Thursday, 24 March 2011

Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility is becoming a global mega trend. Corporations are trying to become sustainable in order to change the world or help with fighting the crisis of climate change. I was shocked when I learned that 10, 000 liters of water goes into making burger, fries and coke meal while thousands of kids die needlessly in Africa from dirty water. CSR is a global opportunity for companies to operate a responsible business. Many people ask why does it matter, what are the benefits for the company?  Well, I think that it enhances brand’s reputation, and organisations will be recognized for what they do. Furthermore, by being more efficient, it helps not only the environment but also company can save money in a long run.

I believe that CSR is a way to go however many companies are doing this merely to keep up with their competitors hence ruining the legacy of CSR.  The CSR Fashion Show picture says it all. Role of PR in CSR is important but it shouldn’t be owed by PR. It really should be everyone’s responsibility (e.g. all departments not only CSR one and even customers). What future holds for Corporate Social Responsibility? I believe that soon it will be embedded in all of the companies’ strategy worldwide.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Symmetric vs. Asymmetric Model and the Use of CSR

According to the theory of the two-way symmetrical model, ‘policies should be changed to better serve the public interest’ and ‘both management and publics will change somewhat after a public relations effort’.  I believe that this idea is unfortunately rather unrealistic and idealistic. Organisations hire public relations professionals to prioritize their interests over the publics’. According to the symmetrical model, PR professionals listen to the concerns of both clients and key publics and help them adjust to one another. Could this be a utopian model? I found out that in the symmetrical model, persuasion must replace understanding as the major goal of communication. Codes of ethics and transparency has become a very important element of PR practice, hence following these symmetrical model would be ideal. In reality organisations don’t want to waste time and money hence the asymmetrical model is more applicable.

The authors were right when stating that large businesses will want to use the two-way symmetrical model to help maintain the social responsibility required by government regulators. This observation is quite timeless as nowadays CSR and green PR is becoming lot more practised by the big corporations in order to differentiate themselves from competitors. 

I believe that asymmetrical model fits society of 21st century better than the idealistic, but ethically correct symmetrical model. Today’s profit-driven business environment does not give the two-way symmetrical model much of a chance. It makes it difficult to justify shareholder greed and big bonuses when one have to worry about fairness, balance and ethics. Some might even argue that whoever pays, expects loyalty in return. There is a risk of conflict of interests unless all parties agree to share the benefits that derive from productive business transactions. Once again, is this even possible in capitalism? Although some companies try to use CSR policies to serve in favour of the public and its environment, majority of organisations are and will follow the asymmetrical model due to high competition especially when selling consumer products.

For this post I used: Grunig, James. E and Todd Hunt (1984) Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Reinhart and Wilson.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Social Marketing aka the Moral Marketing

Social marketing as a discipline was found  in the 1970s, when Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman published "Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change" in the Journal of Marketing. However, there is evidence of earlier social marketing used as a tool for birth control in India, where legislative approach was substituted with persuasion based approach. 

There are many definitions of Social Marketing but to summarize them: Social Marketing uses behaviour goals in order to influence social behaviours and to benefit the target audience and to promote society's well being as a whole. 

This technique has been used in various programms for example, for contraceptives, encouraging condom use, anti-tobacco campaigns, reducing cigarette smoking in public areas, campaign against skin cancer, asking public to use seat belts and follow speed limits. 

Social Marketing can have even more difficult goals: to make potentially a long-term behavioral change in target populations. 

The main difference between commercial and social marketing is that the primary aim of social marketing is social good, while in commercial marketing the aim is primarily financial.

I rememeber, in our campiagn class we had to create a social change campaigns. But what is the definition of it? According to Philip Kotler and Ned Roberto: "A social change campaign is an organized effort conducted by one group (the change agent) which attempts to persuade others (the target adopters) to accept, modify, or abandon certain ideas, attitudes, practices or behavior."

I beleive that the success of Social Marketing depends largly on effective use of media channels. Social marketers have to have a realistic expectations too. The result of such campaign can be sometimes seen only in the long-term, even as long as 5-7 years. I remember that it was very challenging coming up with the right campaign ideas, however it is very rewarding and I hope to be part of a real social change campaign one day.

I was very interested when in January 2009 the Department of Health launched Change4Life - England’s first ever national social marketing campaign - with the aim of reducing obesity. The focus of the campaign was prevention and set out to change the behaviours and circumstances that lead to weight gain by urging the public to 'Eat well, Move more and Live longer'.

After the official launch of Change4Life the challenge was to help people recognise their family may be at risk and encourage the target audience to complete a 'How are the kids?' questionnaire.

Overall, radio proved to be highly effective in terms of changing attitudes and positively affecting behaviour, crucial for this initial phase of the campaign.
The relevance of the campaign improved with 10% more people strongly agreeing that Change4Life is "for someone like me" after being exposed to the campaign.
Furthermore, there was an 18% increase in the overall numbers of people intending to make changes to their lifestyle in the next month.

This is a chart on behaviour change of the target audience

The Cost of ''Free Web'' Google is watching you!

There is a dilemma whether web is free. In my opinion the answers is no. I was always very fascinated by Google. It has highly targeted advertising. It monitors what we search and targets us with relevant products or advertisement.This way we are giving away information on what we like and what interests us. Although it is a long-term goal, Google will eventually make money of individual because it makes attachment to an individual by providing ‘free’ service. Although we think we have power by using web, we are being manipulated. As you can see on the picture, the minute you enter e.g. online banking into the search, relevant advertisement pops out. The World Wide Web seemed like new democracy however in 1994, web was open for business, which created new opportunities for commerce to make profit. I was a bit shocked when I found out that my email account is being scanned in order to find things I like and then sending me a relevant advertisement. So it made me think, is this system sufficient? I could have done an assignment on cars however I have no intention whatsoever to buy one. But never the less they know that on a long run I will purchase something online.  

Example of Google's Advertisement
Is there any privacy in 21st century? Well, I guess there isn't, as all my searches are being recorded and closely monitored.  There will always be so called digital fingerprint. We trade our privacy for surfing the net. I believe that ‘free web’ is alternating privacy, personal space and who we are!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Political Communication and the Role of PR

  PR or Propaganda?

One form of political communication is propaganda. Various academics associate propaganda with public relations due to the founder of modern PR, Edward Bernays. He used mass psychology as a social control technique and later praised propaganda in his book called Propaganda (1928).

Walter Lippmann, the most influential theorist of propaganda-managed democracy and Bernays believed that propaganda and democracy go hand in hand (Miller and Dinam, 2008).  

After reading Moloney (2006) it was clear that people believed that propaganda is used to manipulate public opinion in favour of ideas, values and policies of the political or economic elites, as well as using a one-way communications flow which is low in facts, yet high in emotional content.  

In my opinion, PR is far from being the sole way in which people can be persuaded. Advertising and other marketing techniques evidently play their part. Almost every approach used by the PR industry can be claimed by other disciplines, anywhere where the human senses can be engaged in a way that enables people to influence others; for example music, religion or fashion. Some authors even believe that, unlike propaganda, PR is not about persuasion, but in its ideal form, about mutual understanding. They both serve different causes. I believe that PR science still has a long way to go until practitioners will be able to explicitly respond to the allegations of PR being another form of propaganda.

Political Communication and the Role of PR

In the past, people would express their opinions by standing on he soapbox, which could be considered an effective way of talking with out mediations. I think that government communication differs to the political one. For starters it is information driven model and should be spin free. It informs people what they need to know. So on one hand gov’t communication should be more ethical however on the other hand someone has still decided on what information to deliver hence its selective. 

According to Brian McNair, there are 4 types of PR activity. 1) media management, 2) image management, 3) internal communications and 4) information management. I would like to talk more about the image management. As we all know, in political PR it is all about developing someone’s image and identity in order to get more votes. I was closely following Obama’s campaign, which was the golden standard. It was interesting to see the transformation in order to make him even more popular.  

What was interesting to see is a picture of Obama taken with facial expression of a guy that has a vision and of course with US colours in the background. The picture had the ability of making people see ideas and messages such as “yes we can” with out being told. PR was very clever by enabling people to purchase merchandise such as mugs, hats, T-shirts. This has shown the identification with the “Obama brand” that people have spread by purchasing these items. 
They have also been reaching audience via social media networks by using celebrity endorsement, which is becoming an increasing trend in politics. I am including a video that went around the world and has spread the message to support Obama in the elections.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Smartphone Trend

In the near future people will be using their mobile phones and searching for information not on the web, but on the social media sites via the specific applications on their smartphones. As the mobile technology is growing so rapidly, PR has to evolve around it and use it accordingly to achieve great results. Watch my podcast to find out more about the subject of Smartphone Trend and PR. Enjoy!

Thanks for watching. I look forward to your comments.