Find connection between PR and social media

Wednesday, 30 March 2011


It is proved that customers prefer services and products of socially responsible companies. An image of sustainable and eco-friendly brand gives a number of benefits to the company, for example: better and stronger relationships with stakeholders, avoidance of the severity of potential crisis, improvement of bottom line, boost in sales, etc. Therefore many companies try to implement CSR programmes only for the sake of having more ‘green’ image, not backing it up with the real action. Such activities called as ‘greenwashing’ have, however, an opposite effect on customers, who can easily determine if the company is genuine or not and develop a counter-productive perception of a ‘deceiver- company’

                                                                                   (Picture from:

CIPR, which in 2007 published the best practice guidelines to uphold high standards of corporate social responsibility, describes greenwashing as:
"[greenwash] is a term often used when describing environmental sustainability communications that are false or misleading, generally when significantly more money or time has been spent promoting being green, rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This can be portrayed by changing the name, or label, of a product, to give the ‘feeling of nature’, for example putting an image of a forest on a bottle of harmful chemicals. It is also sometimes used to distract from negative practices in other parts of a company’s business.
Greenwash can lead to a reduction in stakeholders’ trust, damaging reputation and investor confidence. Making false or over-the-top claims only strengthens media suspicions about eco-claims, which in turn damages efforts to improve the environment. PR practitioners should never knowingly greenwash and should take responsibility to question client claims if they believe them to be untrue or inaccurate."

Activists against BP's art sponsorship:

In a bunch of the most criticized companies for greenwashing their image is BP. I wonder what do you think of BP’s involvement in art sponsorship? From one hand the big, rich, oil corporation, whose main stakeholders are local communities and governments in areas where it operates, but on the other hand BP has 20 year long record of sponsoring the art, cultural and educational organizations. A genuine activity or greenwashing?

BP is currently searching for a PR agency, which will promote its sponsorships during 2012 Olympic Games. Here is a brief and the presentation I made for that case, as one of our course assignments: 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Community has rights and corporation has duties – PR and CSR

CSR origins
Although CSR derives from the nineteenth-century practice of philanthropists, its modern concept is based on the premise that the corporations have a particular duties towards the internal and external environment in which they operate. A stress of that obligation was intensified in 1960s and 1970s by social activists, who criticized large corporations and elites for holding an enormous power within the society, claiming that it should imply increased responsibility and protection for the groups whose interests those may affect.
The nature of CSR
CSR claims to have equal benefits to both its benefactor and beneficent, and is said to be an “enlightened self-interest of mutual benefit to both donor and beneficiary”. However this statement is being questionable on several grounds. First of all, the company’s benefits in form of “either ensuring a healthier economic climate in which the company operates or in terms of improved image and competitive edge for the company” are deemed to be much more higher the recipient’s, and secondly recipients have no autonomy in a decision-making process: “donors choose beneficiaries, activities and the amount of money, resources and the length of commitment.”(L’Etang, Pieczka; 2006).
Role of PR in CSR
CSR is considered as a PR tool as it serves as a technique to build relationships with company’s stakeholders, and influences a company’s image and reputation.
“Public relations practitioners may be responsible for proposing corporate social responsibility activities and identifying relevant publics, objectives, messages. In this way public relations practitioners are directly involved in policy formulation. It is not, therefore, a question of senior management working out their organizational responsibilities and then the public relations practitioner communicating the policy actions, but of public relations actively driving the programme and setting corporate objectives.” (L’Etang, Pieczka; 2006).
Moreover CSR takes an important role in the issues management process. Hence, for the biggest part, issues are arising in the social field, it is vital to monitor the trends and respond to the stakeholders’ expectations by implementing adequate CSR programs, which undermine crisis emergency.
“CSR supports reputation risk management strategies by:
  • Managing short term risk by acquiring quality information through dialogue;
  • Accessing valuable marketplace and societal trends data;
  • Moving towards consensus and away from conflict through better stakeholder management;
  • Influencing views and behaviour inside and outside the organisation, with associated performance benefits;
  • Enhancing value through socially responsible investment.”
(Regester, Larkin; 2005)
L'Etang, J., Pieczka, M., (2006). Public Relations. Criticaldebates and contemporary practice. International Thomson Business Press.
Regester, M., Larkin, J., (2008). Risk Issues and Crisis Management in Public Relations. Kogan Page

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Churnalism and social media

The journalists’ fast-paced style of work, reduction in journalistic teams and more and more advertising space to fill, make journalists more susceptible to use PR materials without any criticism. There was even a new term coined for such an automatic copy-paste articles making from PR press releases - churnalism. Recently a charity the Media Standards Trust has created a website where anyone can check how much of a genuine press article was copied from a publicity text.

That's how a 'churn engine' works

The director of the trust said for Guardian that “journalists often have a valid reason for using press releases, and will often need to copy and paste significant chunks, such as official statements and quotes. But on many occasions reporters appear to be lifting press release text verbatim and adding little or no additional material.”

In the book Flat Earth News, which reveals secrets of hacks and flacks’ work, there is mentioned a study of Cardiff University researchers’ team, titled: Quality and Independence of British Journalism. Tracking the changes over 20 years, which reveals that in British quality press 80% of stories derives from PR materials and only 12% of stories are written by reporters.

See how easy is to sell a fake story to the press:

Guardian’s media and technology specialists comment on that situation: “This is not the journalism of the Libyan revolution, the WikiLeaks cables, or the New Zealand earthquake, but it is a market for news that the public relations industry has spotted. This is the terrain of the unnecessary "sponsored" survey, where "brunettes make the best wives" according to a survey of men on behalf of Philips sensual massagers, and where Asda kindly concludes that "families are £13 a week worse off".”

Apart from the copy-paste activity, there is also another, bigger problem, in the modern journalism, which considers a phenomenon of infotainment (information + entertainment). In pursuit of interesting, funny end wacky stories, hacks more often then ever search for them on the Internet and rarely check their sources. Once a material appears on the Internet and is picked up by one traditional media channel, it spreads all over the news.

The fact of such an activity has been for several times proved by Chris Atkins, an independent film director, who have had many media titles, not only tabloids. His documentary Starsuckers, shows how easy it is to create a false history about celebrity and sell it to the press. In one of his interviews Atkins says: “If u want to do something true in the media all you have to do is put it on the internet.” and his four tips on how to sell a story to the press: “1. It needs to by funny. 2. Not too nasty. 3. You should have a name for it. 4. Telephone number to the journalist.”

Chris Atkins on how to make a fake story for the media:

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Communication during the crisis

Chinese saying: crisis may be either a danger or an opportunity
Crisis - coming from nowhere can destroy even the most renowned brands and undermine trust for a long, long time. However, if it happens it doesn’t need to be an end, on the contrary, if managed well it can even strengthen the reputation.

Today organizations are more prone to crises than whenever before. It is in majority caused by (information by Pam Williams):
        More knowledge
        Ever higher scrutiny - 24/7 global media
        Greater demands for transparency
        Zero tolerance of risk
        Decrease in trust (in companies, government, science… everyone)
        Science has lost its impartial and reliable image
        NGO proliferation and growth in anti-business activism
        Growth in victim and litigation culture
        Power of the individual to effect change
        The internet + UGC + social media 

Communication is a key

At the core of skilful crisis management process stays communication with all of the organisation’s internal and external stakeholders, but the critical group are the media. The five core rules a spokeperson should applied when talking to the media are: 

                                                (Tench, Yeomas; 2006)
1.    Show a true concern about what has happened.
2.    Give a detailed data – what was said at the outset will be repeated throughout the next hours and days.
3.    Take control over the messages, environment and the venue.
4.    Demonstrate confidence, but not arrogance.
5.    Demonstrate competence and say how the organisation will handle the problem.

On the onset spokesperson should be also well prepared for an encounter with  journalists inconvenient questions, which typically are as follow (information by Pam Williams):
        Details – who, what, when, where?
        Who is at fault?
        When will they be punished?
        When did the organisation know about the problem?
        How is it responding?
        Will there be compensation?
        Has it happened before?
        Could it happen again?

The worst move is to stay quiet, ignoring the media. Then everyone thinks the organisation is guilty:
  • The company chooses to say: 'No comment.'
  • The media say: 'The company was unwilling to take part in this programme.'
  • Consumers think: 'No smoke without fire.'  'They are hiding something.' 'Guilty!'
1.     Langford, M., Crisis public relations management. in: Tench, R., Yeomans, L., (2006). Exploring Public Relations. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
2.     Williams, P., MA Public Relations Course Leader at University of Westminster

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Award winning;) Social Media webcast

Hello! This is a webcast I created to explain in simple and engaging way what is social media, what are its benefits and how to use it.

I hope that you will enjoy it and your feedback is very welcome :)

Update: Lots of thanks to everyone for good words about this video!
[It was done in Windows Movie Maker.]