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.