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Posts Tagged ‘PR

In recent times, as the endless litany of claims of phone-hacking and other journalistic behaviour by journalists at the UK’s now closed ‘News of the World’ and other newspapers in the Murdoch UK stable have arisen, friends in the US and other countries have suggested that I blog on it.

I have not rushed to judgement, as each day seemed to bring forward worse claims than the one before. And also because, and here I declare an interest, my first job almost 40 years again was as a cadet journalist on ‘The Australian’ the national daily newspaper established by (Keith) Rupert Murdoch in the late 1960s. On that paper, I gained my first experience of journalism and rose to be a national correspondent and, at times, night news editor.

I remember “Rupert” (or “KRM”) as innovative, hard-nosed, and wanting his newspapers to be the best – the newsiest and top-selling. He could be ruthless but was also immensely loyal to many editors and managers who stayed with him as his empire expanded into the UK, US, India and China.

So I have always had a continuing regard for this very driven media entrepreneur who has built an empire from one daily paper in Adelaide, South Australia. But that doesn’t mean that I have accepted the behaviour of his more popular papers.

In the UK, it has been obvious for some years that the News of the World and the Sun, the daily tabloid, have pushed the bounds of taste, decency, accuracy and ethical behaviour. In some ways, this non-establishment behaviour by “red tops” is what has made them so popular for over a century. The Sun, for example, sells more copies each day than all the “quality” daily news papers added together.

The “phone hacking scandal” is just the furthest extremes in practices. The News of the World may be just one example of the abuse of privacy of people who are not in the public eye. Please note that a non-Murdoch newspaper, Daily Star, has been raided by police and allegations have been made against the Sun and the very establishment Sunday Times.

As Rupert Murdoch has very publicly apologised to one set of victims and was heard saying that he was “appalled” by journalist behaviour, we can see that he has begun to realise the enormity of the problem and, possibly, to reinstate new values to his journalists.

Many public relations theorists (Coombs & Holladay; Fearn-Banks) have proposed ‘apologia’ as strategy in crisis communication and recovery. It sets a base for recovery and reinstating reputation. This has started but is questionable whether Murdoch’s News International group can recover its standing in order to maintain its ‘licence to operate’.

Regulators, parliament and a judicial enquiry into phone-hacking have already limited its operations. It’s possible that US authorities may become involved, as there are claims that 9/11 victims had phones hacked and that payments made by Murdoch journalists to British police for information may be addressed by US anti-bribery laws which reach beyond national jurisdictions.

At this point, the issues to address are 1) what were the Murdoch public relations strategies and behaviours and 2) what future strategies and actions are needed? From the evidence of News International’s public relations spokesperson’s interviews, the strategy had been to ‘deny and reassure’ even when obvious that continuing disclosures demonstrated phone-hacking was widespread.

That strategy painted News International into a tiny corner and has only been reversed when Rupert Murdoch flew into the UK earlier this week. Any “halo” value of past performance in terms of financial success, popularity of publications, political influence and innovation had been eroded. In short, the public relations behaviours were the same as the obstructive attitudes of management. Public relations counsel has either been ignored or supine.

For the future, the apologia delivered by Murdoch has to be followed by very transparent responses to enquiries and police investigations. News International must follow this approach as there is no skerrick of trust in it by major decision-makers. Any further obstruction will close the ‘licence to operate’ further.

Putting aside the phone-hacking scandal, the Murdoch papers have always been leaders in journalism and news. That’s what made them so popular. It has also held politicians and malefactors to account, along with numerous celebrities. The right form of transparent and values-;ed public relations strategy, along with new corporate behaviours, at the News International corporate entity can help restore robust journalism.

That will be very important because there are many key influencers, especially in Parliament, who want to get revenge on the media, not just the Murdoch press. They want to limit the scope of news-gathering and investigation, which will limit debate in a democratic polity. The ‘phone-hacking’ scandal has given them an opportunity, which must be resisted. Public relations strategies can help resist these attempts at greater control.

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Getting ready for a blast of papers and industry promotion on PR ROI: The vexed issue of Return on Investment got special focus on the final day of the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon. I was the academic member of a panel of six that chewed it over.

Although there is a general view amongst practitioners that ROI must have a place in PR, mainly because some clients want to express all organisational activities as financial returns, there is debate as to whether ROI should only be expressed in a financial manner (mainly US) or whether it is applied more loosely to include intangibles (Europe).

In the US, the Council for Public Relations Firms (CPRF) is moving rapidly to offer a definition of ROI with assistance from AMEC. The aim of these organisations is that the ROI formula is adopted world-wide so that there is common language – and clients can see that PR does offer a return on investment. It may be ready by the end of this year.

I still have doubts as to whether ROI, other than in a strictly financial format, can be re-purposed into a more general expression of value creation or contribution to organisational efficiency.  Business managers understand what ROI is, so why would they accept a mixed-concept PR ROI. What’s your view?

In a cross between crowd-sourcing and Eurovision voting, the 100+ delegates at the European Summit on Measurement in Lisbon voted for five draft statements of needs that may end up in the Measurement Agenda 2020.

This will be the next stage of international policy development in PR measurement and evaluation, following on from the seven Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles agreed last year.

The statements are:

  • Create and adopt global standards for social media measurement;
  • Identify how to measure the Return on Investment of PR [a crowd source suggestion];
  • Measurement of PR campaigns and programs needs to become an intrinsic part of the PR toolkit;
  • Institute a client education program such as clients insist on measurement of outputs, outcomes and business results from PR programs;
  • Define approaches that show how corporate reputation builds/creates value.

The statements will go to conference delegates in mid-July for further comment. They were chosen from statements prepared from responses to an informal survey of delegates and other practitioners undertaken in recent weeks.  The wide range of academic research on PR measurement wasn’t taken into account.

This seems to be a less-than-robust method of data collection for policy-making when, for instance, a Delphi study amongst leading practitioners could have developed the propositions with greater certainty of future application.  Perhaps Barcelona Principle 7: “Transparency and replicability are paramount to sound measurement “, should have been kept in mind.

The programme for the 2011 International History of Public Relations Conference is now available at http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/historyofpr/2011/06/02/conference-schedule/. The conference commences at 1000 on Wednesday July 6 and continues to 1630 on Thursday July 7.

The keynote speaker, renowned PR historian Ray E. Hiebert, is followed by 30 speakers from 17 countries speaking on themes such as professional & practice, history & events, national histories, historiography, Proto-PR and theories of PR. The conference will also feature a Meet the Editors panel composed of editors of leading PR academic journals on its second day. 

The registration for the conference is progressing well. There is a day rate of £140/person for UK delegates who are unable to attend both days: http://ihprc.eventbrite.com/

Did you know that public relations has a patron saint and May 20 is his feast day? He is St Bernardino of Siena.

Bernardino (also known as Bernardine), a Franciscan preacher, was born in 1380. Orphaned early, he was sent to school in Siena where he excelled in classical studies. During the Plague of 1400 he spent four months ministering to the stricken at the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. His career in the Order of Friars Minor was outstanding, particularly in the areas of recruitment, eloquent preaching and the writing of homiletics. He was a successful evangelist and propagandist who travelled throughout Italy for 30 years. Following his death at Aquila in 1444, a basilica was built in the town and his body remains on display there.

But how did he become the saint for PR, which is a modern profession? According to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, issued by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints in the Vatican, a petition was brought by Cardinal Lecaro of Bologna in 1956, successfully seeking the nomination of Bernardino as Patron Saint of public relations practitioners in Italy. In 1960, Cardinal Feltin, Archbishop of Paris, sought and obtained a similar designation of Bernardino as Patron Saint of PR professionals in France. Since then, the Italian preacher-writer has become the universal Patron Saint of PR.

Bernardino is, however, not only the PR’s saintly minder, but he also stands for debtors and gamblers, Aquila, California, advertisers and communication people and chest problems.

(With acknowledgement to John M. Reed).

This is a last call for your views on the use of the term, Return on Investment (ROI), in PR. I’m researching into practitioner use and understanding of ROI and will report on my findings to PR Moment’s ROI Conference in London on March 3 and at the International PR Research Conference in Miami a week later. It will also be reported on this blog.

I’ve prepared a short survey (just click through to it) which takes 10 minutes to complete. Already, early data responses are showing up some strong differences between areas of practices and on specific propositions.

As ROI is often a judgement on communication effectiveness, I hope you will take part in this very relevant study. Comments and feedback are welcome, too.

Recently, the combined worthiness of AMEC, CIPR, PRSA and PRCA pronounced that Advertising Value Equivalents (AVEs) are dead. First it came in the Barcelona Declaration of Measurement Principles finalised in July and then this jumble of acronyms met again in London in mid-November to reiterate their belief that AVEs must be replaced.

As readers of DummySpit and of Paul Noble’s and my book Evaluating Public Relations will know, I have criticised and opposed AVEs for a very long time. In summary, they tell us nothing and are based on a false calculation.

The Barcelona Declaration’s Principle 5 says “AVEs are Not the Value of Public Relations”. It goes on to say that AVEs “do not measure the value of public relations and do not inform future activity; they measure the cost of media space and are rejected as a concept to value public relations.”

This is the PR equivalent of the Christian baptismal promise to “reject Satan and all his works” and it was positive to see immediate statements from CIPR and PRCA supporting the move away from AVEs. The speakers at the London Measurement Conference are also well worth reviewing for their views.

What will happen now? AVEs continue to be very popular with 2009 research finding that they appear in over 40% of evaluations.

An immediate step would be to bar them as supportive evidence in industry award entries, thus denying their legitimacy. When industry leaders were asked directly to do this, there was some foot-shuffling but general assent that judging criteria should recognise more robust evaluation methods. That’s a good step forward. Already PRSA weights evaluation methods as 25% of the score in its Silver Anvil awards, with AVEs given little credit. Let’s hope other industry awards follow that lead and roll back decades of unprofessional practice.


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