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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.

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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.

Chapter 7: The Law

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I found Chapter 7 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” to be fascinating. It was interesting to read about the relationship or tug-and-pull between the law and public relations. The two have so much in common, yet so many differences at the same time. The book begins by discussing the natural tension that has evolved between the two fields, and the distinct differences in goals that have led to such strained relations.

There is a major difference that separates lawyers from public relations practitioners (check out this link if you’re a Comm student, its pretty helpful). Lawyers advise their clients on what they must do to defend themselves in a court of law. Public relations practitioners, on the other hand, counsel their clients on what they should do to defend themselves in the court of public opinion.

Public relations professionals, in some ways, must be just as knowledgeable about the law as lawyers are. They must fully understand the legal implications of everything they do the PR world. A public relations practitioner must be proficient at weighing both legal and public relations aspects of an issue before making a decision.

Image taken from Google Images

Every time I turn on the news, I feel like I’m always getting an update on the life of the infamous Lindsay Lohan. I usually turn the channel right away, as soon as I realize that I could care less about whether this girl is in jail, out of jail, in rehab, whatever. When’s the last time she was in a movie anyway? Was it Freaky Friday? I honestly have no idea. I also have no idea why her antics can’t escape from my television. I can only assume that people out there actually care about her problems. There are so many more important things going on in our world, and Lindsay Lohan is just one of many examples of pointless news stories. Things like this have absolutely no business being in our news.

This got me thinking about how what is in the media gets chosen for coverage. It seems obvious to me that we don’t need constant updates on Lindsay Lohan’s personal life. One of the key rules in public relations is, report things that are NEWSWORTHY. I turn on the morning news, and literally 10% of the top stories actually seem newsworthy. How is Lindsay Lohan or the royal wedding relevant to me? Is this a problem with the media, or a problem with our society? I feel embarrassed every time I turn the news on.

George Gerber’s Cultivation Theory, states that the more one watches TV the higher their fear levels of the world are. This seems so wrong. The news shouldn’t increase fear; it should simply inform the public of the most important goings on. I realize that what’s most important isn’t always what’s most interesting, but does that matter?

Just something that’s been on my mind, thought I’d share in an ISC Connection.

Image taken from Google Images

Ethics are one of the biggest concerns for almost all organizations in any field, and public relations are no exception. In Chapter 6 of Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations”, he talks about how the field of public relations is all about having credibility, and earning credibility begins with telling the truth. In order to gain credibility, a company has to base their mindset around doing the right thing; ethics is at the heart of this idea. But what exactly is ethics? There are countless ethical theories, and everyone has their own definitions of what it means. On page 106, Sietel notes, “While the meaning of ethics may be hard to pin down, there’s no secret to what constitutes unethical behavior. Unfortunately, it’s all around us.”  This is exactly why ethics is so important. Everyone has their own idea of what ethics means to them, and how you define it may not be the most important thing. Ethics isn’t as much about knowing what to do, it’s about knowing what not to do.

Chapter 6 lays out five ethical theories that each offers a unique perspective.

  •  Utilitarian Ethics- implies considering the “greater good”, rather than what’s best for the individual.
  •  Aristotelian Ethics- how an individual should best live.
  •  Kant’s Categorical Imperative – says that a person is acting morally if his/hers actions are as if they are establishing a universal law that would govern all others in similar circumstances.
  •  Mill’s Principle of Utility – “seeking the greatest happiness for the greatest number”
  •  Judeo-Christian Ethics – the golden rule; “loving your neighbors as yourself”. Treat others, as you would want to be treated.

“Because the practice of public relations is misunderstood by so many—even including some of those for whom public relations people work—public relations people, in particular, must be ethical” (Sietel, p. 107). This quote in Chapter 6 really made me realize how important ethics is in the public relations field. People working in the public relations field must ALWAYS tell the truth, but they don’t always have to tell everything.

I thought Chapter 4 in Sietel’s “The Practice of Public Relations” was one of the most interesting chapters thus far. It discusses public opinion, its importance, and the numerous ways to manage it. It seems clear to me that public opinion is one of the most important items for any organization. If you don’t have the respect of the public, or if you have a poor public image, the organization will almost inevitably fail. Public opinion is key to any company. Look at some of the companies that the public really treasures, like Apple. Apple has a great public image, and they’re one of the most successful companies in the world. The contrary can also be said for an organization with a bad public image, like Toyota recently. When it came to light that Toyota vehicles were malfunctioning to the point that they were killing people, the company took a blow in the eyes of the public.

But this chapter doesn’t just discuss public opinion; it goes into persuasion, and how to sway public opinion, which I thought was the most interesting part. Sietel describes 4 kind of evidence that will persuade.

1. Facts – Facts, when presented the right way, are undeniable. People are persuaded by facts because there is absolutely no questions as to if they’re true or not (in most cases). Facts are evident in so many ads that I see on TV everyday, and are especially persuasive when they have some shock factor. Take a look at this commercial intended to raise awareness for autism. The “Autism Speaks” organization does a great job of using facts to persuade. 

2. Emotion – Appealing to the emotions of people is also an extremely useful tool in persuasion. When a persuasive media tugs at one’s heart strings, or makes them feel a sense of pride, they are much more likely to buy into them. A perfect example of this type of persuasion is the animal cruelty commercials that want you to give money to the animal shelters. They play the sad  Sarah McLachlan tunes, show the faces of the dejected cats and dogs. One can’t help but want to give money!

3. Personalizing – People respond to personal experience. When you see an individual speaking about something, or trying to persuade in regards to something that they have personally experienced, it is much more believable. For example, there’s been a lot of organizations put together in the past decade based around prevention and raised awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. These organizations do a good job when they feature a mother in there ads that lost a child to a texting and driving accident telling her story. It’s believable because she has been through it.

4. Appealing to “you” – Lastly, people always want to know what’s in it for them. If there’s a personal benefit or reward for themselves they’re much more likely to act on a persuasive media.

Chapter 8: Research

Chapter 8 in Sietels “The Practice of Public Relations” basically summed up everything I have learned so far this semester in my Communication Research class with Professor el-Nawawy. I’m putting almost every idea from Chapter 8 into use right now while doing my final research project for that class, so most things that were discussed were a review for me. But that’s not to say this isn’t all very important information. Research is a huge part of communication; communication professors have told me how valuable a skill research is in almost all communication fields, so understanding how to do it well is an important skill.

Some people find research to be a fascinating thing, I personally think it’s a pretty boring subject. There’s so much that goes into doing research, and its so much harder than it seems. This chapter just scratches the surface of everything under the umbrella of research. One thing that I found interesting in this chapter was the section titled “Research & The Web. This is something that we didn’t discuss in our Comm. Research class; we didn’t do any evaluations of research on websites.

I thought it was interesting when Sietel discusses “hits and eyeballs” on page 163, and talks about how they’re not always the most viable measurements of a websites popularity. He goes on to list some key questions that one should ask when evaluating a website. These are all extremely important ideas, especially for an organization that might have just come out with a new website. Its important to be able to understand what viewers are coming to your website for, what they are looking at, what they aren’t looking at, how far they’re going past the home page, and whether or not the site is serving its purpose. This seems like it would extremely valuable information for someone in the strategic communications field, and its something that I had never previously given that much thought.