Publicity: “It’s a Game, My Hobby & My Way of Life”

6 Nov

…As the famous publicist; Max Clifford said, the profession has become a big part of a lot of PR practitioners lives. Publicity is a component of public relations and a very relevant one in today’s society in which what interests the public may not always be the public interest. Mark Borowski says; The publicist’s skill is to  pro-actively find, tell and sell the stories that make their clients news.” From a very early time publicity has been an essential component of the promotion industry, for example, Bernay’s and the ‘torches of freedom’ and P.T. Barnum with his circus promotions. Publicity has always been seen as controversial in an ethical sense. Gullible and vulnerable people have fallen fools to many publicity tricks in the past and the result of such communications is not always favourable to the public.

There are five suggested simple steps to becoming a responsible practitioner of publicity:

* To tell the truth

* To do no harm

* To do good

* To respect privacy

* To be fair and socially responsible.

These guidelines are a good basis to aid the ethical decisions of a publicist but often conflict when all are adhered to in practice. For example, you could be telling the truth but at the same time causing harm to a consumer, celebrity or company. Despite these blurs of ethics in publicity it still remains to be one of the most thought after and competitive sections of public relations and one that really interests me. It can be used for a lot of good in society and proves to be very effective.

To achieve success as a publicist it is very important to be creative and requires a lot of skill in determining the interests of a target public group in order to capture their attention. The PR stunt is one of the most effective forms of publicity, here are a few great examples from Taylor Herring PR:

The Peanut Protest. Mark McGowan pushes a peanut, using only his nose, from Goldsmiths College to 10 Downing Street in protest at his student debt. The two week journey across London in September 2003 drew massive media interest and culminated with McGowan delivering the nut to Prime Minister Tony Blair, asking him to accept it as payment for his debt.

Pink My Ride. To mark the launch of the Fiat 500 Pink – we worked with marketing agency Krow to win the car manafacturer a place in the record books by painting an entire vehicle in pink nail polish. The artist used 131 bottles of pink nail polish to turn a brand new Fiat 500 into a glossy pink ride. He lived and slept in a special studio where he completed the mammoth task which was broadcast over the internet by webcam.

car PR stunt

Fathers For Justice. Despite factional issues within their own organisation, the campaign group Father’s For Justice became famous for their headline grabbing tactics. Their supporters resorted to dramatic protest stunts, usually dressed as comic book superheroes. They frequently scaled public buildings, bridges and monuments – perhaps most famously Buckingham Palace.

Fathers For Justice

These are just a few of my favourites from the publicity stunt hall of fame Taylor Herring have provided, there are plenty more to look at!

Connected Times Calls for Platforms and Channels

31 Oct

People are connected, in modern times there is no escaping the realisation we are deeply interested in being active online wherever we go, this includes going out for lunch, playing a game or even watching TV. The evolution of communication through the internet has led to many new methods in achieving connectivity between people. Convergence of media has always been important in technology; the more channels we can use on a platform the easier life is for the user, at least in most cases, the trouble is now that there are so many channels of communication it is impossible to use them all!

Platforms are the devices used for communication and channels are the type of media used on these platforms to actually complete the communication. Platforms vary from; PCs, laptops, iPads to mobile phones, TVs etc. They are usually not designed for the use they become know for e.g. mobile phones had SMS added to them as an occasional use channel but actually mobiles are used regularly to send and receive text messages. Imagination and creativity generate the uses of platforms; without the idea of a use for a platform, the platform would not evolve and we would not have some of the great inventions we do today. PR practitioners must look at a platform’s uses and find ways to expand on them to come up with new ways to communicate e.g. a phone that gives you a background on the person who’s calling you (Facebook profile). Looking into new platforms and their uses is no bad way for someone who works within communications to spend their time, people love new technology and the gadgets they come as part of. Platforms provide serious impact on the work of a PR practitioner and should be taken into account, a lot of people start out thinking of a new platform as a toy, but then soon becoming accustomed to it’s positive attributes and end up saying “I don’t know how I’d live without it.” Different platforms may be suitable for different public groups and communities so it is important to look at the platform’s reach and attractiveness to different segments of a market before planning a campaign around it.

Channels are things such as; e-mail, websites, SMS (texting), blogs etc. These new online related channels do not mean older ones such as newspapers or TV shows will disappear, infact they extend upon and often improve older ways of communication. For example, when I was on work placement my team were looking at using a company called blippaR to help launch some of our campaigns. The company would provide an interactive animation or visual for an advert on a billboard or in a newspaper using a mobile phone application. This provided an innovative but connecting type of communication that got the public engaged using both new and old channels of communication. The key information to gain from a channel is not necessarily how to use it professionally; it can be down to knowing about the user and what attracts them to that channel, knowing their attitudes and their place within a social group using the channel.

Platforms and channels are both affecting the five elements of online public relations and have in a way become the reason for the need to adopt these five elements. They are Richness, Reach, Porosity, Transparency and Agent.

Platforms and channels online provide the basis of the internet being an agent; both to an organisation or to a consumer the, internet gives a voice to everyone. Different channels and platforms provide the consumer with the opportunity to give their opinion on a company as well as allowing a company to send out messages on what they are working on. These two way channels have become editable to any stakeholder and make for great communication methods.

Transparency is made very available through the utilisation of channels and platforms, companies can easily spread the word around to so many different people using many different platforms. This also shows the ease of porosity occurring within an organisation, with employees being able to leak out information through a tweet or a blog even if accidental.

Richness and reach become easily applicable to one campaign simultaneously where it may have been more difficult in the past. Through many channels and platforms it becomes more likely you will reach a larger audience with a more detailed message. Both of these elements are very important when attracting people to become engaged with an organisation.

Platforms and channels are always transforming and emerging and with the growth of the internet and creative imaginations the possibilities are endless in terms of the type of technologies that could be around in the near future. Channels and platforms have allowed communication styles to evolve but with it inspired new ways to communicate with a participatory audience for organisations. PR practitioners will need to keep informed on the best types of platforms and channels being used in the market for use on campaigns. The broadening of these two tools in communication only makes the PR role even more important as management and application of knowledge is needed.

The Importance of Being Transparent

24 Oct

In an age where secrets are revealed with the use of a mobile phone camera or in the second that it takes to click a link online transparency is becoming a must have to many organisations. Our interactivity with media is increasingly being used and seen for the sharing of information; organisations and PR professionals know and realise this. From inside and outside the PR perspective it seems obvious that being honest and transparent makes for the best possible reputation a company can get.

The internet has empowered society in a way PR’s and organisations have not had to face before, the previous ways of communication were one way and message to consumer based through traditional media forms such as TV, print and radio. The internet offers a voice back to the consumers and society giving them freedom to share information they’re interested in, shocked by, entertained by etc.

The main objective for a company in relation to transparency would be to not get caught up into a scandal creating issues for the organisation. There have been many examples of non-transparent communications gone horribly wrong, e.g. Nike some years ago had information leaked about their labour and underpayment of outsourced employees, this affected them more than they thought with consumers and other stakeholders boycotting their products in the market place. One of the worst reputation crucifiers is not being open in these types of circumstances. It is not just the force of the internet putting pressure on companies to come out of hiding and be transparent; there is more reasoning behind the motivations. Organisations are realising the ethical implications of being secretive towards important stakeholders as well as realising transparency can have real economic benefits.These economic benefits come from stakeholder trust being built between organisation and consumer/employee/shareholder etc. There is proven correlation between both trust and transparency and building trust with any stakeholder acts as a loyalty partnership that can last a long time.

This all seems very good and so far appears to make a simple decision for PR professionals and their organisations; transparency is best. However there are a few questions that I have come up with whilst researching the uprising of a transparent communications industry; the main one being, it can’t be right for every company out there and every type of communications strategy… can it?

For example, what happens if you as a PR professional need to respect the fact there will be a lot of people opposing your company’s transparency in terms of work ethic and methods. There are plenty of oil conglomerates and non-environmentally friendly companies out there who would face some clear scrutiny from being totally open. These along with organisations with huge profit margins and unhealthy products would all come across limitations when adopting transparency.  Another limitation is the affect transparency may have on the element of surprise; with new product launches organisations aren’t going to want to be completely open with all the information  before the actual launch as will consumers want to keep some mystery surrounding an innovative product. Although there there are some issues with transparency in some situations it is unavoidable in the porosity of organisations today, this just presents a strong need for PR and its input into communications strategy and management of transparency for a company.

Having pointed out some excellent benefits and some concerns surrounding transparency I have come to the conclusion that it is a brilliant way to form communications and relationships between organisations and stakeholders in the modern age of communication. There are different standards of transparency suiting different types of organisations and these levels need to be respected through careful communications planning. Culture is changing and with it comes added responsibility for organisations to build trust and act fairly to all of its stakeholders; transparency certainly helps as a start to accomplish this change.

Social Media Measurement: Decisions, Decisions

9 Oct

When deciding on what tool to use for social media measurement there are a few key things to consider; for a start there are different types of tools, ranging in detail of response, price and the level of input needed to produce results. I have just began my experience with social media measurement and have found it useful working with a few when on placement last year, I will discuss these and a few others I have researched a long the way.

Firstly there are tools that provide research and data information; these focus on giving the user the information they need for planning and reporting on campaigns. They work hard to capture large amount of reliable data to monitor trends for a query provided by the user, these tools often require a little more work from the user but do produce reliable results e.g. Brandwatch and Sysomos.

Then there are the tools that do a lot of the hard work for the user including producing reports, topic tracking and measuring engagement. These tools are more detailed in the information you gain but often don’t accommodate for long history searches and can be lacking in quality and reliability e.g. Radian6

The final type of tool I have researched is used for monitoring and engagement, they work in real time to allow the user to follow and respond to social media issues. Again, they don’t have as much reliability as some measurement platforms but do introduce a good method of interaction on social media networks e.g. Hootsuite and Conversocial.

Here are a few examples of all three types of social media monitoring tools:

Brandwatch: I used this tool on work placement at MediaCom and found it to be a useful device when compiling reports for clients. It uses a distributed crawler to fetch data and content relating to a query created by the user. Brandwatch also cleans the data and analyses it through query matching and sentiment analysis. All this provides a good base of knowledge to construct a report for a client on their social media activities. I found you can personalise the tool through creating niche queries and the information returned can be backtracked for months.

Sysomos MAP: Sysomos is another tool I used on work placement to help me with reporting on certain clients, I found this measurement platform the most valuable to use whilst at MediaCom. It applies automated intelligence based on location, key contributors to conversations, time and demographics to produce detailed results. Feedback from Sysomos is easy to understand and is very detailed especially when coming to examine demographics, I enjoyed working with this tool with its adaptability to cater and retrieve results for many brands I worked with.

Radian6: I have had a brief experience with this quick and simple measurement tool. It too uses a crawler to gather information surrounding a brand returning results detailing location, demographics, influencers and key themes in online conversation. This measurement platform is good when looking at a brand in comparison with its competitors. Radian6 also allows a user to respond to a comment left on a social media network without leaving the comfort of the dashboard.

Conversocial: I used this tool when managing Facebook pages for brands; it implements a fast and secure service that aids the user in moderating and managing a Facebook or Twitter account. The manageability aspect makes it unique from the other tools examined, however, the results returned are very basic and not cluttered with heavy detail; the main forms of feedback consider fan activity and sentiment analyisis. This is a good tool to use for basic analysis and engagement purposes, Conversocial has also suggested they may be adding YouTube to their analytic abilities soon.

Vocus: I have no personal experience in working with this tool but have researched the products available; Vocus offers a specialised PR suite that “helps you tell your story online, across social networks and through the media. It helps build connections, share news, engage influencers, monitor everything, and measure and share your results.” The tool offers a large database and allows users to distribute news as well as monitor it and help brands keep up to date with trends within their industry.

Hootsuite: This is another tool I have little experience using, however my colleagues at MediaCom would often recommend it to members of the agency and clients. The tool is similar to Conversocial in the respect it is particularly useful for Twitter and Facebook but it also acts as a mini social network within itself. All Hootsuite users can send messages to each other, which can be useful within a team of people managing the same account/brand. Again, the feedback available is basic but perfect for small reports, and means the dashboard is easily usable through the Hootsuite mobile application. Hootsuite also pulls in information from Google Analytics and Facebook Insights  into the customisable dashboard.

I hope this has given you a bit of an insight into social media monitoring/measurement and some of the tools available to use, please comment with any others you know about or have used. Will post more PR research soon!

The First Post…

8 Oct

Hi Everyone,

This is one of the first blog posts I have ever written and the first for my own site, I look forward to making my own footprint online! My blog has been set up so that I can share my thoughts and findings on everything that I find interesting out there, obviously with some bias towards social media, advertising and public relations as a student of the topic!

I have recently just finished a 12 month work placement with MediaCom, a Media agency in London, this experience has helped me to discover more about social media and public relations and made me realise sharing my knowledge and experiences might be useful to some of you and hopefully a bit interesting too!

I will put up another post soon and hope you will find it enjoyable, speak soon fellow PR followers!