Institute for Public Relations http://www.instituteforpr.org The Science Beneath the Art of Public Relations Tue, 15 Apr 2014 19:18:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=490 Georgian PR Club Takes Development of PR Capabilities Seriously! http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/04/georgian-pr-club-takes-development-pr-capabilities-seriously/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=georgian-pr-club-takes-development-pr-capabilities-seriously http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/04/georgian-pr-club-takes-development-pr-capabilities-seriously/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 18:15:43 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14711 I had an opportunity to address the Georgian PR Club (Russia) via SKYPE earlier in April, as a guest of Berdia  Natsvlishvili who heads up the Club of PR leaders that gathers regularly in Tbilisi. Berdia is also Country Director for PH International Georgia and has stayed connected with Dennis Wilcox, formerly of San Jose […]

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Matt GonringI had an opportunity to address the Georgian PR Club (Russia) via SKYPE earlier in April, as a guest of Berdia  Natsvlishvili who heads up the Club of PR leaders that gathers regularly in Tbilisi. Berdia is also Country Director for PH International Georgia and has stayed connected with Dennis Wilcox, formerly of San Jose State University who along with Frank Ovaitt arranged for me to present to the group on the subject of PR Trends. We had a lively 90 minute dialogue in which I addressed the drivers of change including the Page Society New Model and trends related to measurement, functional organization and setup. 

PR is a relatively new practice in Georgia, less than 20 years old and in many respects the development of PR in Georgia essentially leapfrogged the traditional news media relations and government affairs rooted functional development that has occurred in more mature and developed markets. By the lines of questioning and conversation it is clear that PR professionals in Georgia are grappling with resources and creating an understanding of the applications and value of PR. Their functional accountabilities span the gamut from digital to internal to media to marketing and public affairs. They don’t face the territorial and turf battles common in larger companies and more mature economies. I explained that they should see this broader reach as an opportunity to manage overall communications with multiple stakeholders. I believe they understood the value of the broader reach, but have limited resources and experience in multi-tiered communications programming.

Most of the Georgian professionals have gotten their training in schools in Russia and have a thirst for how more progressive companies in other geographies are leveraging the capabilities of public relations to accomplish business objectives. Functional reporting lines are varied and professionals are aspiring to have someone at the VP level to advocate on their behalf. They are facing the classic stages of functional development including resources constraints, limited understanding of PR by management, reactive programming, broad accountability and limited time for metrics. They voiced great interest in topical areas like thought leadership, integrated marketing, digital and internal communications.

IPR is serving an especially important role in helping these developing countries and the professional PR community better understand the development opportunity before them. They are searching for context and in doing so appreciate and listen to experiences in other parts of the world and are very committed to professional development. They lack classic functional leadership as is much more common in more developed and mature economies of the world.  They are often soloists or smaller teams and the opportunity is for them learn from practices around the world and apply these lessons  in developing economies so that leaders begin to understand and harness the power of more progressive communications with key stakeholders.

 

Matt was an executive officer leading communications for 6 large corporations and a graduate professor at Northwestern and George Washington University’s and Chairman Emeritus of IPR.

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Internal Public Relations – Family First http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/internal-public-relations-family-first/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internal-public-relations-family-first http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/internal-public-relations-family-first/#comments Mon, 31 Mar 2014 18:11:05 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14598 Family comes first. Within an organization, this idea is true, too. Organizations can include anyone within their definitions of “family.” Moreover, organizations are not only those that qualify as “corporations.” A company’s family could include employees, retirees, business partners, and shareholders. A nonprofit organization’s family could include volunteers, paid staff, and donors. And a professional […]

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Pete-Smudde-PR-ResearchFamily comes first. Within an organization, this idea is true, too. Organizations can include anyone within their definitions of “family.” Moreover, organizations are not only those that qualify as “corporations.” A company’s family could include employees, retirees, business partners, and shareholders. A nonprofit organization’s family could include volunteers, paid staff, and donors. And a professional group’s family would include members of all kinds. For internal public relations, then, telling the family first is primary so the family does not hear about it from other, external sources.

Perhaps this point is obvious, but it is worth reemphasizing because of the immense importance of purposeful, candid, and timely internal communication. After all, defined groups of people are an organization’s family, and that understanding of family intersects with its vision about, strategy for, and enactment of effective internal public relations.

Numerous industry and academic resources explain in various ways that management must value internal PR as a core enabling function. That is, management’s vision for internal PR should be that it is something the organization cannot do without. While working with management, and in full knowledge of what the family wants and needs through communication, internal relations enables family members to connect the dots between what they do for the organization and the organization’s overall mission and performance. In this way, internal PR is instrumental in fostering engagement. The family not only knows how the micro and the macro levels intertwine, but family members can make things happen in the ways they must individually and collectively.

What is vital to recognize is that the vision for internal PR must be in sync with management’s vision and mission for the organization. In this way internal PR strategic planning focuses on those things that foster engagement and, in turn, yields performance improvements. Engaged family members make for a stronger organization in every way, from image and reputation to customer satisfaction and transactions. Family members see consistent internal messages about the organization’s big picture, including messages about its brand, reputation, and performance to outside publics.

Attaining these objectives is possible when a strategy is enacted with the necessary resources and processes for effective internal PR that fit an organization’s mission, culture, and structure. A competent staff and a complement of usable, useful, and used communication tactics are basic to any internal relations function. Also needed is a sensitivity to, and sensibility about the intellectual, emotional, behavioral, and spiritual dimensions of the organizational family. That is, internal PR ultimately will be recognized for how well it enabled family members to think about, buy into, act on, and derive personal meaningfulness from organizational messages about all matters. Simply put, internal PR must appeal well to the heads, hearts, hands, and souls of family members.

Strategic internal communication puts family members first in all purposeful, candid, and timely communication. Organizational success at every level depends on internal PR being valued and valuable at macro and micro levels, including consistency with brand, reputation, and performance messages. What family members know, feel, do, and yearn for within an organization fuels their motivation and engagement. So when anything important matters to an organization, family comes first.

 

Dr. Pete Smudde, APR, is Associate Professor of Public Relations at Illinois State University.

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Communicating Authentic Tourism Experiences http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/communicating-authentic-tourism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=communicating-authentic-tourism http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/communicating-authentic-tourism/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 14:04:39 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14553 What drives tourists’ choice of destinations? Why do tourists prefer some destinations over others? The answer to these questions is simpler than one might think: Tourists want an authentic experience. When they visit a site in Mexico, or Brazil, or India they are looking for the image of the country to match the one that […]

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Rajul Jain, tourism communicationsWhat drives tourists’ choice of destinations? Why do tourists prefer some destinations over others? The answer to these questions is simpler than one might think: Tourists want an authentic experience. When they visit a site in Mexico, or Brazil, or India they are looking for the image of the country to match the one that they have formed over time. But, the concept of authenticity itself isn’t that simple. What could be authentic to one person could be completely fake to another. So, the question really is: what is an authentic experience and can destinations intentionally offer such experiences to their visitors?

Let’s start with the second half of this question, because the answer is promising and optimistic. Yes, destinations can construct, execute, communicate, and offer authentic experiences to their visitors. And, public relations can and should perform a leading role in helping destinations in this process.

Before you scroll down to find a step-by-step guide or the Holy Grail of authentic tourism experiences, it is worth it to describe what authenticity really means. Don’t be disappointed when I say there really is no single definition of authenticity; at least not a readily usable one for our purposes. Authenticity is really a feeling that is experienced by each individual differently. However, it is the open-endedness of the construct that makes it so useful for public relations practitioners in the tourism industry. In a tourism setting, authenticity refers to tourists’ personal evaluation of the extent to which their expectations and impressions from a destination hold true during a visit. Therefore, there are many opportunities to communicate authenticity through different means and messages to different visitors.

Communicating Authentic Tourism Experiences From recommendations offered by their trusted inner circle to reviews on social media, tourists actively seek information to decide where they spend their money and vacation time. This research guides tourists’ expectations of what they want to and will experience at a destination. And this is where the role of public relations becomes prominent. We help destinations build images that truly reflect their personality and character, so visitors experience what they expected to experience, and are not disappointed. In sum, tourists are satisfied and happy with their visit, and even better, are likely to recommend the place to their friends and family.

In my recent study, I examine how perceptions of an authentic experience can foster tourists’ trust, satisfaction, and commitment with a destination and how these perceptions are shaped by the destination’s public relations efforts to construct and convey its image. The study found that a destination’s authenticity is defined by visitors’ overall experience with its offerings and setting, as well as their active engagement with its core ideas and theme. These two dimensions of authenticity represent the interplay between a destination’s communication and actions. In other words, a destination can use creative imagery or language in its communication, but if it cannot deliver on these promises, visitors will think of the destination as fake and inauthentic. The study found that a destination’s perceived authenticity also drives overall satisfaction with a visit as well as tourists’ behavioral intentions, such as seeking more information about the destination, visiting again, and promoting it through positive word-of-mouth.

In addition to the findings I have detailed above, here are some other compelling insights offered by this study:

  1. A measurement scale to evaluate the authenticity of a destination.
  2. Quantitative links between a destination’s image, its perceived authenticity, and relationship with visitors.
  3. Best practices to project and render authenticity of a destination.
  4. Practical insights gathered from conversation with practitioners on how they promote a theme park to its domestic and international visitors.
  5. A quick and easy guide for practitioners to understand the process by which a destination can enhance its authenticity

And since I did promise on a step-by-step guide earlier in the post, I am delivering it so that I don’t come off as fake and inauthentic:

How to communicate a destination’s authenticity

  1. Articulate an image by identifying the unique offerings of a destination that visitors can actually experience. Talk to managers, owners, and other employees to incorporate their perspectives on what the destination offers.
  2. Communicate the “true” image by using not only the traditional channels but also the emerging ones while relying heavily on word-of-mouth.
  3. Identify and fill gaps between what the destination “says” and how it is “perceived” using transparent and open communication with key publics. This account-keeping should help the destination reflect on its projected and perceived image to not only identify ways to clarify public opinion about the destination but also to adjust its image based on the feedback its obtains. Think of it as a periodic process rather a one-time exercise.
  4. Steer away from puffery by avoiding claims and promises that the destination cannot deliver.
  5. Generate opportunities for media and publics to directly experience what a destination has to offer so they can validate its authenticity. Familiarization tours, special events, on-site visits, and exhibits at public events are a few such opportunities of public engagement and interaction.
  6. Actively engage your publics using creative and innovative ways such as performances, shows, display of arts and culture, preservation of sites, food, music, and other unique and contextual aspects of the destination.
  7. And finally, integrate public relations into core business while having full and open access to management decisions and actions.

As I hope is evident in this how-to list, public relations plays an integral role in fostering perceptions of an authentic tourism experience. Therefore, practitioners should take a lead in ensuring that their destination meets visitors’ expectations, so that they may visit again and bring their friends. Rendering authenticity is a long-term process that starts from within and involves discovering the true essence of a destination. But, it is totally worth the effort and time because an authentic destination is a preferred destination.

 

Rajul Jain, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at DePaul University. Winner of the 2011 Ketchum Excellence in Public Relations Award, she wrote “Cultivating relationship with tourists: Role of public relations in constructing and promoting authentic experiences.

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Work vs. Life for Employees: Is Your Business Part of the Solution? http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/employee-work-life-balance-business-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=employee-work-life-balance-business-success http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/employee-work-life-balance-business-success/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:38:32 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14524 When the boundary between work and life gets blurred, employees can easily get frustrated and burned out. Often times, employees are encouraged to become smart “problem solvers,” coping with stress and imbalance on their own. However, individual coping is never sufficient even when it is effective. So, what are the jigsaw puzzle pieces organizations may […]

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Dr. Hua JiangWhen the boundary between work and life gets blurred, employees can easily get frustrated and burned out. Often times, employees are encouraged to become smart “problem solvers,” coping with stress and imbalance on their own. However, individual coping is never sufficient even when it is effective. So, what are the jigsaw puzzle pieces organizations may contribute?

work life balance, og:imageWe can never emphasize enough the importance of a happy, committed, and productive workforce to employers’ business success. A balanced and healthy lifestyle feeds passion to employees and bolsters their morale. Without doubt, organizations should become frontier fighters for their employees to battle for the victory. Many employers have established facilities and initiatives to help employees reconcile the competing needs from the work and non-work domains. Working Mother Magazine used family-friendly benefits and flexible cultures as top criteria in its annual ranking of 100 best companies to work for. When job search engine Indeed.com identified its list of the 25 big companies with best work-life balance, it mentioned flexible work hours, telecommute options, nearby back-up childcare centers, and even luxuries such as gym memberships and on-site dry clean pick-ups and delivery services. These are indeed very nice perks, but not free of flaws.

First, it is never a one-size-fits-all solution. Employees have individual needs and preferences. Second, investments on those initiatives depend on the nods of the C-Suite. Decisions can be quite difficult during the recession, and cuts may persist even when things are getting better. Third, researchers have drawn inconsistent conclusions regarding the effectiveness of such supportive initiatives. When the cost-effectiveness of those initiatives is questionable, the next logical question to ask is: What about other potential solutions? Supervisors? Organizational culture? Others?

I surveyed 827 employees from small, medium, and large organizations across diverse industry sectors in the United States, and the results showed that supervisory support, fair decision making and a family-supportive organizational environment help reduce employees’ perceived work-life conflict and increase levels of trust, satisfaction, commitment, and empowerment in their relationships with their employers.

Transformational supervisors look at problems from many different perspectives, recognize employees’ personal concerns and needs, and seek alternatives other than routine solutions when facing challenging situations. They welcome opportunities to discuss non-work related problems, tend to be flexible when emergencies arise, and help their employees accommodate those competing responsibilities from different life arenas. Immediate supervisors, for instance, can support employees by providing tangible resources, advice for interpreting and evaluating problems, and emotional support such as understanding and empathy. Given such support, employees may still feel happy, committed, motivated, and engaged even when they are expected to do more with less.

Unfair decision making or assignment at the workplace was found as a key source of stress that spills over to employees’ personal life. Time pressure and too many job assignments constitute “job demand,” while “job control” refers to the extent to which employees can decide the way they use skills and knowledge to accomplish their tasks. When experiencing high job demands and/or low job control, employees tend to perceive high levels of work-life conflict. As a consequence, employees struggle to remain engaged, committed, motivated, energized, and empowered.

A family–supportive workplace environment is equally, if not more, critical. An organization with a family-supportive workplace environment acknowledges employees’ nonwork-related situations and promotes support, tolerance, and flexibility for those needs and obligations. When perceiving a nurturing and supportive organizational environment, employees intend to stay with their employers and maintain a high level of trust, satisfaction, commitment and empowerment.

A lot of people are skeptical about ever achieving a work-life balance. Balance is “an elusive ideal.” Boris Groysberg and Robin Abrahams tell us what executives are saying in their recently published Harvard Business Review article, “Manage Your Work, Manage Your Life.” Despite such pessimism, employees should never be discouraged from trying to improve the balance. To cultivate a competitive workforce with high motivation and job satisfaction, employers have to put in time and effort to help employees achieve a good or sensible balance, even if never perfect. Here are some research-based suggestions for organizations and internal communicators to start with:

  1. Understand employees’ demands and needs outside their work spectrum and train immediate supervisors to become helpful counselors on work and life issues.
  2. Be open-minded, understanding, and flexible. Promote time management skills, emotion management skills, and effective supervisor-subordinate communication skills.
  3. When making decisions, collect complete and accurate information, provide employees with opportunities to challenge the decisions, and take into consideration the concerns of all affected parties.
  4. Set fair and realistic expectations for employees.
  5. Promote a supportive organizational environment by encouraging face-to-face and social media engaging discussions on work and life issues. Foster diverse sources of support within organizations and institute them as part of organizational culture.
  6. Continue such efforts (e.g., childcare, flexibility, and personal level) whenever necessary and possible, especially for employees who benefit from such programs.

 

Hua Jiang, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of public relations at Syracuse University.

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17 Years of Research Geeks http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/seventeeen-years-iprrc/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seventeeen-years-iprrc http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/seventeeen-years-iprrc/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 15:00:25 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14361 For 17 years (how could it have been that long ago?), public relations researchers — both from the practice and the academy — have gathered annually to share and discuss their efforts and findings at the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC). I’ve been fortunate to have been at 15 of the 17 conferences, from the […]

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Judy-Turk-webFor 17 years (how could it have been that long ago?), public relations researchers — both from the practice and the academy — have gathered annually to share and discuss their efforts and findings at the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC). I’ve been fortunate to have been at 15 of the 17 conferences, from the very first held at the University of Maryland that followed the traditional format of academic conferences — formal presentations of completed research by academics — to the 2014 conference that just concluded held in Miami, a round-robin of brief, informal presentations of research, both completed and ongoing, with the expectation of significant audience discussion and interaction with the researchers.

So how would I compare the just concluded 2014 IPRRC with previous IPRRCs? How do the topics, methodology and applicability of the research findings compare with earlier conferences? How about the researchers?

I’ll start with the researchers and conference presenters. The IPRRC organizers hoped from the beginning that this annual conference could bring together practitioners and educators to jointly pursue research questions relevant to “best practices” in the public relations profession. The involvement of practitioners in the conference over its 17 year history has definitely increased, and a conference award is presented to the best research paper submitted that pairs practitioners and educators as researchers. The age of academic researchers has plummeted from those in their 40s and 50s to doctoral students who may be only 25 years of age. Collaboration between these 25-year-olds and their (older) professors and advisers is evident in many submissions in the IPRRC call for abstracts.

Then there is the shift in research topics and the applicability of research into those topics to the practice of public relations. Research topics have morphed, and appropriately so, over the years, as the practice of public relations has responded to changes in the environment and context in which public relations is practiced. In the papers presented and the discussions that took place at the 2014 conference, the primary themes were transparency of public relations communication, influence of public relations communication on trust in an organization and its reputation, benefits of developing longterm relationships with important publics, corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a public relations priority and the interconnections of reputation, trust, transparency and commitment to CSR.

And I couldn’t help but notice — and be gratified/impressed by —  a clear change in rigor of research methodology over the past 17 years. Descriptive quantitative or only qualitative research methods were the norm in the IPRRC’s early years. This year, I attended sessions devoted to presentation of data gathered from a broader, more rigorous array of research techniques/methods. The results, therefore, are much more generalizable and adaptable to benefit a larger variety of organizations and public relations contexts.

The International Public Relations Research Conference has provided a context for advancing both the focus of and methodology for public relations research in the last 17 years.

Thanks, Don Stacks and Mel Sharpe, for directing both practitioners and educators as we move along this “upwardly mobile” path for public relations research that has meaning to and impact on public relations practice.

To read the abstracts of the IPR Top Paper Awards given out at this year’s IPRRC, click here.

Judy VanSlyke Turk, PhD, APR, Fellow PRSA, is a professor in The Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her teaching area is public relations at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
 
 

 

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The European Communication Monitor ’13 (Pt. II): Strategic Issues and Influence http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/european-communication-monitor-13-pt-ii-strategic-issues-influence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=european-communication-monitor-13-pt-ii-strategic-issues-influence http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/european-communication-monitor-13-pt-ii-strategic-issues-influence/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:19:33 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14345 This is the second in a series of IPR blog posts on the 2013 European Communication Monitor (ECM), an annual longitudinal trans-national survey of European communications professionals. The original post reviewed the overall demographics, methodology and results of the 2013 survey, which received 2,710 responses from 43 countries. It’s clear strategic public relations is an […]

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Bill PaarlbergThis is the second in a series of IPR blog posts on the 2013 European Communication Monitor (ECM), an annual longitudinal trans-national survey of European communications professionals. The original post reviewed the overall demographics, methodology and results of the 2013 survey, which received 2,710 responses from 43 countries.

It’s clear strategic public relations is an important topic for the ECM. Lead author Dr. Ansgar Zerfass addresses strategic communication in his introduction, a chapter of the report is entitled “Strategic Issues and Influence,” and roughly half the rest of the chapters address strategic issues. For those of us excited to see PR move into more strategic roles, there’s good news here.

I’ve highlighted a couple of especially interesting results below. If you see anything that interests you, you can dig into the report. Remember it’s often difficult to interpret survey results, so, again, please go to the report before you get too excited. It’s well-written and easy to navigate. 

Before we review the ECM’s findings, let’s digress slightly to discuss the term “strategic PR.”

Who Doesn’t Want to Be “Strategic”?
It has always seemed to me the term “strategic PR” is a little bit tricky. Strategic PR means proactive, far-thinking relationship building, right? But in practice the term “strategic PR” is often vague in meaning, and perhaps more accurately describes practitioners’ aspirations than their functions. In many cases it’s almost synonymous with “respectable PR.” I’ve heard it said that publicity and marketing are PR roles that are *not* strategic, and are often seen as minor, or less respected. But isn’t it true publicity and marketing are vital tactics in strategic plans? So, you can look down on publicity, but where’s your strategy without it? 

The ECM report itself is very much devoted to strategic PR. It uses the term “strategic” 55 times. It does not include the word “publicity,” and uses the term “marketing” three times. Note that the ECM appears to use the terms “strategic issues” and “management issues” synonymously (see Management Issues below).

If You’re Strategic and You Know It, Clap Your Hands
To start out, here’s a bonus bit of inspirational insight you’ll only notice if you examine the chart (page 101) that shows career development as a function of professional role. Get this: The respondents who are most optimistic about their careers and most feel their influence and status have increased are those involved in the roles of “strategy and coordination communication” and “consultancy, advising, coaching, key account.” So, does that mean someone who works strategically becomes successful, or that if someone is successful, they get to work strategically? Or perhaps both.

OK, let’s move on to review the ECM’s results in each strategic area.

CEO Communication and Reputation
ECM respondents were in near-universal agreement that the CEO’s communication skills (93%), personal reputation (90%) and knowledge of strategic communication (84%) are important factors for the success of an organization. While 77% of communication departments undertake positioning of the CEO, only 57% worked on a specific communication strategy for the CEO, and only 55% actually monitor the CEO’s reputation. (These varied strongly with type of organization and country.)

Crisis Communication
Seven out of ten respondents had dealt with a crisis over the past year, and nearly half with more than one crisis. There were strong differences between countries – if you hate dealing with crises, consider moving to Belgium or perhaps Norway, where almost half of respondents had no crises at all. The most common crises were institutional, performance, or management. Almost 9% of crises were not real (because they were based on rumor or communication failure), and 6% were caused by natural events. Types of crises varied strongly with type of organization – it’s clear nonprofits experience more institutional, management, and not real crises, while government organizations deal with more natural disasters than others.

How did they handle the crises? 83% used information, 27% sympathy, 18% put up a defense, 17% apologized, and 9% did nothing. Three-quarters of respondents used traditional media relations for crisis communications, 38% used social media. Strategies to deal with crises, as well as the tools employed, varied with the type of crisis.

International Communication
68% of respondents agreed that communicating internationally was important for their organization, and 73% felt it will become more important within the next three years. Only 47% agreed they have “solid structures and strategies for international communication.” Almost half communicate internationally every day. Of those, most deal with more than five countries, and nearly a quarter with over 20 countries. Major challenges include developing sensitive communication strategies, monitoring public opinion, and understand structures of media systems and public spheres.

Gatekeepers and Audiences in the Digital Realm
Respondents mostly agreed that social media (SM) can change the perceptions of external stakeholders (73%) and employees (57%) about their organizations. And 62% agreed that SM changes their own perceptions of stakeholders and organizations. While a majority agreed that employees, consumers, and bloggers were relevant SM gatekeepers for their organizations, only 38% felt their organization had adequate strategies to communicate with gatekeepers. These numbers varied significantly with the level of personal use of SM. These findings also vary by country; why is it that countries in Eastern Europe seem to be more strongly convinced of the efficacy of social media, and prepared to deal with it? The importance of SM communication tools also varied strongly by country. Overall, mobile applications had the largest gap between perceived importance and actual implementation, and thus the most obvious challenge for future effort. After several years of growth, the perceived importance of social media tools is no longer growing, implying that SM has reached some sort of maturity in an organization’s media mix.

Management Issues 
The ECM report includes a chapter entitled “Strategic Issues and Influence.” However, the major question discussed here asks about management rather than strategy: “Please pick those three issues which you believe will be most important for PR / communication management within the next three years.” It seems to me that a management issue might be different than a strategic issue, but the results are interesting, nonetheless. Respondents most often chose “linking business strategy and communication.” The report states that this is “…an issue that has been in the top 5 in the ECM surveys for years.” The next three most important issues were: Coping with digital evolution and the social web (42%), building and maintaining trust (38%), and matching the need to address more audience and channels with limited resources (35%). These choices varied by organizational type.

Not so fast: What are we to really conclude from these results? It might at first seem to be a good thing that the most important issue identified was “Linking business strategy and communication,” especially for those who like to see PR have more of a strategic role. But 43% is less than half… are we to conclude that less than half of European PR pros think linking business strategy and communication is important?

And to Finish, Some Good News: Perceived Influence of the Communications Function Has Never Been Higher.
Respondents indicate that recommendations of the communication function are taken seriously by senior management in 79.4% of organizations. In addition, the communication function is likely to be invited to senior-level strategic planning meetings in 75.7% of European organizations. After falling slightly last year, these measures are currently at their highest point in six years.

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Credo for Public Relations: The Role of Evaluation and Measurement http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/tim-traverse-healy-credo-public-relations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tim-traverse-healy-credo-public-relations http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/03/tim-traverse-healy-credo-public-relations/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 19:48:43 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14331 Now aged 90, I commenced public relations practice in 1947 on my return from service with the Royal Marine Commandos. I am the only Founding Father of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and International Public Relations Association still alive. At the close of my 66-year-long career I wish to record my professional beliefs in […]

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Traverse_Healy_tnNow aged 90, I commenced public relations practice in 1947 on my return from service with the Royal Marine Commandos. I am the only Founding Father of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and International Public Relations Association still alive. At the close of my 66-year-long career I wish to record my professional beliefs in the hope that, aided by academics and educators, my assumptions and assertions may be debated from time to time by younger entrants to our craft.

I do not believe that “propaganda” for causes and issues or “publicity” for products and services are per se public relations activities, although they might form part of an overall public relations programme; similarly advertising, promotion, press agentry, and communications. I believe there exist extra dimensions to the practice of professional public relations which must be present in almost equal measure before an initiative can be so termed and which grant it societal meaning and community worth. I submit that, in accord with the universally accepted principles of Freedom of Information and Expression, these ingredients are: truth, paramount concern for the public good and genuine dialogue. And real dialogue presupposes that an institution is fully prepared to change its policies and practices in the light of such activity. Information fuelled by effective two-way communications is the currency of dialogue and controversy is the price that we may have to be paid to achieve credibility.

Communication effectiveness can be evaluated and reputation measured. Audience identification and message construction come within our remit as does the maintenance and protection of reputations based upon deeds well presented. In this interdependent world one of our prime responsibilities is to forecast the likely social impact of corporate actions. Our undertaking to our employers and clients regarding confidentiality should extend to include those individuals in the public sphere whom we may consult when considering the advice we tender. In the overall scheme of things the objective of our contribution to society at large is the achievement of a balance between the intentions of the institutions we represent and the legitimate concerns of their community and constituency. The argument we are like lawyers available to either defend or prosecute is untenable.

To assist meaningful dialogue between parties involved we must understand the theories and techniques of consultation, participation, negotiation, empowerment and conflict. We must appreciate the legal and societal dictates of transparency, accountability, and governance.

Substantially, our Founding Fathers shared this vision of the fundamental philosophy    governing and values underpinning our vocation. My earnest hope is that future generations of practitioners will share elements of this Credo.

Tim Traverse-Healy OBE, 1st January 2014
Tim.traversehealy@btinternet.com

Tim Traverse-Healy is one of the founding fathers of public relations in the United Kingdom and internationally. His a founding father and past president of the Chartered Institute for Public Relations. 

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#Disclosure: New FTC Social Media Guidelines for PR http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/02/disclosure-new-ftc-social-media-guidelines-pr-practice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=disclosure-new-ftc-social-media-guidelines-pr-practice http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/02/disclosure-new-ftc-social-media-guidelines-pr-practice/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 16:08:15 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14279 When discussing the laws and regulations of social media, a common refrain is the law is trying to catch up with the technology.  However, in 2013 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took one step closer to catching up to social media’s rapid development by providing guidelines for what constitutes legally sound disclosure practices on social […]

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social mediaWhen discussing the laws and regulations of social media, a common refrain is the law is trying to catch up with the technology.  However, in 2013 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took one step closer to catching up to social media’s rapid development by providing guidelines for what constitutes legally sound disclosure practices on social media sites.  The impact of these new guidelines are significant for PR practitioners since they detail the proactive steps an organization can take to prevent a consumer protection lawsuit.

Federal law requires certain types of disclosures for products and services in a wide array of industries ranging from leather goods to car manufacturing.  Additionally, the FTC requires disclosures in certain types of promotional content such as warranties, giveaways, and photographs.  However, until 2013 disclosure requirements in social media have been vague at best.  Compounding this issue of social media disclosures is that social media promotions reside in a middle ground between advertising and public relations departments.  Given that disclosures connote a relationship with publics and that social media is increasingly associated with PR, practitioners should take note of the FTC’s social media disclosure guidelines.

The recent social media disclosure guidelines provide suggestions for both the substance and technological delivery of disclosures.  While these FTC guidelines are not laws, they are important because they are agency-created rules for complying with current federal disclosure laws.  These guidelines are not industry-specific, but they do anticipate the varying complexities of disclosures in a variety of new media.

The FTC guidelines address multiple areas of social media disclosure.  While the report provides many specific details about disclosure requirements, the general theme is that organizations must consider the social medium, the technology used to access the information, the visibility of the disclosure, and the accessibility of the disclosure when crafting disclosure statements.  According to the FTC report, disclosures should be obvious, easily accessible, easily understood, and placed in a location that users would normally pay attention.  Disclosures should also be repeated if necessary and provided before a user purchases any good or service.  The report gives specific guidance as what not to do when writing a disclosure.  Absolute don’ts include placing a disclosure at the end of a webpage, requiring users to click multiple times to get to the disclosure, or placing the disclosure in an inconspicuous place.

Examining these new guidelines four suggestions emerge for PR practitioners.

  1. Disclosures should be tailored to the structure of certain social media.  Twitter disclosures are not the same as blog disclosures because of the structure of the sites.
  2. Limited space in social media outlets does not mean an organization is absolved from providing complete disclosure information.  If proper disclosures cannot be made in a particular social media outlet, then that site should not be used for promotional materials.
  3. When drafting a disclosure practitioners should think like ordinary social media users.  Using jargon, providing information overload, or placing the disclosure in an obscure location that requires scrolling is not evidence of proper disclosure.
  4. When writing a disclosure practitioners should not only consider the limitation of a social media platform but also limitations of technological devices.  Users read information in a variety of ways including on tablets, smart phones, and traditional computers.  Practitioners should consider the ordinary use of these and future technologies and anticipate how ordinary users consume information on these devices.

While following these steps are not a full proof strategy for avoiding FTC disclosure investigations and non-compliance suits, these four suggestions help practitioners comply with the spirit of new FTC guidelines.  Practitioners should keep up with new regulatory laws and guidelines affecting social media content.  When in doubt it should be assumed that existing laws and regulations apply to new media and old media alike. 

FTC regulations have traditionally been associated with advertising.  However, the federal government makes no distinction between PR and advertising.  In this age of strategic communication, PR practitioners have to be aware of all social media regulations.  Given that social media management is increasingly under the purview of public relations, knowing these regulatory boundaries are important for all PR firms, departments, and practitioners.

In this era of convergence between public relations, marketing, and advertising into so-called “strategic communication” it is important that PR practitioners stay aware of these laws affecting promotional uses of social media.  In fact, these new guidelines seem to comport with the ethos public relations given that PR places a high value on transparency and organizational accountability.  These new social media disclosure requirements may present new opportunities for PR practitioners who can work with marketing, advertising, and management sectors to create socially responsible, transparent, and, most importantly, legal promotional content on social media. 

These guidelines are important not only because of their substance but what they represent.  As social media matures so do the laws that govern them.  Practitioners should not assume that because social media is in its infancy that laws are not addressing particular social media issues.  While law regarding new media may be behind technological innovation it is quickly catching up.  Having a command of legal boundaries within social media gives practitioners the knowledge and power to further solidify their role as the social media experts of any organization. 

Cayce Myers, J.D., LL.M., serves as research editor for IPR in the area of public relations law.  He is a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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Engaging Employees: Why Do You Think We Don’t? http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/02/engaging-employees-know/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=engaging-employees-know http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/02/engaging-employees-know/#comments Mon, 17 Feb 2014 18:48:45 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14249 From 60 years of accumulated scholarship about employee communication and engagement, we can safely reach two conclusions: First, organizations that effectively engage their workforces have better business results than those which do not. Second, most organizations do not effectively engage their workforces. Attempting to document why organizational leaders who know what to do don’t do […]

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From 60 years of accumulated scholarship about employee communication and engagement, we can safely reach two conclusions: First, organizations that effectively engage their workforces have better business results than those which do not. Second, most organizations do not effectively engage their workforces.

Attempting to document why organizational leaders who know what to do don’t do it, we’ve hypothesized a list of 17 possible reasons and invite practitioner and academic advice.

Organizational reasons why employee communication/engagement is under-deployed:

  1. Top executives place a higher priority on outside constituencies
  2. Top executives know the arguments about employee engagement leading to better business results, but do not believe them.
  3. The evidence of the link between engagement and business results is perceived as correlative but not causative. Those who engage their employees also do other things right.
  4. Top executives believe their organizations are doing a good job, using conventional media channels (though the literature strongly favors other means, such as empowered and trained supervisors).
  5. The organization’s culture is closed to engagement of any voices outside the dominant coalition, including employees.
  6. Communicators who may know better are locked into the subsystems of another department, such as law, marketing, human resources or finance.

Individual reasons:

  1. Communication managers have a professional bias in favor of conventional media channels.
  2. Advocates for employee engagement, both in human resources and communication, are not part of the dominant coalition.
  3. Advocates for employee communication are unskilled in selling the need for and results of an engaged workforce.
  4. Advocates lack the skills to measure results.
  5. Advocates lack the political savvy to know how things get done in their organizations.
  6. Communicators are unwilling to change their own practices to carry out the needed programs for engagement.

Systemic reasons:

  1. The data demonstrating the relationship of an engaged workforce to business results is not known to top executives.
  2. Employee communication is not recognized in MBA and other management training programs.
  3. Public relations educational programs focus on hard skill development and do not train practitioners to sell their ideas to management or understand organizational politics.
  4. People change jobs much more often, so there is no perceived payoff from investment in employee communications; the feeling is employees, engaged or otherwise, will leave anyway.
  5. There is a belief that employee communication isn’t really necessary. The feeling is employees should be glad to have a job, and if they “do what they’re told to do” benefits such as productivity and good customer relations will follow.

Which of these reasons seem most evident to you? Can some be dismissed out of hand?  Are some reasons missing? Please offer your comments over the next couple of weeks. My colleagues and I will take them into account as we prepare a publication on the topic, and as we think through the design of future “why not” research.

 

David Therkelsen, MBA, APR, Fellow PRSA
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.

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Welcome Message from IPR Director of Research Sarab Kochhar http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/02/welcome-message-ipr-director-research-sarab-kochhar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=welcome-message-ipr-director-research-sarab-kochhar http://www.instituteforpr.org/2014/02/welcome-message-ipr-director-research-sarab-kochhar/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 18:48:20 +0000 http://www.instituteforpr.org/?p=14241 1. Tell us a little about your background with public relations research. Video by McMahon Images My academic qualifications and my work experience form a strong base for my research in public relations and communication management. I finished a master’s degree with emphasis in public relations in India and worked with the Government of India […]

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1. Tell us a little about your background with public relations research.

My academic qualifications and my work experience form a strong base for my research in public relations and communication management. I finished a master’s degree with emphasis in public relations in India and worked with the Government of India before I came to U.S. to pursue my second masters with emphasis in strategic communication from the University of Oklahoma (OU). While at OU, I worked with the Institute for Research and Training. I then worked with Burson-Marsteller in Bangalore, India. As a Ph.D. student in mass communication with a specialization in public relations at the University of Florida, I have worked with scholars who understand and are experts in applied and academic research. I have worked on projects, presented my work at conferences, written book chapters, and have worked with practitioners who greatly informed my research.

2. What led you to take the position as Director of Research for the Institute for Public Relations?

IPR’s mission and ideology of understanding the science beneath the art of public relations is what encouraged me the most to take this important position with the Institute. The focus of the organization to conduct research that matters to the practice, and provide insights and applied intelligence that professionals can use has been my research agenda as well. IPR has gathered, sponsored, and shared relevant studies and papers on various topics with professionals and students all over the world that have further advanced the field of public relations.

3. What is your stance on the relationship between public relations theory, research and practice?

Academic theories and conceptualizations can provide an essential framework for practitioners to use when coping with their day-to-day operations. Especially in public relations, the importance of applied research is critical, directly effecting public relations’ role in management decision making, basic planning, implementation, and even evaluation of public relations programs. Moreover, the complex problems the practice faces require well-informed inquiry and a multidisciplinary approach to help comprehend, explain, and forecast situations affecting organizations and publics.

4. What are you most looking forward to in your work at IPR?

I am looking forward to working with practitioners and scholars to advance the field of public relations. IPR is well placed to facilitate documented discussions about the present and future direction of public relations research in both academia and practice, to bring together two unique worldviews on public relations research, and to support research that matters to the practice.

5. What has being a practitioner taught you about research needs?

The field of public relations is changing incredibly quickly and we need research to help contextualize those changes. As a practitioner, I learnt the business challenges practitioners face on a regular basis and the role of research in addressing those challenges. As a practitioner who experienced higher education, I also learned that academia could inform the practice through sound and timely research.

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