Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Week 13

Hear ye, hear ye! And so this is the last post required in this module for the trimester.

This week's reading is "Focus on Asian Public Relations Management" by Richard Stanton and also, "Writing a Media Release" by Candy Tymson. I'll focus more on the reading by Stanton.

I found this in this reading, rather dry, but I'm trying to make it relate to me, and since it's on Asia, it should be applicable.

So what makes PR important? To me, I think knowing my purpose and how important the role that I take up is of motivation for me to do better, to be more efficient in my work.

Just so you know, while I was still doing my high school and I've decided to take up this course; communication majoring in Public Relations and Journalism- the very first reaction I got from my relatives was that, why do PR-it's not good for a girl to that, and it was because PR was perceived as exactly what Idid (2004 cited in Stanton, 2009) said; that it's perceived as "karaoke singers and social escorts". And on journalism, they told me that I was wasting my parents' money to do that, just because one of my cousin is a journalist without having the need to study a journalism course. Honestly, I felt offended by those remarks- especially the when they perceived PR to be a job like that. On the side note, do you even need to study to jobs like that? I am blessed that parents made no objections to what I have decided to do- so I guess it's not so bad after all those non-constructive comments made.

Now, that I know what is PR and how important it is- I can better explain what this course is all about to them. That's so much about a little history on my side.

Stanton (2009) lists out 5 areas of importance of PR, mainly in Asia itself. They are: (I hope I didn't misinterpret this. But to my understanding...)
  • Trade- PR is important in trade, so that they can communicate with their stakeholders, with consistent and uniform news on decisions made. But this however would be deemed limited, in countries whose internet access are being strictly controlled by the government.
  • Languages- As Asians, we have many languages and Stanton (2009) says that this diversity of languages is in fact a hurdle to effective PR practice in Asia.
  • Government intent- Asian countries are said to be more conservative in what they do. Therefore, political and economic activities are controlled. Here, for effective PR to take place, that is to manage the relationship between the organisation and the public as well as its stake holders, PR practitioners need to be mindful of who they are supposed to deal with. And it was pretty cool to know that PR is in fact used for nation building too! Actually, Malaysia (Yes! It's where I come from!) is one of those countries that use PR to "instill patriotism" in their people.
  • Stake Holders- According to Stanton (2009), it is said that Asian organisations feel that, the media is not a very important stakeholder compared to Western viewpoint, but they feel that their audience is much more important, so here, falling back to the point before this, PR practitioners need to know who they are dealing with.
  • Personal Interaction- PR practitioners are important in Asia where personal interaction, face-to- face communication or engagement with the public is placed of higher priority compared to communicating via the other forms of media. As Stanton (2007 cited in Stanton 2009, p. 364) states that "public opinion is an expression of social, economic and political will".
Another area that I found interesting in this reading is "PR and the Public Sphere". There is a similarity in PR practice in both Asia and in the West. And that is PR practice in both worlds are based on two basic concepts: relationship building and framing. Framing as Stanton (2009) and Watson and Hill (2006) describes; is the analyzing and placing an issue in a certain manner.

Well, I guess that's how I'm finishing this blog? This blog has been an adventure for me in PR, and I'm thinking of continuing this blog- not making it "for-the-sake-of-assessments", since I do frequent by the shelves books with spine labels of <659.2>.

(But most likely, the next post will be after the assessment dates. :o>)

Week 12

Week 12's reading centralizes on new media in Public Relations. "New Media & Public Relations" by Kate Fitch.

I can relate better to this reading, somehow. So, let's get on with it.

I was thinking back on how our ancestors used to communicate with one another, especially if they were far away from each other, they would pass the message to another person by message carrier pigeons, then thanks to Alexander Graham Bell, they had telephones. And postage service which would most likely take eons to get their postcards or letter to another part of the world. Now, we have the internet, we can do almost anything and everything online, pretty much instantaneously, as Turkle (1997) writes in her book; Life on The Screen.

One section of this reading caught me, and that was on whether advancement in communication technology could be of better use in PR. Gregory (2004 cited in Fitch, 2009) discovered that there were 2 different view points on this issue. And after reading this, I can conclude that it is a debatable point.

Firstly, she mentions of one view point that technology advancement in communication in line with PR, is that this new form of communication is defined as yet another communication method or as a better form of current communication methods. Let's just take for example the telephone, making international calls can be costly, especially for an international student like me, but with the internet and MSN or Yahoo Messenger, I can call up my parents and they can even see me with the video call function, and it is not as costly as an international call.

Here, Gregory quotes survey works from the various communication scholars, coming to say that the internet has the potential of promoting and facilitating two-way communication. But, this potential cannot be made possible.

In fact, I agree with this point. At most times, websites are being set up to only disseminate information such as what the company is about, company policies, achievements- to ensure that the public knows what they are supposed to know. Often, the ability of the new media to engage the audience is not put to good use. Perhaps they might have a "Contact Us" section; most likely for you to leave comments or a message in hope that they will get back you, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the company's personnel to decide whether they want to reply you or not. Thus, new media is not being used to promote two-way communication as it can encourage dialogue and discussion.

Another school of thought feels that technology has advanced and it has changed how companies communicate with the public. Reading on, Fitch (2009), suggests that McDonald's is a good example to this. Try typing in McDonald's in Google- see what you find? I actually did this "experiment" and... Eureka? I posed it as a question because almost anything and everything that has the label McDonald's can be found online. Even a WikiPedia entry, and even Youtube Videos are found too. While new media can assist in promoting dialogue and discussion, it can also mean harm for the company, where the organisation's private information is also disseminated out. Companies start getting too "leaky" as Fawkes & Gregory (2000 cited in Fitch 2009) with their company's information- where no control is present over the information accessibility.

In my opinion, I think organisations should encourage two-way communication with the public with forums and discussions, and at the same time, the organisation also needs to be mindful of what information they put out to the public.

That ends my response to Week 12's reading.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Week 11

The reading for Week 11, in my opinion swirls around one theme: Managing issues for corporate reputation.

In my "week 7" post, I mentioned that PR practitioners need to be forward-looking. Here, in line with issues management and reputation management; PR practitioners need to do so. PR practitioners are not to react to the crisis or issue only when it happens- instead, all this can be planned for on what and how to do when it does happen. PR practitioners need to anticipate all the issues and problems that might come into their way when working for a particular project. Say for example, the recent issue with Toyota having to call back all their vehicles, has the PR practitioner anticipated that this might happen someday? When it happened, what did the PR practitioner do to counter the problem? This is just a simple example of issues that can lead to crises that the PR practitioner needs to deal with. 

Ok- I think I'm too fast- Hold it... What is issues management? I forgot to define that. Oops! Well, according to Howell (2009; p. 275), he says that issues management is a "specific management function that seeks to identify potential, emerging, or actual trends, or concerns, or issues likely to affect an organization and its key publics". So the phrase "seeks to identify potential" just equals one word: anticipate

And how is it different from crisis? A crisis, as Howell (2009) says that it is a major situation that can affect the organization negatively, however its causes are not known. Honestly speaking, I think I got confused with the whole difference between a crisis and an issue. But on the outside, I can say this, an issue is less serious than a crisis is, and crisis happens because the company chooses to ignore issues that it is already facing or because the organization manages the crisis poorly. 

In my opinion, for a corporation to manage issues and crisis (when it does happen), the corporation should always strive to be transparent with the public and its employees. That would most likely have issues to come out less serious. 

This ends my response for the readings in Week 11.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Week 10

Week 10's reading is "Public Relations Management in Organizations", by Amisha Mehta and Robina Xavier (2009).

From this reading, I got to know about PR has 2 sides of communication, and that is either a "closed" or "open" system.

According to Cutlip, Center & Broom (2006) cited in Mehta and Xavier (2009), closed system in public relations means that the PR practitioner or the organization in general, uses a one-way communication method, whereby the organization is less likely to interact with its environment or the public. As Skinner and Shanklin (1978) cited in Mehta and Xavier (2009) say that this system practiced in PR is to protect the corporation's image. And due to its nature of minimal contact with the general public, the corporation is unable to grab hold and make use of opportunities that the corporation might have to put forward its objectives and not to mention, its inability to deal with problems that might come in its way (Mehta & Xavier, 2009).

Personally, this form of communication is not transparent with the public as it only gives out information that it wants the public to know, but it does not exchange views with the public. The public does not get to have a say in what or how it feels about the organization, so that the organization can address the issue.

In an open system however, Cutlip, Center & Broom (2006) and Morgan (1998) cited in Mehta & Xavier (2009) states that such systems usually communicate with their publics in order to gain inputs and exchange outputs. Thus, with this exchange of views, the organisation is said to be more effective and efficient in adapting to crisis and change-prioritizing the changes in its surroundings.

On this point, I think that corporations that practice open communication systems are socially responsible as they think of how their actions would affect the society at large. As they hear and engage the public, such corporations are able to better handle crises and situations. This in turn benefits both the corporation and the public.

Having said that, ends my take on Public Relations management in organizations.

Week 9

Week 9's recommended reading had two themes; suggested that we read Chapter 6 on PR Practice again and Chapter 9 on PR Strategy. Here, I will respond to PR strategy...

Here's my take:

I begin with a quote from the chapter: "Strategy is a plan or method by which you are going to achieve in a specific goal in a contested environment." (James, 2009, p 252)

After a few weeks in this course, now that we have to prepare for our final assignment- a PR plan for OCD (our client), it makes me think of PR similar to playing chess. One word: Strategy. I'm no chess person, but I know that in playing chess, there needs to be strategy... In PR, strategy according to James (2009), is vital in its practice.

With the many types of media trying to tell us different messages today- organizations are in a competition for our attention. And as PR practitioners, we are supposed to strive to get peoples' attention to hear out what we want to tell them, right? It is here that an effective PR strategy can set us apart from the rest. And with strategies that are well-planned, the organization's goals can be met.

Another area I find interesting in this chapter is on sponsorship- partly because it was my debate topic.

From my debate: "Community events invariably benefit from securing corporate sponsorship", in the course outline, it said that there was no winners or losers, but if you asked me, I think my team lost. Cos' it's a little tough when they start telling you that the company benefits, because sponsorship is a much cheaper form of advertisement. I guess the winning or losing doesn't really matter as long as I gained from the debate. To me, corporate sponsorship in events is a "win-win" situation. Because, the company gets itself known with the sponsorship, the event organizers save money on their budget. So both sides benefit.

And to end with, is the monitoring and evaluation of PR Strategies (James, 2009). It is important that strategies are monitored to ensure everything runs smoothly, and what to do should a crisis arise. And evaluating the outcomes from the strategies implemented- we need visible results, if not, what's the whole point of doing a certain task? We need to find out if the implementation of the strategy is successful in reaching our target audience and if it isn't, what can be done to improve it?

Thus, this ends my take on PR strategy.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

week 8

After the PR Research & PR Practice reading, the list goes on with "Engaging with the Media".

I begin this blog with a sentence that came to my attention:
"Media relations is the cornerstone of most public relations careers... ..." (McLean & Phillipps, 2009)

In this chapter, it also includes some communication theories, which are not exactly new- was taught about it in CMNS 1110: Introduction to Communication Studies, last trimester. Looking at my PR point of view on these communication theories, the one that I can relate the most is the Uses and Gratifications theory where it actually describes how can people make use of the media. This is in fact, what PR practitioners do. Making use of the media to achieve their organization's objectives.

Another one that I can relate to is "Framing Theory". It was also introduced in CMNS 1110. Framing theory describes how a certain issue is being portrayed, so that the audience can interpret the message that is intended to be desseminated by the sender (Severin & Tankard, 2001: Tversky & Khaneman 1981 cited in Mclean & Phillipps 2009). Therefore, framing is simply defined as the careful selection of information, placing them in a certain way, so that the audience will interpret the message as how the sender is trying to tell them.

Moving on, the chapter also highlights that communication is divided into two forms, and they are:
  • Controlled (Mclean & Phillipps 2009)
  • Controlled media are publicty brochures, pamphlets, annual reports and such, where content is controlled by the organization itself- obviously an organization will not put bad things about their corporation in a publicity brochure, yes?
  • Uncontrolled (Mclean & Phillipps 2009)
  • Uncontrolled communication is a result from media relations, where PR practitioners cannnot control what journalists or reporters will write in the papers and magazines.

And this chapter also includes on how we can be successful in the public relations field, in general: and as McLean & Phillipps (2009) suggest; is the "Under-promise" the journalists, clients and "over-deliver" to them the deadline comes. That way, people that you work with externally can trust you.

And that particular line ends this post of mine.

Week 7

I got confused with which reading for which week- which explains the hiatus. I decided that I’ll just follow the recommendation closely, even if it means I’m lagging in my readings.
After the last reading that I did on ethics, according to the course schedule, following ethics is public relations (PR) research and the practice itself.
I guess you can call me being ignorant, but I didn’t know that in public relations, there is also research to it, and honestly, by its title, it wasn’t too interesting for me as I didn’t think that there was much application to it. After reading “Public Relations Research” by Gae Synnott, what struck me from that chapter was how public relations research is useful in three aspects:
- Issues management
o As communicators, we need to be always conscious and responsive of our audiences’ point of view (Chia & Synnott, 2009). Everyone has different viewpoints that may support or oppose the organization. Should an issue rise, it would mean that the PR practitioner must step in to handle the situation before it becomes a bigger problem. Synnott (2009) suggests that the main idea is to detect the problem or challenge in the early stage, and reflect on what needs to be looked into when the issue is developing and when it would need the PR practitioner to come in with its remedies.
o This research is divided into two areas: “Issues scanning” (Synnott, 2009) where issues are assessed and “Issues monitoring” (Synnott, 2009) where it implies that the problem is being watched closely to see how it grows and develops.

- Community engagement
o As in the first post, I mentioned of what PR is and what a PR practitioner does, and that is to coordinate the relationship between the organisation and the public. I think it is important that the public can relate to an organization, and in one of the posts on experiential marketing, it’s to engage the people- people can only understand if you involve them, as Confucious said. Synnott (2009) mentions that PR research as a form of community engagement is a budding area of specialization in PR practice.
o Organizations are part of communities; in fact it is the community that makes up of an organization. Therefore, shouldn’t the communities have a say in a certain decision that the organization is going to make that will affect the communities at large? It is said by Synnott (2009) that research in PR is in fact an important component in order to engage the community. A few of the instruments that PR practitioners can adopt (Synnott, 2009) in their research by engaging the public is:
 Community panels, advisory groups
 Town hall meetings
 Community dialogues
 Community planning workshops
 Multicriteria analysis

- Behavioural change programs
o According to Synnott (2009), this area of research is growing, and the start of the research is the most important stresses Synnott (2009). And it is because it involves being interested in the current behaviour and knowing what is the best method to change the behaviour.
In PR Practice, again by Gae Synnott (2009), the section that I can remember vividly is: “Day-to-day Challenges and Pressures” (pp. 181- 184).
This piece talks about what a PR practitioner will be facing in this field. Here are some of the areas that I find interesting and relevant:
- Good relationships (Synnott, 2009), as mentioned, PR practitioners exist to coordinate relationships between the organization and public. But this isn’t just limited what we are being hired to do, but it also begins with ourselves, having good relationships with our bosses & colleagues. As Synnott (2009) suggests, how these good relationships are formed is with effective and efficient of both verbal and written interpersonal communication skills, not forgetting a positive attitude as well.
- Good processes (Synnott, 2009) means to be systematic. Personally, I agree on this 100%! Well, maybe because I’m a person that adheres strictly to planning and protocols- and I can actually go berserk if my schedule suddenly has changes and starts to mess up. Perhaps, I will love doing PR next time, since it involves a proper system in doing things. With good systems and processes, results are consistent and I think it also allows room for improvement. For my take on systems, after doing it over and over, you generally get better.
- The tempo in which people work in today are getting faster and faster. Time management (Synnott, 2009) is a vital part of public relations, where there are many deadlines to meet and unexpected (maybe I won’t enjoy this part of PR, I’m not into uncertainty, but I guess I’ll just have to keep trying) happens. Discipline in sticking to deadlines is important and it is a challenge.
- Effective budgeting (Synnott, 2009) means managing the budget properly so that there is no over-spending. Everything needs to be paid for, hence budgets need to be properly managed and that is a challenge with rising prices, it does not mean that budgets would increase all the time.
- Keeping good records (Synnott, 2009), after reading the little section, to me, implies good administration or paperwork. Records of the clients’ instructions, choices, timelines, budgets, minutes of meeting, just to name a few, need to be properly kept. It’ll help in refreshing your memory and delivering what is required of you as well.
- In “Being proactive rather than reactive” (Synnott, 2009), states that PR is about hands-on communication, where the PR practitioner needs to be independent as well. The PR practitioner should always be forward-looking and have a “can do” mindset in order to make things happen.

That’s so much on my take for PR research and practice.