Archive for the 'PR' Category

18
Feb
11

Spin doctor or just Alistair Campbell?

I went to the Q&A session at De Montfort University last night with Alistair Campbell in the hot seat. I was really interested from a PR point of view and wondered what he would say about spin doctors and the future of the media.

First of all it needs to be said that this man has a way with words. I was very impressed by the things he said and how transparent and honest he seemed (or is this all the magic of the spin doctor?). He was very clear that he doesn’t mind talking about his past especially the pornography (no, he was not  a pornography pin-up but writer for pornographic magazine Forum) part and the alcohol addiction.

The Q&A session started with a few pre-selected questions and then the chair opened up the floor and everyone could ask Alistair Campbell a question about anything. 

An interesting point Mr. Campbell made was that the media is not always truthful and does sell stories that aren’t true. For instance the story that he was going to start managing a football club. Campbell phones the journalist and told him that the story wasn’t true and the journalist replied by saying: “I know but it’s a good story”. So does this mean that journalists are mainly selling us lies because they think we like to hear stories that are untrue but seem interesting and entertaining?

Journalist are trying to keep their grip on the agenda and want to have the power of deciding what we talk about as the public. They thought they were loosing their grip on the agenda setting because the government and politics had the upper hand in setting the agenda.

The point Alistair Campbell made is that media is trying to come up with stories that sell more newspapers but this isn’t really what the public wants and therefore the media is not going to change until the public demands a change from the media. This is a very interesting point made.

Another point that I found interesting was that Alistair Campbell said that the true spin doctors are the journalists. Journalists write a certain way to make things seem different from what they actually are and during Campbell’s spin doctor period for Tony Blair he was trying to set these stories straight. This was then seen as spinning. Who do we believe the former spin doctor or the media? Interesting topic I would say.

Interesting person to follow on Twitter, his tweet from last night was nice, or was het only being kind? Once a spin doctor always a spin doctor?

“Terrific session with students from De Montfort University. Bright, engaged, really good questions. Wouldn’t advise Dave or Nick to go there.”

Have a look at his blog:

 http://www.alastaircampbell.org/blog/2011/02/18/hezza-signals-discontent-at-lack-of-cameron-grip-but-osborne-wont-u-turn-yet/

He even mentions DMU in his latest blog post!

Got the book and he signed it to my mum from me and my new best friend. Thanks for that again Alistair Campbell!

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16
Feb
11

PRFilter?

Today I was thinking about a topic to write a research based essay on that had to do with my work experience and that is relevant to my MA course in public relations. I have always been fascinated with press releases, how these are written and how they are used to pitch to journalists. This will have to be the topic of my new research based essay.

I am in the library now just surfing around on the web and looking for external blogs to comment on (if you have any good ones then please let me know, it’s for my online portfolio assignment) and saw a tweet on Twitter by CitySavvy. This is a Pan-European financial and corporate communications agency that I used to work for. They tweeted this:

CitySavvy Ltd @CitySavvyPR CitySavvy Ltd

New search engine dedicated to press releases launched: http://tinyurl.com/6al9qe2

This sparked an interest and I clicked on the url that was given and found an interesting little article on Communication Magazine’s website about the PRFilter.

This is apparently a new type of search engine dedicated to seek press releases that have been launched. It has thousand press releases every day and has been designed to save journalists and bloggers time. This application has been developed in the UK by RealWire and has already been tested by UK journalists and bloggers last year.

This news justifies that the topic I have chosen for my research based essay is a good one because it is something that is going on now. This blog post and topic links to one of my previous post on ‘what do journalists really want?’. In that post I found out that journalists (well the ones that had been spoken to by the DMU press office) wanted to be contact via email about press releases. The phone is hardly picked up to ring journalists and the old boozy lunches PR‘s and journalists used to go on to build relationships seems like a fairy tale now.

It seems like the whole PR business and being a journalist has become a lonesome and impersonal job to have. No more socializing except for Tweeting, Facebooking, using LinkedIn and now this PRFilter program.

The thing that still confuses me is that I don’t understand why there doesn’t seem to be a need for personal, face-to-face contact anymore. Or has this again got to do with the time journalists have?

I am interested in what you think as PR professionals, journalists and fellow bloggers about this topic. Do you think the media landscape is changing and is this PRFilter a positive thing? Let me know and leave a comment!

09
Feb
11

Unpaid interns issue rumbling the blue skies above PR

I have recently signed up to PRweek online (can’t pay for a subscription yet as a poor student) and I have seen some disturbing news on there. PR agencies hiring a bunch of interns and not paying them for their work.

This issue was raised after BBC 2 screened a documentary featuring a PR agency that had hired more than 20 unpaid interns. This is shocking, how can a PR agency be run by more than 20 unpaid students? This is not right at all.

The first time I had to deal with this issue was when I had to start looking for an internship here in the UK as part of my MA degree course. The work placement was only for 4 weeks and I thought this was really strange. I am only one of the two students on my course that have done a work placement(s) before, this shocked me. Why would students in the UK not have to do an internship? It is a good way of seeing and experiencing what working in the industry is like.

I also had an issue with the time frame of the work placement, 4 weeks. What can you really achieve in 4 weeks and what kind of scope of the industry does this really give you?

During my BA in The Netherlands I had to do 3 work placements, one of 10 weeks, 6 months and 8 months. Then you have enough time and opportunity to see different  fields of the industry you are interested in and get a good grip on the work that you would be expected to do later in life in your career.

This information is all relevant because a few students on my course were asked if they had any previous experience when going for interviews for work placement. They thought this was a really strange question to be asked because they are looking for experience. They didn’t get the placements where this question was raised because they don’t have previous experience.

Now I am wondering if this question was asked because if they did have experience it would be free work done by a student that knows what they are doing and that would hardly need any guidance. Free labour basically. When thinking about the free labour for 4 weeks then why was it still hard to find a placement?

I didn’t mind not being paid for 4/5 weeks but if I had to work for a longer period of time I would want to be paid. The funny thing is that whilst looking for a work placement and mentioning the 4 week time frame the topic of payment was never raised. Funny that companies would assume that they wouldn’t have to pay you just because you’re only going to be with them for 4 weeks.

Now, this issue of PR agencies hiring interns work long periods of time and not paying them is concerning, especially because the job market isn’t that good at the moment. It’s hard for graduates to find a job. Then it’s understandable that you would go for a job that offers you experience for a few months but doesn’t pay you.

As graduates we should be able to get a job at a PR agency and get paid for the work we do. It’s not as if the work we do is useless or irrelevant. We are very capable of producing up to standard work, we have imput that is new and fresh.

Shame on the companies that were hiring a bunch of interns and making them work for free but offering experience, that just sounds like exploitation to me. Funny that one of the companies mentioned in the BBC 2 documentary said that they weren’t the only ones doing this. Always try to shift the blame on others. It is wrong what you are doing so take responsibility and make it right. I don’t think they will be getting any interns for a while or new staff for that matter any time soon.

 The articles are all on PRweek this is the link to the ones I commented on:

http://www.prweek.com/news/1052694/Danny-Rogers-Unpaid-interns-industry-disservice/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH

http://www.prweek.com/news/1053842/Call-PR-industry-stamp-practice-unpaid-interns/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH

 Let me know what you think about this issue surrounding the PR industry and especially if you’re a graduate let me know what you think!

01
Feb
11

What do journalists really want?

Had an interesting talk with one of the members of staff in the DMU press office last week.

She does most of the story and quote pitching to the media about DMU.

Now, when I think of pitching a story to a journalist, I think phone. But apparently my thoughts are very wrong. My views of a press office or PR department has always been about phones ringing off the hook and PR’s running about taking journalists out for boozy, luxurious lunches! But apparently and from experiencing different placements at PR companies, my views aren’t entirely true.

Apparently using the phone to ring up a journalist to tell him/her about a story they would be interested in is not done at all.

Journalists prefer you to write them an email pitching a story. But not just any old email, no, there are requirements to this email that need to be followed. PR’s need to get straight to the point in the email and keep it very short and simple.

This confirms that, as you can read in my previous blog on press release writing, press releases are the most common way of PR’s contacting journalists. Now I know why.

Funny that most PR agencies or in-house PR departments still think you should ring a journalist instead of bombarding them with emails.

But for some reason I don’t really see the logic of why journalists prefer emails to phone calls. I have a thing about logic, and most people won’t find my logic very logical. But I will give it a go at explaining it.

In previous research for one of my essays about the relationship between PR’s and journalists one of the main conclusions was that journalists have less time to go out and find stories and go out for lunches with PR’s to create good relationships. Journalists have become desk bound. This means that journalists are just churning out stories from information that PR’s are sending them via email.

This is all very logical but then there is no relationship between PR’s and journalists and I think this is an important issue. PR’s and journalists need each other and should therefore have a good relationship.

But isn’t it much nicer to speak to a friendly person on the phone than exchanging emails every time? Emailing is so impersonal. Not that all journalist are friendly on the phone, especially when on deadline!

We are all to bound to our computers, laptops, smartphones and iPad now a days. We post everything online and hardly speak to each other anymore. But for a relationship to work you have to speak to each other.

Have gone off track a bit from pitching to the relationship between PR’s and journalists but I would like to hear your views on either of these topics. Or on logic for that matter!

25
Jan
11

The art of writing a press release

As a Public Relations MA student one of the skills I am required to have is to be able to write the perfect press release. Hopefully I will have required this skill after my MA.

During my work experience at De Montfort University I have been drafting press releases for the press office. When I was writing one about lingerie today some questions popped up in my mind.

How do you write the perfect press release? There are so many different ways Public Relations practitioners write them. But is there a perfect press release template anywhere that can be used for all press releases? Or is there an international or even global way of how we should write them?

There is a difference in the way that I was taught to write a press release during my BA and work experience in The Netherlands to the way I have been taught to write one here in the UK during my MA.

In Amsterdam I was used to writing WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN and WHY in the introduction because  journalists don’t have time to read a whole press release. You have to make is easy for them and put all the important information in first so they can decide if they want to read on or contact the PR agency.

During my MA and my work experience here in Leicester I was taught to write a very short introduction with a maximum of 20 to 30 words. I thought this was very short and didn’t understand why. Because we also learnt that journalists have less time now then they used to. So why would you then not make it easy for them by adding all the important facts to the introduction?

Seems strange to me, but I have adapted my style of writing and writing a press release now has become easier.

When I googled writing the perfect press release I came across 3 rules PR’s have to stick to when writing one:

  1. Is your press release really necessary?
  2. If you were running a story based on this release, what would the headline be and does the first sentence fit into less than 15 words? If no, or the first sentence is ‘Mrs Miggins plc announces…’, go back to Q1.
  3. If you got Q2 right, why are you changing the wording for a press release?

The first question is very important because I’ve had to write some press releases while thinking: why would this be interesting for anyone in the world?

Apparently a press release is still the most popular way of contacting a journalist. So it is very important that we get this right.

This image shows you the way I have been taught in The Netherlands how to write a press release.

This is the exact template that I would follow. But I feel like the way I have been taught now is exactly the other way round.

If we turn this figure upside down that would sum up the way I feel like I have been taught how to write a press release here in the UK.

I’m interested in how you write your press releases and what you think is the most effective template for this.

Let me know what your views are on this topic.

17
Nov
10

Lie to me

Lying

There was an interesting article in the Citylife and County living magazine last week: “The truth about lying“. Because PR is linked to the word ‘spin’ and can be seen as ‘lying’, I thought it might be interesting to read the article.

A sentence in the article that really got my attention was: “A world without deception might be a very difficult place to live – mean, do you want to hear that yes, your behind does look big in that?” I’m not really sure what my answer to this question would be and I thought really hard about it. It depends on what your behind looks big in doesn’t it? If my behind looked big in something that I really love I wouldn’t want to hear it, but if my behind looked big in something that was reasonable then someone could actually say that to me.

But we are not talking about behinds looking big in things are we. We are talking about lying in the PR business. An interesting quote from the article that I thought went very well with explaining PR and what it’s all about is: ”Know what they know. Be aware of their interests and activities so you can cover your tracks.” It’s all about relevance to the target group and what they want to believe and then you feed that to them. Is this lying? Not really, you are telling people what they want to hear or maybe trying to persuade people what you want them to think.

Then we always end up at the question: “Is lying, I prefer the word spinning, to your target audience ethical?” The answer that I think answers all the questions about if some actions are ethical is, NO. It is not ethical to lie or spin the truth, but as long as nobody knows there is no harm is there?

For example: Constructing a list of favourite music for David Cameron to help him manipulate his public image. Is this ok to pretend you like something because it makes you look cool or cultured?

The subject surrounding David Cameron might be a touchy subject but again the answer is: NO. It is not ethical, but do we really mind if we don’t know that David Cameron didn’t actually picked the songs? No. But we would mind if all the national and local newspapers wrote that David Cameron actually didn’t pick the songs, someone else did. Well then all hell would have probably broken loose. Wouldn’t it?

In my opinion ‘lying’ is a very strong word, especially when using it in combination with PR. It can be seen as ‘being economical with the truth’. We all do it sometimes to make ourselves look better, sound better, impress people, to get things our own way.  I don’t think that we have to be too cynical about this, we all know that the truth is manipulated but if we thought too much about that we would never believe anything! The manipulation has to be subtle, not too in your face, or it wouldn’t be credible.

Tell me what you think about PR spin. PR and the ethical aspect of it and if you think this is acceptable in this field of work.

09
Nov
10

How would you explain PR to your parents?

How would you explain to people what PR actually is?

After the first lectures about PR Structure and Theory there is a bit of confusion about what PR actually is and how people perceive PR. What would the average pers

on on the street answer if you asked them the question? Do they actually know what PR stands for?

Julius CaesarPerhaps most people would be surprised to know that PR goes right back to the Romans and Julius Caesar or maybe even earlier than. Can we see him as an PR innovator? Maybe we can, didn’t he use and ancient form of reputation management, stunts and shows to get people talking and writing about him?

William the Conqueror and the Normans cleverly told the story of 1066 in the Bayeux tapestry., but whose story is being told in it? Do the tapestries tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Or could they be the start of the oh so famous PR term ‘spin’?Bayeux Tapestry

A famous comment about Public Relations is: ”Public Relations was not invented by Americans and then exported elsewhere.”

But is this true?
Aren’t Ivy Lee and Edward Bernays famous for ‘inventing’ PR and aren’t these two from America? (Even though they are from America, they can be used as a good example of the start of PR to be able to come to a vague answer to the question of what PR is.)They were really at the forefront of PR at the time (even though it wasn’t really known as PR then!).

''Torches of Freedom''Bernays worked for one of the big tobacco companies in the US. He had to come up with a campaign to get women smoking as this was considered a male habit in the 1920’s. Posters that were used to persuade women showed young models smoking a cigarette in public on the arm of a famous man and lighting up a ‘Torch of Freedom’. Can this be seen as scientific persuasion or propaganda?

A quote from Edward Bernays: ”Those who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses pull the wires which control the public mind.” This can be seen as persuasion and propaganda but is it fair to say that PR can still be seen this way? Probably, if you ask UK journalist about PR people today.

Manipulation, propaganda, spin, influencing opinions and behaviour and persuasion. These are a few words that come to mind and have been used in this post when thinking of PR. Are all these words linked to PR to be seen as negative? Or could PR be seen as an important element in a democratic society?

There are so many questions surrounding PR and what it actually is. So tell me how you would explain to your parents or friends what PR is?




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