Category: Reading Notes

Few things in this world are truly independent from outside influences. Media relations is no different. As Sietel points out on page 171, “the importance of media to the practice of public relations cannot be denied.” Unfortunately, the relationship between the two fields is somewhat strained due to each vying for the top spot in public outreach and effectiveness. Additionally, the public is already skeptical of the intentions of the media and public relations. Though objectivity is the goal for reporters, it is a rare that they only report the facts. Herein lies the problem- public relations officials perceive the media as interrogative, dumpster-diving sneaks, while the media views public relations professionals as fake, glossy-eyed silhouettes. It is this misconception which Chapter 9 attempts to clear up with a few good habits to keep in mind when dealing with the media as a future public relations professional.

1.       “A reporter is a reporter.” They have the ugly job of digging up the truth, therefore, you are always under scrutiny. Similarly to a court proceeding, anything you say, can and will be used against you.

2.       “You are the organization.” Times have changed considerably from when the public relations official was merely just another face in the crowd. Nowadays, the public relations official is one of the more prominent images associated with an organization. Thinking before one speaks is not an option, but a necessity.

3.       “There is no standard issue reporter.” The concerned public relations official allows the reporter to do his job, just as the reporter does not impede the public relations official’s duties.

4.       “Treat journalists professionally.” In order to foster a positive relationship, both the journalist and public relations official should recognize the fundamental differences which underscore their respective professions.

5.       “Don’t sweat the skepticism.” Being cognizant of the reporter’s duty to report the “news” is the public relations official responsibility. Without this understanding, many of the questions a reporter asks can get under the PR officials nails, causing animosity and cynicism.

6.       “Don’t try to buy a journalist.” In short, bribery doesn’t work, and in the long run, may actually impede the PR – journalist relationship.

7.       “Become a trusted source.” There is no better way to strengthen a PR – journalist relationship than to help the journalist with his/her job. By being a trusted source, the PR official is helping them to do their jobs, and also, helping the organizations image at the same time.

8.       “Talk when not selling.” Keeping the communication pathways open between PR and journalist, even during downtime, can be a key facet to continued positive media coverage.

9.       “Don’t expect news agreement.” While the journalist might believe that his/her story is front page worthy, they do not get the final say; therefore, the public relations official should not be suckered into believing that the story will even be aired or covered.

10.   “Don’t cop a ‘tude.” In my opinion, this is by far one of the most important to remember. First impressions die hard, and in such a give and take relationship, the PR professional cannot afford to be sassy.

11.   “Never lie.” Need I say more?

12.   “Read the paper.” As with many things, it is important to be a student of the game rather than just a player.

Taken from Google Images

All semester long in COMM 306, Dr. McArthur has been harping to us how great of a field public relations is to go into. There’s such a wide variety of job opportunities in the public relations & strategic communications field, and so many potential directions to take your career. Chapter 20 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” offers up some great tips for launching a career in this field. In the light of this economic downturn, I know I speak for most college students when I say I’m scared about the opportunities I’m going to have to get a job coming straight out of college. It’s certainly reassuring to know that public relations jobs these days have, for the most part, remained unharmed by the hurt economy. There is always a need for an effective communicator, and if you can do that well you might be in good shape.

Toward the end of Chapter 20, Sietel offers up 5 tips that are key to moving ahead in the field of public relations. I found these to be extremely helpful and interesting. For someone headed into the field of PR, these keys to success seem priceless. I found some of the tips more useful than others, but they all offer up good points. The first tip was to use technology to your advantage. This is something that Dr.McArthur has harped on all semester. PR is moving increasingly in an electronic direction as the Internet continues to grow in prominence and social media websites have become a must have for all organizations. A lot of old school PR professionals may not be familiar with using these tools. Chapter 20 suggests using your knowledge of technology to your advantage in the workplace. Dr. McArthur has said in class how marketable a skill this is, so why not put it to use?

Another tip that’s suggested is the importance of constant reading. We’ve discussed in class and read in the textbook how vital a skill writing is in public relations. Effective writing has remained one of the top skills to have regardless of what field you’re in, but PR especially. This tip makes a good point in saying that the key to good writing is good reading. Read as much as possible, and anything you can get your hands on. It will surely improve your writing.

As I prepare to go on my JBIP in the next coming weeks, I found this chapter in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” to be extremely interesting as it specifically mentioned a few of the countries to which I will be traveling. Though the United States is often isolated in regards to cultural exposure due to geography, it is also the bustling Mecca of cultural diversity within our own borders.  And because of the variety of cultures found in the United States, public relations professionals have to be cognizant and tactful in their approach to public communication media. But this is not just a challenge for PR in the US. As Sietel cites Marshall McLuhan, “the world is a global village.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement. It is inevitable as well as completely obvious that the world is getting smaller every day. The amount of information available at our finger tips grows every second. The industrial competition for consumers is at an all time high. The companies who do the best job in PR, are the most successful, such as Pepsi, McDonalds, Nike, and BMW.

This chapter gives the breakdown of international public relations. One essential component that was explained was the necessity that “all foreign companies operating internationally must constantly reinforce the notion that they are responsible and concerned residents of local communities.” By following the “thinking global, acting local” mantra, international companies can build good public relations, and potential sidestep negative attention/press.

Public relations differ around the world, continent to continent, country to country. While the chapter detailed public relations strategies in many countries, these were the ones that I found most interesting:

Canada: the biggest rival to American public relations in regards to “its level of acceptance, respect, sophistication, and maturity.” Public relations in Canada must also be bilingual due to part of the country’s French heritage.

Latin America: In my Strategic Communications class, my proposal to expand a communications firm to Buenos Aires was approved due to the huge potential that this area has in terms of economic growth and technological prowess. As Latin American countries continue to develop, there is a huge demand for communications and public relations departments.

Japan: the hub of technology in the modern world, yet because of the traditional culture, the techniques which they employ are much different than our own. In fact, “the majority of Japanese companies shun the kind of aggressive public relations favored by American Companies.” PR officials are very aware of the best methods to reach the greatest audience, and that is via cell phone or newspaper.

The evidence is indisputable- the world is getting smaller, and therefore it is imperative that solid international public relation practices are utilized so that future growth and development is possible.

Seitel, F.P. (2010). The Practice of Public Relations, 11th ed., Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

The skill of management is indubitably one of the most important for any public relations professional to possess. The beginning of Chapter 5 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” notes that the responsibilities of a PR professional are not much unlike those of the CEO of a company. Both need to be proficient at, and have knowledge about, planning, budgeting, objective setting, and how top management thinks and operates. “It has been said that the only difference between the public relations director and the CEO is that the latter gets paid more” (Sietel, 2010).

The chapter discusses how effective management in public relations focuses on results; I think Sietel says it well when he states, “… the best public relations programs can be measured in terms of achieving results in building the key relationships on which the organization depends.” (Sietel, 2010). Further, Chapter 5 lays out four questions that public relations professionals must constantly ask: What are we attempting to achieve, and where are we going in that pursuit? What is the nature of the environment in which we must operate? Who are the key audiences we must convince in the process? And how will we get to where we want to be? (Sietel, 2010).

Another extremely important skill for a PR professional to possess is the ability to lay out a clear and concise public relations plan. PR plans can vary in their purpose and aim, but in all cases the plans must be clear-cut and comprehensibly lay out the objectives to achieve the organizational goals. Sietel offers 10 basic items that a public relations plan should include.

1. Executive summary- should lay out the basic summary or outline of the plan.

2. Communication process- discuss how the plan will work, so that everyone can understand and be trained accordingly.

3. Background- discusses what has led to the plan/why it is needed.

4. Situation analysis- what are the major issues?

5. Message statement- the real meat of the plan. Should contain the major ideas & emerging themes.

6. Audiences- who is the target audience for the plan? List in order of importance what public(s) is being targeted.

7. Key audience messages- once it is clear who the plan’s key audiences are, develop short messages that are most important to be understood by them.

8. Implementation- “issues, audiences, messages, media, timing, cost, expected outcomes, and method of evaluations–all neatly spelled out.” (Sietel, p. 84). Summarize the plan as clearly as possible.

9. Budget- more or less, this portion should lay out how much the plan is going to cost.

10. Monitoring & evaluation- this final section should clearly present a method for how the plan’s success (or lack there of) can be measured and evaluated, based on a previously set standard.

(Sietel, 2010)

Tiger Woods is a good example of someone who handled crisis very poorly (image taken from Google Images)

Crises, when they occur, can make or break an organization. How the organization handles a certain crisis can have an extreme influence on how they are viewed by the public. Crises happen all the time, we hear about them happening to companies on the news all the time. I can look back and think of countless organizations that have undergone a crisis that changed their image permanently. Some companies have handled crisis amazingly, and bounced back with poise. Other’s have handled it completely wrong, and those companies have suffered greatly from their mistakes and lapses of judgment. Crises are an extremely important part of public relations, important enough there are crisis teams that specialize in crisis management and assisting companies in the preparation for a potential crisis.

It seems to me that most organizations or individuals go wrong in their methods of communicating during a crisis. What is said/not said during a crisis is everything. Traditionally, we think legally when it comes to communicating, that anything we say can and will be used against us. A lawyer would tell us just to keep our mouths shut for as long as possible, because no one can speculate about unspoken words, right? Wrong. This is not the case when it comes to crisis management in public relations. Sietel notes that 65 percent of people, when they hear the words “no comment”, automatically regard the no-commenter as guilty. “Silence angers the media and compounds the problem.” (Sietel, p. 390). The cardinal rule held by most public relations professionals for communication during a crisis, Sietel notes, is “tell it all and tell it fast”.

Communication that seems honest and up front (whether or not it really is), and is given right off the bat, puts a stop to speculation and the spreading of rumors. Attempts to cover up the truth and save face almost always end badly; just ask BP and Tiger Woods how that worked out for them. The chapter lays out three basic goals is crisis management: terminate the crisis quickly, limit the damage, and restore credibility. credibility. It may not always be an easy fix, but complete honesty always is the best policy.

Taken from Google Images

Social media websites have become one of, if not the most dominating aspect of the internet. There are countless types of social media websites that all vary in purpose and popularity. Some are for purely social connection, some are used for multimedia purposes (music, photos, videos), some are used for fundraising, some are used for businesses and product, and the list goes on. Sietel explains on page 360 that while the Internet & social media websites have changed communications, but is clear in pointing out that they haven’t in any way replaced human relationships and their value. He states that while they are useful to communication, they are merely tools.

The most interesting part of the chapter, I thought, was the portion where Sietel discusses the emergence of Twitter, something that we’ve become very familiar with in COMM 306. He talks about Twitter’s journey and evolution to its relevance in public relations today. According to Sietel, Twitter’s major boom came towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century, around 2009. It became extremely popular among NBA stars, and quickly spread to all celebrities and politician alike. Twitter underwent a lot of criticism as it began to become increasingly widespread. Sietel discusses how critics would call twitter a “little more than a passing fad for ‘people with nothing to say… writing for people with nothing to do'”. However, the criticism didn’t slow Twitter down, as it soon began to become a notable public relations tool. To start, journalists began tweeting about potential stories that they might cover. It has now evolved into a public relations tool that almost no company can afford to ignore. It has become a “direct integrated marketing vehicle” (Sietel, p. 372). Companies can use Twitter to direct Twitterers to their websites, promote their brand name, and directly market their products.

Taken from Google Images

Living in close proximity to Washington D.C. all my life, I have taken multiple field trips to the nation’s capital. I’ve seen the House and the Senate first hand. There is no telling how many times I have passed the White House. Though the sites are something of wonder, I am always astounded by the notion that I am in the presence of the nation’s most powerful politicians and policy makers. While I have been extremely fortunate to grow up in one of the most influential places on Earth, I recognize that others across our country still have never seen or experienced the spectacle that is Washington D.C.

Chapter 12 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” outlines the significant impact that public relations has on multiple facets of our government. This country has been led by many influential people. Most notably, these leaders have been great orators and communicators. The unique ability to convey a message to the American people in conjunction with a charismatic personality is at the foundation of a strong relationship with the press. In past presidencies, approval ratings have largely been affected by the positive or negative press that a president receives. President Reagan, the Great Communicator, followed seven steps to produce a harmonious atmosphere between the press and his cabinet:

1.       Plan ahead.

2.       Stay on the offensive.

3.       Control the flow of information.

4.       Limit reporters’ access to the president.

5.       Talk about the issues you want to talk about.

6.       Speak in one voice.

7.       Repeat the same message many times.

One of the most important, yet demanding, jobs on Capitol Hill is the President’s Press Secretary. While the actual responsibilities of the press secretary vary in differing perspective’s, the most challenging of conflicts to determine is to whom the press secretary has allegiance. According to some, the press secretary should be at the President’s right hand, helping with policy making, while others argue that the press secretary has loyalties to the press and public, and should not knowingly mislead either. In my opinion, this sounds like quite a quandary that I would not like to find myself in the middle of. On page 255, Sietel underscores the importance for the Press Secretary of keeping a consistent character so that the press will never question whether he/she is speaking to them as a “traditional press secretary, or… as a political partisan.” Consistency, steadiness, and reliability are the pillars of creating positive public relations, and this is of the utmost importance in successfully guiding this country.

Chapter 17 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” discusses integrated marketing communications, and how marketing has changed as avenues to do so have evolved and grown immensely in quantity. Social media websites have changed marketing in a huge way. Companies can now market themselves and their products on/through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, product placement, and still in all of the traditional ways (TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards, etc). If a company isn’t keeping up with the new avenues of marketing, they fall behind and are at a serious disadvantage to their competitors.

Chapter 17 clears up a lot of things for me that I’ve always been sort of confused by. Mainly, the distinct differences between marketing, advertising, and public relations. These three categories have always kind of blended together into one for me, and I’ve never really understood the differences. Sietel explains that marketing “literally defined, is the selling of a service or product through pricing, distribution, and promotion” (p. 342). Marketing is a broad concept, that encapsulates anything involved with a company trying to market their particular products. Advertising, on the other hand, is a more specific subset of marketing. Sietel explains advertising as “marketing that involves paying to place your message in more traditional media formats, from newspapers and magazines to radio and television to the Internet and outdoors.” (p. 342) Advertising is, in most cases, what we as consumers see on an everyday basis. We are presented with advertisements on the radio, television, in our favorite magazines/ newspapers, etc. Advertising doesn’t just have to market single product, but can also serve to market the entire brand.

Public relations  is slightly different than both marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising are things that the organizations putting them out have control over. Public relations doesn’t give the organizations much control over the message. Sietel liberally defines PR as “the use of unbiased, objective, third-party endorsement to relay information about that organization’s products and practices.” (p. 342)

Chapter 11 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” discusses the expectation that companies should give back and reach out to the community. The level of which a company chooses to participate in the community is almost equally as important as public opinion, because how much the company gives back to the public, will influence public opinion. In class, we discussed whether or not it is an inherent duty of the organization to participate in philanthropic activities. I believe that it is. A company is part of the community in which it is located; it is my belief that when you are part of something, it is your job/responsibility to participate in it. Also, there are countless advantages for a company when it gives back to the community.

In the book, Sietel discusses four major things that the community expects from a company that resides in it. The first is appearance. This simply says that the building in which a company operates isn’t an eye sore, and that it doesn’t degrade the overall appearance of the town or community. In Charlotte, the community wouldn’t like it if a huge and ugly building was built in Uptown. Uptown Charlotte is an atheistically beautiful city, and it is important to the community that the companies there uphold the image. The second expectation is participation. This lays out that a company is expected to participate in goings on out in the community, or that they should be present in some way during major events. The third expectation is stability. Is the company stable enough to maintain business in the given town/city? Is there a market in the given town/city for that company? Basically, the community wants to be sure that the company isn’t going to up and leave or go out of business. The last expectation is pride.  The community wants the companies within it to have pride in the town/city. For example, I was driving through Richmond on my way home for the weekend, and a lot of companies’ parking garages had banners on them that said “Go Richmond Spiders!”, or, “Proud of our VCU Rams”. This is the kind of thing that a community really appreciates from the company’s that reside within it.

Creating a work environment where common employees and senior executives alike feel inspired and connected as a whole is a challenging and daunting task in today’s workforce. However, after reading chapter 10: Employee Relations in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations,” I learned that there are sure-fire ways to integrate effective social media into an organizational schematic to improve job satisfaction, employee-executive internal communication, and therefore coincidently company public image.

Though the concept seems straightforward, this is the ideal. Obviously, there have been multiple incidences where companies have failed miserably at attaining positive employee relations. This shows that there is a delicate balance that must be acquired to create this utopia which spurs creativity, respect, trust, and credibility. In the wake of the present economic downturn, companies are realizing that internal communication strategies must be put at a premium because whereas employees previously wholly trusted their companies, current workers face the realities of the uncertain market, and are more skeptical of business ethics as a defense mechanism to protection themselves from being laid off or fired. To combat this cynicism, companies must take extra care to protect the loyalty their workers have in their company. Unfortunately for employers, they have quite a few cards stacked against them which they have to circumvent in terms of “candid, clear, and credible” communication. These include the salary gap between senior officers and common workers, a shift toward globalization and merging of companies worldwide, and an increasing trust gap between management and workers.

Although there has been a recent increase in employment opportunities expected for 2011 graduates (Washington Post), we are still in a very uncertain and unstable time. The best methods for companies to instill a sense of camaraderie within the organization focus on five principles – respect, honest feedback, recognition, voice, and encouragement.  In my opinion as a Communications major, of the previously mentioned five principles, “voice” is most crucial. Everyone within a company deserves the right to be included on decision making when relevant, and if CEO’s take special care to provide venues for his/her employees to speak up, the other principles will fall into place. “Voice” is the primary component of communications, and effective voice and communication is grounded in strategies and consistency, but fosters honesty and openness in an organication.