April 23, 2014

Introducing The Student Perspective – a series about comms, from tomorrow’s stars

Tomorrow sees the launch of The Student Perspective – a series of guest posts from the future stars of comms.

Posts in this series will cover the usual fodder seen here (inc. PR, marketing, branding and internal comms) but the thoughts and opinions within will come from the freshest minds in the industry – those of PR & marketing undergraduates.

If you follow the work of David Clare (@davidjmclare on Twitter and once an intern of mine at Cagle Comms) or have ever checked out the articles submitted to @behindthespin (a PR student magazine), you’ll know how valuable such insight can be.

Stay tuned for the first post in the series tomorrow (Monday 13th) at 2pm.

And if you’re a PR/Marketing/Journalism undergrad with a passion for comms and something interesting to say, please send a short summary of your post idea and we’ll get things rolling.

It’s vital that we don’t cut corners when it comes to ethics

– By Eamonn Moore.

There’s a great history of public figures being caught making unguarded comments by the press and media, but such cases appear to be rife this spring/summer.

First there was Bigotgate. Then there was Snookergate. Then Lord Triesman was shown the red card after apparently making some unguarded comments about Spain and Russia bribing officials at this summer’s World Cup. And now Sarah Ferguson has been caught allegedly offering to sell access to her ex husband Prince Andrew. What’s next?

In my previous blog post, I looked at how Gordon Brown’s PR should be handled post-Bigotgate, but did not tackle the ethics of the situation – something that I now feel I should address, especially after the thought provoking discussion on ethics in this week’s #CommsChat.

The whole issue of ethics and the media has always been and will always be a hot potato. Do we have a right to know everything that public figures say (even if it’s said ‘behind closed doors’) or is everyone entitled to their privacy? Should we perhaps only be alerted to conversations that are of genuine national interest, and if so, what constitutes ‘national interest’?

Personally, I feel that there are circumstances when it is genuinely important that the contents of a private conversation are aired – Watergate perhaps being the best example of this. However, in cases such as the one involving Lord Triesman, the desire to have a sensationalist headline (and increased sales) seem to have been received by some as a neglect of ethical standards by the newspaper in question. Whether his allegations are correct or not, you could argue that Lord Triesman has a strong case to say that he has been the victim of entrapment. Furthermore, surely potentially irreversibly damaging England’s 2018 World Cup bid is not in the ‘national interest’? Gary Lineker certainly didn’t think it was.

Working in public relations, I am acutely aware of the importance of ethical and responsible media reporting. We rely on the media to do our jobs, and they rely on us, so I see it as our duty to help uphold, support and encourage the highest ethical standards. Indeed, if the media fall short of such standards, it often impacts on the world of public relations (and vice versa).

Various recent public mudslinging matches between PRs & PRs, and PRs & the media have shown us that it cuts both ways. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being critical of something (or someone), provided that you go about it in a considered manner, choosing to value ethics over link-bait opportunities, and always aiming to offer constructive criticism by suggesting possible areas of improvement, rather than just celebrating perceived misfortune. It seems to me that events of late have left the PR world feeling somewhat tarnished.

The world of communication is developing apace along with technology, but if we’re not careful, we risk losing sight of the basics, especially when it comes to ethics. As PRs, it is our duty to both protect and enhance our industry’s reputation from within by being positively and proactively ethical at all times (even when we’re being critical of something). If we don’t fulfil this duty, the whole industry’s reputation could well be left in tatters, and none of us want that, do we?

The launch of #CommsChat on Twitter – fancy it?

#CommsChat, a weekly Twitter-based chat about anything and everything to do with communications, is inspired by chats like #JournChat, #PRstudchat and #BlogChat, which focus on specific subjects / participants.

These chats are typically based / moderated out of the USA, which means that the times are often challenging for people based in Europe.

#CommsChat has been developed with these things in mind, and will hopefully be shaped even more by you after reading this post.

The top line framework of #CommsChat

  • A weekly chat on Monday nights at 8pm UK time (1 hour duration)
  • Wide-ranging topics connected to communications, including: traditional and social media, PR, blogging, marketing, journalism and lots more
  • Special guests will be invited to take part most weeks based on the subject matter

Help shape #CommsChat

The rest of #CommsChat and its make-up will be determined by you over the next few weeks.

  • What would you like to see?
  • Any thoughts on subjects / topics?
  • Is there a format from another chat you’ve taken part in that you really like?

All this feedback will help us collectively create an engaged community and host sessions that add value to everyone taking part.

Put a date in your diary

The first #CommsChat is scheduled for 24 May 2010 at 8pm (UK time).

Although based out of the UK, it is open to anyone from everywhere – comms professionals, bloggers, journalists, students – basically anyone with an interest in / passion for communications.

Over the next few weeks we’ll provide you with more information about how it will work.

But the primary objective is simple: encourage like-minded people to get together for an hour each week to share their tips, hints and lessons relating to the world of communications.

It should be a lot of fun…and we look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Thanks

Adam Vincenzini and Emily Cagle

Staying connected / useful links:

Preparing tomorrow’s PR pros

This is a guest post by Jane Crofts, a PR Lecturer at the University of Lincoln. I asked Jane how the university is preparing the next generation of PR pros for the changing landscape amidst the rise and rise of social media

So how are we preparing the youth of today to be the PRs of tomorrow? Particularly bearing in mind that many of the tutors of today are the PRs of yesterday… and bearing in mind that the advent of Web 2.0 sees PR changing faster than it has for very many years!

At the University of Lincoln we are a small but beautifully formed team of ex-practitioners and academics setting PR in the business context alongside Marketing, Advertising, occasionally Management or HR and even less occasionally Journalism. Our purpose is to give students a solid academic grounding in their chosen subjects but with a practical dimension to give that added extra to their employability. To this end we encourage them to get as much paid or unpaid work experience as they can find and to develop a portfolio of work they can show off to potential employers.

Increasingly we are encouraging students to develop this portfolio online in the form of blogs and integrated web pages taking advantage of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn used appropriately – Facebook is very much the ‘Uni life’ and softer side of the portfolio! So, we are inviting our protégés to embrace Web 2.0…and then explain it to us!

The portfolio may also be a repository for some of their assignments for example in their studies of Managing PR the assignment is a blog about developing team working skills and a reflection on how the individual has learned about their own strengths and weaknesses as a team player. As part of PR for organisational communications part of the task is to develop a real campaign for an organisation of their choice – a charity or voluntary group – and to get as much of it implemented as possible.

But of course this is just part of the picture, it’s getting those blogs and pages noticed that will count. ‘Behind the Spin’ the Chartered Institute of Public Relations student online publication provides a great outlet for the students to write about their experiences, review books and observe about developments in PR. Recent contributors from Lincoln have attracted comment from far and wide resulting in offers of help with their careers and even jobs. Subjects have included a discussion of the role of Twitter in crisis communications and aspects of the debate between students from different schools at the University – is PR killing Journalism? One book review by a Lincoln student prompted the book’s author to make contact and another student’s observations about a PR campaign to stamp out spamming in PR attracted interest from the campaign manager.

Dissertations form a critical part of the final year of study and students are encouraged to explore something new. This year social media is a popular subject including its role in the workplace as an internal communications tool, its impact on music PR as well as the afore mentioned crisis management. The students are developing a wealth of original thought and creating new angles on old models such as the popular Grunig and Hunt four models of communication (Managing Public Relations, 1984).

So, to return to the question, I guess the students are preparing themselves very well and in true academic style we are guiding them to think independently, take risks and try new ideas in a safe environment. I am confident, therefore, that tomorrow’s PR specialists and thought leaders will be able to shift and change to meet their clients’ needs and provide wise counsel to ensure PR objectives are fully integrated into a powerful package of communications using the most appropriate tools and techniques from the ever expanding kit bag.

Are you a blogger? March is Be My Guest month, and we’re encouraging bloggers from all over the world to swap posts and reach new audiences. See Be My Guest for more information.

Honouring journalistic excellence

Fountain pen

The Workworld Media Awards 2009 is an independent scheme, which has highlighted excellence in journalism for 23 years.

The awards honour written and broadcast journalism, covering the fields of work, management, business and economics.

There are eight categories available:

  • Reporter of the year
  • Feature journalist award
  • Columnist of the year
  • Broadcast programme award
  • Broadcast news reporter of the year
  • Journalist to watch
  • Online journalist award
  • Lifetime achievement award.

Last year, awards went to journalists from the BBC, The Economist, the Daily Mail, Hazards, Human Resources and The Observer, while the Lifetime Achievement Award went to Polly Toynbee, columnist from The Guardian.

Journalists can nominate themselves, or be nominated by someone else. All entries must be submitted by 6pm on Friday 6th November 2009.

More information and an entry form, visit the Workworld Media Awards 2009.

What price news?

Newspapers

So, Rupert Murdoch wants to charge for all online content from News Corp, which includes The Times and The Sun.

On the one hand, eyeballs are increasingly moving online, so this form of news has to be monetised if publications are to pay journalists’ wages. On the other, news is everywhere, from an abundance of sources, so should the chosen few really have the right to charge? More significantly, would you pay to retain the right to read, or simply go elsewhere?

I posed these questions over on Facebook, and I think the answers are worth reproducing here as they pretty neatly tackle the key issues.

Protecting copyright

David Bennett picked up on the associated copyright implications of charging for access to online content:

My take is that If news costs to produce, why shouldn’t the producer be entitled to charge for it if there is a demand?

I notice that the final para of the article in the Guardian states ‘He accepted that there could be a need for furious litigation to prevent stories and photographs being copied elsewhere: “We’ll be asserting our copyright at every point.”

And that I think is the nub – easy and unauthorized redistribution on the web.

So, how will News Corp police the passing of information it uncovers into the public domain? We can’t own news, just the way it’s presented.

A little rewording and the pulling together of a few additional sources and bloggers could easily push the content into the free domain with little danger of being prosecuted, successfully at least, for copyright theft.

The micro-payment holy grail

But people seem to like their news primarily from the big, established sources with professional journalists. And, as David points out, we already pay for printed media, so how will this pay-per-view system be implemented? And can it be implemented successfully?

Gaz Bailey doesn’t think so:

This is good news as far as I’m concerned, certainly regards the Sun and The [News of the World].

Adopting this model will cut the number of people accessing the content down to the much smaller number who are prepared to pay for it removing more casual readers from the pool, and if NewsCorp et al plan to litigate against anybody they perceive to be recycling ‘their’ content, God forbid that might actually clean the internet up of cretinous celebrity news a bit.

Wayne Smallman has fewer doubts about the micro-payment model in theory, but questions whether it can work it practice:

Now that micro-payments are both practical and acceptable, the idea is doable, but I just can’t see this working somehow.

As a businessman, I totally agree with Murdock’s intention of making money from the web. They are producing the news, so why not?

In practice, and when competing with blogging, micro-blogging and social media, it’s hard to make a business case for what is mostly free.

The genie is out of the bottle…

Subscription model?

So, if we accept that news is worth paying for, says Darren Gallagher, the question is, how much is it worth?

Everything will eventually end up, in majority, online. So paying for online news is a natural progression. Free newspapers are becoming a thing of the past, especially high quality ones.

So the real question is, how much are you willing to pay for news? I personally, would be willing to pay a subscription to access the paper I buy daily, but instead of picking it up from the newsagents, accessing it online.

This is because I trust the quality of the articles, editorial opinion and the overall content. I also believe that journalists should be paid for their content. So I wouldn’t begrudge paying a subscription one little bit, as long as the standard remained high.

And Rob Bennett points out that the subscription model is already working out rather well for one media giant:

There is, of course one organisation out there now who have the resources to produce totally ‘free’ regional, national and international content (TV and web) to the same level and volume as News Corp by forcing every television owner in a very large country to pay for the content it produces whether they watch it or not. I currently subscribe to the BBC for £139.50 a year.

Personally, I wouldn’t really mind a pay-per-click model since the cost would be reasonably weighted in favour of the sources I like best and use most. Yet, subscription seems the more likely model since News Corp needs to ensure a minimum bottom line.

In the end, the proof will be in the pudding. No doubt ‘old media’ will be watching with bated breath to see if News Corp can pull this off. And if it does, there can be little doubt that the rest will follow suit.