Monday, September 22, 2008

Reading Response Week 10

In summary, the key points I have learned from this week’s reading are that sponsorship is separated into three distinct categories known as philanthropic, corporate, and marketing, that clear and concise proposals are key to securing sponsorship, that public relations practitioners must be wary of and anticipate ambush marketing, that sponsored events can be expensive but possess the potential to generate both positive publicity and to increase profits not only for the sponsoring company but also for the organizing body

Philanthropic sponsorship “is as close to a donation as sponsorship can get” as it is community based and its primary focus is to foster an image of good will in the eyes of the public rather than directly seeking “revenue-oriented results” (Johnston and Zawawi 2004). When a company offers support for an event or activity that is not typically associated with the business of that company this practice is called corporate sponsorship (Johnston and Zawawi 2004). The primary objective of corporate sponsorship is to simply benefit from mere association with an important event or activity. Marketing sponsorship works to generate “revenue-oriented results” and is achieved through offers of money and merchandise. Marketing sponsorship is the most popular and widely used form of sponsorship (Johnston and Zawawi 2004). Professional athletics provides great examples of this form of sponsorship where the most sought after athletes receive millions of dollars in endorsement deals every year. I have read of this form of sponsorship more times than I care to remember. What is troublesome is the possibility that athletes or other celebrities profit from advocating for a particular product and yet never use it themselves. In all honestly, how does one really know?

Even before an event or activity can acquire sponsorship, a proposal must be written to the prospective sponsor detailing what rights and benefits they stand to gain and what goals the organizing body wishes to achieve. It is extremely important that such a proposal remains clear and concise and that its primary focus is to detail how the prospective sponsor will benefit from supporting a particular event, organization or individual.

The most common hindrance of sponsorship is ambush marketing. This occurs when a company represents itself as being associated with an event when in fact no previous agreement has been made between the company and the organizing committee for the event (Johnston and Zawawi 2004). The optimal approach in minimizing ambush marketing is to control all aspects of an event and to clearly define rights and benefits if there are multiple sponsors (Johnston and Zawawi 2004).

My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that with sponsorship as with any facet of a public relations campaign or program, success can only be found when a plan has been developed on the basis on certain goals and objectives and methods of reaching those goals and objectives have been established. Without a structured and goal-oriented, results-oriented proposal sponsorship will not come to fruition. Even if sponsorship is acquired, without careful planning an event could fail miserably.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Reading Response Week 9

In summary, the key points I have learned from this week’s readings are that effective public relations programs and campaigns come to fruition when practitioners possess the ability to think and practise strategically, that strategies produce greater levels of efficacy when guided by thorough scheduling and budgeting, that despite the common likening of strategy and tactics, the term strategy relates to an overall plan encompassing organisational goals and objectives while the term tactics is reserved for the tools which enable practitioners to garner such desired ends, and that although practitioners may have many tactics at their disposal, precisely which tactics are best to employ depends upon many different factors from organisational goals and objectives to the targeted audience.

Johnston and Zawawi (2004) assert that the first important steps in constructing a strategic communication plan are formulating vision and mission statements because they establish a goal oriented foundation and direction for the organisation. The vision statement describes the position in which an organization envisions itself to be at a specific point in the future and the mission statement is simply a brief outline of what practical steps must be undertaken in order to arrive at that point. Johnston and Zawawi (2004) also emphasise the importance of monitoring the progress of a strategic communication plan. To do so they suggest the development of ‘key performance indicators’ or KPIs which enable an organisation to assess performance within specific time frames.

When assembling the framework for a strategic communication plan Johnston and Zawawi (2004) argue that it is essential to determine a budget. It would be wise, they claim, to possess a general understanding of how and where money moves within the organisation as this resource is in most cases limited and different departments will be in competition for funds. The greater understanding a department possesses concerning the flow of money within the organisation the better equipped they will be to plead their case. When a budget has been determined the next step is to begin scheduling precisely what goals or objectives are to be met by particular dates and times. Organisation is key to the success of a strategic communication plan.

When dealing with tactics an extremely important distinction for public relations practitioners to make is that between controlled and uncontrolled communication. Controlled communication is that in which a practitioner controls every aspect from the development of a message to its delivery. Examples of controlled communication include publications such as internal newsletters, direct mailings, and annual reports. Uncontrolled communication is that which can be disregarded altogether or substantially altered by the recipient. A prime example of uncontrolled communication is a media release as the journalist or editor acts as a gatekeeper and the decision to alter or disregard a story altogether lies with them. With that in mind, Johnston and Zawawi (2004) conclude that it is important to have balance of both controlled and uncontrolled communication.

My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that prior to this reading I, too, carried the common misconception that strategy and tactics were one and the same rather than complimentary entities and that I had not recognised the distinction between controlled and uncontrolled tactics. I found the perspective of the journalist’s or editor’s position as the ‘gatekeeer’ to be quite true once I had given it some thought and that it would be wise for practitioners to keep that in the forefront of their minds.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reading Response Week 8

In summary, the key points that I have learned from this week’s reading are that in order for a media release to be entered into a publication it must exhibit one or more of the following characteristics: mentions well known people, timeliness, a local angle, public interest, novelty, achievement, or appeal to emotions (Tymson, Lazar, & Lazar 2006), that there is a distinction made between what is referred to as soft and hard news, that the appropriateness of a media release varies across different publications, and that there is a certain formula one can follow in order to produce a captivating media release.
Soft news encompasses human interest stories while hard news consists of stories describing significant current events, those possessing great social or political significance and “usually occupy the front few pages of a newspaper" (Tymson, Lazar, & Lazar 2006). Public relations practitioners would be wise to determine whether their media release falls into the category of soft or hard news as this could possibly aid or hinder publication. Stories are also portrayed differently across different publications. For example, a story that explores America’s declining housing market could find in audience in both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and yet it would most likely experience greater readership if published in the New York Times. Public relations practitioners should carefully select a publication relevant to their media release as this will certainly increase the chance of publication and their ideas being heard.
When it has been decided what publication would best suit a particular set of ideas to be conveyed, public relations practitioners can then begin to write a media release following a simple formula which consists of a headline, a lead, a body and a conclusion. The best section to start with would be the lead as it discusses the details of who, what, where, when and why. From there it is simple to derive a captivating headline, a supporting body and conclusion which provides a brief summarisation of the history behind an event, organisation or person (Tymson, Lazar, & Lazar 2006).
My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that media releases, as with all facets of a public relations campaign or program, require research and strategic planning in order for this tactic to produce positive results. A poorly written media release will be tossed aside by journalists and submission of media release to a publication that lacks relevance to the ideas addressed will meet the same fate.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reading Response Week 7

In summary, the key points that I have learned from this week’s reading are that public relations is presently considered to be one of the most significant influences on journalism and that there are guidelines which enable public relations practitioners to decide whether or not a story is worthy of publication. According to a study referenced by Johnston and Zawawi (2004), out of 2500 news articles, over 30 percent were the consequence of media releases. Though I can hardly say I am shocked, this figure is nevertheless astounding and equally disturbing. Over 30 percent of “news” stories that had been disseminated to the masses were not the reporting of current events with substance but rather puff pieces created by organizations.
I am of the school of thought that the propagators of news stories should strive to report from an unbiased perspective and more importantly report upon events that are truly significant to the general public. Although Johnston and Zawawi (2004) insist that guidelines are available to public relations practitioners which can aid them in deciding whether or not a story is worthy of publication, terms such as the potential impact, prominence and human interest are quite vague and can be manipulated to serve the agenda of an organization.
The media release concerning plastic surgery that was handed out in tutorial is a prime example of such a practice. Because the media release advocates plastic surgery as rectification for flaws that cause great insecurity for many people, this could be argued by the authors as possessing an aspect of human interest. However, in reality they are merely trying to sell a service. What I find more disturbing than the public relations practitioners passing off puff pieces as new is the negligence exhibited by journalists who are supposed to be the gatekeepers of information and yet allow garbage to be disseminated to the public in order to sell papers.
My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that I had not known how greatly public relations influences the field of journalism. This is not to say that prior to this reading I took all news at face value and trusted all journalists. However, I feel that 30 percent is very high figure and I am disheartened that journalism, a field that is supposed to be an advocate for the public has increasingly succumb to the lure of the almighty dollar and placed bringing the truth onto the backburner.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reading Response Week 6

In summary, the key points that I have learned from this week’s readings are that public relations practitioners must always be mindful of their decisions, those of their colleagues and the person(s) or organisation(s) they represent when planning and carrying out a public relations campaign so as to adhere to the bodies of law and ethics that have been set in place by lawmakers and the collective of practicing public relations professionals in order to govern their actions and protect the public.

According to Johnston and Zawawi (2004) it is wise for public relations practitioners to not only remain vigilant but also proactive in creating stratagem that serve to diminish the probability of legal repercussions that may arise as a result of actions they have carried out. Four important bodies of law that public relations practitioners should familiarise themselves with are the tort of defamation, the tort of negligence, intellectual property law and contract law.

The tort of defamation prohibits any publication that may adversely affect the reputation of an individual or organization. The tort of negligence stipulates the responsibilities of professionals to their clients and to the general public. Unlike real, personal property law, intellectual property law aims to protect the creative ideas of an individual or organisation rather than ownership of land and things considered a part of that land such as a home. Contract law plays an integral part in the field of public relations as contracts delineate the roles and obligations of each party in a public relations campaign that generally adhere to predetermined time constraints.

My learning builds upon previous learning about public relations in that I knew public relations practitioners were subject to bodies of law and codes of ethics just like everybody else however I had not been previously educated on the particular bodies of law that professionals must pay the most attention to.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Reading Response Week 5

I found this weeks reading to be very informative and it actually began to change my perspective about public relations. In the past, I have not taken public relations as a serious an important part of an organisations success. I viewed Public Relations Practitioners as people who merely put together cocktail parties, fancy luncheons and put together biased information to release to the media. This reading immediately began by changing how I perceived Public Relations Practitioners by stating that a "typical public relations department" provides an 185 per cent return on investment. Even more significantly, when the CEO of an organisation supports a "well-performing public relations department" there was a 300% return on investment (Johnston, Zawawi 172).
The chapter continued to say that the amount of return on investment is a function of strategic communication strategies. I had never before seen PR as necessarily a strategic profession, but the steps and outlines of a quality PR strategic plan were not only in depth but quite complicated. For example, key performance indicators (KPI's) are used as measurable indicators of progress (Johnston, Zawawi 177). This quantitative side of PR is far different from the party planning and cocktail hour planners I had previously envisioned. While KPI's may not be the best measurement, PR practitioners recognise this and seek to constantly evaluate the value of their work (Johnston, Zawawi 177).
Other parts of PR strategic planning that surprised me was Lester Potter's "ten-step strategic communication plan" (Johnston, Zawawi 178). This ten-step system is not only involved, but quite complicated and would require a number of skilled and experienced personnel to successfully complete a PR plan. Detailed strategy is clearly a huge part of PR success and it proved to be much more complicated than I originally expected.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Reading Response Week 4

I would not be writing in earnest if I were to claim that this week’s readings have bestowed upon me any information that I was not already privy to or that is not merely common sense. Be that as it may, I am in wholehearted agreement with the author’s stance on internal relations. Communication with the public set aside, healthy internal communication is vital to an organization’s success. In many of my past jobs, I have witnessed firsthand the follies of a breakdown in communication between management and staff and communication between fellow employees. For example, when I was employed as a call center representative with a company that facilitated proxy voting for mutual fund shareholders, I felt that my supervisor and those of my colleagues lacked sufficient communication skills to oversee a large group of people for when performance was less than par their tone of voice, their body language and the actual choice of words they used when addressing subordinates was extremely brash and condescending. This poor communication immediately translated into embarrassment and resentment within the hearts and minds of my colleagues and I, neither of which aid in group cohesiveness or productivity. Having participated in many courses that focus on the power of positive affirmation and the importance of consistently working to build the self-esteem of those around you as well as your own, what I was witnessing and experiencing in this job was in direct conflict with an approach that I knew was optimal in achieving success whether it be at the individual or group level. In this week’s reading the author provides examples of communication and acknowledgement of achievement such as informational or congratulatory memorandums, organized and up to date notice boards, announcements via intranet, awards and company dinners et al that serve to boost morale and in turn give employees cause to believe in and work hard for their organization (Johnston and Zawawi 294-295). I believe that if my past jobs such as the one I have above described had employed more of these types of communication, this would have improved understanding and cooperation between all parties and as a result productivity would have also increased.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Reading Response Week 3

I found the reading’s discussion of Grunig’s models to be the most interesting and the most influential in altering my perspective on public relations. I have always believed and to some extent still do believe that the function of mainstream public relations is to operate asymmetrically, propagating the biased information of organisations to the greater public. I did not really take into consideration that there were other models that operate in Public Relations. For example, simply just doing “anything to get attention for [an] organisation” seems not only simplistic but inefficient. I think that a company could lose a lot of respect if they were to just do whatever it takes to get a story or information out to the public (53 Johnston & Zawawi). Grunig’s model describes Public Relations model’s development, so it makes sense that it would move from the more primitive press agentry, to public information the second model. Public information is more accurate information given to the public. There is certainly less desperation in the attempt to get information out in the way Grunig describes it.

The last two model’s are more modern to me. While Grunig suggests that the two-way semmetric approach is the better, I believe that most of the public relations sectors still handle PR in a more asymmetric fashion. I feel bombarded with information everywhere I turn, and I feel I rarely if ever give back my personal opinion on a PR matter. Though Ideal I believe that PR has a long way to go to truly reach a symmetric approach.