and American communication styles?
5. Why must speakers be aware of the cross cultural differences in humour, metaphors, aphorisms and anecdotes?
6. Why the written word is so important?
7. What should be the first step when writing PR-materials?
8. Why is so important to determine appropriate channels of communication?
9. What is the aim of implementing a cross cultural analysis in PR?
10. Summarize the text.
PR AND BLOGGING – HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT?
Anyone who pays even scant attention to online has read about blogging. Web logs (blogs) have blossomed from tiny beginnings in the early 1990s into an online publishing event. There are hundreds of thousands of blogs now, most of which are not worth knowing about.
Cyberjournalist.net lists dozens just for publications and journalists. On the other hand, some blogs generate news and influence events because their authors are respected as experts. For example, Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News has a widely read blog (http://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/business/columnists/dan_gillmor/ejournal/) considered authoritative on many high-tech issues. J.D. Lasica, an observer of and frequent commentator on online publishing keeps a blog (http://jd.manilasites.com/) that lets him discuss the news of the day. ABC News daily political blog called “The Note”(http://abcnews.go.com/sections/politics/ dailynews/thenote.html ) is a comprehensive digest on politics and political races nationwide. CBS News blog called “Washington Wrap” (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/ 02/26/politics/main502099.shtml) is a similar digest of what is happening the in the nation’s capital.
Blogs are a phenomenon with analogies to the birth of printing. They are easy to create and cheap to maintain. However, unlike the printer’s craft that kept some out of publishing and rewarded others, there is no skill needed to start and maintain a blog. Several sources offer easy and inexpensive ways to set up and run one. However, there is craft in starting and maintaining a readable and useful blog.
Blogs as personal diaries have little application for PR practitioners unless associated with someone with name recognition. For example, a celebrity blog is a great way to reach a fan base. Blogs without a distinct purpose for existence are of less use. On the other hand, companies have shown the way to using blogs productively in reaching customers and others. Blogging is a proven public relations tool that practitioners should know about.
Blogging Defined – Sort of
There is no easy way to define a blog because they are a little bit of everything. When they started back in the early to middle 1990s, they were principally link-driven journals that individuals kept on a Web site. That is, someone would find an interesting link and would post it for others to read, usually with commentary as to why it is important.
A blog now does not have to be link driven. It can be anything in the form of a time-date-stamped journal. Jennifer Balderama of C/Net news said it with a bit of rhyming, “Web logs give voice to people whom just a decade ago, you never would have heard from. There are war blogs, peace blogs, food blogs, crude blogs, humor blogs, and culture blogs to occupy your day.
Geek blogs, freak blogs, teen blogs, mean blogs, fantasticals and radicals who like to rant away. Worker bees and histories, punditry and poetry, diversity, adversity and spicy verbal play. Optimists, pessimists, enthusiasts and hobbyists, journalists and journal – ists with something big to say.”
Balderama is a blogger herself. Blogs are variously described as an individual’s way to speak out, as a view on the world that one would not find in established journalism, as a way to discuss things with peer groups and more.
Sometimes the effort is interesting and sometimes curious. For example, the blog-author of Inluminet Net marketing (http://www.inluminent.com/weblog/) places photos of scantily clad women next to his musings about small business marketing. Sex sells.
There is one common characteristic about blogging that all blog authors have to deal with. Blogging is demanding. It has to be updated regularly if one is to keep readership. This places a burden on the blogger to find topics that one can write about. Some believe blogs should be updated throughout the day, but they aren’t. A blog like Marketing Sherpa (http://sherpablog.blogspot.com/ ) posts a few times a month but usually good information that one needs to know.
This site is unusual, however. Most could not afford to be so dilatory and maintain an audience. One thing that blogging does not do is replace journalism as we know it. Journalism is a process of gathering, checking and distributing news that is above blogging. Journalists still provide a gatekeeper effect and credibility that opinionated bloggers do not. In fact, I believe editors should not allow reporters to have blogs on topics they cover to prevent charges of bias. (Columnists are different. They are expected to express opinions.) Journalism provides accuracy and deadline frequency. A blogger can do the same, but it is not the same unless there is an established process for receiving, checking then publishing news like Slashdot attempts to do (http://slashdot.org/ ).
Blogs took off, by all accounts, when software was developed that allowed one to publish without coding. Today, blogs allow entry in the form of basic word processing that is published immediately to the blog without interim steps.
Blogging and PR
In conventional blogging, anyone can write anything at any time. However, this is not suitable for public relations purposes. In PR, practitioners need to maintain relationships with the key audiences that help their organizations survive and succeed. Secondly, PR practitioners are spokespersons for others and not for themselves. They do not have the freedom to speak out about company and marketplace issues without checking with those who have direct control over these areas. Hence, a practitioner should consider carefully before writing something that comes to mind without a semblance of accuracy and proportion to the statement. It is possible for a PR practitioner to adopt an outrageous voice that is followed enthusiastically by target audiences, but if the individual is shown to be in error time and again, credibility becomes an issue, as employment does.
There are few situations in which a PR practitioner enhances audience relationships and personal rewards by being a demagogue. So the first facet of blogging – the freedom to say anything – is compromised when the tool is used for PR. This alone makes blogging for PR purposes different than personal blogging anyone else might do. Credibility is key to the PR practitioner, both internally and externally.For PR practitioners who blog, accuracy is a burden. Journalists have editors to help them. Bloggers don’t. One should take care to check references and make sure of facts before using them in an online journal. That is why PR blogging should use hyperlinking as much as possible to refer to sources of information.
Originally, bloggers listed hyperlinks to help users who didn’t have time to scour the web daily. The blog hyperlink was a shortcut to help one remain up-to-date on what was happening. Today, bloggers appear to cite sources by hyperlink as much to let one look for oneself at the original statement, news story or other topic that generated the blog entry. The PR practitioner should be as careful. If the PR blogger cannot use a hyperlink, then the he or she should quote someone who is the source of information. E.g., “Just got a call from X who said that we won the Widget contract. Stay tuned.”
A second difference between a PR blog and a personal blog is purposefulness. There is no point in maintaining an online journal as a PR tool unless one has something to say. Why blog if you have a functioning communications system that is reasonably fast in letting employees and others know about organization news? Blogging just adds to noise. The answer to this objection is that blogging might be an excellent way to maintain a stream of news and organizational viewpoint to the organization at large that would take too much time to process through the communications system. For example, mentions of contract wins, CEO and senior executive visitations, policy changes those employees should be aware of but might miss and so on. The stream of tidbits could become a journal of the organization’s life and a source of information to employees who might otherwise miss formal communications. For example:
· CEO Smith visits Warrentown today to deliver a speech on company goals. Check the following link for the text of the speech.
· Three contract wins are about to be announced out of the Z division.
· This comes as part of the business’new focus on the Y market. Call Q for more information.
· Does anybody know where the history exhibit for the company went? It was last seen five years ago. Check this link to see photos from some of the exhibits.
· HR called a few minutes ago and asked us to publicize the upcoming changes in the medical plan. Go to the following link where the changes will be explained in a day or two or call Z.
The virtue of diary entries is brevity. One does not have to wade through a policy statement or a press release to get the gist of something. Blogging in this sense is similar to a wire service and the blogger an editor serving up fresh news quickly without the approval machinery of the typical corporate communications department getting in the way. This means, however, that the PR practitioner who serves as an organizational blogger knows the limits in which he or she works.
A third consideration that PR practitioners have to take into account with blogging is the evanescent nature of it. Journal entries enter and exit the blogger’s diary, most never to be seen again except in archive form. So, how does one find easily what has been blogged in the past? That is, if I am an employee who five days after reading the entry about the benefit plan wants to get the hyperlink and check the changes in the plan, how do I easily find the journal entry where the hyperlink was given?
Some blogging software handles this through addition of a search engine, but it is not the same as having a repository of well-constructed information that is readily available, such as white papers that lay out of the features, functions and benefits of a product. Rather, blogging advances structured information by letting one know that it is coming or supplements it by adding facts and information that might not have been in the original documents.
Blogging entries without relationship to structured information, while useful in personal journals, would seem to have little application in PR blogging. That is, if an organization’s news and policies were in the form of diary entries that had to be searched each time one wanted to find something, would it be as useful as a structured document? It does not seem to me that it would, although some organizations have found that blogging daily activities and policies has proven useful, especially in product development cycles.
This is blogging as a form of small group discussion, and it might have potential for large corporate communications departments. For example, a department might maintain a blog of media contacts, events and other happenings that keeps department members up to date on what is going on and also allows department members to express ideas and opinions on upcoming activities or challenges. The same could be done with divisional and corporate PR departments all making entries into the same blog as a community. There have several applications of blogging in support of this goal used both internally and externally. In one case, cited by Wired news, Macromedia, the software company that makes the Flash and Shockwave software, adopted a “blog strategy.” Macromedia had five of its customer relations managers, called “community managers,” start their own blogs as a forum to discuss new products, explain features and answer questions from the field. Customers immediately praised the idea because it provides them with a heads-up on issues and ideas that they would not otherwise get except through formal – and perhaps, slow -- communications from the company, phone calls to customer service or other developers who have had a similar experience
One longtime, high-tech journalist, John Udell, believes blogging can change the way high-tech PR is handled by providing the background for products and innovations before introducing them formally. Udell says a blog would help him because “I’ll know where you’re coming from, and why, and how you got where you are, and we can jump straight to the really interesting bit: where you’re going (and why). Our conversation will inform and improve the quality of what ends up in the print version of InfoWorld.”
He is also frank to say that he could avoid the avalanche of calls from PR practitioners inviting him to press conferences, reminding him of press conferences, asking him whether he read a release, etc. Udell, of course, is interested in talking with developers themselves. He has little interest in dealing with PR practitioners, and he might be right as long as a company can trust its engineers to deliver their opinions without overstepping company boundaries. (However, that would seem hardly the case.)
Udell is a journalist used to frequenting labs and talking bits and bytes with developers. He is unusual in his depth of understanding of the field. Most journalists would not have his depth of knowledge nor would they necessarily spend the time to read a blog in order to get updated about the evolution of a product.
However, Udell does have a point. Fundamentally, blogging is user-driven. Because it is a low-cost and widely available medium, user experts of all kinds can weigh in on a topic outside of the hierarchy of a corporation and provide a depth of understanding that one might not ordinarily get. Some have called blogging an “anti-intranet” because intranets have so many layers of departmental and editorial control over information posted on them. However, from a PR perspective, there are few situations in which information is left uncontrolled. That is, the practitioner evaluates all information for its usefulness in promoting a company’s relationships with target audiences. An engineer making cracks about the company “compromising” the vision of a forthcoming product is not something a PR practitioner could or should let into an organizational blog.
To Blog or Not Once PR practitioners understand that a blog is not a free-form expression within an organizational context, there are practical uses to which the tool can be put to use. Think of a blog as a low-cost and fast publishing tool that can provide an important dimension to an individual and/or organization in terms of getting news out quickly. Because the diary is available to all at the same time, it is faster to use than media like e-mail and because it requires no coding or expertise to use, it can appear at the speed of thought. One need only type the journal entry and push a button to get it published. In addition, because it has a permanence that Instant Messaging does not have, blogging leaves an accessible trail of ideas, facts and comments into which one can reach to develop a history of an issue, question or challenge without resorting to reconstructing e-mail threads from different places and times.
Some organizations will have little use for this kind of low-cost publishing speed. Others will find it invaluable in terms of keeping executives and key employee groups informed about news, events and other happenings. In the Wired World, speed is as important as accuracy and blogs push speed limits. It would be exceptionally interesting to see distributed blogs in use among communicators in charge of fast-moving events, so the communicators can keep each other up to speed without resorting to email, phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
However, the criterion for success in such an endeavor is getting all parties to use a blog. That is not necessarily easy because old habits are hard to break. Nonetheless, blogs are one more tool in the communicator’s kitbag and they should be used where and when they make sense.
1. What is blogging?
2. Should a blog be link driven now?
3. What is one common characteristic about blogging?
4. Why blogging is demanding?
5. What is the relationship between PR and blogging? Use figures below.
Fig. 6.2 PR and Blogging
Fig. 6.3 PR, Blogger Relations and Paid Advertising
6. What did a blog hyperlink originally mean?
7. What are the differences between PR blog and a personal blog?
8. How do you understand the evanescent nature of blogs?
9. Do you agree with the statement: “blogs are one more tool in the communicator’s kitbag and they should be used where and when they make sense”?
10. Summarize the text.