Smears, laws, and PR ethics

18 Aug

490201787Dr. Margalit Toledano, APR, Fellow PRSA, Fellow PRINZ

In November 2011 top international PR agency Burson-Marsteller was caught up in a scandal. They’d run a covert anti-Google smear campaign on behalf of their client Facebook. They had pitched anti-Google stories to newspapers and bloggers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. When a blogger posted Burson-Marsteller’s pitch email on his blog and the PR agency refused to disclose the name of the client the strategy backfired. It led to wide negative publicity under the title “the Whisper Campaign”. Facebook was then exposed and this high profile case of defamation was criticized by the communication industry as unprofessional. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) stated bluntly that “Smear campaigns have no place in PR.” PRSA also accused Burston-Marsteller of violating the PR code of ethics: both by running the negative campaign and by not disclosing the identity of the client that hired them to do it. Eventually Burston-Marsteller had to publish a public apology reiterating their commitment to transparency about clients.

Dirty Politics, the new book by Nicky Hager, alleges that a similar, though longer and more sophisticated, smear campaign involved PR professionals serving the New Zealand Prime Minister. The argument that leaking negative stories about political opponents to media is common practice by all parties doesn’t seem to cover the outrage expressed by the public and other political parties about the access to privileged state secrets provided to specific bloggers collaborating with the PM’s spokespeople. Calls for legal action followed on the day the book was launched. They came from both sides – to inquire into both government spokespeople and Nicky Hager’s undisclosed sources. This promises to be a long-lasting and challenging task for court intervention as defamation cases are tricky and difficult to judge.

In many countries, the law recognises the value of reputation and credibility and balances it with the democratic rights of freedom of speech, expression and the freedom of the press. Malice and the intention to cause damage to a competitor, in either commercial or political cases, is often a major issue in defamation cases.

A precedent that is particularly relevant to public relations was set by an Israeli court in 2012. The Tel Aviv judge Dr. Michal Agmon-Gonnen ruled that negative campaigns were unacceptable practice and she fined a company for employing a PR agency whose plan included trashing the reputation of a commercial competitor. The company paid damages in negligence because the judge considered the PR plan as evidence for malice in its intentions to defame a competitor.

Agmon-Gonnen’s judgement stated:

There is no legitimacy in greater access to the media, which is achieved via public relations services that are bought with lots of money. It is a cynical and unlawful use of the freedom of press and freedom of expression . . . . A market in which media news are bought with money, and with irrelevant motivations, is a dangerous market of ideas, with destructive potential. This is not a free market in which the competition between different opinions and ideas leads to the exposure of the truth. This is a market in which the rich and the powerful have a clear advantage over others and they are the ones who dictate tomorrow’s headlines.

(Agmon-Gonnen, 2012 judgement, p. 26) [Author translation from Hebrew]

The law generally offers protection to defendants in defamation cases when the publicity meets two conditions – truthfulness and the public interest. The Israeli case exposed the unethical conduct of public relations practitioners who planned to spread untruthful stories and to argue that such a campaign to smear a competitor was an acceptable PR practice
In many cases public relations practitioners conduct negative campaigns to serve client goals not just in competitive markets but in political campaigns. At times this may serve the public interest by exposing essential information about public figures, political candidates, business people or even non-profit organisations that cheat or present a risk to society. But large questions remain. As long as the information provided in the negative campaign is true – should they be forbidden from publishing it on the grounds that a negative campaign could be considered illegal? However, as the Israeli judgment shows dirty trick campaigns have a long way to go before they can safely wrap themselves in a “freedom of expression” cloak. And the court of public opinion is more likely to support legal interventions to curtail smear campaigns that favour malice over substance.

For full paper on the Israeli case judgement of PR see:
Toledano, M. (2014). Judging public relations: An analysis of an Israeli court judgment on a defamatory and negative campaign. Public Relations Review Vol 40 (3). pp. 492-499

Guest Blog: PRINZ CEO Panel – Communicating ‘Brand Wellington’

15 Aug

Grace Loftus, Communications Advisor at MBIE

CEO Panel – Communicating ‘Brand Wellington’ was a PRINZ evening event held on Tuesday 5 August in Wellington.

How do you go about creating a brand for Wellington that appeals to both tourists and businesses alike? What are the challenges of bringing along those organisations and suppliers that will make your brand come to life?

On 5 August the Wellington chapter of PRINZ held a panel discussion aimed at answering these questions, featuring David Perks – CEO Positively Wellington Tourism (PWT); Gerard Quinn – CEO Grow Wellington; Sarah Meikle – CEO Wellington Culinary Events Trust; and Kevin Lavery – CEO Wellington City Council. The event was well attended, with around 40 attendees in all.

Each speaker took to the floor for ten minutes to discuss how each of their organisations is working (often with each other) to promote Wellington as the cultural and migration destination of choice in New Zealand.

CEO Panel photoThe first of the panel to take the floor, David Perks’ key achievement as CEO of PWT to date has been the naming of Wellington as one of the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2011 by Lonely Planet.

Wellington regularly bucks national trends of decline in guest nights and international visitor arrivals by being nimble, tactical, and innovative. While tourism marketing is our shop window, marketing a city and marketing a country are very different things. Auckland and Wellington are both good urban experiences beyond the New Zealand countryside. David explained that in order to be successful, Wellington needs to tell a believable story beyond a one day visit or a one-sided nature experience. Marketing Wellington’s values of “act like a city, love like a village” helps bridge the gap between overseas and domestic perceptions of Wellington.

Next to speak was Gerard Quinn – CEO Grow Wellington. Gerard leads the Grow Wellington team in its efforts to grow Wellington’s economy and attract businesses, skilled people, and investment to the region. According to Gerard, Wellington is the first region in New Zealand to take a ‘whole of’ approach to marketing.

Gerard also chairs Creative HQ, the region’s high tech start-up accelerator and as part of the high-tech capital project leverages off successful companies like Trade Me, Xero, and Fronde to attract talent and investment to the region. Social media has been a great tool for Grow Wellington. It has allowed Wellington’s tech community to get behind the initiative and has been instrumental in attracting international interest in Wellington from people like Rob Janoff, designer of the iconic Apple logo.

Gerard said developing a value proposition, conducting a competitive city audit, and developing a brand toolkit to share with businesses were part of Grow Wellington’s marketing strategy.

Sarah Meikle – CEO Wellington Culinary Events Trust, also spoke about the need to bring the Wellington brand to life. She revealed how, when she worked for David at PWT, they turned Lonely Planet’s 2011 Capital of Cool declaration into a full-scale campaign in just four days.

She referred to Seth Godin’s definition of brand as: “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”

A brand is not a logo; strategy is key – supported by research; and you need to look at what your competitors are doing. For Sarah there is only one Wellington.

Sarah finished with a question for the audience to ponder – “How do we work with exporters such as Whittakers, Matakina, etc to tell the Wellington story?”

Last to speak was Kevin Lavery – CEO Wellington City Council. Kevin reiterated what David and Gerard had mentioned about the challenge facing New Zealand in balancing the international image of the Kiwi great outdoors with the reality of New Zealand’s urban populations. The reality is 80% of New Zealand’s GDP is generated by cities; 80% of Kiwi jobs are in cities; and 3 out of 4 New Zealanders live in urban areas.

Kevin, together with Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, is currently working on ‘8 Big Ideas’ for Wellington and was eager to communicate five key messages behind these ideas:

  1. Have an authentic and honest brand
  2. Your brand needs to be an integral part of a wider plan and delivery mechanisms
  3. Time is of the essence
  4. Have plenty of swag, confidence, and edginess
  5. Aim to be the best.

To be the best Wellington has to look beyond these shores to how the biggest cities in the world have successfully created and marketed their iconic brands. New York, Barcelona, and Glasgow were some standouts for him.

The panel session concluded with each panellist offering a vision for what they envisioned as a ‘job well done’:

David - “When other people write about Wellington as being ‘cool’, from sectors other than travel and tourism”
Gerard - “When an increasing number of businesses, talented people, international students and investors choose Wellington over another NZ and international cities”
Sarah - “When Wellington businesses tell Wellington’s story”
Kevin – “Well done is better than well said”

An interesting and insightful session on ‘Brand Wellington’ which provided the audience with plenty of material for questions and thoughts to take away from the night.


To see future events coming up in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch, view the 2014 Events Calendar on the PRINZ website.

The Queen’s Decree: You Will Use Measurement Standards To Save Time and Money

18 Jul

From the Desk of Katie Paine, Publisher & CEO at Paine Publishing

Item 1: I am three weeks late with a measurement analysis for a certain client because it took seven attempts to get a clean database. I’ve had to rewrite parts of this report half a dozen times. The problem? Bad search strings, lack of good de-duping protocols, and poor filtering.

Item 2: For another project I am doing what all organizations should do when they select a vendor: Compare results. What a mess — I am constantly comparing apples to fish. It’s not impossible to reconcile one vendor’s 4-point scale with another’s 7-point scale, but it adds several extra steps to every chart and report you write.

data2Those two examples are just a taste of a very frustrating month I’ve had dealing with bad data and uncooperative vendors. That’s why this month’s issue focusses on dirty data (read more: “Dirty Data Dooms Measurement: Here Are 5 Tidy-Up Techniques”), and how to make sure you find good vendors (read more: “The 10 Biggest Mistakes When Hiring a Media Monitoring Vendor”). After a 25-year career on the vendor side of measurement, I am now seeing the world through the client’s eyes. I get calls and emails several times a week from clients who are similarly frustrated with the state of measurement services (read more: “5 Real Life Horror Stories of Bad Data”). It’s a very depressing situation.

The good news is that this is exactly the sort of situation that standardization of terms and collection practices can fix. These standards have recently been developed and are now in place and ready to use. In particular, a great deal of data and vendor problems would be avoided if:

(1) More vendors completed the Sources and Methods Transparency Table developed by the #smmstandards. Clients would have more visibility into the process and a better understanding of what they’re getting.

(2) More suppliers followed the Sample Codebook for Media Analysis developed by Eisenmann, O’Neil and Geddes. Consistency in coding definitions would avoid a huge amount of hassle, confusion, and wasted time.

I’ve always been an proponent of standards from a theoretical standpoint, but now that I’m actually in the trenches dealing with the confounding cacophony that is the measurement marketplace, I realize that standards aren’t just a “nice to have,” they are a must have. Why do we make measurement so difficult?

DecreeI love the changes and discussions that the Barcelona Principles have provoked, but I think it’s time for a more radical statement. I offer The Queen’s Decree:

1. Anyone sending out an RFP for measurement services is hereby ordered to use the Standards Compliance Statement for Inclusion in Research RFPs, to insure that vendors understand that they are expected to adhere to standards.

2. Anyone buying measurement services is hereby ordered to use the Sources and Methods Transparency Table and to instruct vendors to use the Sample Codebook for Media Analysis. They should refuse to hire any consultants, agencies, or vendors that have not pledged to support the standards.

3. Anyone selling measurement services should pledge to adhere to the standards and make every effort to be consistent with the Standard Codebook.

4. Anyone advising clients or agencies on measurement selection should refuse to recommend any agency or vendor that hasn’t pledged to support the standards or refuses to comply with them.

Or “Off with their heads!”


Katie Paine, Measurement Queen is visiting New Zealand on 29 September to present a half day PRINZ workshop.

“What matters to management are value and return, and things that make a difference to the bottom line, and no matter how pretty the chart you make, if all you’re showing is how many impressions you got, or how many Twitter followers you accumulated, none of that ties your efforts to the bottom line.”

Visit Katie Paine’s Measurement Blog or her newsletter The Measurement Advisor.

Book a place on the PRINZ course ‘Measure what Matters’, 9am-1pm, Monday 29 September in Auckland. An earlybird registration applies until Friday 29 August.

 

Event Breakdown: Internal Communications – getting the inside right (WGTN)

2 Jul

Internal Communications: Getting the inside right, was a PRINZ breakfast event held on 26 June in Wellington.

PRINZ Central division held a panel discussion on internal communications featuring Katie Mathison, Group Manager Communications at the New Zealand Customs Service, and Amanda Woodbridge, Associate Partner at Ideas Shop, a full service PR company. The event was well-attended, with 26 attendees in all.

Katie Mathison manages Customs reputation externally and internally across all communications channels. She talked about the challenges faced by the Customs communications team in turning Customs 35-page ‘Towards Customs 2020’ strategy into something exciting, engaging, and meaningful for every member of staff.

The idea was to get everyone’s input, so the communications team decided to chunk down the strategy and represent it visually as a ‘Big Picture’, using imagery to convey the 11 challenges of the organisation’s overall strategy in a meaningful way to staff.

The process took longer than thought because it was important to get input from the senior leadership team, the change programme team, managers, team leaders, and frontline staff.Team leaders held visual sessions with most of the 1200 staff, the concept was displayed in all common areas, and feedback was gathered via the intranet.

There were 18 versions of the ‘Big Picture’ over six weeks. A final time-lapse video of the visual being drawn, with the CE’s voiceover, served to bring the visual to life for staff.

The visual was printed on a large colour canvas at each site and each manager did a site-specific unveiling. It was also released as a Customs screensaver and all staff received a printed copy.

The project was a success and smaller sections of it are used in other communications to link back to the ‘Big Picture’ as a constant reminder. The project was not without its hurdles though, the main ones being time taken from beginning to end, and the difficulty of trying to please everyone.

Amanda Woodbridge, an Associate Partner at Ideas Shop talked about her work supporting a client to share its business strategy with its people. After initial conversations, it became apparent internal communication was ad hoc, inconsistent and unplanned, with a strong reliance on managers making their own decisions about what information to share with their team and when. Before launching the strategy, the organisation needed to rejuvenate how it communicated with its people – otherwise it would be launched into a vacuum, with a real risk that staff wouldn’t have a common understanding of the priorities and changes required.

The first step for Ideas Shop was completing an internal communication audit to understand what was working well and what needed to change to support the sharing of strategic and operational information across the business. Ideas Shop found that while people were engaged, they wanted to see more of the Senior Leadership Team, know more about the organisation and have more timely and up-to-date news. From that, Ideas Shop worked closely with its HR manager and senior leaders to redevelop existing channels and launch new ones, including a team cascade.

With the infrastructure in place to support good communication, Ideas Shop is now advising the leadership team to share its strategy with a leaders’ day planned for later this month.

Getting the business strategy right first and foremost is key according to Amanda – it’s the bones from which a good communication strategy can hang.

All in all, an interesting and insightful session on the importance of ‘getting the inside right’ with the highlight of both talks being the need to work closely with leadership teams and front-line staff to ensure strategic messages are adequately understood and brought to life for staff.


The next two event on in Wellington are:

10 July – Communicating Chinese Style – Register here 

5 August – CEO Panel – Communicating ‘Brand Wellington’ – Register here 

 

Volunteering – a way to ‘give back’ that provides opportunities

19 Jun

Alexander Danne, PRINZ Intern.

When I was 15-years-old I applied for a high school exchange programme, which ultimately changed the course of my life. I was invited to a panel interview and I was very nervous about the whole process. The interview started and the five panellists introduced themselves. They all had very different careers and ambitions, but they all had one thing in common: they all volunteered for YFU (Youth for Understanding – an exchange organisation) and said that they had been exchange students and that they wanted to give something back to the organisation as well as to society and that is why they became volunteers. When I returned from my own exchange I stayed with the organisation and volunteered for it as well. Now, a good ten years later, I am still with YFU and I still like the work – I still like to ‘give back’.

Alexander at PRConf14 with Deborah Rolland, Senior Lecturer, Unitec.

Alexander at PRConf14 with Deborah Rolland, Senior Lecturer, Unitec.

Volunteering is a great opportunity to contribute to society, and also a way to step up, earn responsibility and prove yourself to you and others. Some of my time I volunteer for PRINZ and that provided me with the opportunity to stand out to the PRINZ team. Eventually our professional relationship developed and now I am a member of the PRINZ office, which I am grateful for and proud of. I found my way to a professional career though volunteering and in my opinion that is a good start, because I chose the organisation I volunteer for based on a great interest. Through my studies I get the impression that a number of young professionals struggle to find their careers and therefore I can encourage everyone to step up and become a volunteer in order to find an area of interest. Maybe you can contribute to society at the same time and maybe you can find your career path and engage in it – I can recommend you try.

I personally like volunteering, because it provides you with the opportunity to ‘give something back’ to society and at the same time you can contribute to a better society. Further, volunteering holds a lot of opportunities and for a graduate student like me it is a perfect chance to engage in the professional environment. Go for it!


Volunteering with PRINZ – There are many ways in which members give their time and expertise to support PRINZ. If you would like to volunteer we would love to hear from you. We invite you to complete the online form to let us know the areas you are interested in.

In celebration of volunteers – #PR gives back

16 Jun
smallerNVW-2014_Website-Banner_FULL
Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te tangata
With your contribution and my contribution the people will live


Simone Bell, PRINZ CEO

It’s National Volunteer Week (NVW) and on behalf of PRINZ; thank you! My PRINZ-take on the NVW theme is; Our combined effort, skills and knowledge have brought us here.

I truly believe that #PR gives back.

In fact, it gives back to the tune of $2,213,140 in the 2013 financial year. The PRINZ Trends Survey*, undertaken by independent research partner Perceptive Research found that PR consultants, sole traders and consultancies contributed more than 2 million dollars in pro-bono work last year. You can view a breakdown of this statistics here.

We all volunteer in different ways; and social good, pro-bono work is one of those.

Volunteers for PRINZ act in the following roles:

  • National Council members – elected and co-opted
  • Division committee members
  • Local Learning Lunch hosts and facilitators
  • Mentors
  • Presenters
  • Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management representation
  • APR coordinator / mentor / Viva Voce interviewer
  • Bloggers
  • Conference working groups
  • Students at Conference
  • Committees – Research, Ethics
  • Fellows Executive members
  • Award judges

That numbers more than 200 people, all at various stages of the profession and practice. The Office relies on volunteers in these roles to deliver robust, peer reviewed and relevant programmes to our growing membership.

The network that forms around this is invaluable.

If you watch the interviews we undertook with PRINZ members from around New Zealand earlier this year, you will be able to see some important themes – those who volunteer get back as much as they put in.

In particular, the recognition of mentoring being a way for senior practitioners to be energised through their investment in younger members and the value in the network PRINZ provides – which as a volunteer is an even more accessible network – based on your shared involvement in a project or group.

We have put a figure on the pro-bono work the industry does. Imagine if we put a dollar value on the work of volunteers for PRINZ. Your support is immeasurable, it is what has built the organisation as we know it today, and what will continue to advance it in the years ahead.

If you’d like to join the #PR gives back movement and volunteer for PRINZ in a specific way, please complete this short member volunteer survey.

*515 respondents, April 2014, Perceptive Research: https://www.prinz.org.nz/Article?Action=View&Article_id=66

The number 1 reason why PR gets no respect – stupid metrics

13 Jun

Katie Paine, Measurement Queen is visiting New Zealand on 29 September to present a half day PRINZ workshop.

“What matters to management are value and return, and things that make a difference to the bottom line, and no matter how pretty the chart you make, if all you’re showing is how many impressions you got, or how many Twitter followers you accumulated, none of that ties your efforts to the bottom line.”

Visit Katie Paine’s Measurement Blog or her newsletter The Measurement Advisor.

Book a place on the PRINZ course ‘Measure what Matters’, 9am-1pm, Monday 29 September in Auckland. An earlybird registration applies until Friday 29 August.

 


Katie PaineI frequently get asked why PR people should care about measurement. The short answer is that you have no credibility without it.  To most people, PR is that somewhat shady process of getting the media to pay attention to whatever it is you’re trying to push on them, while distracting them from the bad stuff your organization is probably doing. Then there’s PRSA’s lofty definition: Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” The reason for this perception gap is decades of stupid metrics and bad measurement.

For years, PR people have focused on activities not outcomes. They measured value in terms of column inches and the height of a stack of press releases (or the famous “Thud” factor as in the decibel level of the sound of that year’s clip book when it lands on the boss’ desk.)  In today’s terms, that’s the equivalent of how many likes you got on a Facebook post. The result of these over inflated stupid metrics is that PR has come to be defined by what it shovels out, rather than the relationships that it builds.

It’s time to clean out the cobwebs and start fresh.

Let’s start with that concept of relationship building. In today’s environment, the need for good relationships with your publics is stronger than ever. The last decade has given PR the ability to directly talk to and build relationships with all your stakeholders, not just the media.  Those relationships today are more likely to get established via a conversation on Twitter, a connection on LinkedIn, or a video on YouTube, as they are through anything in the media.

Those good relationships bring value to your organization by lowering your costs of doing business – the local community stops bringing lawyers to every meeting, your neighbors raise fewer objections to your expansion plans, your sales force spends less time explaining your company to customers, and has a better ability to listen to the needs of the marketplace so your sales cycle gets shorter. Your turnover rates go down and you spend less on recruitment.

Fostering good relationships makes sense, doesn’t it?  Then why not measure relationships instead of the nearly universally discredited metric of Ad Value Equivalency? (AVE.) AVE puts a “value” on a story based on its length and what it would cost to buy that space.

The standard reason for using AVE is something like “clients demand it,” or “it’s easy for clients to digest”.  To which the smart alek in me invariably responded, “If clients demanded Heroin would you provide that as well?”  French fries and hot dogs are easy to digest but that doesn’t mean we should rely on them for nourishment.  And like any diet of Heroin and french fries, the consequences are pretty unpleasant.

One of the realities of life is that you become whatever you value and measure. And PR has been gorging itself on AVE for so long, it has had a single minded focus on making that stack of clips higher. So is it any wonder that in the minds of senior leadership that’s all PR is about?  And isn’t that why PR budgets are always the first to be cut, why senior management never has time to meet with you? Why leadership puts PR on the bottom of the meeting agenda, likely to be put off to another day.

It’s because AVE is not what’s valuable to senior management. What matters to management are value and return, and things that make a difference to the bottom line, and no matter how pretty the chart you make, if all you’re showing is how many impressions you got, or how many Twitter followers you accumulated, none of that ties your efforts to the bottom line.

Ahh you say, but AVE does show value – the value of space you didn’t have to buy with your advertising budget.  But how many of those media outlets that your clips appeared in actually influence your stakeholders or target audience. And even if all of them appeared in major media outlets, take all those clips to the CMO and ask him or her how many they would have been willing to pay for? You’ll be lucky if 10% make the cut. The rest probably lack messages, desirable visuals, recommendations, brand benefits or anything else that might make a prospect want to buy your products.

The reality is that there is no evidence anywhere that an article in the back of a newspaper or magazine has the same impact as a paid ad in that same publication.  And there is even less evidence that an online story has the same impact as online advertising.

Yes but, comes the next argument…  there is value to impressions, isn’t there?  Perhaps, but that’s where you need good metrics.  Getting the word out there may or may not help your business. I can generate a ton of impressions at relatively low cost by tattooing your logo on a naked female butt and have her run naked through the streets of Dubai for a day… but will that sell product? You have no way of knowing unless you actually measure the results.  Lulu lemon generated a ton of publicity in 2013, but at the end of the day, its stock price fell, it pissed off its customers and the CEO stepped down.

There was no shortage of publicity for BP and the Gulf Coast as a result of the oil spill, but the outcome as measured by stock price, tourism revenue, or the shellfish market would hardly be called successful.

In 2012 Komen for the Cure was among the most talked about charities in the country, but when its battle with Planned Parenthood was over, Komen had lost millions in funding and participation in its races was down 20%.

Still think impressions alone are enough? The reality is that in any communications effort you need more than simple exposure and column inches. You need to know what impact your efforts are having on the business and what management expects that impact to be. But take heart, you’re only six simple steps away from good measurement, and in the next six segments we’ll explain each one….

 

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