Robert Brown

Archive for the ‘Public Relations’ Category

Chapter 16: Corporate Communication

In Public Relations on December 8, 2009 at 5:40 pm

What you’ve read in the textbook up to this point has been about how organizations think about and use the principles, strategies and tactics of public relations to accomplish specified objectives and generate positive relationships with opinion leaders and stakeholders. Many, if  not most, of those organizations are for-profit corporations: organizations in business to produce a profit for their owners or, if the corporation is public, for the shareholders.

The central question of this chapter, if not of the entire text, is this: How does corporate communications differ from other kinds of public relations – nonprofit PR, marketing PR, crisis communication, investor relations, consumer relations, media relations, advocacy PR, lobbying, international/global PR and any other kind of public  relations?

Understanding the difference between corporate communications and other kinds of public relations is no simple matter, but it’s even more difficult to understand for anyone without real-world corporate experience. And it’s really more than a matter of understanding what a famous manufacturing or service corporation – MicroSoft, Google, Procter & Gamble, General Motors, AIG, Bank of America, Exxon/Mobil – does for its PR activities. It’s critical to understand corporate communications at a deeper, more fundamental level— the level at which we understand what value a corporation like Google or Ford or General Mills offers for sale, of course, not only to consumers but to society itself – to stakeholders including government, to philanthropies (charities), to healthcare, education, to sports and entertainment, to media, and across the board of the economic, productive sectors of society.

What would this country – any country – be without the products and services generated by  the corporations in the paragraph above? You couldn’t listen to your iPod, fill your gas tank or even have a car in the first place. Governments depend on the payment of taxes by corporations, but also largely from consumers like you and me who are taxed on the iPhones, Big Macs and Sox tickets we buy. Yes, some of the revenue isn’t in the form of direct taxes – some of it comes indirectly. But you and I would not enjoy the quality of life we do without corporations  — yes, profit-seeking corporations – producing the X-boxes and Wii’s and putting winning Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Patriots teams on the field to attract our patronage, our dollars.

Just as “It’s a Wonderful Life” demonstrates each  Christmas that what’s bad isn’t banks or bankers – it’s liars and cheaters and thieves and heartlessness. The savings and loan association operated by the Jimmy Stewart character is the heart and soul of the community itself – the money the depositors trust the bank with is repaid to the community in terms of affordable mortgages and affordable loans that are  the  seedbed of new businesses which without money would remain only dreams.

But of course corporations are rarely adored. We may love the Whopper but hardly think about the corporation that cooks it up. Yes, we may think Apple and BMW and Zappos are cool. But how do we feel about Texaco, CitiBank and Dow Chemical? Yet we don’t want to  live – at least most of us don’t – without iPhones, Beemers and affordable shoes.

Does this seem obvious to you? Perhaps. But then ask yourself why so many, if not most corporations are loathed when the breach the surface of our consciousness via the media – newspapers, films, TV. How are corporations and CEOs portrayed on “The Simpsons,” or in feature films like “Up in the Air,” just released starring George Clooney?

So why is that? What does it say about you and me that we can love the product but despise the producer? Are we hypocrites? Self-righteous phonies? Or are we coolly able to compartmentalize our feelings and actions, thumbing our nose at Wal-Mart while benefiting from Wal-Mart’s low-priced items?

So what does this have to do with corporate communications? Why do corporations engage in “reputation management,” stage big, fancy events to demo new products, send out news releases about their contributions to the Jimmy Fund, hold press conferences when they hire a new CEO, prepare for terrible things like assassins and arsonists, require employees to attend sexual harassment training, create glitzy web sites with advertainment geared to appeal to young consumers of snack food?

Also ask yourselves whether nonprofit corporations are not also business organizations not so very different from famous brand-name companies? What kind of competition and pressure is part of the lives of the employees of Oxfam, MassPirg and other issue-advocacy nonprofits? Are these nonprofits not competing for a share of mind, a share of dollars? Are not the fundraisers at our College courting wealthy donors such as Jack Welch to pony up $1 million for a new dorm, a new dining common, a new library to replace the collapsing one?

Ask yourself whether you could live without the service provided by Visa or Master Charge or Discover Ask yourself what you want for yourself in this life – and to what extent your getting it will require you to enter into relationships with for-profit corporations.

You already know that it’s not hard to call out the deceptive mortgage company, the oil company  charging $4 for a gallon of gasoline, the  electric utility that is raising its rates – or the  College that sends you a letter informing you your fees will increase by a $100 next semester, the textbook company that charges $150 for a book you hardly crack all semester and which you are dying to sell back – to the bookstore that will  only give  you $30 for it.

It’s easy to call out thieves and frauds like Bernie Madoff.  But do you really suppose that Bernie Madoff and Countrywide Financial and AIG are representative of for-profit corporations? And if you do, ask yourself why you think so – all the while looking forward to one day owning a home, driving a spiffy car and watching your monster Mac load huge web sites in a flash.

Yes, we’re a little schizo when it comes to our perceptions and behavior in the marketplace. But is that so odd, when we look closely, look in the  mirror and examine our choices coolly and honestly?

Unless and until you really think through  these questions, you won’t be ready to  begin to understand corporate communications. And even then, I doubt you  will be able to grasp it until you have some real-world experience not merely as a consumer of corporate products but as an employee of one of those famous but faceless, stereotyped and media-washed corporations.


Chapter 17: Technological, Global and Organizational Issues in PR

In Public Relations on December 8, 2009 at 1:57 am

Technology — what is commonly called Web 1.0 (web sites), Web 2.0 (interactive web sites) and Web 3.0 (Second Life and other highly advanced, game-oriented computing and cloud computing) — has transformed (but not killed) public  relations. If public relations is concerned with relationships, conversations, negotiation, listening, research, engagement, crisis management, influence and reputation, then we only have to turn to Facebook to note that that site has more than 350 million users, and that Twitter is now valued at $1 billion.

Technology thus has implications for media relations, investor relations, marketing communication  — you get the picture.

This chapter covers the impact of technology on public relations. The chapter also turns the light on the emergence of the globalized economy — Toyota makes some of its vehicles in locations around the globe, with local materials and labor; Starbucks baristas serve up latte in Beijing and Berlin. In fact, a Case Study is about Starbucks opening stores all over the globe and seeking to become a global brand — like Coke and Chevy and Madonna and Obama.

If the Internet hasn’t obliterated PR, it has certainly changed PR’s “two-way” communication to a multiple-perspective, 360 degree approach to communication.

Check out Laura Fiton’s Pistachio  consulting, C.C. Chapman’s podcasting business, Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 and read Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody. Visit Guy Kawasaki’s  blog. These are among the new rock stars of public  relations, as it has converged with marketing, advertising and interpersonal conversation.

For this reason, these brilliant folks — in their 20s and 30s for  the most part  — have had a huge impact of the very nature and practice of public  relations. And while some provocative bloggers have pronounced the death of PR, the reality is probably just the opposite: They’ve expanded and multiplied the power and importance of public relations in the early years of  the twenty-first century.

For more about public relations, check out my blog,

Chapter 14: Public Affairs

In Public Relations on November 30, 2009 at 1:57 am

It must be after prime time: We’ve gotten into Public Affairs. No, not Bill Clinton and Monica — although, come to think of it, former President Clinton’s affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was a silver-plated sex scandal that was most certainly both a very public affair and a matter of public affairs in the PR sense.  Bad Boy Bill’s sorry escapade got him impeached by his outraged and opportunistic political enemies, but not convicted.

But enough of that PG-13 story. What you public relations students need to know about public affairs is that, like investor relations and crisis communication, it’s a specialty of public relations — one of PR’s specialized applications. And  like the other PR special applications, the essence of public affairs is all about the special public on whom the practice of public affairs is focused. Where for investor relations the special public is called the investment community (small and institutional investors, business and financial media, stock brokers and buy-and sell-side analyst, government regulators), for public affairs the  special public is government at all levels. Or more precisely, public affairs is an organization’s practice of relationship-creation, maintenance and repair with local, state and federal government.

Public Affairs is all about  politics and power, as opposed to  plain-vanilla marketing and sales. So when your electric utility wants to raise the  rate you pay for  your power, it must persuade the state regulatory agency of the pressing need to do so. And when your state college seeks to change its name from “college” to “university,”  it must allay the concerns of the Board of Higher Education, as well as the state legislative committee on higher education, not to mention the  editorial page editors of the local newspaper.

Twenty years ago, I was asked to write a speech for the CEO of a local insurance company. The company was seeking to influence opinion leaders in congress that the company ought to be able to compete on a level playing field with banks by being allowed to issue credit cards, just as banks do. Such permission would require congress to alter or reform a collection of financial regulatory legislation passed during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The speech, which the CEO delivered at a general meeting of the Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C. organization concerned with public policy matters, was delivered to an audience that included congresspersons, their staffs, the media, and individuals of influence in the business community.

The opposite side of the coin of public affairs is called government relations — that is, government’s attempt to communicate effectively with us, the citizens of the American democracy. So when President Obama delivers his televised speech on his decision to send (or not to send) troops to Afghanistan, he will be engaging in government relations — the public affairs practiced by government when it seeks to enter in a conversation with, and influence, the public.

The molecular structure of public affairs and government relations, so to speak, comprises issues — those debatable, often hotly contested matters in the public interest. Should Social Security be privatized? Should the US health care system be “reformed,” and if so, should public funds be available for abortions (also called women’s reproductive health). Of course, words matter a great deal for the framing of these issues, these debates, these arguments. So do symbolic activities such as protest marches and boycotts.

Here is the Lattimore chapter’s segmented outline:

Preview. What is Public Affairs? Public Affairs for not-for-profit organizations. Public  Affairs in Business. Public Affairs Tasks. Understanding the political system (electoral activities, legislative activities, politicking from the grass rooms, state and local public affairs, internal political communication). ”
Governmental Public Affairs (background of public relations in American government, importance and scope of governmental public relations, function of governmental public relations, practice of governmental public relations, using the Internet, Public Relations and political campaigns).

Case Study: “Education Department Paid Commentator to Promote Law”


Lobbying. Yes, it has a bad name. But that’s not because it’s unethical or illegal. It’s actually very much in keeping with the proper business of a democratic society — interested groups seeking to influence public opinion in their favor. Lobbyists are required to register with governmental regulators who monitor their activities. From the left to the right of the political spectrum — National Rifle Association to Emily’s List — much money (some say far too much) flows into the political system through political action committees (PACs). Money can corrupt the system, of course. But lobbying itself is consistent with what PR scholar Robert Heath has called “the wrangle in the marketplace.”

Chapter 13: Investor Relations

In Public Relations on November 16, 2009 at 12:15 am

Sharon Merrill Associates, Inc. ( does it. So does Donna LaVoie’s agency, located in Salem, does it. Small units of publicly held companies (companies whose shares are publicly traded on stock exchanges (e.g., NYSE, Nasdaq) do it.

Birds do it. Bees do it. Even educated fleas do it.

OK. Maybe they don’t do it: practice investor relations.

I did it. I wrote annual reports for the Chief Financial Office of publicly traded companies. I drafted quarterly earnings releases. I wrote speeches and presentations for the CEO and CFO for the  company’s annual meeting of shareholders. I wrote slide shows about the company’s senior officers’ meetings with the New York Society of Financial Analysts.

As you have been reading in this blog, public relations is all about the creation of healthy relationships with a variety of “communities” such as the communities in which an organization does business (Salem State’s with Salem). Investor relations is the creation of relationships — and the maintenance, enhancement and sometimes repair of relationships) — with the investment community.

So what is the investor community?

The surprising answer: you. All of us. Anyone who has a 401K. Anyone whose employer offers them the benefit of salting away part of their paycheck in some savings plan, retirement fund, pension plan. Those plans are managed by individuals who invest employees’ savings in equities — stocks and bonds and other financial instruments. And as you well know from watching TV and listening to radio and exposure to other mass media, the value of these equities and instruments and currencies rises and falls virtually minute by minute, as reported on the Dow Jones average (of 30 leading stocks), and Standard & Poor’s and Nasdaq and the Wilshire index and other indices.

To break down the investment community into more manageable segments, there’s you and me — the individual investor. We comprise about 20% of the stock market. Maybe less. Then there are the giants — the institutional investors: pension funds, banks, corporations, labor unions. They comprise about 80% of the millions and millions of shares traded every day on the stock markets. There are the business media — the reporters and editors and cable news business on air talent who report and interpret the business news. There’s the wonky analyst community — the “buy side” and “sell side” — whose job it is to dig into the flood of sales, profit, taxes, law suits, mergers, acquisitions, hirings, firings, crises and scandals that make business, financial and economic news 24/7. The “buy  side” analysts are the math geniuses and interpretive geniuses who recommend to their company (banks, insurance companies, manufacturing companies) which stock and bonds to buy, hold and sell. The “sell side” analysts work at brokerage (and other related institutions), where they study the financial performance and prospects and risks of publicly traded companies and write reports that recommend to the retail stock brokers which companies and industries (technology, health care, green energy, pharmaceutical) the brokers should be recommending to their client customers — individual investors like you and me, as well as institutional investors.

I know. It sounds a little more complicated than plain vanilla PR that markets products, services, entertainers, politicians and ideas. But it’s all PR, really — that is, the dependent variable is Relationships, Reputation, Opinion. That’s what public relations is “selling.”  But that selling — to be effective and ethical — needs to be based on the facts. Spin may work for a while, but it’s very rarely a horse for the long ride. You and I may be stupid — sure. But we’re not going to be stupid forever. We catch on sooner or later when we’re being sold a bill of goods.

At least, that’s what I — a glass-half-full type — thinks. Cynics are rather less sanguine. I trust my financial advisor. In fact, without trust — as we’ve seen so many times with the Enrons — the whole system fails. The Enrons of the world are the liars, the fakers, the falsifiers of documents, the inside information traders — all illegal practices punished by the watchdog bodies of the financial markets — the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), and the attorneys general of the 50 states. But as the humongous ripoff artist, ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff proved —  cheating smart folks out of $50 billion — even the regulatory bodies were pathetically lax and clueless and understaffed and underfunded, permitting Madoff to get away with things that amazed even him. He’s now in jail for a very long time — maybe forever. But he had a few decades of lavish living at the expense of all the people who trusted him.

Without trust there is no commerce — only chaos. But as Ronald Reagan used to say, “Trust, but count the cards.”  (I paraphrase from a senior memory.)

So what is the chapter about? Everything I’ve been telling you — and more and less. Here are the pieces:

A growing interest in investor relations

Maintaining investor confidence (characteristics of a corproate communications strategy, specific objectives for practitioners)

Providing public information (SEC regulations; Sarbanes-Oxley Act; Stock Exchange Policies; The Disclosure Issue)

Crisis issues in financial relations (Tender Offers; Proxy Fights)

Audiences for Financial Relations (individual stockholders, financial analysts, the financial press)

Communication Strategies in Financial Relations (annual meetings, annual reports)

CASE STUDY: The WorldCom Scandal

Ch 12: Consumer Relations and Marketing

In Public Relations on November 4, 2009 at 11:06 pm

One of the first questions asked in a public relations course is about the differende between PR and marketing. This chapter provides details answers and examples beyond the usual “4 P’s of marketing (product, price, place and promotion).

Broadly speaking, marketing is the one and only management function that generates cash — that brings in sales. PR doesn’t do that — although it seeks to support marketing’s efforts to ring the cash register and sell products and services. But PR is not a sales function; its work — listening, speaking, writing, reading, negotiating, conflict management, publishing, designing — is based on the art and science of communication. Marketing is deeply concerned with the identification of consumers — with the location of markets and the splitting of those markets in market segments (a process known as “market segmentation”).

As for consumer relations, that PR function has to do with addressing the needs, wants, confusion and complaints of individuals who buy, sell and trade the goods and services produced by manufacturing and marketing companies such as Procter & Gamble, Toyota, MicroSoft, Salem Hospital, the United Church of Christ, the American Automobile Association and Salem State College.

To the marketer — to the advertiser — brand is God. Mercedes. BMW. Prada. CBS. Google. Starbucks. Coca-Cola. Wal-Mart. Harvard. Yale. New England Patriots. Boston Red Sox. Jimmy Fund. Boston Celtics. Nike. Conservativism. Liberalism. Republicans. Democrats. Red Cross. Britney. Disney. Marc Jacobs. South Beach (Miami). Southwest Airlines. Leno. Letterman. Saturday Night Live. Clint Eastwood. Sony. Bank America. Goldman-Sachs.MLB. NFL.  USA.

As you can see from the random list above, some brands are classics, some are highly rated now, some have fallen on hard times, some are emerging. Individual known as brand managers are deeply tied into the success or failure of the brand-driven companies that employ them, such as Procter & Gamble. The managers use every tool at their disposal — PR, social media, advertising in print, broadcast, radio, product placement — to achieve the goals of sales, market penetration, brand extension and so forth.

The chapter breaks down consumer relations and marketing into the following pieces:

Teaming PR with Marketing (reinvigorating an older brand; exporting an established brand to new markets; reinforcing brand positioning; getting an image makeover; anticipating what’s next)

The Starting Point

Applying PR techniques to Marketing (product and service design; distribution; communication; CEO as marketing spokesperson; integrating disciplines and technology)

Consumer Relations Bridges the Corporation and the Consumer (the challenges of consumer relations; know your consumer)

Public Relations and Consumer Affairs (consumer informaion and education; generally satisfied but not always served; unfair and deceptive practices; handling consumer companies; technology and complaints; marketing and complaints; the corporate liaison)

Case Study: Operation Geek Squad

Study of Best Buy’s purchase of the Geek Squad, a company that was based in Minneapolis. The case study details how Best Buy introduced and deployed the Geek Squad, and differentiated its services from competitors that offer technical support.

PR was a major strategy used to drive Best Buy’s communication objectives:

• Raise Geek Squad awareness

• Protect the established brand identity of the Geek Squad while introducing it as a new customer service unit of Best Buy

• Differentiate Geek Squad from its tech-service providing competitors

Exdecution: Included offbeat local and national events

Evaluation: Feature stories placed in 45 ofr the launch markets. 3 of 5 features mentioned Geek Squad agents as tech  experts. Competitors mentioned rarely in these stories. [Simple content analysis and clip counting technique used to evaluate, according to the case study.]


Chapter 11 Community Relations

In Public Relations on November 4, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Public Relations is concerned with certain broad outcomes that are generated by the work of public  relations planning, strategy, tactics and execution. One of these outcomes is relationships — positive, productive, healthy, mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and its publics (or stakeholders), including employees (internal communication), investors (stock market/investment community), consumers, government (public affairs) and communities (the cities and towns and other locales where an organization and its offices, plants and other facilties are located).

For colleges and universities, the community relationship is often called “town and gown.” Salem State has an impact on the daily lives of the residents of Salem around the college — but also on the communities of the North Shore. Whenever Salem State breaks ground for a new building — library, dining commons, dorm — the residents worry about the impacts: noise, pollution, parking, and the notorious behavior of college students, of course.

Harvard University established its Extension School ( to open its doors for free (and now for a fee) to the city of Cambridge. Such schools  were established for the purpose of creating, maintaining, repairing and enhancing community relationships with the city of Cambridge.  Salem State offers its Speakers Series, as well as art shows, theater, musical performances, and certain lectures free and open to the community around the College.

The chapter’s segments include:

Importance of community relations

Interdependence of the org/community relationship

The community relations process (setting objectives; knowing the community; guidlelines for effective community relations programs; commuicating with communities; channels of communication)

Functions of community relations (when an org. moves; criteria for community relations activities; local government and political action; corporate philanthropy)

The challenge of community activism (for example, in Salem, see, the web  site of a health-related community activist group that sought to restrain the Salem power plant (owned by Pacific Gas & Electric) from polluting as the result of its coal-burning processes.

The Case Study is Liz Claiborne Inc, which launched an innovative high school curriculum for its “Love is not Abuse” campaign.

The issue: raising awareness about domestic violence.

Also check out Verizon Wireless’ Help Line program that gives free cellphones and minutes to battered women in shelters.

Rianna could well have used these sorts of outreach community relations programs, couldn’t she? Famous and rich as she is, it didn’t protect her from the violent temper of her boyfriend, Chris Brown.

Claiborne research found that l in 4 teenage girls have been pressured in unwanted sex. And more than 1 in 4 teen girls reported enduring verbal abuse. 80% of teens regarded verbal abuse as a serious isse. 1 in 3 teenss  reported knowing a friend or peer has has been hit, punched, kicked, slapped, choked and physically hurt by a partner.

Clairborne’s Community Relations Program:

• Set up a national advisory board on teen dating abuse.

• Organized devlopment of a high school curriculum targeted to 9th grade studeents to help teens prevent and deal with abuse and sexual pressure.


• Press conference in Washington DC at National Press Club to announce the program.

• Publicity  was generated by the press conference.

• Love is Not Abuse curriculum piloted in 16 schools during fall 2005.

Evaluation: Ongoing

Chapter l0 Employee Communication

In Public Relations on November 4, 2009 at 10:06 pm

The Lattimore chapter is about the kind of communication organizational management engages in with employees. The chapter is segmented into the following pieces:

The Role of employee communication

The  concept of organizational culture (Establishing communication policy; organizational  change)

The media  used to engage employees in communication (Objectives of internal media; starting internal media; controlling internal media; occasional and special media)

The Case Study examines how West Pharmaceutical Services, a global drug delivery technology company, managed employee communication after an explosion occured in one of the firm’s plants in North Carolina. The case is a study in crisis communication, which is itself  a specialty of public relations and operations management.

My notes follow:

Purpose of employee communication: More satisfied, productive employees who, in turn, help achieve organizational goals and improve relations with customers, communities, and investors (all of those are specialties or functions of public relations).

Management keeps up with trends in employee demographics and psychographics.  Projections for labor  force in 2008 included: women accounting for 48% of the labor force; Baby Boomers (44-62 years old; born l946-1964) growing significantly; Asian labor force up sharply; Hispanic labor force outnumbering the African-American labor force; Youth (l6-24 years old) labor force growing more rapidly than the overall labor force.

All of these trends drive planning because organizations must adjust — just as colleges have adjusted to the millennial generation (born after 1979), a generation that grew up with technology (thus classrooms are increasingly “smart” and wired and teaching is increasingly tech-driven or even online).

One way of looking at organizational communication is directionally: Top down (from management to employees); horizontally (management to management); and bottom up (employees to management).

Human Resources (formerly called Personnel) communicates, of course, with employees — when an employee is hired, promoted, fired, choosing medical and other benefits, having job-related conflicts. But it’s the public relations people who do all the other communication planning and execution — the employee newsletter or magazine to inform employees about company news, awards, new products, mergers and so forth; company training videos; blast emails; memos. So-called “occasional and special internal media” includes literature explaining company policies; reference material about benefits, insurance programs and recreation programs; leaflets, inserts, enclosures, printed speeches (by top executives at company functions and external forums); message displays (posters); bulletin boards; posters; exhibits and displays; electronic media.

Currently, organizations are turning to blogging and microblogging (Twitter) to communicate messages (see, a blog created buy Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication and Technology: it contains a list of hot blogs for communicators); see also, another PR blog. A blog called foces on wikis, e-talking, e-writing, tribal marketing, e-influence and online communities; by a VP of Cooper Katz, a PR firm in New York City; relations, which covers PR specialties from the Netherlands.


Organizational Culture: “the character of an organization.” Org (or corporate) culture differs from organization to organization. The “culture” of Salem State differs from the culture of UMass Amherst, and both differ from the culture of Bunker Hill Community, Wellesley, Oberlin and UCLA. Each college or university has its own history, heroes, rules, norms, colors, teams, challenges, victories and defeats, myths and realities. Same with every family, every city, every town.  Anthropologists  — culture scientists — categorize cultures in many ways — for example, as authoritarian (centralized decision making) or partricipative (teamwork drives decision making). There are Work Hard/Play Hard Cultures. And year after year, the University of Indiana at Bloomington gets on magazine lists as a “party school,” while University of Chicago culture is characterized as studious, intellectual. Google culture is considered innovative, playful, creative. MicroSoft culture has been thought of as brutally competitive, driven — in the mold of its  founder, Bill Gates.

Employees want to know management’s policies on work, vacation, computer use, promotion, conflict, health and much more. Employee communication from management must provide clear and comprehensive information on these matters.


Chapter 9 Media Relations

In Public Relations on October 19, 2009 at 1:30 am

PR is about creating, maintaining, enhancing and, if necessary, repairing positive, productive relationships — a two-way street between you, the PR practitioner, and the reporter or editor or TV or radio producer — or between you, the PR practitioner, and the influential blogger or e-zine editor.

Without good media relationships, there’s no hope of any steady stream of positive publicity — publicity that puts your client/your organization in the best light that the facts allow.

How can you build relationships with the media?

• Be prepared. Know your client’s message.

• Don’t pretend to know technical details about your client’s product or service unless you really know the details. And if you don’t, be prepared to connect the media pro with someone at your client’s organization who does.

• Don’t lie or mislead.

• Don’t send badly written news releases — with factual or grammatical errors or typos. Don’t send news releases empty of news.

• Don’t pitch a reporter whose newspaper (or radio show or TV show or blog) you’re not familiar with.

• Create a conversation with media pro’s by knowing what they’re writing about, and commenting on it with them. Don’t always be broadcasting or pitching or hyping. That’s so 199o’s. The social media have changed all that. It’s all about the conversation now.

• Be reliable to the media. When you send out a news release or pitch letter with your contact numbers on it, don’t drop the ball by being unavailable when a call comes.

• Come up with newsworthy ideas to pitch, based on CITPPM — consequence, interest, timeliness, proximity, prominence and magnitude. (List is from Carol Howard, On Deadline — a good book about media relations.)


This chapter is about the media — newspapers, newswrites, magazines, radio, TV and cable, online news services.

There’s a sample US FDA news release (figure 9.1). It’s pretty dry stuff. Check out the web sites of famous companies  — ones you’ve heard of — and click on their Press Rooms and similar links to see their news releases.

One traditional tool for PR prople is the MEDIA KIT,  a collection of news releases, product samples, fact sheets, backgrounders, 3-paragraph bio’s (biographies) of client top managers (CEO, President, VPs, CFO, CMO, CIO, etc.)

PR pro’s sometimes send VNRs (video news releases) to TV stations, hoping that the station will use all or part of the VNR. Ethical TV people identify the source of such material.

Crisis Communication. There’s a little wedge of crisis PR management material in this chapter. I teach a course COM 466: Crisis Communication. A whole darn course! I taught a graduate seminar on crisis com management in Bogota, Colombia last July (2009). Crisis is no small matter — or rare happenstance. We live with it day in, day out. Real crises: Katrina. September 11. Possibly, swine flu. Oil spill disaster caused by Exxon Valdez (1989). Tylenol poisoning deaths (1982, Chicago. Amtrak crashes. And there are countless other crises — Bill Clinton’s Monica scandal (causing his impeachment but not conviction). Watergate break in (causing resignation of President Nixon, l974).

The best text I know about for crisis com students is Ongoing Crisis Communication by Tim Coombs. It’s the text I use for undergrads and graduate students, alike.

PR pro’s have to deal with crises — Virginia Tech shootings. Colombine. PR people at those educational institutions must be able to communicate rationally and calmly and factually and honestly and, if possible, reassuringly, with the organization’s internal, external, and media constituencies (publics, stakeholders).

So be familiar with the media relations/crisis com chapter.

Chapter 7 Action and Communication

In Public Relations on October 1, 2009 at 2:30 am

Hey — this chapter  is where the action is. This chapter is what you thought PR was before you got into this intro class — right? Or maybe what you thought about PR was that it was about “just” something. Just PR. Just spin. Just hype. (Or — wait a second! Isn’t that what  advertising is about: hype?

In “Madmen,” the Emmy Award-winning cable TV show about advertising in the l950s and l960s, the handsome Don Hamm (he’s from Newton, Mass., by the way) has one of those visions of his father, a whiskey-drinking rough-hewn guy, who tells his handsome, successful advertising account executive son, “You don’t even make anything, do you? You just sell bull – – – -!”

Which is why what every good ad or PR person should not do. Because the whole point is to zig when people expect you will zag — to tell the truth when everyone expect you to lie, to spin, to pour out the hype.

But I digress.

The 7th chapter is about Step 3 of the PR process — RO Programming E. (ROPE.)

Remember the case study of the hospital from chapters 5 (figuring out the problemv via research and then putting together a strategic  plan that’s driven by objectives)?

Well, chapter 7  is about executing the plan. Implementing it (same thing). What this chapter is getting at is that what “creativity” means in PR (and advertising) has to be judged in terms of how creative products (news releases, ads, speeches, op eds, brochures, fact sheets, advertorials) must be driven by the PR process — that is, driven by objectives and strategies.

How is creativity judged by a PR firm’s (or an ad firm’s) clients? What clients want is to achive their own objectives. To sell more stuff. To penetrate new markets. To fill their theater, sell their CDs, elect their candidate, get their issue voted into law.

It’s great to have a plan. But that plan has to be executed — effectively, gracefully, without embarrassing errors. Memorably. The creation of the Aflac duck is one such brilliant piece of creative advertising execution. For heaven sake, who the heck would remember a company with a name like Aflac — when we already have our brain space stuffed with competitors like MetLife, Prudential, John Hancock and other iconic companies. But along came the creative geniuses to tackle the non-memorability of the awkwardly named Aflac, and what they came up with (maybe after a couple of Cuervos) was Quack Quack — that the insurance company name sounds like the very familiar voice a duck makes. Donald Duck. Daisy Duck. Cartoon ducks.

Brilliant! Stupid, yes. But brilliant in a strategic and tactical and creative and objective-driven sense. Fabulous.

PR is ever so much more invisible than advertising. We don’t know whether JFK wrote “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country”  — whether the line was ghostwritten for him by speechwriter Ted Sorensen. That’s because PR people are ghosts. We are paid to be invisible. We are paid so that the brilliant things we write and otherwise create can be credited not us but to the people who pay us — our clients.

Step 3 for Cedar Hospital included a concise them: “Quality people, quality care.” Why those words? Because the quickly and clearly express the message to be driven home.

And once the message was determined, next came decisions about the channels or media to project that message  — and which channels would be used to target which publics (or audiences).

PR is all about strategic thinking.

The hospital had to target internal and external constituences (audiences, stakeholders, publics, audiences).

For employees, doctors and other publics: signs painted over the hospital entrances. Tee shirts with the message of quality care. (See the chapter for more details.)

To target external publics (and gussy up public opinion that the fact — the truth — is that the hospital provides good care) the hospital bought advertising to place in newspapers.

Patient feedback was magnified through the placing of survey results showing positive evaluations of the hospital around the hospital. A program called Employee of the Month was instituted. Awards and recognitions and newsletters are classic components of employee communication programs (internal PR).

Chapter 7 shows how the com theory of diffusion of ideas worked for the hospital. Each target audience was selected in terms of their situational characteristics. (See how the chapter describes the role of different types of publics: primary, intervening and moderating — and latent, aware or active.

Remember the diffusion steps of awareness, interests, evaluation, trials, adoption.

Channels of influence: Mass media. Biased intermediary. Unbiased third  parties. Significant others. Personal experience.

This diffusion process is used by social scientists to explain how innovations (Facebook, Twitter, Wiggio, iPod) are adopted by society.

In the early stages, mass media are most effective. But as time wears on, the weight shifts to the influence of significant others.

Helping this  process along are pressure and special-interest groups (Mothers Against Drunk Driving; the American Petroleum Institute).

Stakeholder Analysis: A method for differentiating among publics. The idea is to maximize cooperation among stakeholders.

Writing Principles

Because writing is THE most desirable skill a PR job seeker can have — according to research that surveyed practitioners and PR scholars — the last part of this chapter is worth special attention.

But, first, what are the characteristics of effective writing. Here are 5 “C’s”:

1. Clarity. Don’t confuse people.

2. Correctness.  No bad grammar. No inappropriate tone. No factual errors.

3. Conciseness.  Just Do It!  Aflac!

4. Concreteness.  Be specific. Names, persons, places. Details.

5. Context.  Don’t just tell the punchline. Tell the premise. Horse walks into a bar. Bartender say, “Say — why the long face?”

6. Comprehensiveness.  Don’t go on forever — but don’t leave out info that’s essential to the meaning of the message.

You say that RUBRIC? It spells out the way effective and ineffective PR writing is judged.

So what kinds of things do PR people write? Here are a few examples:

Press (news) releases. Pitch letters. Fact sheets. Backgrounders. Media Alerts.

Speeches. PSAs. Advertorials. White papers. Reports. Brochures.

And I haven’t even gotten to writing for the web and social media (blogs, microblogs such as Twitter, flickr).

Writing is a specialized skill

So what are the principal media? See Table 7.2 of the text:

TV, magazines, radio, newspapers, direct mail, outdoor posters, point-of-purchase displays, transit posters, movie trailers., advertising, papmplets and booklets

For social media PR google Brian Solis.

The chapter delves into such important communication principles affecting effective writing as:

controlled and uncontrolled media

selective perception


The Jerry Hendrix Public Relations Cases textbook identifies the following fundamental principles of effective communication:

1. source credibility (we — the receivers — have to “buy” the sender of the message)

2. salient (relevant) information (we the receivers have to find that the message means something important to us — because it’s all about us — i’s WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)

3. effective nonverbal cues (90% of what we receivers perceive is NONverbal, not verbal — tone of voice, not words; body language, gestures, eye contact, pace of speech, use of  space — standing close, far away, moving closer, further away, touching, not touching, silence)

4. effective  verbal cues (yes, words do count — mis-statements, lies, typos, inappropriate phrases, great slogans)

5. 2-way communication (just me-to-you communication is less effective than me to you and you to me communcation)

6. opinion leaders (we all are influenced by individuals we regard as knowledgeable, expert, famous, rich, successful, brilliant and gorgeous)’

7. selective exposure (liberals select WBUR, conservatives select FOX)

8. audience participation (for the communication to be effective, the sender has to enable the receiver to give feedback  — and respond to it)

Chapter 6: Strategic Planning for PR

In Public Relations on September 30, 2009 at 1:55 am

Recall that ROPE — the 4-step process — is fundamental to understanding (a) how public relations is practiced by sophisticated professionals and (b) how a student of public relations can apply the principles of ROPE to create your own campaign.

Research. Objectives. Programming. Evaluation

What this means is that case analysis (how PR existing PR campaigns were created) dovetails with campaign planning and execution (how to create a campaign from scratch).

Chapter 5 focuses on Step 2: The method used to move the analysis and problem-solving from Step 1 (Research) to the full expression of planning. The “o” stands for objectives — and without objectives there’s no method, no system, no foundation for avoiding knee-jerk, gut-level reactive execution. ROPE transforms amateurs into professionals — and certainly transforms the perception of a PR student by the employers and decision makers who have the internships and paid jobs students want.

So what is strategic planning all about?

It’s part of the whole PR process. All PR (and advertising and political campaigning and marketing) begins with a problem or, put another way, a challenge. How do federal officials manage the problem they have this fall about the H1N1 vaccine? The public buzz (perception) is likely to be that when people die — as people do — that their deaths were caused by having had a swine flu shot. But that’s simply untrue, as the NY Times article posted on the course wiggio makes clear. Yet, as you know by now, this is why PR people are fond of saying “perception IS reality.” It’s not that the facts don’t matter. But what matters more, at least before wise, strategically planned PR (and advertising, political, marketing) campaigns is what people think, what they believe. Which of course is so often false, based on ignorance, fear and rumor.

Frustrating, isn’t it? But there’s exactly why public relations can do a genuine service in the public interest — by dispelling rumors and myths and ignorance with facts and realities and truth, as in the case of the swine flu. The Lattimore Cedar Springs Hospital Case — Segment 1 (chapter 5) and Segment 2 (chapter 6) brings this lesson home. The PR problem for the hospital wasn’t what the buzz around the hospital suggested — that the employees and docs have been doing a bad job of taking care of patients. Rather, with a bit of research the real problem was identified: low morale and misperception. The employees and doctors believed — perceived incorrectly — that they were not doing a good job of patient care. But in fact they were, all along. Preliminary surveys of recently released patients rated their care as good.

So that’s a start for the PR process: Identify the real problem, which may be very different than the buzz. Don’t trust your gut instinct over rational research and analysis and discussion and logic and critical thinking. Do some investigating. Then come up with a research-based insight like the hospital PR director arrived at.

Textbook chapters typically have a list of “key terms.” At the end of the Lattimore chapter on strategic planning, there are 20 terms: brainstorming, campaign budget, formative evaluation, goals, management by objectives (MBO), mission statement, policies, procedures, prioritize, proactive, project budget, public  opinion surveys, public relations counselor, rules, scenario construction, single-use plans, strategic plans, summative evaluation, tactical plans, video news release (VNR).

Not that you’re going to be tested on all those terms. But the reason for listing those terms is that the textbook authors recognize that the terms are likely to be unfamiliar to you — and furthermore, that the terms are part of the professional IQ of PR practitioners and scholars.

The chapter breaks down the basics of PR strategic planning. There are two kinds of plans, strategic (long-range) and tactical (specific  short-term actions). Among the most familiar tools of planning are surveys, including public opinion surveys that are a cornerstone of the long-range planning of politicians and organizational managers.

Other tools of planning include brainstorming sessions that generate new ideas and creative options. At a PR firm where I was a consultant, I was in on many brainstorming sessions to come up with a name for the firm’s new newsletter and even a slogan to silkscreen on tee shirts the firm’s employees would be wearing to a corporate 5 mile race. (It was Hotlines to Headlines: Taking it to the Street — which was intended to conjure up the agency’s investor relations brand: The agency specialized in telling the news about their clients to the world of Wall Street.)

The chapter outlines the steps of PR campaign planning:

1. Establish goals based on the mission statement.

Ben  & Jerry has multiple missions. Check out its web page.

2. Determine the current situation. (Called situation analysis.)

Is the problem big, little — a crisis?

3. Identify threats and opportunities associated with reaching the goals.

SWOT analysis: What are the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as it faces the problem?

4. Research and select target audiences.

Use preliminary research to ID target audiences, appropriate appeals, audience lifestyles and so forth. A key: Identify priority stakeholders.

5. Develop a theme for the campaign.

After assaults on female undergrads at a university in Florida, the College PR department created a safety campaign based on women avoiding walking alone, but rather in pairs. The theme: Just 2 It. And as it happens, the campaign did in fact reduce fear and help curtail assaults until the arrest of the perpetrator.

6. Determine the objectives for the campaign.

Write objectives in the “to” (infinitive) form, as in:

Goal: Become an officially established university.


(Impact) To persuade state legislative higher education committe of the benefits of establishing the state college as a university during 2009/2010 legislative  session.

(Output) To produce a video highlighting the successes of six College alumni.

(Output) To generate pro-university messages on a variety of social networking sites.

(Impact) To raise awareness among Boston and North Shore media of the economic benefits of the transformation to university status.

7. Create strategies to accomplish (execute) the objectives.

Create a special event (open house) with a concert from local music groups.

8. Develop tactics to implement (execute) the strategies.

To develop a brochure about student success stories.

9. Create evaluation techhiques.

Launch two surveys of media awareness of the College’s economic message — one before the campaign and one after the campaign to measure the change in awareness.

10. Develop a budget.

The budget should include allocations of resources — money, of course, as well as people, time and materials.

11. Work out a timetable.

Schedule the activities over time.

12. Assign personnel.

Establish and publish who will do what (when).

The chapter offers a detailed case: Cornados: The World’s First Stone-Ground Corn Fries.