A girl in the magical world of PR!

Are you PR professional? a PR student thinking "how on earth am I gonna make it in this industry?"Whatever you are you might find something interesting here...! This blog will be updated in a weekly basis with all the PR issues that interest us! (In simple words! Otherwise go read a book!) Welcome!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When details matter. Can the wrong guest list ruin your event?

I recently attended the world premiere of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts' movie ''Larry Crowne'' at Westfield Shopping Centre in London. No, I was neither invited nor a press member, I was just shopping and browsing windows when I accidentaly saw the event. Fascinated by the glamour of the venue and the celeb spotting I took my spot and waited for the party to begin. Being a huge fan of Tom Hanks I was anticipating his arrival with my camera on my hand looking around how the PRs were handling the situation, how the journalists were lined up and from professional preversion I watched every single and subtle move of the PR team, how they were dressed, they way they were handling the press and all the relevant. I was surprised! Everything seemed to go smoothly and we were ready to go! The special guests started to come and I prepared my camera as I thought I would see respectful  movie stars, high fashion models at least renowned British journalists. But no. I was surprised to experience the arrival of ''The only way is Essex cast''. One world came to my mind: Disaster.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate TOWIE. I was just thinking the importance of the right guest list in a PR event such as a movie premiere. We all know that is all about attracting the press, but at what cost:? Definitely the cast of TOWIE is a camera magnet but does the profile of a bunch of reality stars match the class of a talented, quality movie star like Tom Hanks? Just wondering!

 My thoughts were interrupted by the announcement that finally Tom Hanks was about to make his appearence. I was thrilled and I stretched so I could see him and listen to what he had to say, as of course he was the star of the evening. But I guess I was wrong. By the time Tom Hanks entered all the cameras and journalists were taking pictures and shouting to two of TOWIE cast creating an extremely uncomfortable situation in the room. Tom Hanks was trying to speak but a really loud noise of camera clicks and stampede was dominating. Then another world came to my mind: That is Bad, very Bad.

Next day I was catching up on the publicity of the event and I wasn't proven wrong. Next to Tom Hanks' picture there was a picture of Harry and Sam. It looked irrelevant and without a point and I seriously felt sorry for a world class actor trying to survive the  TOWIE reality-mania! Hold it up there Tom! Made in Chelsea is in the house!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Invest in YOU-Inspirational YOU event

Yesterday I attended a rather interested event hosted by Inspirational YOU. Trying to break through to the PR industry can be really tricky and frustrating, and when you hear four succesfull women talking about their experiences can make you feel really confident and give you motivation to carry on. These inspiring ladies are Fiona Ramsay, Catherine Dhegbo, Joycellyn Akuffo and Rozan Ahmed. All of them are extremelly succesfull in the PR and Journalism field.

So what it takes to succeed in PR? First of all you need to be flexible. Grab the opportunity the moment it reaches you. Don't worry if you have a few mishaps in your way. Stay focused and always have a goal. As the speakers said ''If you fail to plan, you plan to fail''. I want to thank everyone for the inspiring event!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

CSR - A matter of ethics or business?

Stakeholders want companies to make a profit, but not at the expense of their staff and the wider community.”
                                            Brian Gosschalk, CEO, MORI

The term Corporate social responsibility expresses a series of actions that businesses adopt in order to solve social and environmental issues. This is part of the ethical conduct towards the community in which they operate. The actions of corporate social responsibility are developed in two main lines, the actions inside the company, like the staff, and those on the external environment, like the wide enviromnment in which they operate.The actions concerning the staff , are actions that a company does in order to improve the working conditions of the employees. Some examples can be the  educational programs in which companies offer employees additional benefits, care centers and creative activities for their children,moreover additional health insurance programs can be offered. The actions concerning the wider society in which a company operates can be either social, cultural or even environmental. There is the view that businesses use CSR in order to promote themselves and to gain publicity. And that is where PR comes. CSR it's a field that the communications team is handling because it definitely has to do with the overall image of the company in society. Especially now that NGO's are ready to attack companies at any time, and the appreciation of corporates from the public is lower than ever, CSR is a tool for PR to show the importance of caring for the society and all the ethical issues that are raised.
No matter what the aim of CSR is, we can't miss the fact that today ethics play an important role in every kind of business and that is what makes the public embrace a certain corporate. Giving back to the society is a priority for everyone that works and makes profit through business. Social performance will keep reinforcing the ethical profile of corporates so both the public and companies can co-exist and co-operate under the best circumstances.

 One of the most attacked corporate in the world McDonalds introduces their social responsibility

PR and political campaigns - "Yes we can (?)"

"In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? "
                                                   Barack Obama

I once read that if you want to be a president or a prime minister you need 10% talent and 90% good PR. After this rather controversial comment I started thinking about all these politicians that managed to win difficult political battles and to emerge in the top political level of their countries, but at the end it was proved that they had absolutely 0% talent. That equals 100% good Public Relations? The power that the industry has is not exactly fresh news, especially for us. Some may call it manipulation of the masses. I’ll just say it is the power of communication. Let’s take the case of Barack Obama. He was considered the hope of America, the “light of the future” (god I’d make an excellent journalist), or even the new Martin Luther King. All these before he was elected. At the moment, he is the president of the USA. So what? 

A definition of Public Relations (among others) is the building of relationships with audiences and usually the words “persuade” and “manipulate” are in the same sentence. Let’s take a look on what Obama’s PR team did that made him tha most talked about person in the planet back in 2008. First of all,  Barack Obama had one of the largest PR campaigns ever made and he achieved some great things. Like the fact that he attracted the most young voters in the history of the USA. How that happened? Social media. Does this ring a bell? Of course it does. The PR team knew the importance of approaching the right audience with the right tools. He created a webiste that had a link to his blog and he took full advantage of Facebook, Twitter Youtube and even Myspace. I am sure that if you followed him at that time in any of that social netwrking sites you'd have been impressed by his activity and his inspirational content. The guy knew what he was doing. And that takes us to the highlight of the campaign. The Americans had just exited a very difficult period of their history and Obama played the role of the savior. So he needed to be presented as one. And then is when he invented the phrases that accompanied his posters: "hope", "change" and "yes we can". But, could he? It doesn't even matter. 

The point of all these was to manipulate (I know you probably don't like this word but in this case, I dare you to find a better one..) the crowd that wanted to believe in better days, And he made it. He was elected the president of the USA but unfortunately nothing changed. Some even say that it's even worse than before. In my previous post I wrote about whether PR has undermined the trust in Politics and my opinion was no. Because no matter how good your PR team is, if you can't support the image that has been created for you, then nothing can't.

P.S. : Barack I might be a little bit harsh on you but if this helps: Yes, I believed you too at that time!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

New media in Public Relations- Is the "new" always good?

   “Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.”  
                                                                     Brian Solis

 Revolution. Two-way communication.Social Media. Community.Influence. These are words that you always find in the same sentence when you read about new media and their impact on Public Relations. Everybody knows that PR practitioners use social media and more general the internet to approach audiences and to communicate with the public. I’m not going to start on how social media have transformed the industry or what are their benefits or drawbacks. If you want to know, you can check my previous posts, or the thousands of blog posts, articles and conversations that are being made daily about it. What I was wondering and I felt like sharing with you is the differences between traditional and new media. Since the “birth” of Public Relations the practitioners were absolutely dependent on journalists that were working in newspapers or in general the press, and the relationship between them was sacred. Nowadays, everything’s different apparently. Reading over some books, and browsing some blogs I realized that many people in the industry think that the relationships with traditional media that were really important are not needed anymore. Blogs, social media and social networking can do all the work for you.  But why?

First of all, both kind of media provide the public with news. Their aim is to inform and to influence with their content. But what is that special “thing” that new media offer? Does the term “two-way communication” ring any bells? For the first time whoever posts something on web can have instant feedback on whatever is being said. Comments and observations can be done if something is mistaken or if something is widely appreciated from the public. On the other hands, what are the chances to do that when you’re reading an article in the newspaper that you bought? What? Did I just say bought? The majority of new media offer unlimited information for free. And that is something that we all like. More generally we could say that new media is a huge information “playground” for everyone that wants to inform, get informed, reach audiences, interact and share content. And that is why Public Relations love new media. Practitioners have the chance to control the message without journalists and to reach targeted audiences with limited cost. Sounds like a communications paradise? That is what I thought until I saw a survey that said that 40% of consumers don’t trust online news, until they see it in traditional media. And that was a wakeup call. Because in the “magical” world of social media there are some dangers.  The content of the message sometimes can be inaccurate or can be lost among the thousands of messages. Anyone can write whatever they want and sometimes that leads to lack of trust. PR practitioners know the importance of new media and how to use them towards their benefit. But the question is: Are we ready to leave the true traditional relationships that have worked for years, and to move on solely in the digital era? I know, that is a tough one. What do you think?


Saturday, March 12, 2011

The principles and use of Social Marketing

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference. 
                                                                      Tom Brokaw

I recently came across the term social marketing and since I had no idea what it was I decided to research a little bit about it and I found really interesting things. So let me share them with you. Social marketing was “born” when people realized that the marketing principles that are applied in order to sell products, can also be applied for selling ideas and attitudes. Social marketing has as a goal to change social behaviors and not to benefit the sales of a product or a service. If you still find  hard to understand what social marketing is, let me make it simpler for you. For example, if you want to convince people to wear their seat belts or in more complex occasions to make more people become organ donors, then social marketing is your ultimate tool.
A very important aspect of social marketing is of course the audience. It is very important to know what it wants and needs. In contrast with traditional marketing, the product is not consumer goods but  ranges from services and practices to even more abstract ideas like the protection of the environment. As you can understand research is vital. Sometimes people find hard to understand that they have a problem. Social marketing practitioners should make people understand this problem and encourage them to take action. Sounds tricky right?
To make it more clear I found the case of condom social marketing which was emerged in the 80’s in order to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in many countries. The program focused on raising awareness of the risks of infection and how to prevent it as well as focusing in high-risk groups. What this means is that condoms became easily accessible and “destigmatized”.

Social marketing programs can motivate people change behavior but as you probably understand that is not enough. Sometimes there is an immediate need for change of policy or even laws. The procedure of accomplishing  such goals is complicated and time-consuming  and of course  funds are needed  from  foundations, government grants or donations. Social marketing needs a key strategy that focuses on the audience and plans according to the needs of it. Despite being a very difficult task, the benefits of it have a huge impact in the well-being of society and the way we understand the world.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Spin"- Lack of trust in politics and the role of the PR industry

                        "I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live"

I recently attended a rather interesting debate hosted by the University of Westminster, concerning PR and spin and if they have undermined trust in politics. This was the motion and everybody in the audience had to vote for or against.  Many things have been said throughout the years about spin and the manipulative techniques that politicians and their PR team use in order to persuade the public.  Somebody will say: Isn’t this what PR is all about?  Well, I’m not quite sure. It is hard for me to believe that politicians were the innocent human beings that seek the good of their people and one day PR people approached them, and told them: “Now we are going to make people not to trust you”.
During the debate, very interesting points were made by the speakers, Kevin Maguire, associate editor at the Daily mirror, and Shelia Gunn, former political journalist that was also John Major’s spokesperson, that were arguing for the motion and Lance Price, former deputy communications director in Downing Street, and Francis Ingham, chief executive of the PRCA that were on the opposing side. Do you want  to know who “won”? Of course the majority voted against the motion. The crowd was mostly consisted of PR professionals or students so the outcome was foreseen. I read a comment in PR WEEK's coverage of the debate : “Turkeys voting for Christmas or what?!” That made me laugh because that was exactly what it happened. So we know what the industry thinks about spin, but what do people out there think about PR in politics? Was it PR that made politics shameful? Let’s take a look.

I bet that if you ask anyone in Britain about spin ,  the first thing that will come on the mind will be one name: Alastair Campbell. Campbell,  was the director of Communications and Strategy for Prime Minister Tony Blair between 1997 and 2003 and one of the most famous spin doctors in the history. What made him so special? According to people from the PR industry, he is the one to blame for the loss of trust towards politicians as he was involved in the famous story of distortion of "The September Dossier"  and  played huge role in the Iraq war. If someone’s wants to be the devil’s advocate we could say that he was just doing what he was hired to do. But what implications such acts have in the PR industry? Does such people make the rest of the professionals  look like a bunch of unethical and immoral creatures? And since we live in the era of the total depreciation of politics  are the PR professionals, like Alistair Campbell the ones to blame?
I will borrow a quote from Kevin Maguire : “The spin doctors are taking over. We don’t have a prime minister. We have a prime spinner”.  I have to admit that the comment is quite accurate but should we be so dogmatic? I personally come from a country (Greece) that political scandals are an everyday reality, we hear about politicians embezzling huge amounts of public money , scandals are coming to light daily. I don’t think that these politicians need help to blot their images. Lack of trust in politics hasn’t come up from the persuasive tactics of the PR professionals, it has come in the picture because of the undignified and bumptious behavior  of the politicians that fail to be a good account to themselves.  What do you think?

                       Here is an interesting video I found about political spin! Take a look!