Lobbying – here forever

This week was my team’s turn to argue for our opinion in a class debate. Alastair Campbell stated that “lobbyists further the interests of powerful elites and imbalance the democratic process– the lobbying industry should be banned”, but we don’t agree with him. Before we started the debate, there were two people in the public audience that sustained Campbell’s idea. Fortunately, we succeeded into turning everyone on our side. I had a feeling that finally even our opponents agreed that the lobbying industry shouldn’t be banned.

Democracy is a form of government in which all the citizens of a state determine its public policy laws and actions. It requires that all the citizens have an equal opportunity to express their own opinions. The thing is that no matter what is happening around, no matter who is doing something or asking for an action, no one will force a person to make a decision. It depends on us, who we are trusting and who we are asking for help. Lobbying is an important part of a democratic culture, it allows different views and experiences to be heard, but we need to be open and honest about who lobbies and what they are lobbying for. Again, these things depend on our personal reason and judgement.

It’s true that this industry should know some boundaries and be regulated, but it will never be banned. Lobby has always gone on, it is an entirely natural activity and it is better that it takes place in an open and structured environment than in secret. Just because something is banned, doesn’t mean that it will no longer exist.




Transparency in Public Relations

Transparency can be viewed as a relational condition or variable that is necessary for some other relational elements. We can talk here about trust, cooperation, collaboration and accountability, all of them being important elements that a company needs to achieve among its stakeholders and employees. They are components of positive organization. For example, transparency helps the developing of a level of trust that is mandatory for an organization that has just passed a crisis and needs to rebuild its image.

In PR it is necessary to be transparent when you want to start the decision-making process and ensure there is a person liable for the consequences, to foresee issues and avoid a crisis. In order to make a decision you need to be aware of the current situation, to communicate and to have sufficient information. Making the decision transparent helps the public to view what is going on inside the organisation and decide whether or not it does what it promised to be doing. Transparency therefore forces the organization to make ethical decisions, to consider value in relation to its operations and its supply chain.

Transparency can be defined as a relational characteristic as well as with regard to environmental conditions and organizational processes. Florini (1998, p.50) states that transparency represents the opposite of secrecy in that the internal processes are purposefully exposed to the external world. Internal transparency increases as public relations practitioners collaborate and facilitate the work in teams. Transparency is more than simply releasing information to the public domain. It also represents an environmental condition that exists and with whom the organization operates. Due to these facts, we can say that transparency has a strong impact on both internal and external processes.

The outcome of transparency is predictability, trust and credibility. These benefits therefore represent a new moral and ethical standard. Transparency should be forced worldwide, regardless to culture or political interest. It will only enhance the reputation of the organization by making it trustworthy, easier to communicate with the key public and having lower risk premiums.

I believe transparency is a choice and it depends on the situation. Lying is part of human behaviour and all the public relations practitioners are predisposed to act not so ethical. Sometimes you really have no other option, and the human way of acting doesn’t go away with a commitment to transparency.  PR specialists deal with issues of fact and truth almost every day.  Transparency is an ideal, but will never be one hundred per cent achievable.


Public Relations. Critical Debates and Contemporary Practice; Jacquie L’Etang, Magda Pieczka

PR degree. More then just a piece of paper?

Many people asked me several times if this year far away from home, with a new language, new people and challenges were worth it. I believe they were and still are. Being in college for a degree needs both time and money, things that some said you can invest differently. A college education is an investment in your future. This investment might pay you back or not.

I heard lots of examples when people got a job without a relevant degree, but this is happening in almost every field and it’s a general thing. I’m not going to deny that you can work in Public Relations without finishing this course. However, it certainly can make a difference. It’s not a mandatory thing but it sure is an advantage. A simple example is the hypothesis of two young aspiring PR practitioners applying for the same job. Let’s say that they both have similar skills and poor experience, as they are just making their first step into the field. Where is the difference? One has a degree in Public Relations and the other one hasn’t. Of course people might say that it is probable that the second one to be even better, but the degree can be the chance to put yourself in front of the employee.

Moreover, this also depends on how you obtain your degree. I think employees need to see that you know to do things, that you’re good in practice, not only in theory. People say that if you are charming, know how to network and have a little bit of creativity you can manage to do your job in this sector. Me, as a current master student in PR, can say that it takes more than that. It has to be a reason for all the read books, for all the taken tests and projects. The key is that you learn how to apply everything you learn in class and make the best out of it.

And let’s not forget about all the opportunities that a degree in PR offers you. During the courses you get to know people from the field, hear them talking, gain many priceless tips that can help you after. You never know who can open a door for your and what’s on the other side.

Consumer PR is a great career choice!

If you decided that you want to be part of the Public Relations field, you also have to decide the sector that suits you better. Even if it’s politics, NGO, consumer or fashion it has to reflect your personality, skills and preoccupations. I believe that you can be good at what you’re doing if you work hard, but if you want to be the best you have to do what you love.

As an assignment for our course, we had to do a video reflecting why is a certain sector of PR a great career choice. We chose Consumer PR and this is how we put our thoughts together.

The main idea was that if you want to make people consider something as an extraordinary choice, you fist have to break down all the myths and stereotypes staying around it. Thus, we combine some professionals from the field denying some known myths and good examples that contradict them.

How is the future?

Before I moved to London for my master in Public Relations I was part of a very special team back in Romania, my home country. I’m talking about an NGO for which I worked as a PR & media executive. I’ve started to know my way around, to know people, to have my preferences. Now, in a new place, I took everything from scratch. At the beginning everyone looks the same, but now I can say I have some favourite specialists here in UK. One of them is Danny Whatmough, account director at EML Wildfire.

Even if I read a few things about this tech agency, I first met him on our course and then at the PRCA careers day. He is very passionate about how the web is changing and the role of the communication and sites. You feel this in his inspiring speeches. Two days ago he talked about the digital PR and gave us some tips for the future. I have to highlight some of his ideas.

1.There is no such thing as digital PR! Everything is digital. Social media is going to be in absolutely everything we’re doing. I couldn’t agree more. This is not a new thing for many of us but is certainly scary for the brands. Now all the people can talk about them on social media. They’re used to old times, when they had the 1st word with the journalists.

 “The future of social media is moving from passively sitting back and watching what other people are doing to actively becoming more engaged, active, and interesting through new social applications that encourage people to think bigger then learn and act together.” Gina Bianchini, founder & CEO of Mightybell, co-founder of Ning

2.Great companies don’t need PR. To understand PR you need to understand how business work. You have to know and explore what is that sets you apart from the others. You must build a relation with your consumers, make them feel important, loved. If you don’t, why should they love you?

Great companies do their own PR. Apple doesn’t need PR. This is happening everyday word of mouth. People buy Apple products because they are good, different and popular. Everyone knows things from friends, family and people talking around. Plus, they always anticipate what people need and want.

“Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.” Steve Jobs

3. Forget everything you’ve learnt about PR. This profession is about influencing and putting yourself in front of influential people in an original way. You need influential people to ta

lk about you.

1.Be creative (in every way possible)

2.Network (online and offline)

3.Learn business (how it ticks)

4.Think (outside the box)

5.Try new things (without fail)



In-house vs. Agency

For the last couple of years things have changed radically. With all the issues in the economy it is now harder to find a job. Obviously, most professionals and recent graduated students looking for a job do not get to be selective with where they apply or what positions they accept. Even if things are difficult nowadays, people still have to find something that is proper for them. For those intending to get a job in Public Relations the first thing is to choose between an agency and working in-house for a company.

Today I attended PRCA careers day, where I listened interesting and useful points of view of both in-house PR and agency practitioners. Of course that they talked from their own personal experience and that things can happen differently for any one of us. I always say that it’s more useful for a graduated student to start working for an agency, that this is the best way to make your first important steps in this field.

Agencies offer a better diversity in the means of projects and clients. You will have the opportunity to work with more than one client at a time and also encounter different types of clients daily.

Speed is a key factor in agencies. Employees are forever switching between projects and clients. You will have to be able to work on multiple projects simultaneously and also keep your focus and mind organized so you won’t lose the main goal. Time management is at the essence here.

For the inexperienced in PR, agencies are a true gold mine in terms of learning opportunities.  Agencies will help you discover different public relations techniques, campaign elements and so on.

Clients come and go at a very rapid pace in agencies. This means that whenever you feel that you don’t have that much diversity on your side, a new client may arrive and offer a change in your specialisation, extending your array of knowledge.

If focusing on complete campaigns and overall strategies is what you want, then working in-house in a communications department is the place for you. Even though recommendations on a strategy may come from agencies, professionals who work in-house usually make the final decision when it comes to choosing a strategic direction.

Compared to agencies where diversity is the key, working in-house offers only one client. A wise choice is to choose a client which suits you, which arouses your personal interest and makes you enjoy your work. There will only be one chance, so make sure you have a passion for what the client offers.

In-house projects allow you to go into great detail with each campaign, managing it from start to finish, whereas in agencies you only touch certain aspects.

Unfortunately for the ones who like to change things a lot, working in-house is very repetitive. If you enjoy switching between tasks, then try working in agencies.



To lobby or not to lobby

Is lobbying good or bad? I don’t think you can categorise it, because it depends on the way you are using it. But of course there is a line between bad and good lobbying. This is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Many people and organized groups use lobbying. Some say that if it ‘s not done in the non-profit sector, it is just propaganda. Many people believe that lobbying is problematic for the democratic functioning of a society. I disagree with this idea. Interest representatives are a democratic necessity. No one is forcing you into taking a decision. People have the right to listen and decide what to do. Plus, the governments often define and regulate organized group lobbying that has become influential.

Does lobbying and ethics go well together? One face of lobbying is that the people doing it are corrupting the law for their own interest or the interest of other powerful voices. Another face of lobbying is that it helps the minorities, making sure that their interests are defended against corruption.

I recently read on a blog that there has been a lot of talk around the corruption charges against MEPs highlighted by the Sunday Times.  Some articles stated that lobbying is associated with corruption. Even the Secretary General of a major European party stated: “It does look like an infestation of corporate lobbyists in the European Parliament and it seems that their only entry pass into the Parliament is a credit card.”

Even though such actions aren’t allowed by either lobbyists or MEPs, the Lobby cannot remain insensitive to such accusations that are put against the entire industry. The Sunday Times once wrote that real MEPs were hidden behind fake lobbyists.

There cannot be an industry branch that hasn’t got its bad examples. From what the Lobby is concerned, most interest representatives use honest and clear tools of persuasion to make themselves heard and understood. In addition to this, many on them subscribe to a voluntary chart of self-regulation and are also members of the Commission’s voluntary Register of Interest Representatives.





Thumbs up for Greenpeace

I believe that Greenpeace is doing some of the most eccentric and effective campaign of all times. Apart from the Mattel campaign that I wrote about 2 days ago, I could not omit the protest against Sajo, Korea’s biggest fishing company.

The plan that Greenpeace thought of included projecting an animation on the wall of one of Sajo’s buildings in the port city of Busan. The animation displayed images of destructive Pacific tuna fishing and movie clips of industry officials taking charge of fishing and politics.

However destructive tuna fishing might be, Korea’s industrial fishing fleet is second to Japan in this concern. The reason why Korea hasn’t raised too much attention in the Pacific is that Japan has been in the front row with its Korea and Japan aren’t the only main Asian consumers of tuna. The declining state of many Pacific tuna stocks are an evidence of that, some of the culprits being the fishing fleets from Taiwan, Philippines and Indonesia.exaggerated tuna needs in their sushi culture.

The Korean Coast Guard kept a close eye on the moves of the Rainbow Warrior for weeks and followed the ship to every port stop. They’ve sent free officers on the day of the projection to the Greenpeace press conference. The people from Greenpeace eventually managed to convince the officers to follow them to the animation on one of Sajo’s buildings which displayed the destruction of Pacific tuna.

The reason why Sajo is so effective in the Pacific tuna fishing industry is because of its enormous fleet.

Sajo owns seven purse seine fishing boats, 79 long-liners and two mother ships, all operating in the Pacific. There will be no fishing industry in the future if the current fishing rates are maintained. Currently, 94% of Korea’s total catches comes from the Pacific. Even if efforts have been made to create ways to control Pacific fishing industry so that it benefits all, Korea has had the final word and managed to keep its position.

It is therefore obvious that Korea’s corporate reign has to end. Having an official presence at Greenpeace means that all efforts are rewarded and success in defending the ocean is getting closer and closer.



Ken left Barbie

All our lifetime we thought Barbie is just a sweet innocent doll. Well apparently she’s a criminal. She has destroyed rainforests for her toy packaging. Her manufacturer Mattel was using products from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), a pulp and paper company notorious for destroying Indonesian rainforests, including the habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger. Yesterday we were shown in class the Greenpeace campaign that got Mattel to change his way of packing Barbie.

I personally knew the campaign and thought it was brilliant. The idea was simple, yet creative and it succeeded. The main goal was to draw attention to the toy industry’s use of glossy cardboard packaging whose pulp is partly sourced from Indonesian rainforests. Greenpeace International investigations have also established links between leading toy brands, such Mattel, Disney and Lego and APP.

Focusing its efforts on Barbie and Ken, the most famous toys from Mattel, helped Greenpeace to draw attention on Mattel’s partner – APP. The marketing strategy involved using a hilarious ‘Barbie, It’s Over’ campaign. It included a quarrel between the 2 characters, an interview with Ken, photos of Barbie handling a chainsaw and many more. There were also banners of Ken protesting against Mattel’s use of Indonesian rainforest wood.

The success of this campaign was not limited to just a lot of media interest, but it also had a lot of activity online on Facebook, Twitter and so on. In addition to this, consumers also sent over half a million emails to Mattel in which they expressed their disagreement with the Mattel-APP contract. They said that they want Mattel to “immediately implement a new procurement policy for all pulp and paper products, including packaging, and make sure that its products are made in ways that don’t damage the environment.”



Media is going wild

In a previous post I was talking about the fact that a crisis can happen no matter the company, the past and the present. Some things can simply go wrong. I said that you have to be prepared for the unexpected. Of course you can’t have some defined steps in mind, or certain rules, but you may know some general principles that might be useful when media is going wild.

1. There will be bad stories, but you have to focus and think beyond this. You don’t have to judge the impact by the size of the headline. You have to understand how these will affect your image throughout the key audiences. So you need to know well who your key audiences are and think about their reaction.

1. The media is not against you or your company. The media is all about the public and its concern. You have to think through the public’s eyes, trying to understand what the people might think about the unpleasant situation.

2. Think like a person outside the organisation would. Acting like an insider won’t help you evaluate the story. The most important thing to do is figure out if it is true and only then decides on your next step.

3. The public’s opinion is always valuable, even if it seems out of order. In PR, crisis management and retail, the customer or public is always correct. In order to change the public opinion, long-term strategies are mandatory.

4. Always take action. Actions are far more important than words, so don’t show statements or press releases to the public. The public needs to see what you do, not what you say.

5.  Make sure you have clear communication lines within your organisation. Be careful when talking to the media, don’t be hasty as this will potentially create damage to your charity.  Try not to get in the situation where there is no person assigned to talk to the press or make crucial decisions.

6. Create a plan that copes with high levels of media interest. Try thinking what could happen if you had a lot of media interest on your back. Include details such as who would handle the media calls, or could that person cope with the pressure? Are extra resources needed? Who is in charge of all this?

In the case of negative publicity towards your organisation, stress and time pressure will have a severe impact on you. Having a plan prepared in advance will keep you clear and ahead of the game.

7. Knowing in advance is a very useful weapon. Crisis management plans only suit your own organisation. Identify the weak points (where negative press coverage impacts you the most) and think what you can do about them.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You cannot calculate your next steps. Taking a decision is much harder than you think and it involves years of experience and a lot of intuition to make it right.

9. Taking matters into your own hands is a tricky business. Try not to use clever news management techniques to solve your crisis because in most cases you will only make things worse. Only apply them if you are sure on what you are doing.