Monday, 7 November 2016

The Truth Well Told

There's an old adage in PR ... the truth well told. Watching the Trump campaign hurtling along at lighting speed with that wannabe politico and self-proclaimed billionaire Donald J Trump at the helm, one would swear that truth (or truthiness as satirist Colbert would say) is an optional extra in politics.

While politicos have never been known for being sticklers to the truth, Trump has taken this to another level. He has mastered the dark art of making a statement, then back-peddling faster than Lance Armstrong on speed.

His campaign kicked off with a call to build a wall. It ended with his Twitter account being taken away from him (according to the New York Times). His campaign managers finally realizing that Trump's dedication to telling the truth, or saying what he thinks his supporters want to hear, was affecting his performance at the polls.

Trump veers from bending the truth to saying whatever crosses his mind, something his supporters love.

So is telling the truth sometimes a bad thing? Maybe if you're a bigoted, xenophobic misogynist. And when the world's cameras are pointed as you, and hot mics a 'la Billy Bush are the order of the day, watch what you say. As my granny used to say: "Say something nice, or don't say anything at all."

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Donald Trump - Madman or PR Genius?

The Twitterati took to social media this week to air their views on Trump's declaration that Muslims shouldn't be allowed into the US.

Trump is either a madman, or a PR genius. While some Republican candidates have faded into stage left (think Carly Fiorina) Trump is making the news and trending worldwide. While Fiorina has made it onto The Daily Show thanks to Trump's musings about her "bloody" performance at a GOP debate, she is no match for the former reality TV star.

Being in PR, I can't help but wonder if Trump is making these wild statements simply to prick our attention. The Brits are paying attention and have racked up over 370 000 signatures in a petition banning the would-be Commander in Chief from entering the UK.

Samuel L Jackson has come out against Trump, saying he will move to South Africa if the Donald becomes President. As a South African, I can imagine the Rand/dollar exchange rate in the wake of Nene's dethroning would sweeten the deal.

American politics is fascinating. I'll watch the madness unfold from my comfy couch in South Africa and just hope that the Democrats take the White House and the Senate. *grabs the popcorn*

- Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Louis Theroux meets Max Clifford

Louis Theroux, journalist extraordinaire interviewed PR guru Max Clifford in one of his typical "Weird Weekend" documentaries.

The film demonstrates the relatiosnhips between journalists and the media. Clifford was able to manipulate some of the journo's but proved to be no match for the upfront Louis Theroux.

The unethical bahaviour demonstrated by Max Clifford - from setting up Louis to Clifford consistantly lying in the documentary makes me question the way PR is practised. This is especially hard-hitting as Clifford is arguably the leading PR guru (self-styled) in the UK.

The sybiotic relationship between journalists and PR practitioners is quite clearly demonstrated. In particular, this documentary reveals the dodgy bahaviour of Clifford, particlarly with regards to squashing rumours that Simon Cowell is gay.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

NGO's and Public Relations

It takes a certain kind of person to work in PR at an NGO. Passion for the NGO you work for, an ability to multi-task and getting paid a substantial amount less than your PR counterparts are all essential for all PR professionals looking to work in this sector.

At NGO's there is a close relationship between PR experts and the dominant culture of the organisation. In many cases, directors at NGO's are involved with drafting and issueing press releases to the media, this gives them an advantage over directors in the corporate sector as they are able to build a relation with the media.

NGO's are also innovative in nature. They utilise new media tools like Twitter as they are free/inexpensive to use. As an illustrative point, 38 degrees, which grew to a membership in excess of 100,000 in 8 months, used Facebook extensively to publicise its efforts.

NGO's rely heavily on alliances to achieve change. Unlike corporates who keep their technology under-wraps, NGO's freely make available their resources, particularly to others in their sector.

Social Marketing is also a mechanism for companies to instute change, in particular social change. These companies endeavour to change behaviour, and social media has made this easier to achieve.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Politicians makes strange bedfellows

Politicians have come a long way from their counterparts of yesteryear. One can hardly imagine Abraham Lincoln engaging with rock stars and celebrities the way PR savvy politicians like Barack Obama do.

The Obama campaign has become the gold standard in the political arena, and his foray into new media has swept other parts of the world. Elections held in South Africa in 2009 saw many similarities to the Obama campaign. Branding and using new media platforms like Facebook were incorporated into the African National Congresses (ANC) campaign efforts.

Obama has managed to perfect a few other PR techniques, including his ability to speak in sound bites. His ability to tap into this and other PR techniques has undoubtedly made a difference in his quest to lead one of the world's super powers.


Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Feminisation of PR and diversity issues

Debate – “Women will always work in PR but will never run it”

There are certain assumptions about how a PR practitioner should act and look. Arguably the most famous PR practitioner is Samantha Jones, the fictional character from HBO's Sex and the City. Ooozing sex appeal, competent and self-assured, Samantha Jones managed to crack the glass celing, and runs her own PR company.

But, a reality check brings us swiftly back to terra firma. There is a broad spectrum of people's ideas, assumptions and attitudes as to a women's role in this industry. My experiences have largely found that while PR is overwhelmingly made up of women, all too often, men are running the show and women are caged in by a glass ceiling, concrete walls and the velvet ghetto phenomena. The Velvet Ghetto, a phenomonon explored in the 1980's by Dr Caroline Cline looked at salaries, attitudes, bias, and not being part of the gang.

The infamous Max Clifford is probably Britain's most famous self-styled PR guru. As a relative newbie to the PR landscape in the UK, I find that Clifford and Alistair Campbell are the most recogniseable PR/publicity figures.

What makes this an even more bitter pill to swollow, is that women are often paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same job.


Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Can PR ever be ethical?

Where does ethics fit into PR?

PR Week recently tackled this hairy subject in an article: Professional Ethics - Should you promote these products?

Debate: “The only way to practice ethical PR is to work in the NGO or voluntary sector, all the rest is corporate propaganda or spin”
In a letter to PR Week, Businesses are not here to be ethical, Reginald Watts, director, Sound Strategies said:
"There are too many people in public relations bouncing around on the edge of business who have seldom carried the responsibilities of large company senior management."

The role of management is to run an efficient organisation that makes money. The role of government is to run a successful and efficient organisation that ensures the system is good for society. These two functions work when they are well defined. Do not muddle them.

Sectors other than Charity are driven by the bottom-line. From the CEO’s to PR practitioners, the end-goal is to make money. Charities are dependent on their credibility with the outside world, their very existence depends on their ethical behaviour, and whether the public see them as trustworthy or not. This filters down from the board, to the PR practitioners.

Business on the other hand are under no such obligation, while ethical behaviour is a nice to have, a cherry on the top if you will, shareholders are happy with increased profit margins, and PR practitioners are bent on ensuring that the companies reputation is not sullied, by whatever mechanism.

Does PR have a duty to tell the truth?

A debate held by PR week in 2007 had the majority vote against the proposition that PR practitioners have the responsibility to tell the truth. What surfaced in this debate is: "if you are not prepared to lie occasionally, you cannot do your job successfully."

In the real world, you are expected to toe the company line, and yes, this means sometimes withholding information, or even telling white lies. Often, a duty to tell a journalist the truth can conflict with client confidentiality. Can anyone, not just those working in Public relations commit to telling the whole truth, and nothing but the truth all the time?


Thursday, 18 February 2010

Social Media and Business

This video, "Using Social media for business" looks at the socio-cultural aspects of social media. It also shows the benefits and possible pitfalls of using social media for business. A definite must watch!!!

Social media mimics many aspects of society and culture. Groups found on various social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been likened to tribes as they consist of a group of people with shared interests.

These communities are able to communicate with one another using platforms like Bebo, Myspace, Twitter etc. It creates a sense of belonging and acceptance, necessary for happy integration in a real and virtual world.
Social media allows you to connect with like-minded people and creates a sense of belonging.

What has contributed to the success of social media is the speed and ease of spreading ideas . . . A form of globalisation. The world has become a smaller place. We can connect with a client across the world with the click of a button using not only computers, but hand-held devices like iPods and Blackberry’s, which have become increasingly accessible.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Good Business – the rise of CSR – companies with a social conscience

Debate: “Attempts to align companies or brands with good causes are mere window dressing- companies should stick to the business of making money”

The above debate played out in a Contemporary Theory and Issues class at the University of Westminster. After listening to both sides, I believe that while in some cases PR departments and the companies they represent may engage in CSR simply for window-dressing, the bottom-line is that these companies are making a difference and are not simply worried about their bottom line.

The relatively recent wave of companies going green has also attracted suspicions over the motives of the companies involved - its simply become passe' for companies to slavishly press on to improve their profits without any thought for the environment.


Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Global PR

Today in class we discussed Global PR, and looked at whether a standard approach to PR can be used across all countries and cultures. A lively debate left some people switching their stance on this issue, but also left some of us still on the fence.

The problem I have is that it's impossible to tailor-make PR to suit every person. Coming from South Africa with 11 official languages and many more different cultures, I believe that we need to compromise, and find a happy medium, that which suits the majority. By this I mean that PR can adapt to various cultures, but you can never find a cap that fits all heads . . .

The constant drive to be politically correct can also lead a company to commit a faux pas. McDonalds, the fast food giant, seems to suffer from foot in mouth disease every now and then. A recent campaign in China saw McDonalds issue commemorative Chinese New Year toys celebrating the Chinese zodiac calendar. In a bid to avoid insulting it's Muslim customers, McDonalds decided to not have a pig as part of the 12 character line-up, instead it issued a cupid figurine. This resulted in an uproar, as many collector's in China felt the collection was now incomplete, and did not accurately reflect the Chinese Zodiac.

They subsequently issued an apology and began distributing the pig as part of the promotion.

McDonalds provided more fodder for irate bloggers earlier this year, when they ran an advert stating "the pound, also known as the bob" as part of an advertising campaign in the US. McDonalds execs on the other side of the pond were criticised for not researching what a bob actually is in England. Had they done a litle bit of research, they would have found that it is actually 5 pence!

The constant need to satisfy everyone is just not feasible. While global PR needs to take cognizance of cultures and beliefs, the possibilty of achieving the opposite is all too real as demonstrated above.


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Concepts in Social Media

In the Issues class, we discussed the various concepts of Social Media, including:

1. Multiple Voices - including issues of access. This raises questions about whether or not everyone has access to social media. Questions of literacy are also connected to this.

2. Social media - having a voice gives you power. Are some voices more equal than others is a point to consider here. Influential bloggers like Perez Hilton and the Huffinton post are able to reach many people. But, this got me thinking - how influential are bloggers really? Besides the fact that issues like lack of infrastucture and lack of access to the internet and low literacy levels in parts of the world which may prevent people from accessing blogs, the Echo Chamber may give the impression that bloggers are conversing with the world, when in reality the comments and posts on the blogs are simply bouncing back and fort via links by a few people talking amongst one another.This concept is explored in Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel (2006), p134 John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey

3. Conversations - Social media allows businesses to have two way conversations with consumers. This live and often unedited form of communication means a loss of control for PR practitioners. The positive side, which makes up for this is the invaluable feedback PR practioners are able to pick up from comments.

Transparency and ettiquette is of utmost importance, especially in reference to blogs.

4. Networks, word of mouth and trust

5. Authenticity and Transparency

6. Amateurs and professionals - in the blogging world, the view is that amateurs are more authentic or credible than professionals. Many people visit blogs, in search of reviews before purchasing a new gadget, or before visiting a restaurant. This is something that PR professionals need to bear in mind, especially when embarking into the 2.0 world . . . while PR professionals or someone working for a company will carry less credibility, its is important that any affiliations are declared. This transparency is ethical, and will also lend credibility to the blog . . .

The rise of citizen journalists have thrown another spanner into these works. The dangers of social media and authenticity are demonstrated by what can go wrong when people who are not trained in journalism and who do not conform to the ethics that trained journalists are indulge in generating news via social media.

Is the public more trusting of amateurs writing the news, or seasoned journalists? While amateurs open up so many opprtunities, with the man in the street capturing shots in Haiti and uploading them to sites like Facebook, the opportunity for false information to spread also comes into the fore. A case in point of this is a citizen journalist spread the news that Rick Astley had died (incorrectly) and the mainstream news picked up the story and carried it as breaking news.


Naked Conversations by Scoble and Israel (2006), p134 John Wiley and Sons, New Jersey

Monday, 1 February 2010

New media

Social media allows PR practitioners to reach their public, and allows for feedback. From Twitter to Facebook, to online forums, PR practitioners are using new media to contact loads of people at the click of a button.

I recently came across an article that warns of the dangers that lurk if unscupulous PR practitioners utilise new media unethically. Check out the article:

Tripadviser is a brilliant website, and lets visitors to the website read reviews of hotels, "tourist places" etc. The reviewers are means to be ordinary people, not journalists or PR people. This lends credibility as the "man in the street" is trusted as they tend to not have any interest in pushing the agenda of companies. But, companies are now offering PR and marketing people a way to ensure that their companies receive a great review by placing fake reviews, for a fee. This is a perfect example of unethical use of new media.


Thursday, 21 January 2010

Controlling the media

Yesterday in class, we watched War Spin - a documentary that looked at war and spin, and how the allies used the media to spread propaganda during the Iraqi war.

What struck me is how the allies were able to control the media, even though journalists cottoned onto the fact that they were being used as pawns, it took them a while to realise this. Its been my experience that journalists balk at being fed spin, but it appears as though these journalists were kept in the dark for a while.

What also struck me is that many techniques used in Public relations were used to spread the propaganda. From turning a negative story into a positive one, to flooding the media with positive stories whenever there is a crisis, the allies had the kind of media strategy used by normal PR practitioners. A major difference was the misinformation and blatant lies fed to the journos, and therefore to the general public. As a PR practitioner, I never lie to a journalists. I cringe at even saying no comment, so this really boggles the mind for me.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Welcome to my blog

This blog seeks to address the issues discussed in the MA Public Relations lectures at the University of Westminster. A host of topics ranging from propaganda to new media will be looked at.