PR Through The Eyes Of A Young Professional

Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

You’re Such A Liar! … Right?

In Public Relations, Social Media on January 22, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Like a million other professionals, I am a member of the LinkedIn community. Initially I joined as a prerequisite for a good grade in my graduate social media class. Nonetheless I’ve found it to be an extremely useful resource.  I’ve connected with at least 15 groups on the social networking site  that are specifically dedicated to the public relations industry. Every day I receive RSS feeds from each group full of current job listings, professional advice, pertinent industry news, new product launches, etc.  Recently I received an email from one of my groups with a topic on the discussion board called “PR and Lying”.

 Well PR 101 teaches us not to repeat any negatives, so from now on lying will be referred to as the “L-Word” …I don’t wish to actively participate in the negative branding of my profession. 

Moving on…

 Nevertheless, I knew this was going to be an interesting discussion.  We all know that unfortunately Public Relation Pros and Lawyers are perceived to be the biggest liars out of any other profession (I guess you could throw politicians and career criminals in the pot too.). And it is this school of thought that has burdened the field of PR that we as professionals have tried to so assiduously shake.

But back to the discussion board…

A member of the group, who shall remain nameless, posted a discussion that he and his company were conducting research and wanted “PR people to complete a survey for a report on ethics in public relations”. Simple enough right? Wrong!

While most professionals in the community were extremely receptive to the survey, others felt the survey was too black and white and left no room for explanations or variables.

 Too many “yes or no” questions make people nervous.

But nevertheless, the professionals of the group went to bat for their profession proclaiming, in a collective voice: PR professionals are not liars (I mean L-worder’s)! But don’t get me wrong the gloves did come off and mud was thrown… the biggest disagreement between the professionals was how do you define lying? And with many insisting that withholding information is different from lying entirely. Despite the conflict the need for this type of conversation is imperative to  the professions evolution.

No matter how hard we try, pr practitioners are still fighting their inner demons about lying.  But let’s see what we can all agree on:

1)     2+2= 4 (or at least last time I checked) – this can be classified as an absolute truth; nothing can change this.  2+2 will not equal 5 tomorrow. We can agree this is the truth

2)   No one likes a liar. People don’t say: “Hey that guy’s a great liar, he’s so awesome!!” The act of  lying is looked down on in every society. Liars are never (knowingly) revered.

But when the participants were asked “when is it justifiable to lie professionally?” , most agreed NEVER but some said:

When the lie will not damage your reputation, the clients business or breach the need to meet the public interest

If the lying is innocuous

Lie is a strong word and there is a big difference between withholding information and lying…(there’s more but I’m withholding it hahaha (in my villain voice))

???!!!

All depends on the specific situation at a given point

Harmless lies to avoid hurting someone People don’t necessarily want to know the truth when they ask “Do I look fat in this??”

To avoid war and/or death

When someone’s life could be in danger

As professionals we want to do better.  There is still so much to be discussed.  Therefore I implore you to start the discussion in your offices and boardrooms  about Half Truths and Whole Lies. Let the journey begin.

Check out the complete survey and results:

http://www.pwkpr.com/downloads/Graphs200110.pdf
http://www.pwkpr.com/downloads/FurtherComments200110.pdf

Advertisements

CSR in the Face of a Crisis

In Corporate Social Responsibility on January 20, 2010 at 4:03 am

Every other Television channel in the past week has had something about the tragedy in Haiti and ways you can lend a helping hand. Driving down the street I saw billboards on ways I can help with the crisis in Haiti. You could even observe the Corporate Social Responsibility efforts of various companies on many of your news stations and the large sums of money they choose to give.

Money is always one of the best gifts  you can give anyone in the face of a crisis or just as a plain birthday or Christmas gift because only the “gift receiver” knows what he/she really needs. However, when you look back on your life and think about your parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, etc… what do you think about? You think about past times you may have spent with those people. TIME is one of the most valuable gifts you can give anyone because there simply is just not enough of it.

I recently heard the simple but very meaningful phrase “give what cost you the most.” It’s not saying give your whole life savings but rather give something that you are going to miss. When it comes to giving some people may give clothes they no longer want, year-old can goods from the pantry they never plan to eat, or the two dollars they will probably never think about again. Instead of giving the old can goods, why not include something you may plan to eat during the week?

From my personal observation the giving efforts from not only the United States but around the World has been immense in helping Haitians during their time of need. I began to think, I may not have the necessary resources to actually go to Haiti and lend my helping hand but if given the opportunity I would definitely give my time to assist with the overwhelming need.

When you think of a company, what is one of their most valuable assets? Their employees of course.  Employees keep a company running and generate income for the company they work for. As a person working in the public relations or communications department of a company one of your jobs may be using your creative juices to ponder up ways to improve the CSR efforts of your company. While watching CNN earlier in the week I saw the amount of money many organizations gave to aid the efforts in Haiti and often this money went to nonprofits that usually respond to all types of crisis around the world.

I thought why not take these CSR efforts a step further in the face of a crisis. As discussed earlier, I came to the conclusion that time is the most valuable resource, whether personal or professional. As an example many companies gave one million dollars to aid Haitians. Companies are able to take these efforts a step further if they use a small portion of the money to sponsor a few willing and trusting employees to personally go over to Haiti and contribute their time on behalf of his/her organization. As a representative of your company you may get there and do something as little as comforting a child while his family is being located or locating formula for a mother to feed her newborn. I’m sure that the individual you helped will remember you because you were there in their most despeserate hour.

 Of course this may not be the best time to push your companies brand in a country that has just experienced one of the worst natural disasters to date. However since you are in this country representing your company then you will most likely have some type of company logo visible to the natural eye to differentiate yourself from the other groups giving aid. Therefore, you never know what people know, notice, or remember about you. A person from a different organization doing a similar job as you may take notice or even the Haitian citizen standing a few feet from you watching you comfort a child may be observing you. Naturally these people will associate your positive efforts with the organization you represent. It may only be one, two or hundreds of people that take notice but whatever the number, people are associating your company with a positive image and not with just the business aspect.

If the time of your employees is one the components that makes your organization run efficiently then why not sacrifice that in the face of a crisis, especially if this could be beneficial to your company in the future. Take your CSR efforts a step further and lend that personal touch to those who really need it, not only are you helping someone but you are also helping your company to continue to prosper in the end.

Taking the BS out of Pu lic Relation

In Public Relations on January 18, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I love my profession. Every morning I sit in front of the computer with a cup of coffee, perusing the latest news, info, and stats relevant to public relations. Often times I feel like a kid in a toy store, overwhelmed by the amount of information that sits before me. As a relatively new professional (a solid 2 ½ years, thank you very much), I am still in awe by the impact my field has on the world. You can always find a public relations initiative lurking behind every news story, major event, or magazine article. But even with the presence of public relations being so clear and obvious, the world actively engages in a love/hate relationship with the industry. Nevertheless the need for public relations is on the rise. Good news for me and my fellow practitioners but bad news for critics. And while the hiring component within the field of public relations may be in freeze mode ( damn you economic depression), the practice itself is flourishing.

Behind criminals and IRS auditors, the public relations profession comes in a strong 3rd place on the list of nastiest nicknames: flacks, spin doctors, propagandist… the lists goes on. While these titles may not have been designed to be derogatory, you better believe that when someone calls you a Flack today, it’s not a compliment. Nevertheless, while there are professionals that give PR a bad name, I am among a new generation of professionals that are committed to being ethical and practicing the field with the highest degree of integrity.

How can I be sure of this you ask?

Well the truth is no one comes into public relations (or another other profession…to my knowledge) and dreams of how to implement greenwashing techniques, or ponders ideas for manipulating customers. I’ve always assumed that questionable acts/ poor habits of the field were passed down generation to generation, co-worker to co-worker, just like bad genes. Well the buck stops here.

As a new practitioner, along with an army of others, I am committed to taking the BS out of PR! Very rarely as a young professional do you get to exercise the advantages of your novelty to the profession; unless it involves explaining some new gadget or technology like “The Google”, or Facebook to a more experienced colleague. But when it comes to evaluating a public relations campaign or trend, allowing a fresh, candid pair of eyes to give a new perspective can be extremely beneficial. That is what my co –author and I hope accomplish with this blog.

As I evaluate and offer my two cents on the issues I find important, I am encouraged to refer to educational tools, professional resources, and just plain old common sense.