Tag: public relations (page 2 of 4)

‘Masterclass’ at Bournemouth University

Professor Tom Watson (@tomwatson1709, @historyofpr) invited me to deliver a 'masterclass' lecture at Bournemouth University on Friday. (When asked about PR higher education in the UK, most people would mention Bournemouth and Leeds Metropolitan.)

Student elections were at fever pitch, and there was a real energy about campus. The students at The Media School were on top form – in fact, I usually only get the calibre of questions they threw at me days or weeks after someone has digested my book or a presentation. So thanks to everyone who attended and participated.

HT to @lauramanninen, @kbadders, @hannaherowley, @edinjel, @JessicaNorthPR, @lottsGC, @FleurieFM, @morellopr, @BenjaminDeacon.

Here's the stack.


I have asked six people with senior positions in techie professions who they thought "does great PR" in the tech sector. Now these individuals are not in marketing and PR functions, so you'll forgive my casual turn of phrase I hope.

Apple iPad mini – GREAT (PR)ODUCTYou might know I detest the idea that you might "PR something", as if PR is as tactical and atomic as picking up the phone or putting a release on a wire, but I deliberately didn't wish to infect them with my view of public relations excellence. I wanted to hear what they'd say unprompted, unguided.

Each proffered two or three companies. Samsung and IBM were mentioned twice. Google thrice. But out front with four mentions was Apple.

Now anyone who follows the world's first or second largest publicly traded corporation in the world by market capitalization (it swaps places regularly with Exxon Mobil) will know that they're actually quite a secretive bunch. Steve Jobs infected the company with the idea that it knows what's best for the customer, and any idea that it should work with the rest of us in defining future products and services appears plain counter-cultural.

If you, like me, define public relations as pursuing mutual understanding to build goodwill, the PR function at Apple appears quite asymmetric. As and when it suits its agenda, they'll tell you. Otherwise get back in line. End of. I always feel a reluctance on Apple's part to discuss its contractors' labour practices, its own environmental and business practices, and the occasional product mess up. Read more

Influence – the use and abuse of the word in social media

The AMEC European Summit is taking place this week in Dublin. It's a really vibrant event, a credit to AMEC's Barry Leggetter and the delegates' enthusiasm. (Actually, perhaps it's a little less vibrant this morning after the visit last night to the Guiness brewery!)

I'm here representing the CIPR in a couple of sessions, and this morning I'm speaking in my own capacity... my slidestack is embedded above.

It's an old theme of mine, the misrepresentation of the idea of influence, and the stack I presented on the topic back in March 2010 has now been viewed some thirteen and a half thousand times – Influence, the bullshit, best practice and promise. It's now 2012 and I feel that we're starting to make some progress towards addressing the complexity of the business of influence. Onwards and upwards.

CIPR TV on ethics

This week's CIPR TV addressed the topic of ethics, and 'spin'. Joining me in the studio were Eliane Glaser, Guardian columnist and author of Get Real: How to tell it like it is in a world of illusions (Amazon, Waterstones), and Dr Jon White, PR consultant, strategist, and author of the CIPR's PR2020 report (PDF).

It appears the world of public relations has a reputation problem. It's almost schizophrenic, with one camp entrenched in persuasive 'spin', or perhaps publicity, and the other in working towards open, transparent, mutual understanding between the organisation and stakeholders. Max Clifford for example, whilst often introduced by the British mass media as a PR consultant, is actually a publicist; a distinction indeed that the Wikipedia community is able to make at the time of writing.

It's a fascinating topic and we had a lot of ground to cover in 20 minutes. Hit play and find out more.

Reputation and Wikipedia, part II

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wikimedia_Foundation_RGB_logo_with_text.svgThe public relations profession and Wikipedia community have not enjoyed a productive relationship to date; antagonistic may be a more accurate adjective. For a quick overview of this situation, do take a look at my January 6th post, Reputation and Wikipedia.

For my part, I think I understand both parties' points of view and see no reason why good public relations practice (the planned and sustained effort to influence opinion and behaviour, and to be influenced similarly, in order to build mutual understanding and goodwill) shouldn't be employed to build bridges here.


The Facebook group, Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement, has quite rightly stirred the pot, raising the profile of the issues involved. For those who practice public relations according to the definition in brackets above, Wikipedia can appear a frustrating community to work with. One asks: "Why, if I know facts on Wikipedia entries relating to my organisation / client are incorrect, can't I jump in and correct them?" There are two answers to that, but firstly an update on that process of building bridges.

CIPR Guidance

PR Week's Editor in Chief, Danny Rogers, called on the CIPR to clarify its guidance to members, and the profession more widely, on 18th January 2012 ("CIPR must set bar high on Wikipedia code"). Fortunately, the CIPR Social Media panel had already got its heads together to review the situation.

Read more

PRSA, defining PR

[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

And so concludes the PRSA's Public Relations Defined (#prdefined) initiative. Launched 30th October last year, the initiative has garnered considerable interest, both positive and negative.

On the positive front, I have seen considerable interest from practitioners, predominantly but not exclusively in the US as one might expect given the PRSA's geographic domain, grappling with the question of how to define what they do for a living with sincerity. No bad thing, particularly when some practitioners' perspective turns out to be, well, a little far off the mark. Read more

Reputation and Wikipedia

[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup]

What does the Wikipedia entry for your organisation / client / brand say? What about brand references in other entries? All cosy on the Wikipedia front? And recognising that a neutral point of view (NPOV) is one of Wikipedia's "five pillars", you have resisted editing anything where your neutrality is questionable. Right?

Let's face it, Wikipedia is amazing. I had the pleasure of attending the Wikipedia 10th birthday party in London last year and I wasn't the only one there who admitted to not appreciating Wikipedia's potential back in the day. Seriously? A website anyone can edit?! Yeah right, that'll work. Not.

And yet today Alexa ranks Wikipedia the sixth most popular site on the web. Search for a company or brand in Google or Bing and there's the Wikipedia entry tempting you with its neutrality, familiarity and ease of use. The Wikipedia community plays a significant role in brand reputation.

This week, one of my favourite Conversation contributors, Stuart Bruce, spotted Member of Parliament Tom Watson's interest in Wikipedia and PR practice. He found Watson's contribution, Wednesday, to a Wikipedia talk page: Read more

CIPR TV with Howard Kosky on Broadcast PR and with Dr. Jon White on PR 2020, the future of PR

CIPR TV goes from strength to strength. As part of the hosting team, I had the pleasure this week to host an extended show – sort of a two-for-one.

CIPR TV is only possible courtesy of the team at Markettiers4dc, and it was about time we invited Howard Kosky, Markettiers4dc founder and chairman, on the show. Howard walks us through how the broadcast landscape has transformed over the past decade and a half, and gives viewers some tips for the top and pitfalls to avoid. In fact, when you consider the role broadcast plays in the public relations mix, I can't believe we haven't addressed the topic before!

As you may have read in my last post, Dr. Jon White has undertaken some research this year on behalf of the CIPR looking at how the profession might evolve this decade. During the show, Jon explains the drivers of this research, how it was conducted, and some of the outcomes and recommendations. If you want to understand why Jon talks about PR becoming irrelevant in this timescale, then you better watch the video above! The full 'PR 2020' report is published on the CIPR website.

Why the meaning of PR shouldn’t be left to circumstance

This post specifically responds to a post by Eric Bryant, Director of Gnosis Arts, "an experience-driven public relations firm focusing on tech, social media & nonprofit PR" in the US. In the post, Eric addresses the PRSA's Defining PR initiative (see my last two blog posts) and asserts that the definition of anything is simply a function of how the term is used.

He writes:

"We chose this definition because we think it expresses what is both essential to public relations practice, as well as what distinguishes it from other management functions. Our definition also takes into account what most PRs do, most of the time, in carrying out their job duties."

And his company's definition is:

"Public relations is the practice of producing publicity (excluding promotional materials and paid advertising, which typically fall under the purview of Marketing); managing media relations and communications (typically among members of the Fourth Estate); and managing reputation."

First up, let me thank Eric for tweet-alerting me to his post. I particularly appreciate his diligent explanation of the definition, too often omitted by the more slapdash.

His firm's definition melds two 'what's and one 'why', reputation, justifying it on the basis of Wittgenstein's notion of "meaning as use" (ie, definitions are lent simply by the way a word or phrase is commonly used). While Wittgenstein's approach to language has its advocates, I'm not entirely clear it's helpful here, for two reasons.

Read more

Public Relations Defined – the anatomy of a candidate definition, ver 0.2

PRSA PR Defined

[Written for the CIPR Friday Roundup]

Following the momentum the PRSA's #prdefined initiative is achieving, and the CIPR's statement of support, I thought I'd take a deeper dive into current definitions, and throw one in the mix myself.

I reproduced the section of my book that addresses the definitions of marketing and PR in my last post, and since then I've been able to have some insightful conversations, on- and off-line, with Jay O'Connor, Jon White, David Phillips and Terry Flynn.

Is it worth it?

There has been some valid criticism of the PRSA initiative pivoting around the question: shouldn't we invest time and energy in improving practice to live up to current definitions than review those definitions we already have? The counter to this argument is apparent for those tracking the thousands of comments on line; it appears that more than a few practitioners indirectly criticised by those holding this point of view are actually questioning their own appreciation of public relations, if not actively revising it.

CIPR definition

PR is the discipline that looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its publics.

My favourite definition, no word of a lie! I obviously love the reference to influence, but also the apparently unique and skilful avoidance (intended or otherwise) of communication, thereby emphasising the objective not the means. But when 'reality is perception', as is increasingly the case with the radical transparency lent by social media, reputation is built by everything an organisation does (or indeed does not do), not just what the PR team does; every one must be involved in "looking after" reputation. Read more