“In almost any gift-giving situation, there is some expectation of return, whether is it a tax deduction, a named building, or an enhanced reputation. That’s why anonymous gift giving is so rare. Giving always occurs within a social context that makes a gift reciprocal in nature. Perhaps corporations that give with some expectation of return are only being more strategic and explicit than predecessors who gave with equal expectations but said less about it – or who gave without planning. For a gift to be genuinely altruistic in nature, that is, for it to demonstrate other-centered love, it must have benefit to the recipient as its primary motive and purpose, but not necessarily its only motivation or purpose. Therefore, strategic or “smart” giving may be regarded as ethical.”
from: Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning. Christians, Clifford. 2001.
The statement above describes corporate philanthropy, which is a manifestation of corporate social responsibility (CSR). Corporate philanthropy is the donation of funds, products and services to various causes. The organization’s public relations department handles this giving, which can range from providing uniforms to a local soccer team to a multi-million dollar donation to a university. I do believe the above statement is an accurate description and analysis of strategic giving. A company should give for building business, brand equity, and your stakeholder relations not for publicity.
Home Depot. Volunteers (employees) use materials from their stores to build homes for Habitat for Humanity. Is an example of strategic giving because they are donating there time and products to cause that will enhance the community. This benefits Home Depot because it will positively add to their Brand Image while still helping society and giving a gift. A Hilton and Hill survey found that 76 percent of Americans claim to take corporate citizenship into consideration when buying products.
Consider Exxon/Mobile. The corporate logo features a Tiger, and the company donates large sums to help protect tigers and their environment. This is also an example of strategic giving. They show they care about a larger cause and want to give back.
I think almost all large companies give strategically, Take a look at the Coca-Cola company, which is the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverage company. They provide a full sustainability report on all of their products and are the founders of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. The Coca−Cola Scholars Foundation supports over 1,400 college students each year, with annual scholarships of $3.4 million through two nationally recognized programs on behalf of the Coca−Cola System.
Here are some websites that discuss using corporate philanthropy as a PR strategy:
A creative commons is an organization that was created to help broaden the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses to the public for free. They are known as Creative Commons licenses and they allow copyright owners to release some of those rights while retaining others, with the goal of increasing access to and sharing of intellectual property. Given advances in technology for creating, sharing, sampling, and reusing content in various forms, many believe that the traditional approach to copyright protection is obsolete. As tools such as wikis and blogs are increasingly used for teaching and learning, black-or-white copyright protection inhibits the opportunities these applications provide. Higher Education is a big player in creative commons licenses. Faculty and researchers in large numbers have begun using Creative Commons licenses to facilitate a climate of openness and sharing.
Good for PR People? My answer is yes.
- It is all in the name, PUBLIC Relations. By using creative commons the public has more access and involvement. While at the same time allows the PR practitioner to choose what rights they reserve and which they waive. By sharing the content it will result in more publicity.
- Creative commons allows you to be less reliant on traditional media. It gives PR people to communicate their message without dealing with the gatekeepers.
- Creative commons allows PR people to bring people to you instead of always pushing your message to them, you are going to nurture a very different kind of reputation than if you were always badgering people to spread your messages.
One of the primary uses of the Internet is for communication through, email, information delivery, and research opportunities. It is important that PR professionals take advantage of its worldwide reach and its extensive access to audiences.
A blog tracking organization called Technorati, estimated in 2007 that there are about 61 million blogs and about 175,000 being created each day. Many bloggers are amateurs, but others have risen in prominence and have a large following. Political candidates are an example, they have recognized the power of influential bolggers and use them in the same way they use mainstream media. It is important for Public Relations personnel to monitor weblogs that reach large numbers of consumers to make sure the information being talked about is true. This gives the organization a chance to set the record straight or place positive information about the organization. They also allow PR people to know what the public is talking about and the latest trends that could affect the success in their particular industry.
RSS feeds work well when PR practitioners are monitoring blogs because they are notified through the RSS feed anytime a particular blog is updated. This way they can make sure they are always up to date.
People use social media to share content, opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives, and media itself. Social media can take many different forms including text, images, audio, and video. Social media gives PR professionals the opportunity to harness the human urge to relate to each other and to create or assemble compelling content that is shared with others.
Personal Digital Assistants (PDA)
Blackberries, iPhones, smartphones and pocket PCs provide portable management of traditional information such as email, calendars, tasks, and contacts. They also off web browsing and instant messaging capabilities. These PDAs greatly enhance the productiveness and efficiency of any PR professional.
Most organizations are now posting SMTs, news feeds, and online news conferences on the Internet to reach a large audience through continuous audio and video. This is called web casting and allows journalist to cover an organization easier and get the information they need. “We did one press conference where almost nobody showed up; we did a live stream onto the web and we had dozen’s of reporters watching it,” said Marc Wein, President of Murray Hill Studios in New York.
PR practitioners play a major role in resolving a crisis for an organization. A crisis situation puts tremendous pressure on organizations to respond with concrete and thorough information as fast as possible. Experts say, how an organization responds in the first 24 hours usually determines whether the situation remains an “incident” or whether it becomes a full-blown crisis. This pressure falls to the PR practitioner, who needs to be prepared to deal with incidents and potential crisis. Part of the role of a PR practitioner is to prevent a conflict from arising in the first place and to be prepared for the worst by using environmental scanning and issues management. If the situation does turn into a crisis a PR practitioner will implicate the crisis management plan. The PR practitioner may also employ strategies to assist in negotiation or arbitration efforts. In the aftermath of a crisis the PR practitioner is responsible for restoring the organizations reputation through reputation management. PR people do not necessarily “solve” crises, instead they help create a favorable resolution for all people involved.
The three most important things a PR person can do during a crisis are:
1) Take responsibility for solving the problem and respond with accurate information within the first 24 hours of the situation.
2) Choose a communication strategy that is appropriate for the particular organization. Below is Coomb’s list of crisis communication strategies that an organization may use:
- Attack the accuser
- Corrective action
- Full apology
3) Communicate consistently and professionally during the crisis. This can be done by putting the public first, being honest, designating a single spokesperson, and being accessible.
If handled well, a crisis can be good for an organization. For example, the Tylenol Crisis in 1982. They reacted in a way that was consistent with their mission statement and is now a respected example of effective crisis management. Johnson & Johnson recalled 31 million bottles of Tylenol resulting in a loss of $100 million. They took responsibility, even though it was not their fault, and reintroduced the product with safer packaging. This proved to the public Johnson & Johnson was committed to public safety no matter the cost, which has ultimately enhanced the brand’s image. This story is also a good demonstration of the three strategies above.
Agenda-Setting Hypothesis vs. Uses and Gratifications Theory
Agenda-Setting Hypothesis says that media content sets the agenda for public discussion. For example people start conversations by bringing up what they heard on the news or saw on the front page of the Newspaper. It raises the idea that through the media’s selection of stories and headlines, the media tells the public what to think about, but not necessarily what to think.
Uses and Gratifications Theory grants power to the individual audience members and states the audience can have an influence on the media. According to the theory, media consumers have free will to decide how they will use the media and how it will affect them. Uses and gratification is the optimist’s view of the media because the theory rules out the possibility that the media can have an unconscious influence over our lives and how we view the world.
The relationship between the Agenda-Setting Hypothesis and the Uses and gratification theory can be seen in cases such as personal music selection. We select music not only to fit a particular mood but also in attempts to show empowerment or other socially conscience motives. There are many different types of music and we choose from them to fulfill a particular need, just as we choose media according to the Uses and gratification theory. The Agenda-Setting hypothesis can be seen in music played on the radio, or music played in a store you are shopping in. You cannot help but to listen and think about the music being played, just as you cannot help but to hear the news and notice the front-page story. This could be agenda-setting on the artist’s part, the particular radio station, or the store; because they too are trying to fulfill a particular need, fit a particular mood, show empowerment or other socially conscience motives.
What makes these two different is who gets credit for the thoughts. In agenda-setting the media chose your thoughts. In uses and gratification the individual chose their own thoughts.
PR Practitioners Role in These Two Theories:
- Agenda-Setting Hypothesis- The media can actually set the agenda for public relations topics and stories. It is the goal of PR professionals to get their subject on the media agenda.
- Uses and Gratification Theory-The individual can set the agenda for the public relations topics and stories. The PR professional wants to reach the individuals need for information vs. satisfying the gatekeeper at the particular media outlet. The problem with this is the PR practitioner needs to satisfy the gatekeeper, so their story is made public to a large audience. This is how corruption can occur and PR professionals ethics come into play.
The Public Relations Profession lacks credibility within the USA. Their credibility has been tarnished due to claims of propaganda and deceit. How can the PRSA generate and restore more credibility for the PR profession? I have devised a plan that cracks down on the Public Relations industry by enforcing the PRSA’s code of ethics and emphasizing accreditation.
Output- Offer more incentive for PR professionals to become accredited through the PRSA by December 2010
Outcome-To increase accreditation among PR professionals in the USA by 40% by December 2010
Output-Generate a strong emphasis and importance on the PRSA’s code of ethics by taking harsher action against violators. Encourage and inform employers of these new rules by December 2010
Audience: We will target all PR professionals and the Firms they work for in the USA.
Strategy 1:Build awareness of PR professional’s lack of credibility
Tactics-(1) Secure a four-page cover story in PR week’s monthly newsletter about the stigma of PR professionals and the consequences a harmful reputation can have. (2) Secure other features in major publications, such as AD week, The Washington Post, and The New York Times offsetting this negative with success stories within the industry i.e.: turn PR professionals from villains into heroes.
Strategy 2: Include education institutes in the promotion of accreditation.
Tactics: (1) Get top University’s, communications schools, involved in the value of accreditation and offer discounted rates to upcoming graduates.(3) Establish step-by-step instructions of the PRSA’s accreditation process to print out on flyers that the PRSA can distribute to Universities and their students.
Strategy 3: Invite PRSA accredited practitioners in upcoming events and conferences.
Tactics: (1) Exclusively plan and invite accredited professionals to an event and educational conference located in multiple locations over the country.
Strategy 4: Strictly enforce the PRSA’s code of ethics
Tactics: (1) Inform PR practitioners of the changes. (2) Try to pass laws for legal punishment if this code is violated.
*The plan would also include a calendar, budget, and an evaluation to analyze results after it had been accomplished.
Why This Plan Will Work:
This Plan will be successful in creating more credibility for public relations because the more people that earn accreditation will result in higher standards in the PR world. This will eventually improve the reputation of PR professionals and improve their overall credibility. If the PRSA takes harsher action against violators it will show the public there is some form of regulation and therefore, it would be less likely to read untrue news stories or be confronted with propaganda. Self-regulation within this industry has done nothing to give it a backbone. The PRSA is the best form of regulation this industry has and needs to shed light on the honest practitioners and humiliate the practitioners who are spoiling the reputation of this profession.
Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) is a voluntary certification earned by practitioners from a national organization such as The Pubic Relations Society of America (PRSA). This certification demonstrates that they are committed to strict ethical values, enhancing the profession, and a desire to succeed. Its purpose is to identify and unify those who have shown broad knowledge, experience, and solid judgment in the field.
The value of earning APR status :
The value of accreditation does not involve a guaranteed job or higher pay, but what PR practitioners learn while earning their accreditation could result in just that.
“PR has a PR problem”
The public relations field does not have the best reputation. There has been plenty of PR campaigns that illustrate questionable ethics and deceptive practices, which in the end hurt the client as well as the PR organization. A good public service career comparison could be to lawyers, who have far from a respectable stigma. How would you feel about them if they had not passed the BAR exam and were not qualified professionals under standards set by a higher organization? Obviously this licensing is not required for PR practitioners to practice public relations, but in a field where personal values and morals can be compromised, it is reassuring to know there are accreditation programs that can provide reference to a PR practitioner’s knowledge and character. Or in other words, bring professionalism into an industry that can be considered less than professional.
Public Relations is not considered a licensed “profession” in the same sense as health care workers and lawyers, but accreditation programs are the major effort to improve standards and professionalism around the world.
If more PR practitioners go through the process to earn their accreditation, it will strengthen the public’s trust in the profession. Today only 5,000 practitioners have earned APR status.
3 ways PRSA can make accreditation more important to business leaders:
1. Show PR organizations ways that lack of professionalism can harm their organization, their client, or the publics trust in the profession. By providing real life examples of harmful incidents and then posting the stories weekly on PRSA’s website or they could be spoken about at meetings. Then reiterating the fact that these incidents would be less likely to happen if business leaders hire APR certified PR professionals over non certified applicants.
2. Make it a requirement to write APR after a signature or title. For example signing your name with CPA or MD displayed. Display the title with pride, so clients and others can see it. This will stir up more competition in the work place and perhaps make clients wonder who is the better PR practitioner.
3. The PRSA could offer special events for APR holders only. Providing networking opportunities, sweepstakes, scholarships, and just opening doors in general. Eventually other PR practitioners will want to find out what special opportunities they are missing out on.