Credit where credit is due

At its worst plagiarism is seen as theft of intellectual property. As a student I am conscious of citing references in my work. As a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) I subscribe to adhere to a code of conduct. The trouble is while the code advocates professionalism, honesty and integrity; it does not actually mention plagiarism. Crediting others for their ideas is implicit rather than explicit.

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) takes a stronger stance providing advice and examples that fit or do not fit their code of ethics. In a separate article they talk about the ‘halting the rise of plagiarism’, certainly the number of undergraduates who consider that it’s not very serious to copy web content is going down(Donald McCabe, Rutgers University).

So as a Chartered body is our code of conduct good enough? We have a generation who view on line content differently to text books in the library, who consider ‘mashups’ of content gathered from different sources the norm. It’s not that originality is rare it’s more that new media has created an environment where using someone else’s good idea as your own is way too easy.

Posted in Ethics, New media, Professionalism | Tagged , , , , | 13 Comments

The Social Web

This week, with a view to gaining inspiration for a few more blogs I read Rob Brown’s ‘Public Relations and the Social Web.  It followed a predictable format, a bit of history to explain the evolution of social media, then a description of social media channels, terms and related information.

Overall it was disappointing.  Most useful were the actual examples between the blurb.  Although only published in 2009 a lot of the content did not seem new.  In Rob Brown’s defence the danger for any book covering social media, is that what may have been relatively unknown when originally written, rapidly becomes wider known and more mainstream.

One of my favourite books with regard to using social media is The Anatomy of Buzz (Revisited) by Emanuel Rosen.  What interests me is how much organisations use of social media touches our everyday lives.  I will put my hand up to sharing the odd promotional code or sending on some of those 20% off email vouchers that used to come through this time of year from Oddbins, but what have you done?.  Shared a youtube advert?  Left a comment on Amazon? Or, maybe you know someone who tried to win a piece of furniture in IKEAs online showroom when it was launched on facebook by tagging it with their name?  I’d love to hear what you think is worth sharing.

Posted in Marketing Communications, New media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

December Dilemma

Well it’s that time of year again so here’s a seasonal blog for you.  Public Relations and other parts of the business that manage key stakeholder relationships are generally tasked with sending the customary Christmas greeting.  So here’s the question. What do you prefer?  The traditional corporate Christmas card made from recycled material or the e-card greeting?

Now regular card does not even come into the equation because we all have to be seen to be behaving sustainably,  doing our bit for the planet.  Both can contribute to charity, so again not in the equation.  Is your preference for a hand written card with the knowledge that someone has taken the effort to personally write that out for you? Or the electronic greeting because it’s the more sustainable option not to mention it saves you lots of time to do other things for your stakeholders.

Posted in New media, stakeholder relations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments


Crowdsourcing it’s an expression we are hearing more and more.  Like a lot of other ideas though, is it really so new?  Or is it that new media provides a more efficient way of making it work.  Jeff Howe, first used the phrase in June 2006 in an article “The rise of crowdsourcing” featured in Wired Magazine.  A combination of two familiar words crowd and outsourcing, it is in essence a published ‘open’ request for collaborative problem solving or idea sharing.

The idea is not new.  An organisation I do pro-bono work for annually ask members of the public to nominate good examples of design and build within the city.  This request is published through both traditional and new media channels.  There is no doubt that it is a lot easier to instantly submit a suggestion on-line than it is to make a note of the address in the paper and follow it up.  The request by the Government earlier this year asking members of the public to comment on existing policy is another example.

Howe describes Crowdsourcing as something that is outsourced to an ‘undefined’ public, in reality it seems that it builds on the open source idea and that there is a mixture of requests some to defined and others to undefined audiences.  For example the employee survey that asks for suggestion on ways the company can save money.  Or forums, like linkedin and melcrum communicators, that allow members to pose a question for other members to answer could be considered as examples of crowdsourcing solutions. So is it really a strategic tool that promotes collaboration or a cheeky way of getting someone else to do the work?

Posted in New media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Get off my land or open to the public

Now I don’t actually own 40 acres so I’m talking metaphorically or virtually speaking when I refer to land/territory.  What prompts these thoughts is who has responsibility for new media communications in an organisation, who should it be and does it matter?

If we remove telephone and email for the moment as personal communication and consider new media channels, they can be considered ’open to the public’.  More importantly open to public scrutiny and as such contribute to, or damage reputation.  Building relationships and protecting reputation is traditional remit of public relations hence their management of mass media channels.  Well as a Public Relations person I would say that.

For marketing and advertising new media is a way of doing what they have always done to attract customers, only using electronic means.  Now, the boundaries between marketingand public relations have been both blurred and complimentary for a while.  Marketing is focussed on selling products or services to increase the bottom line.  Public Relations, on building relationships and reputation to increase equity.

The thing is we are not alone, in some organisations the IT departments manage new media channels, recruitment and customer service areas respond to enquiries via new media like facebook and Twitter.  In any one organisation numerous departments can operate an ‘open to the public’ channel that official communicators may not even have sight of.  The greater the fragmentation of channels across an organisation the greater the risk to reputation.  Customers can complain publicly that a product or service is no good, or a supplier that they have not been paid.  Getting the response right is everything.  Greater transparency in how we operate should be welcomed.  Trying to control everyone’s message is futile.  So I guess as communicators our role is to facilitate what we can, try to make sure branding, style and naming convention are within company guidelines and embrace a truly open system?

Posted in Internal Communications, New media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Crisis response time on Twitter

Last week a tweet that an Airbus A380 had crashed was enough to send share prices (Rolls Royce) falling and kick off a crisis for the owner, Quantas, The plane did not actually crash but the case illustrates how increasingly Twitter is the first place a story will break and on-going commentaries ensue.  The old mantra of “tell it first, tell it fast” now better describes a Twitter user than the actions of the crisis communication team.

Twitter users communicate in real time, as things happen.  Their expectation is that organisations should be paying attention and respond likewise.  There is no differentiation between a life and death crisis or a minor one, the expectation is the same – instant.

Is this realistic?  I am aware of a few organisations where at least one person monitors Twitter and other RSS feeds on their PC.  In another open office the same information is constantly displayed via a large screen on the wall.  Paying attention however, is the easy part, a timely co-ordinated response much harder.  On noticing a breaking crisis, members of the team are alerted and crisis plans put into action.  Various people start the process of; verifying facts, writing statements, preparing spokespersons, and getting information out on all channels.  It is in this response stage where expectations depart from reality.  Checking facts takes time.  The “tell it accurately” part is essential for communicators if not for Twitter users.  How long is it acceptable to post or tweet “checking facts, further information to follow”.  Are we looking at a ‘golden hour’ for reputation in crisis response?

Posted in Crisis Communications, New media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Look a little more serious

Last week my husband was interviewed for his company magazine.  A member of the in-house communications team carried out the interview and brought along a photographer to capture the action.  Everything went successfully and was completed in record time.  Next step, team photo.  The group were naturally delighted that everything had gone smoothly, in good spirits most of all engaged with their task.  So animated in fact, that they were requested to “look a little more serious”.  In summary the photographer took the corporate ‘catalogue man’ type of shot.

The interesting part of this story from a corporate communications perspective is that according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in authority is shifting and there is a focus to portray an ‘authentic voice’ rather than a corporate voice.  How we choose to illustrate that also needs to be authentic.  If the purpose of the staff magazine/ezine is staff engagement surely an authentic picture of staff laughing and smiling would portray engagement more than a serious shot?  For a video news clip, how rich would it be to see the project unfold and then end with the team shaking hands or patting each other on the back.  If staff engagement and authenticity is the goal then surely staff, genuinely celebrating success is a gift.

Serious messages do require a picture that matches the tone, however, an animated photograph has a part to play.  So you have to ask, why didn’t it pan out that way?  Is it that in-house staff more so than agency staff become ‘institutionalised?  Or, are both trained/over-trained to follow a pre-scripted corporate style?  Just because we may have written ‘capture the moment’ in the photography brief does not mean the photographer is going to deviate from producing the expected corporate shot .

The danger is that corporate communications can be so focussed on achieving an authentic voice that matching this with an authentic image is overlooked, staff become blinkered by corporate style guides.  Whether you’re on the producing or receiving end of a corporate publication I’d love to hear how authentic  you believe it is.

Posted in Internal Communications | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

A table for two

Why Crowds and Conversations, well the idea comes from The Cluetrain Mainfesto, markets are conversations.

When you think of the internet, do not think of trucks of widgets, destined for distributors…think of a table for two

This statement implies closeness, a relaxed informality.  From a corporate communications perspective it’s a style used in engagement or to engender trust.  Over the course this blog I will be considering this concept.  Instead of the physical crowds and face to face conversations of the real world, I will be immersed in online communities and online conversations.  But, how different is it really? We are social beings, we like to swap stories, share tips, congregate – it’s human nature.   At a basic level, is it a conversation that swaps physical proximity with a technological connection or something more?

Up to now, with the exception of email and skype calls, my real world experience of new media has largely been as tools with which to pull information from or something that someone else in the team does.  This month has been a personal new media revolution.  In the real world I have swapped comments with at least three random strangers (I don’t actually keep count) and clicked to follow at least 30 people on twitter – revelation number one, it’s surprisingly addictive!   In the interest of science I have traded in my old Nokia 1680 for a HTC Desire revelation number two, accessing the web from my phone, why did I wait so long!

Posted in New media | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments