Rochambeau and Internet News

23 06 2008

For the past few weeks I have been doing some in-depth research on technology and journalism, and one thing I have concluded is that online technology is requires a new approach to journalism–one that gets the audience involved. It’s a reader-experienced based model–no more of the age-old rhetoric: “Just the facts mam.”

Now, news is emotional. News is personal. News is a story in the dramatic sense….in other words, it’s nothing like the AP report I found online today on the Rock Paper Scissors championship in Las Vegas.

After watching this clip, I thought: That’s it? What about the experience? What happens there? So many questions of curiosity. And then I was struck by just how badly journalists blow it by sticking to the traditional model. And intuition tells me, a good majority of journalists are still blowing it.


Afraid of Transparency?

15 06 2008

David Stern

I’ve blogged on this topic before, but since I’m an avid NBA fan, I can’t help but touch on the ongoing NBA controversy. David Stern seems adamant on toeing the line on his stance on officiating in NBA games: Rule number 1) the Referees may be human, but they are always right 2) If any doubt arises, refer to rule number 1. It’s almost as if the Commisar (I like that title for Stern better than Commish) is putting everything on the integrity of his refs. And for a sport that is SO influenced by officiating (Curt Schilling in his blog of Game 2 of the finals said refs determine the game more than any other sport), this may make sense…or does it?

Tim Donaghy, the referee who reportedly bet on NBA games he officiated, came out this week claiming other NBA games were fixed…Stern’s reaction? Donaghy’s just a convicted felon taking everyone he can down with him to save himself. It’s almost as if Stern is afraid of being open and upfront with his most important public: the NBA fan. As more and more allegations come out reinforcing suspicions by NBA fans, Stern continues to toe the line. Maybe it’s time for the NBA to open up to the fans and not only allow NBA scrutiny, but openly discuss the league’s own scrutiny of its refs. If nothing else has been learned about communication technology in 21st century business–the most important lesson is this: The public WILL be informed whether you like it or not, it’s up to you to decide who’s going to inform them. And in a transparency focused society, that informant had better be you, or you’re going to be staring down the barrel of a public relations disaster.

What is PR and Why on Earth does it Matter?

11 06 2008

About a year ago, I was having a conversation with someone about my current academic endeavor. After telling this individual that I was currently working on my Ph.D., the following brief interaction took place:

Him: So, what are you getting your Ph.D. in?

Me: Public Relations

Him: Wow, you can get a Ph.D. in that now?

Needless to say, the conversation was short, but it made me think. I ignored his apparent ignorance on the value of a Ph.D. in PR (it’s one of the fastest growing needs at universities and organizations increasingly need research-proven individuals to help them manage this complex environment of public-organization interaction). Frankly, I’m used to responses like this (which is why I commonly say my Ph.D. is in Communication, which it is…), but the whole interaction has got me thinking…what does PR mean to everyone else. I’ve come up with 4 categorizations, two from the general public perspective, two from a business perspective…first the public

1. Public Relations is Spin. I can’t say how annoying it is to read this somewhere. It’s out-dated, it’s antiquated, and it’s usually something someone who has no idea what PR is says. In fact, such a person would call it PR and not public relations, as in, “that’s just PR”. At the same time, this is probably still a valid opinion…because some PR practitioner out there still thinks his or her job is about spinning stories in the company’s favor.

2. Public Relations is lip service. Seemingly related to point number one, this one has a point of departure, and that is in the way organizations actually RESPOND to the general pub’s concerns. On some level, yes, organizations use PR to pay lip service to what people want to hear, but on a slightly higher level, PR is, to the general public, the body that carries out socially responsible endeavors for the community.

Now…the business perspective…

3. Public Relations is Promotion: This perspective seems like the most common. Public relations is a disguised form of marketing, and comprises everything that the company does that is not paid for as or by advertising. For example, sponsoring an event, giving away some free product, or reaching out to blogs to sponsor contests. In other words, PR is marketing that seems like it’s more than just marketing.

4. Public Relations is Strategic Management: On higher business levels, PR is about strategic management of corporate image and reputation. It’s more than just branding, it’s working out the organization’s existence–and the legitimacy for its existence–in the global community. This part comprises everything from gathering reputation issues, listening to customers and activist groups alike, and then advocating the interests of the public to the organization, and that of the organization to the public. At this level, PR is total communication management, from issues management to crisis response to whatever fits in between.

And…now…one bonus point for good measure

5. Public Relations is building relationships with stakeholders, or people who affect or are affected by an organization’s decisions. This one is by far the most intriguing, because up until this point, this seems like a very academic (read: unaccessible) definition of public relations. For those of us in the Ivy Towers, this makes sense. Yes, PR is for building relationships…there you have it! But practically speaking, what does it entail? What does it preclude? Can you really hire someone and say, “Welcome to the PR position…now, go build relationships with people who affect or are affected by our decisions!”? Not really. Now, there are plenty of studies revealing what goes into building relationships, but as of yet, it seems like there is no set of practical guidelines or instructions for a new PR person to jump in and start working (at least, in the same way that “PR practitioner as news provider and press release writer” has).

Now, my rambling is done…but, when all is said and done, I think PR Research has to go further than just saying, “It’s about building relationships” we have to establish standard operating procedures.