Monday, 12 March 2012

Kony 2012 - Spin taken too far?

I finally watched the video. Yes. THE VIDEO. That got to be watched over 72million times, tweeted by celebrities P. Diddy and Rihanna.

However, this movie is 6 years too late because:

1. The war in Uganda has been over for years.
2. There are no 'invisible children' in Gulu any more, they all went home.
3. This is the second time Americans have given technical assistance to try and catch Kony. That decision was not prompted by the Invisible Children as the claim.
3. Kony is in CAR or Congo running around with about 200 supporters if not less.

I am rational enough to realize when someone is trying to genuinely do good. It is just wrong when you assume that the people who you are trying to help need help and cannot help themselves. The film carries a story that is not being told by the residents of Gulu, but by the Americans!! Yet on the other hand, I believe that the presence of US advisors in this situation is a good thing, because it is important to pass a message to people world over, however little.

I am just of the opinion that the film will provide incredible insight on how to carry out a global marketing campaign to create an instant online community of activists and spread awareness by going viral. So rather than just the content that is totally misplaced and misguided, in my opinion, this video should serve as a 'how-to-guide' for various communications practitioners especially in Charity.

I did learn something.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Still confused? PR is not Journalism

I am honestly dismayed at the job vacancy adverts in the media. Since the 1990s when all Communications Specialists came from Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, we still have to focus and understand that PR is not Mass Communication. I recently made the resolution of not looking at a Job advert twice if it spelt out, "Looking for Journalism/PR degree" in the same sentence!

Fact: PR is more about building relationships. Journalism is about searching for news, editing and writing the story. For me, writing is just a section of what a "Public Relations/Communications Specialist is all about.

I totally agree that a combination of editorial and public relations skills to tell a client's story in credible publicitage is necessary. That is just PR becoming dynamic...mmmmhh.

PR is so much more than just news stories and writing releases. I agree an important part but not the be all and end all. Engaging with your audience is a critical aspect of PR and I can think of very many journalists, past and present, who really do not have those skills. Strategic thinking is another critical aspect and again a simplistic focus on short term news headlines will not achieve the long term goals of good PR.

I stand corrected!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

"Do good, maintain a low profile and others will provide." YEAH RIGHT

"Why would an NGO need a communications strategy? Everyone knows they are helping the needy!" That was what one of my friends said to me when I mentioned that I was interested in working for an NGO. Should he be crucified for this high level of ignorance? I guess if he said it to me, there are several who think just like him and difference is, I haven't met them to convince them otherwise.

While in the past, it was viewed as self-serving for non-profit organizations to allocate time and resources to promote understanding and support for their mission and objectives, it is commendable that things are changing. Needless to say, a communication plan is NOT meant for Corporates only...even NGOs need communication plans, which need not be an expensive proposition. Why?

Visibility amongst competition for funds: while sources of funds are getting restricted and diverse, more and more NGOs are seeking funds. Visibility is a critical factor that defines the availability of funds for the projects. there is need for media to reach out to the audience for funds. It is likely that funds disbursement from donors will be dependent on the visibility of the NGO apart from the issues about the nature of their projects and past activities. Ever wonder why so much attention is given to the Kenya Red Cross?

Winning issues: Lobbying has been a tool used by Corporates to influence policy matters. The same can be used by NGOs either independently or collectively in order to bring policy level changes that will strengthen their issues. Change in perception and recognition of the fact that a problem exists is also achieved by using effective and planned communication.

Building credibility: Reinforcing the good work done through the media gives credibility to the NGOs work not only in the eyes of the donors but also in the eyes of the beneficiaries. This raises reputation with the beneficiaries as an organization that understands issues and provides solutions for the issues. Beneficiaries will look at the NGO achievements for their cause leading to a stronger bonding with the not-for-profit organization. It also

Changing stereotypes: Use communication to change stereotype image of the beneficiaries which impacts on the larger society and the cause. You cannot get AIDS/HIV through touching. Help others.

Friday, 13 January 2012

On the loose. . .

Okay, so a year has gone quickly because so much has been happening around me. Resuming work after a year long study leave was one of the greatest challenges, I hardly ever got time to be on the net...enough time, I mean. What with the lack of network *Collymore-the blame is on you* in the remote areas that my former job entailed. I however loved meeting amazing people from Koibatek and Marsabit, though worn out from the hardships they have to I wish we could all do something. Well, they say good living starts with Water, yet we all take it for granted. TIK (This is Kenya).

Working in Government comms enabled me travel to so many counties that I would never have.Did I mention I quit? After 9 years, I feel that I should leverage my experiences with a new organization. Will it be government...NGO...time will tell. I really miss NWC&PC, good friends, an amazing boss and the best experiences ever...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Who's smarter now-telecommunications in kenya

With Kenya's technological potential an open market, it is a matter of who gets to the hearts of the consumers first. The telecommunications sector has a long way to go, longer for others while Safaricom still carries the day...Telkom-Kenya, Yu, Zain all trying to be the preferred providers and the fight sadly going the route of lower tariffs. Is this really what consumers want?

How about innovation? Isn't it myopic to think that this is the only way to make it in a market that is so full of potential? Reliability and above all consistent communication that has nothing to do with advertising should be considered as key. Excellent quality and innovative services that will surely ensure satisfied customers, higher bottom line and demand premium tariffs might just separate the boys from the tricky maths equations needed...

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

PR at its best - create some buzzzzz...

Indeed time flies when you are having fun...The experience gained from writing this blog has been immeasurable and I hope this blog gives you the insights in the issues surrounding PR practitioners (in the eyes of a student) as they carry out their day to day duties. I have discussed issues relating to New Media, Globalization, Propaganda, Crisis Management, Feminization, CSR, Ethics, Politics and Social Marketing and how it all impacts on PR.

I shall be working on my dissertation in the next semester on Government PR and how New Media creates opportunities ...or challenges the sector. I will keep this blog updated and open for all to participate.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Celebrities - Is image everything?

Is lying justified?
"Come and have a go at me – in person – and let's establish just how far removed I am from the real professionals working in the industry,"
Max Clifford, 2006.

Last day of class and we watched this amazing movie of the encounter of Louis Theroux and Max Clifford. This movie (a short 3-minute clip attached) shows how in control Max is about issues related to his clients, in this case Simon Cowell. It's a good show I must say...

It is not unusual that on his website, Max describes himself as being in the business of PR, 'protecting and promoting' a wide variety of clients. He claims to have broken more tabloid front page stories in the UK than any journalists. Protection from themselves is what celebrities need. From watching Starsuckers, it is obvious that a celebrity is a made up individual that should fit in with image and the public's expectations.

Lose this image, and there is the risk of losing your entire career, considering what happened to Tiger Woods and John Terry who should have considered hiring him as well . That is, before the latter's 'mistress' Vanessa gave him the job. He obviously had an opinion about Tiger Woods' apology! Scandals have been happening too many times to these celebrities in the recent past. Well, if this is the case, then Max Clifford or an incarnate of him is the guy or ooops chic to hire.

Is Max Clifford the contemporary "King of Spin

Well... 'Yes' if you are the client and 'no' if you are a critic. He may have crossed one too many boundaries in his effort to be successful, yet successful he is. But the guy has to be commended for making turnarounds with cases such as the late Jade Goody from the unpleasant personality in Britain's celebrity big brother to one of the most lovable people.

And as Pill(2009,p 623) observes, celebrity has become a global cultural industry with its own media and PRs to oil the wheels of fame and fortune. Skill would probably go hand in hand with this "shrewd" practitioner, and not everyone has the capability to stay in the business this long despite the negative perceptions and attitudes towards him. I wonder, would he be where he is if he wasn't controlling the show?

Pill, E. (2009). Celebrity and Public Relations in Tench & Yeomans, Exploring Public Relations, Pearson

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Embrace life

This is a viral video. The concept behind this video is based on the social fact that people care a lot about how other people see them. Most people will be unwilling to do something that is considered embarassing or not generally "acceptable". Others on the other hand can take the risk and do it anyway. In the case of HIV and AIDS, people infected by it or affected by it have no choice but to deal with it.

They face discrimination and therefore leading to the stigma caused by the disease. This discrimination could either be intended or unintended. Since people tend to be more accepting of situations or even themselves if others understand them, the online campaign will be aimed at initiating discussions to help reduce the stigma. By engaging in positive conversations, those affected will be more confident around others and encourage others to go for voluntary testing and finally acknowledge their status and plan their lives.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

NGO Activism or Brand Destroyers?

When marketing gurus Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman realized that the same marketing principles used for products could be used for selling ideas, social marketing was born. The main obective here is to influence social behaviour not for the benefit of the marketer, read NGO, but for the benefit of the larger audience and general society.

Role of Social Marketers and Activists
As social change agents, activists try to nurture public consensus and act as an 'open system' which informs the public while at the same time learning from dialogue with stakeholders. It is therefore important to be seen as responsible citizens in order to win respect, acceptance and legitimacy from the majority of ordinary citizens who must be won over for movements to succeed. Social conditions and public policies that violate morally acceptable values are basically the main agenda when it comes to activism. The results being governmental policies being put in place to ensure such issues are accepted in political and judicial structures. However, some of these actions may not augur well with big corporations...

Stepping on large toes?
Corporations such as Nestle have had their share of "Corporate Crimes" highlighted by NGOs such as Oxfam and Greenpeace. The latest being the issue of palm oil being used in its products which is killing off orang-utans, all this after the issue with the Zimbabwe farm which claimed that Nestle Zimbabwe sourced 15 percent of its milk from a farm owned by the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe. All these crises as a result of close monitoring of activities of corporations by NGOs and Nestle has had quiet a rough time trying to manage their reputation and resorting to social media which hasn't worked much for them.

This video by greenpeace is the campaign against the destruction of the orang-utans' forest. Would you buy a Kit-Kat after watching it?

I thought not for most people...that's how powerful activists can be. Clearly, activism plays a big role in determining how organizations work. Pity that sometimes the environment will be destroyed in order to get people to travel as is the issue with the alarming rate of carbon prints.

Green peace UK,

Friday, 12 March 2010

Obama 2.0 - a new dawn for Political PR

If well done, a campaign like Obama's would be the result. Well planned, well organized, well implemented. And the result...success. "Change you can believe in", "Yes we can" are the taglines that were used in a campaign that will remain as an example to good political PR practise, at least for being the first campaign to aggressively use social media and branding in its political communication. Social media-a phrase that has been used continuously in most if not all PR blogs, from the tech-savvy Obama campaign to the 'smeargate scandal', an ill-conceived way of using social media in politics. The American campaign has caught the envy of countries all over the world and perhaps the biggest challenge is to measure up to this well orchestrated campaign and countries such as Afghanistan actually used social media in their last election.

For the upcoming UK elections, a survey just carried out, found out that 83% of the contenders are using facebook and 50% using twitter in their campaign. 84% say that they will continue using social media to communicate with their constituents if elected to office although critics say that what may be good for campaign may not be as effective in power. Changes in communication tools are radically shaping political communication, but there are other issues that are as important...

Image management
The importance of the way the public views politicians makes political PR all inclusive of aspects like personality, make-up, dressing and logo design other than just verbal or written statements. McNair(p.135) asserts that the personal image of an individual politicial can be moulded and shaped to suit the image of the political organisation.

Think of Sarah Palin and the supermom image, yet looking young and trendy with her fashionable glasses with attention to detail in ability to accessorize in what is now known as the Palin effect. The republicans may not have won the US election but they managed Palin's 'trendy' image tactic given that she was MCcain's running mate, probably to gain the youth's votes.

Culture has grown to expect a “political show” and is not satisfied until the “lights, camera, action” appeal is met. In the era of modern politics, politicians are judged by their style and this is as important as substance of what they say and do. And it's in order to say that behind every successful political party is a very good Political PR professional.

McNair, B. (2003).
An Introduction to Political Communication(3rd ed.), Routledge

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Bad it a matter of ethics? or irresponsibility?

-Zimbawe - Iran. The same political stories repeat themselves.

December 2007 -January 2008 may have turned out to be the worst nightmare for anyone living in Kenya after what many believed would be a democratic election turned out to be...not so democratic after all. Not only did hundreds lose their lives, others were evicted from what they called home for decades and officially became internally displaced (IDPs). The events that unfolded were not because the people were idle and just wanted a was as a result of BAD POLITICS. Why do they make all those poor people wait in queues just to vote for them? And get nothing in return?

Has Political PR undermined public trust in politicians?
As much as some of us view politicians to be progandists, PR professionals have a role to play in shaping the way political communications is perceived. In this way, Political PR is probably the most challenging sector in PR. The intentions of political communications are just as well justified as the intention of any other communication sector. What makes this section unique is the environment in which they operate in with regards to public perception and the need to build reputation in a more agressive way. The increased focus on spin , information management and the use of what can only be described as propaganda techniques have all had an impact on how the public perceive the political process.

Perhaps the use of lies and deceit have undermined the ethical aspect of politics. However, with the upsurge of pluralism, there notable changes within the public with regards to their personal behaviour and collective behavior. Therefore, like-minded individuals promote and defend their choices and to a larger extent influencing public opinion and governments. To this effect, social movements are of prime importance to a PR professional.

Generally, I must say, with the balance in ethical behavior and pluralism in the society, Political PR is not to blame for the lack of trust in politicians. Improper individual and political party agendas are solely to blame for this and this will surely be overturned by Political PR.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

How viable is CSR?

"Corporate Social Responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it...because it is good for our business". - Niall Fitzerald, Former CEO, Unilever

Is CSR philanthropy? It is indeed hard to differentiate between philanthropy and CSR. I believe it should be defined as philanthropy that leads to sustainable development. In other words, while philanthropy concentrates on one or few stakeholders, CSR on the other hand should be a concept that touches on all the stakeholders. Hopkins says that most philanthropic acts by organizations are devoted to items that governments should be doing and government's failure should not be the preserve of corporations (p.114). Companies like Vodafone, Cadbury invest in CSR and have been successful in implementing it.

So then, is CSR mere window-dressing?
Is the effort to practice CSR just skin deep? CSR steadily moved up Corporates' agenda with the notion that it delivers direct benefits to the organization. If so, how then can companies convince stakeholders that practises associated with social and environmental issues aside from their business are ethical?

Cutlip et al. seems to be clear that any involvement in CSR is as a result of self-interest, to enable the company to have an easy life by indicating that an institutions relationship with its community is crucial because these communities supply the organization's workforce, provide an environmnet that attracts or fails to attract talented personnel, provide essential services and can, if angered, impose restraints on the institution or industry (p. 393).

The onus is left to the company to determine their main objective of engaging in CSR. Some companies like Nike and Johnson and Johnson have been noted as engaging in CSR to regain their reputation after crises.

Cutlip, S.M. et al. (2000). Effective Public Relations (8th ed.), Prentice Hall
Hopkins, M. (2007). Corporate Social Responsibility and International Development: Is Business the Solution?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

How top companies win with social media

Gaye Agesa (Press Officer)
Spiral PR
Northwick Park Road
London S77 N73
Tel: +44 020 7 431 7651
Cell: +44 757 888 4315
For full press release visit:

Experts say that most businesses get it wrong

London, 4th March 2010

  • Spiral PR has launched a webcast-PR and Social Media Concepts that informs companies on the best way of using social media to improve on their bottom line.
  • The agency's social media strategist says that although most companies have adapted social media as a PR tool, most of them are doing it incorrectly.
  • The video highlights important aspects that organizations should understand before investing time in social media. Get the right tools in place,start the right conversations and keep the audiences engaged.
  • Social networking opens the traditional form of top down information disseminations because information flows in and out of the organization freely.
  • Advantages of social networking sites include:establishing community experience for customers and other publics; extending organizations' brand identity; personalized interactions

"Whereas traditional media is about broadcast, social media is better seen as a two-way conversation. It blurs the line between media and audience." - Mildred Yiamat,Online PR Specialist

"The trick is in getting the right advice from the right people. There are few agencies that can give your company the right solution. Joining the right networks at the right time requires carefully laid out strategies." - Suki Amoni, Spiral PR

About Spiral PR

Spiral PR is a newly established PR firm offering strategic communication services across a number of sectors. We specialise in Online PR, Media Relations and Crisis Management.


The full social media press release announcing the launch of the webcast by Spiral PR

PR and Social Media Concepts
The webcast launched highlighting the effect of social media on public relations and it has changed how PR is practised.

Find us here for more update on the SMPR.

This is Spiral PR's facebook page and fans are encouraged to join.

For updates on Contemporary Issues in PR blog

For updates on the Contemporary Issues in PR blog

Still a velvet ghetto?

It has been 24 years since IABC Research Foundation published "The Velvet Ghetto: The Impact of the increasing percentage of Women in Public Relations and Business Communication." The report analyzed the future of PR as a profession and the possible implications of the fact that there was an increase in the number of women joining PR. The study found out that:
  • Women were more likely to perceive themselves as technicians and not managers
  • Women were paid less than men - even when other variables were controlled
  • Professions diminished in salary and status if they moved from male to female dominance
The situation seems not to have changed even though in 2002, a survey done found that the glass ceiling had finally been broken. In 2010, 8years later, we are still talking about the probability of women never running PR. Is there something we are missing? Some writers like Lesly(1988) have been known to argue that women actually seek out lower status positions. Is this still the case now?

PR practitioners have always been optimistic since the 80's that the since there were more women in the practise, they will achieve more prestigious positions and higher salaries even as studies have continued to show that their male counterparts earn more. Most of us are tempted to disagree with this fact but we cannot argue with the statistics, can we?

Women will always work in PR but will never run it....?

While the fawcett society actively campaigns for equal rights for professional women, and rightly say that "jobs traditionally done by women are poorly paid and undervalued", we would explore ways in which women are seeking empowerment. Traditionally, jobs such as nursing, secretarial and receptionists tend to be lowly paid. It is quite interesting how PR ended up being one of the most lucrative jobs when men joined at the top positions in the UK and the US. Do men have to do with defining a profession?

Our culture and believes and to an extent the media probably plays a role on how women are viewed and more so view themselves. In class today, while spelling out attributes that define women, we came up with terms such as soft, emotional and multi-tasking while on the other hand we defined men as aggressive and strong. This not withstanding the fact that about 87% of the class is female. Is this how we actually perceive ourselves? At least one finding of the Velvet Ghetto has not come true and the profession has not diminished in salary and status just because it has more women than men.

The debate in class raised some interesting opinions, about how women prefer to pursue family other than career. Is it possible to have both? I believe so. Taking time off to raise a family at the expense of your career is a choice. We pride ourselves as being good at multi-tasking, why then can't we do this simple task?

Even in countries where women have been seen to be homemakers, women are surpassing male domination and becoming CEOs and Directors. If others have made it, the sky should be the limit.

Lesley, P. (1988). Public Relations numbers are up but stature down. PR Review
Grunig, L. et al. (2001) Women in Public Relations: How gender influences practice
Grunig, L. et al.(1984), Women in Public Relations: Problems and Opportunities. In Grunig', J. Excellence in Public Relations and Communication Management

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Is ethics determined by sector?

A recent survey shows that 73% of respondents say that practitioners lie in course of their work. Only 38% say that PR is fundamentally honest, 27% disagree with this while there is 35% that are not sure. What is disheartening, is that this survey was conducted among PR practitioners.

There may be defining moments when the ethics of the profession have been questioned, but also true that the majority practice with honesty and try to be fair to both the organization they represent and to their 'external' audiences. Making consistent ethical decisions where cultures and values clash or vary is difficult. Where do you draw the line in terms of being loyal to your employer at the same time living with conscience?

To promote or not to promote?

PR Week featured an article that sought to collect views from different PR professions on how they felt about promoting some products. The tobacco industry has faced the most critism. How do you promote tobacco when the highly risky health issues are a reality? Well, the sector may well be legally regulated and allowed to sell, they employ thousands of people and contribute to the various economies. But is it worth the lives lost? The debate about how the only way to be ethical is to work in charity or voluntary sector, makes one wonder if the ability to be ethical lies within the type of sector one works for. Working in charity may help lower the chances of being unethical because of the nature of work involved. Established for the benefit of social good, we may assume that there is no reason to be unethical. But again, it also depends on the practitioners and what we define as right and wrong and on whose interest we are serving.

The ethical guidelines set by CIPR , PRSA, PRSK and other professional bodies all over seem to be experiencing problems about enforcement. The fact that there is the law and sometimes what is law may not necessarily be ethical doesn't help matters much. The onus is left to the practitioner to decide about what is considered ethical as per the company policy and the codes of conduct outlined by the professional bodies albeit their minimal clarity.

Am sure most practitioners are faced with the dilemma of defining what is ethical or morally upright given different scenarios and have to make decisions about what is best for the larger majority. It is arguable that utilitarianism is the most common approach to ethical decision making in business, because it takes into account the expected outcome when deciding on what is the right thing to do. However, we cannot always accurately predict future consequences (Cutlip et al. p.120)

Cutlip, S., et al. (2006), Effective Public Relations (9th ed.), New Jersey, Prentice Hall

PRWeek(2010), Professional ethics: should you promote these products? [Accessed 25/02/10]

PRWeek(2010), PR professionals believe 'spin' is entrenched in industry, survey shows. [accessed 25/02/2010]

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Social Media Webcast

Social media will change your business. Your current and potential customers are tweeting, blogging and digging information...If you don't catch up with them, some one else will. If you are in business and you want to interact with the largest communities online find out how by watching this webcast...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

It's a Crisis!!! Where is the PR Executive?

Most PR practitioners will attest to the fact that the hardest and most challenging time for an organization is when faced with an external crisis. Whether or not it's an act of God, the pressure is always at its worst for any CEO and more so for PRs. Danny Rogers : How PR Executives become the story, raises some interesting points about companies in a crisis. He observes that there is a growing trend of "Campbell-isation", where the PR speaks on behalf of the company whereas in the past they have always been the "hidden persuaders".

At the time of writing this post, Toyota is the most talked about crisis. Fresh in everybody's mind it seems to be the worst crisis in history...or is it? We'll probably wait and see how long it will take them to regain back their reputation, if ever. Not forgeting Corporations like Nestle that has faced reputational issues year after year...

PR Executives grapple all the time with issues that could potentially redefine the reputation of an organization. They confront a fundamental probability that they could control events in order to contain potential crisis or safeguard reputation.

While some believe that careful planning and developing message strategies can mitigate the long-term effects to organizations, the reality is quite different. Crisis prevention and response may be addressed by accurately featuring the difficulties of complexity, uncertainty and control. Unforeseen events, confusion and immediate inadequate/missing information constitute the reality of crisis and therefore demands focused flexibility in planning and responding.

PRWeek(2010), Danny Rogers: How PR Executives become the story.

BBC Website:

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Understanding cultures towards Global PR

“The body language of Russians and Americans are different. Russians stand closer than Americans. They look directly and unwaveringly into your eyes. Russians are long winded. Americans are short and to the point. Russians think that giving a short answer is impolite, as if they had not given the matter enough consideration. Americans think a long answer is impolite, as if they are boring the other person and wasting their time.Lynn Vission - Wedded Strangers

Justify Full
The overall debate about whether good PR is always context and culture specific, makes me put my own country into context with a huge ethnic diversity, 42 ethnic groups, all with their own different cultures. Literally. This poses a special challenge when one has to operate across the ethnic boundaries and when you work for government, that's a hurdle you have to tackle. Language barrier stands strong because while Swahili is the national language, English is the official language therefore any communication has to be in these two languages. Tricky when a third of the population understands neither and translators are necessary...

And having just found out that the Kenyan Society is a feminine, collectivist, high-power-distance society (Hofstede, 2005), it is evident why we hold people in authority with high regard. Bosses are bosses, and bypassing a superior is insubordination!

Impact of cultural differences
PR professionals must deal with multiple ethnic groups with different cultures. You are likely to work with Chinese, English, Japanese and all sorts of other nationalities with a variety of cultures including how they look at things; how they dress and; how they express personality. These differences can actually cause problems intepreting what the other person means.

You can imagine how difficult interaction between high context and low context people is; the British can feel that Kenyans insult their intelligence by explaining the obvious, while Kenyans can feel that British managers provide no direction. This would be the same scenario when dealing with different countries on a global level.

So is the idea of Global PR an anathema?
Most MNEs and NGO would understand the complication cultural barriers may present. Am not shying away from the fact that Global PR is possibly practical, that is, as long as it takes cultural values into consideration. The world is a 'global village' thanks to the uprise in technology especially the internet. We are able to penetrate areas that would have otherwise been beyond our reach. That is why we are now aware of the Japanese Bow and what it means in terms of levels of apology.

Using people with a knowledge of a specific culture is a good practice but it is important to go ahead and learn different cultures to make communication easier and more efficient. Sriramesh and Vercic indicate that culture is yet to be intergrated into PR despite its importance to human communication and relationship building. We still have some work to do.

Hofstede, G. and Hofstede G.J.,(2005), Cultures and Organizations: software of the mind, McGraw-Hill, New York.

Sriramesh, K., Vercic, D. (2009), The global public relations handbook: theory, research and practice, [online], London: Routledge. Available from Dawsonera [Accessed 4 February 2010]

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Is transparent New Media a challenge to the power of PR

The internet may have revolutionised the practice of PR, the way PR professionals communicate and the nature of communication itself - CIPR even has a set of social media guidelines. New media has brought about eventualities that were never before considered possible, like sending out a press release to the press whereas at the same time competitors can access it. This is the type of transparency that faces PR professionals. But does it challenge the power of PR?

It may in some ways, given that PR has always taken a back seat and relied on third party endorsements. On the other hand, social media is vital for PR as it offers unlimited opportunities for the PR professionals to use this medium intelligently and effectively. Every organization wants transparency and the new media is just the right ingredient in ensuring that the public does not doubt the fact that transparency is at the forefront of every organization's agenda. It provides a framework for good practice. I agree with Phillips and Young's argument that the authentic voice of organizations that flows through the corporate shell has tremendous impact outside and may be part of a managed process of making organizations more competitive (p. 47).

The growth of social media tools such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace and of virtual communities, virtual environments and information sharing sites and blogs has made the PR professional think critically of how to deal with all aspects of PR in light of new media. Talk of Crisis communication and New Media, Internal Comms and New Media, Political PR and New Media...PR and New Media is unlimited.

That however has only but improved the way PRs explore and experiment with new technologies and new ways of thinking to get messages across in an environment that has been made far more transparent thanks to social media. More than ever before, it is the actions of the organizations that shape reputation and not the image crafted for that organization by other parties.

Phillips and Young(2009), Online Public Relations: A practical guide to developing an online strategy in the world of social media (2nd ed.), CIPR, Kogan Page, London.

CIPR Website:

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

New Media, opportunity or limitation?

Companies view social media as the solution to most of their communications gaps. As indicated in this article, Corporates are increasing turning to social media for reputation management even as research shows that 70% of agencies blame social media as the main cause of crisis for companies. Social media, however viewed to be effective, is one tool that most have difficulties in getting right. The fact that companies have to work with the in an industry that is full of blogger and "twitters" it is actually important to get it right.

Social media as it is, should be very significant in how messages are disseminated because the existing social groups are constrained by geographical boundaries and cultural differences. Al Qaeida has used social media to spread messages of fear and terror, they are fully in control of how and when messages go across. Clearly, there is no need for a center, the web is a virtual portable homeland.

Facebook has 350million users worldwide according The Virtual Revolution -Enemy of the State, aired on BBC 2. How then do we use this important medium that has over 350million people involved? PR has often used social media for successful viral campaigns such as "Bring Back Wispa", and "Obama Presidential Campaign" proving that new media provides one of the most effective tools of communication.

PRWeek, (2010), Corporates increasingly turn to social media to mend damaged reputation

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Truth...the first casualty of war?

Everyone recognizes propaganda when it consists of a direct lie. That is why the actions of Goebbels and Stalin on behalf of their respective governments present a minimal theoretical problem. Infact, an excerpt from Bernays states that government is government only by virtue of public acceptance, whether constitutional, communists, monarchical or democratic because it depends upon consenting public opinion for the success of their efforts.

As a PR student, watching War Spin: the media and the Iraq War, leads me to the conclusion that propaganda is harmful. Yet, when asked what we would do, supposing we were working for the Ministry of Defence, we naturally took role of the 'bad guy' but made it look angelic as we sought to prove that our messages were meant to benefit the people we were communicating to. I wonder if any of us would have taken that stand before watching the movie...we probably would have said "I'll resign".

Governments and the military have always used propaganda in a negative way and treat is as 'a necessity to mobilize' its citizens. Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin regimes, first and second world wars, the gulf war, Iraq invasion ... The list could go on and on.

Yet in a strange uneasy way, propaganda is used to influence masses effectively to this day. It was used to consolidate and galvanize nations throughout the first and second world wars. McCusker shows how its use in the first Gulf War was responsible for turning the tide of public opinion against Iraq, towards the US resolve for participation in the conflict - commonly known as the incubator tale.

But then, do governments have to lie to those who elected them? The invasion of Afghanistan was easier to understand as a country was on a mission to protect itself from terrorist attacks after the 9/11 attacks. The Iraqi war has not been justified, yet it was an expensive war and the famous WMDs that are still ‘at large’.

The war saw thousands of people (civilians and soldiers) lose their lives, was it for a worthy cause? What is the implication when such propaganda creates a public and possible international outroar? Obviously integrity, honesty, responsibility to the public and ethics are put on the line. Tench (2009) states that it is easier to judge others for using propaganda than to examine ones own practises (p. 253). The situation being "I practise PR, you practise Propaganda". Food for thought, huh.


Bernays, E., (1928), Propaganda, Ig Publishing, New York

McCusker,(2005), Talespin: Public Relations disasters-inside stories & lessons learnt, Kogan Page, London

PR, How PR sold the War in the Persian Gulf ;

Tench and Yeomans (2009), Exploring Public Relations (2nd ed.), Pearson, Essex.