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Money and Success are not synonyms

I remember a really funny scene from Madagascar 2, when one of the penguins, having the certainty he has made a lot of money, commands one of his subordinates to order a private jet made of pure gold. The subordinate points out that a jet made of gold will not fly, and as a reply the first penguin says: ‘We’re rich, the laws of physics don’t apply to us!’

Not too long ago I came across a few people who resembled the dear penguin I just mentioned, only if it’s not a cartoon and you’re not a fictional character, I don’t think you can pass as funny when you’re absurdly arrogant because of financial gains. Any individual should be proud when they succeed, as that is what anyone thrives for. But there is a fine balance between pride and ridicule nowadays that I have had the unfortunate chance to see that for myself a number of times.

I’m referring here to business owners who truly believe that the laws of common sense don’t apply to them because they’re rich. Whether mocking applicants to jobs publicly via Twitter or making advances to the young female interviewees to test them (or with other purposes in mind), I’ve seen and heard it all. Most often, the recent graduates lack the confidence or knowledge necessary to make perfect applications or perform well in an interview. But nearly everyone’s been in that position in the early onsets of their careers and a career path is nothing but a series of learning opportunities. There are a few things however that I would have honestly preferred never to learn, like the lack of humanity that financial advantages creates.

Steve Jobs, Lady Di, Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Nelson Mandela and pope John Paul the 2nd. What did these people have in common? They retained their humility and common sense irrespective of their status, fame and wealth. They are (or sadly, some were) first and foremost people that everyone can look up to, can relate to and from whom lessons can be learned about how to succeed, survive difficult times and face challenges. Truth be told, nobody admires one’s bank account, everyone admires the human behind it.

Losing your common sense will greatly impact on your reputation and take it from me, looking at examples of rich people who have never made history, you’re leaving no legacy behind if your bank account has ten 0s. And that is what success still truly means in the world, being remembered decades after your passing.

So hop off that pedestal made of £ and have a look at your behaviour and the way in which you relate to people before you start your Tuesday. It’s never too late.

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It’s not religion, it’s not nations, it’s individuals…

I’m Orthodox, therefore Christian, by birth and belief. I have a real hunger and passion for discovering new cultures, new traditions and so I’ve met Buddhists, opinionated Atheists, Protestants from various backgrounds and the list goes on. I’ve seen one single thing that parallels across all of these religious groups: it’s the individual who determined the extent to which the belief they hold influences their decision. Some people are strong believers, others use their religious status to defend an action they have taken from time to time, but one thing is for sure, no two Orthodox people (or people belonging to any other religion at that) are the same; me and my mum don’t see things the same way, although we would both tick the same belief category on an Equality Employment Form.

The world is heading towards another wave of segregation and castigation of people based not on the colour of the skin as was the case in America a century ago, but based on one’s belief in the Islamic rite. An article like this proves my point, and I think I come from a neutral background that allows me to speak up on the matter. I have already expressed my anger at the horror that has taken place in the massacre in Kenya in a previous post but the issue here is that those individuals that have committed such horrors would have used other excuses if the one of religion was not available to them, and the Jihad was not a good enough case to use in the defence of the horrors committed. One should look at the manners in which the individuals should be castigated individually and not at how this reflects on the characteristics of people belonging to the same religious groups…

Massacres involving guns and leading to deaths have been the works of individuals who have been brought up in a Christian environment or who display signs of atheism or are just neutral on the matter (the Aurora shooting or Sandy Hook massacre are just a few examples I can offer now) but their religious beliefs were not outlined in such a clear manner when covering those stories. This shows a tendency to focus the attention on an aspect solely when that serves the purpose of proving a point, and that is fallacious in its nature.

I guess that’s all I had to say. I’m not even going to end this post with a poll or a question, it’s a personal view and you’ve been warned that there will be an odd few of them on this blog.

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How much good is bad and how much bad is good?

I’m watching a short clip filmed by someone in the tragic massacre in Kenya. In the attack, everyone is either standing still, dunking down whilst slowly moving away and just an odd few are running around. The gunshots are clearly heard in the vicinity, the terror transcends the screen of my computer.

How would I react if I was in the middle of a terrorist attack like the one happening in Kenya? I would run, stupidly, creating havoc amongst other panicked people. More injuries to victims would be the result of people stepping over each other and pushing each other away in an attempt to run, in a country where guns are a rarity.

I’ve only heard gun shots in ceremonial activities, shot in the air to commemorate a certain event. I’ve only seen a gun near me on a few occasions on a short trip to Nigeria, but other than that, guns have a virtual characteristic for me, associated with series, movies and tragic news. Being able to distinguish reality from movie, the ‘would I do if I was in that situation’ type of question never crossed my mind when watching people getting shot or characters firing guns in movies. But this particular video is so strong that it made me ask myself that and the answer I’ve given myself makes me ask myself another question: how safe am I because I’ve been safe so far?

I have a phobia of guns, tried and tested when I had a gun in my vicinity on a trip abroad and that means I’ll be running away from settling in a place that nurtures gun ownership, but that doesn’t mean I’ll forever be safe from the risk of being in the middle of a gun crime type of situation. Those people in the video in Kenya have reacted so well to the whole setting and it is safe to say that their extended experience of violence within the country has helped them survive the terrorist attack.

The pragmatic (and sad) reality is that a lack of safety is nowadays extended to the entire world, and, irrespective of the location in which one finds himself, one can be exposed to unprecedented dangers. There is so much hate in the world, so many vendettas between this group and the other based on one’s religious beliefs, nationality, race etc. And there are just as many people who pledge for world peace.

However, the world is going in the exact opposite direction of peace. And one thing that I’ve learned today is that you’re more prone to surviving if your skin has been roughened by living in an unsafe area. And this epiphany is not important only to me, but it is important to the whole world, because Angelina Jolie, although touching, should not be the one who holds speeches about the importance of refugees to the world on a whole. It is people like Malala whose gun wounds are yet to be fully healed and whose pain is still so visible in her eyes and most of all, in her words. She knows how to duck down for cover and she knows how to tell others to do the same. She would have known if she was in the attack mentioned at the beginning how to react and she would have had the confidence to direct others. A pledge for peace should come from the ones that don’t know what peace looks like apart from stories told by others.

And today, I sit here and I think that I’ve been spoilt in my safe haven and I can’t see the danger through the lenses of someone like Malala, but I can do my best to broadcast my view that people like her should speak up, and I (and other fortunate ones like me) should bow my head down and listen to her and follow her anywhere she leads me. Because she will lead us on paths of peace.

As she said: ‘We’re tired of these wars.’ And it sounded so real because it is her war, every single day.

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‘Having a degree in PR stands for nothing’, says a masters graduate in PR…

Maybe I’m being a bit of a pessimist or maybe I’ve just had enough experience of that to be able to say it clearly: Having a degree in PR stands for nothing in the world of business nowadays. But there’s hope… Or so I want to think. But here is my Harvard referenced opinion of it, not that referencing would stand for anything for an employer, but hey, I know how to do it.

A field which is regarded as synonymous with deception and manipulation, Public Relations is receiving more and more attention from journalists in regards to its legitimacy, in majority negative (which has worsened the relationship between the two fields) (Kirkova, 2012). Although moving towards a more unified view of what PR’s purpose should be in the corporate world, PR trade bodies (such as CIPR or PRSA) fail to depict on the two most important aspects in their attempts to define the practice: working for the benefit of society (the public interest aspect of the discipline) and ethics. The latter aspect is crucial for eliminating the negative perceptions and stigmas associated with PR practitioners, often called spin-doctors or flacks (Moloney, 2006). This is not to say that CIPR, for instance, does not have an ethical conduct for its members, but membership to this regulatory body is not mandatory for practitioners of the profession, therefore diminishing its impact on the practice.

Part of the reason that makes it difficult for PR to become a recognised profession is the fact that rigorous academic training is not a standard requirement for a practitioner, as it is in the case of the traditional professions (law, medicine, etc.). The CIPR’s most recent study about the PR profession’s status reveals that 61% of surveyed practitioners agree that professional qualifications in the PR field should be compulsory (CIPR, 2013). Even though this is a positive aspect that has made the agenda of PR trade bodies, current PR graduates find themselves in a vicious circle, where studies need to be complemented by experience, and not always vice versa. In essence, in the Public Relations field, the experience prevails, which cannot be said about other professions, where graduate or even post-graduate qualifications are compulsory.

In order to close the gap between academic and practical experience, more Universities try to integrate freelance projects that boost the students’ employability skills in their curriculum (Fallows & Steven, 2000). Therefore, there is hope for the norm to slowly change towards preferring practitioners with Higher Education qualifications in the PR field, who can demonstrate practical skills. Another implication of this is the increased competition, which would consequently encourage individuals to belong to a regulatory trade body.

The PR industry has seen effects of the economic downturn directly impacting budget awarded to PR campaigns in the public and private sector alike. So, whilst trade organisations, practitioners and academics in the domain of PR push measurement techniques in order to maintain the practice’s position in the market, the reality is that of an uncertain, changing PR economy. The differences between freelancing and staff work, as expressed by Kendall (2011) relate to stability and freedom. He argues that, whilst freelancers have more flexibility to chose the desired working time or projects, they lack the stability conferred by permanent staff work. Despite providing a good argument, which many find to be the norm nowadays, Kendall fails to depict on the previously mentioned aspect of economic instability and how this affects a practitioner’s decision to opt for a freelance career or contract work.

A paradigm shift can be seen in PR in terms of the stability and freedom which oppose the freelancing to permanent work contracts: More organisations will employ a freelancer for a singular project, instead of employing an in-house PR specialist or having yearly contracts with PR agencies. This might imply that the choice of being a freelancer or working on a contract basis is not a personal choice, but more one imposed by economic circumstances.

Where does that leave PR professionals that wish to emerge themselves into the PR world?

 

Refrences in the texts:

CIPR. (2013). CIPR 2012/13 State of the Profession: Annual Benchmarking Member Survey. CIPR

Fallows, S., & Steven, C. (2000). Building employability skills into the higher education curriculum: a university-wide initiative. Education+ training,   p. 75-83

Kendall, L. (2011). Brilliant Freelancer. London: Pearson

Kirkova, D. (2012, March 18). Hacks v Flacks : Round 3. Retrieved March 18, 2013, from The Media Society: http://www.themediasociety.com/news/HACKS+v+FLACKS%3A+ROUND+3/182/

Moloney, K. (2006). Rethinking public relations : PR propaganda and democracy. 2nd ed. Abingdon : Routledge

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The pseudo-communication facilitated by social media

Whilst doing my dissertation research and interviewing PR professionals in UK and US regarding reactive vs. proactive PR, I came across an answer that surprised me, when it shouldn’t have. One interviewee expressed his opinion about social media, saying because of social media, brands can now communicate with their stakeholders.
Now, this is something I’ve heard from everyone, whether they are in PR, Marketing, they own a business or work for a company, etc. But I’m also starting to see people who have now discovered the other side of the coin regrading social media and its impact on communication. I thought the world of business has already admitted defeat in regards to Facebook and it’s gang of social media platforms.
I mean, c’mon, it’s been a while since brands have started using the platforms to broadcast and consumers have been b***hing about anything and everything, for the sake of it.

In reality, to me, social media has caused a regress in the corporate world regarding companies’ efforts to engage in a two-way type of communication. Instead of actively seeking information from stakeholders through meaningful interactions, it’s easier to just release something into the tweetosphere, hoping that everyone will (or won’t, as is the case of failed attempts of Twitter campaigns, see McDonalds) pick up on it. If a lot of people just re-tweet your tweet, that’s a tick on the measurements sheet for your campaign (assuming the campaign has a manner of evaluating impact of tactics employed).
Erm.. Wait a minute, so real communication between a brand and its stakeholders is now defined by how many people take the message you’ve sent and broadcasts it further? So, basically, things have evolved to a stage where PR is in the hands of consumers or other stakeholder, where publications can be bypassed and all one needs is followers who are willing to press a button and broadcast your message further?
Great, less hassle for PR. Or, should I say, less jobs for PR?

Either way, the issue at stake here is: how does that indicate an existence of meaningful communication with your stakeholder(s)? What exactly have you found out about your customer/investor/competitor/etc., if they pressed the magic re-tweet button? Do they agree with your message, want to broadcast it in a sarcastic manner, think that it will look good on their profile or have they just hit the button by mistake? My question is, I guess, how exactly do you quantify that? And if you do find a manner to quantify it, what’s the use in doing that, instead of the good ol’ research?
I’m not saying social media is something bad and most of all I’m not saying Twitter is useless. Au contraire, Twitter happens to be the social media platform I’d single out as a great means of broadcasting (broadcasting being the key word here) for brands, irrespective of their targeted audience, because if I want to keep up to date with what a company does, I rely on Twitter and expect that particular brand to satisfy my desire for knowledge using Twitter.
But from that, to saying social media, on a whole, allows communication to flow between a corporation and its publics, it’s a farfetched thing.

I don’t communicate with a company I follow on Twitter, I think the term follow in itself says a lot about the type of interaction Twitter allows, meaning I watch the actions of a brand closely, to see what they’re up to, and el fin.
As a consumer, to me, this is much more useful than seeing adverts on the TV, as I can customise, with a click of a button, who I want to be targeted by.

Do I engage in a meaningful exchange of information with that brand this way? Not really… Would I be more willing to express myself in an anonymous survey ? If I was interested in the improvements that can be brought to the services or products of a company, probably yes. Could Twitter be useful for that? Well, yeah, because if I follow a company, it means I’m interested in what they do, so I’d probably care about what it is my input could change.

So, here is a claim I think suits social media:

If used correctly, social media could be a method to recruit the right audience to engage in meaningful communication else where.

Tell me, if you had to choose between cheering (with pom-poms) for FB, Twitter, Instagram, Vine & Fancy or being very skeptical about the potential of these platforms in communicating with your stakeholders, which team would you join?

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Lions, dogs and magicians… Or why lying can be good

Today, I came across this article about a lion that barks.
No, it’s not an amazing specimen, it’s actually a dog. I seriously giggled, particularly when reading the comments, and then spent the next 30 minutes looking at photos of Tibetan Mastiffs.

[Note to self: stay away from articles which might lead you to google dogs’ pictures, they are too addictive]
But seriously, just look at how adorable they are

Psst, if you click on the pic, it takes you to the Google Search Results with thousands of SUCH ADORABLE pictures

Psst, if you click on the pic, it takes you to the Google Search Results, but beware…

But beyond that, I think the article itself, even though its primary intent might be to amuse the readers, as a breath of fresh air amongst the horrendous news about Egypt and other bloodsheds, is a good example of ‘on the edge’ PR or why lying can sometimes be good.

Hands up all those who remember their parents saying these exact words to them: ‘Lying is bad’.
I was a very inquisitive child and, annoyingly so, any unknown word or concept that I came across would inevitably set me off on a ‘what is that?’ series of questions.
The serious discussion about lying, as far as I can recall, happened around when I was 6. I must have broken something (as always) and tried to hide it when my dad asked me about it.
And so, in a grim, low tone of voice, I heard the L word for the first time. My dad told me that it’s bad to lie, and quite frankly, at that age the word bad was a strong emotional trigger, as something bad usually meant no sweets.

What is lie? I asked looking at my dad, already agitated, as I was half convinced that I am not having any sweets that evening.
‘When you don’t say the truth about something that happened.’ came my dad’s answer, as if he was speaking to a grown-up.
‘What is truth?’
The truth is telling someone exactly what happened when they ask you.
But that IS exactly what happened.
To me, whether for the sake of the sweets or because lying was an alien term to me still, I truly believed in what I was saying, because what I have told my dad WAS what happened or for what is worth, what my dad should know happened.

Looking back at it now, it must have been the first sign that I will end up doing PR.
Some would say it is fatuous to claim that something so evident didn’t happen, and besides, those who do break the rules of ethics. Dynamo, the famous British magician never says he did or didn’t do a particular thing, he just lets the public see the conflicting messages between what they see and what they knew as the truth and decide for themselves whether what happened is magic or lies. Or if the two are synonyms to someone altogether.
So he offers magic, but sceptics might say all he is in fact offering, are visual illusions to naive onlookers, that have a very simple explanation in Physics, bla bla bla… There goes the fun when numbers start pouring in an attempt to explain how he walked on water and all the magic is gone (very bad pun, I know).
Was that what the Zoo was trying to do also? Offer the illusion of a lion in the cage, knowing that it is a fabrication, yet also being aware of the fact that the children and onlookers would not find any less enjoyment, as long as they don’t know the fluffy golden being is indeed a dog .

Ok, right, got lost in my thoughts again, but to summarise, I think a lie is defined by humans, and so is truth. When the ‘lion’ barked, it was plain to see the lie. But before it did, the visitors would return home happy about the fact that they saw a lion in captivity that day.

I remember going to the Zoo when I was young and seeing all the animals from the books about Africa and Antarctica. Would have I known, granted the creature inside a cage looked approximately as I pictured a lion would look like, whether I did see the ferocious feline or a Tibetan Mastiff? Nah, and I would have been equally as happy to see either anyway. I mean, although I won’t stop saying how cute it is, a Tibetan Mastiff can easily resemble a lion.

That looks as scary and fluffy as a lion to me

That looks fluffy and scary. Pretty much like a lion I’d say.

What am I trying to get at?
The fact that lying isn’t always bad. I know it sounds like a cliché but, in all honesty, I do think there is nothing wrong in giving people the chance to believe in something, if that makes them happy. To bridge the gap, in a consumerist world, where CSR is no longer an abstract term, but a pressing reality, I think whilst a company ensures transparency in regards to the products and/or services they offer, they should be able to persuade people in such a convincing manner, that there is no need for them to go looking for the truth. Because they’re to busy being happy… Let the sceptics access the more info section.

Going back to the lion-dog, the inductive thinking (or risk assessment, if you will) in a situation like this is as simple as: ‘Dogs bark, lions don’t, the dog will bark, we can’t say it’s a lion.’
However, they went forward with it. Why?
Again, very simple argument: ‘People don’t want to see dogs in a zoo’.
So… ‘we say it’s a lion and the people that will see it before it barks will truly believe they’ve seen a lion, and when the truth comes out, we will take responsibility for that’.

Honestly, that works for me and if I saw this article the next day in the newspaper, but I have already seen that big smile on my daughter’s face two days ago when she was convinced she saw the lion, will I start telling her it was a ‘lie’?
First of all, God knows if she would start down the route of ‘What is lie?’ but most importantly she’s happy, I’m happy and I already knew what a lion looks like and would have paid the same price for the same experience of my daughter being so happy that she saw the lion. That hasn’t changed when I saw the article, unless I decide to, because for all she knows, she saw the lion.
To be frank, I would thank the guys in the Zoo for their creativity, because getting to the lion’s cage to discover it’s empty is what could have seriously ruined the visit to the zoo. But if it started barking, that would have just made it more fun. Either way, no loss for visitors, no loss for Zoo owners, no loss for the Mastiff to be the ‘king of the jungle’ for a short while.

What’s your view? Are you a convinced puritan or a Machiavellic thinker? 

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I’m back… And I’m here to stay

I have realised, looking back at my academic experience, that perhaps setting up a blog which forced me to write about subjects related to PR is one of the most enriching experience. So today, I sat there and wondered, what on Earth stops me from doing it now?

The advantage I have when putting blog entries is that I don’t have to think about what to write, I just have to transcribe the debate (well, sometimes it’s more of a rant, really) that goes on in my head every time I read an article, see a passer-by on the street or have a conversation on the phone. And so, here I am, back to stay this time, and the promise I am making to myself is that I will be consistent and thorough in posting as often as I can, trying not to overdo it (this feels like a New Years resolution, but I hope unlike those ones it will last past 2 weeks).

critical-thinking

To (re)start with, I saw this article featured on the BBC news homepage today:
Hannah Smith death: Father says daughter was victim of cyberbullies. The story is as appalling as the one of Amanda Todd, bar the former’s attempts to ask for help and if you care to read the details, feel free. The issue I wish to address is not the cyberbullying aspect, but something else entirely that shocked me in the article about Hannah Smith. I’m taking the risk of being unpopular, by picking on an aspect exposed in this article that raises many questions and doubts in my mind, whilst some might think the core idea is the tragedy of the life of a young girl which was tragically ended (however, this is a balanced post that explores both sides of the story, so don’t get too flustered if you completely disagree with my initial point of view until you’ve reached the end).

Dear Facebook,

People’s tendency to use a Facebook account as their diary, where they expose each and every thought they have.

With all due respect to the father’s grief, I think he is using this opportunity to PR himself and gain publicity. The reason I am saying that is because the article says:

Writing on Facebook last Friday, Mr Smith wrote: “Just to let all my friends know my youngest daughter took her own life last night.”

He adds: “Rest in peace my baby and you will never be forgotten xxxxxxx.”

He added: “My heart is broken in 2 and is gonna take a long time to repair i just hope that none of you have to go through the pain im goin through rite now [sic].”

Two things stand out to me: xxx at the end of the second message and the way in which the last message is phrased altogether. The loss of a person dear to you is tragic, be it a friend or a distant relative, but when it’s a child, parent, life partner, the grief is sometimes too hard to bear, and more often than not, one needs the help of people around to be able to overcome the heartache. But displaying that type of behaviour on Facebook, in a public manner (since the newspaper editor had access to them, I’m going to assume the privacy settings allowed public access to the posts), is something which resembles a wish for promotion, rather than a grieving parent to me.

Cry for help or for attention?

Perhaps I’m judging too harshly and I chose the wrong example in addressing this issue, as the issue is of very sensitive nature (I expect raised eyebrows and frowning faces from readers of this entry), but I also think this portrays the extent to which people have forgotten that Facebook has private chat/message for a reason and sensitive matters like this should be utilising that. It does make a difference to know that many people are there for you when you go through a tragedy, but to me once you post something like the messages that can be seen above, your tragedy becomes highly diminished. It took me years to be able to openly speak about the death of one close family member to my friends and even immediate family. Maybe I am different, and bottling up feelings does work agains one’s own benefit, but the two attitudes might be at extreme ends of the scale and, as mentioned in a previous post, middle way is most of the times the golden way.

But here is the underlying concern I have which has become a phobia of mine lately. Has social media emergence turned us into people who need Facebook posts about our own child’s death to attract the attention of the people that matter? And here I shift focus from the dad, who might as well be genuinely devastated by the situation and feels that the only way to get the support and attention required is by utilising Facebook to broadcast a message in the hope that someone will hear and, most importantly, listen to his own cry of help.

social-media-iOS

And here is where my rant was left without any more answers to the rhetorical questions I ask myself.  So, dear reader, what do you think? Are we lost in a sea of likes and re-tweets, where a good post is the only way to get attention? Or is it just a mistake to use Facebook that way and whoever does it is just seeking publicity and exposure as a result of a tragic event?