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Trumping fake news

3 Mar

Written by Leanne Rate, MPRINZ, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand and Central Committee member

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‘Fake News and How to Trump it’ was the topic up for discussion for panel members Dr Catherine Strong (Senior Lecturer at Massey University), Patrick Crewdson (Editor of Stuff.co.nz) and Raphael Hilbron (General Manager at SenateSHJ Wellington) at a recent PRINZ Central Division event.
Catherine says the fake news industry is new, and is not simply about wrong information being shared, but that the waters have been muddied by the Trump camp defining any news they don’t like as ‘fake’. During the US elections Donald Trump enjoyed support from 62 million voters – with many clicking on the fake news websites that said what they wanted to believe i.e. pro-Trump, anti-Clinton stories.
The large population behind Trump meant big money for the purveyors of fake news, more clicks = cash. Interestingly, fake news is a big industry in the financially depressed nation of Macedonia, where out-of-work teenagers found that they could make good money by sharing fake news about the US elections.
Fake news is causing a confidence issue for Americans says Catherine, as they become unsure about what news is real vs. fake, with the dilemma meaning an increase in traffic for reliable news sites like the New York Times and Washington post.
For PR professionals concerned about fake news affecting their organisation, she offers the 5 P’s:
• Prevent – make sure you are not contributing to the spread of fake news – don’t re-tweet or re-post stories if you haven’t researched their origins and veracity – be vigilant.

• Pick-up – keep on top of what’s been said about you in your social media monitoring, and then get on to it quickly if its fake.

• Percolate – if there is a fake news story about your organisation, Catherine says “Don’t be quiet. Put out your own correction and drive it through social media as hard as possible. Put ‘fake’ in the headline or in the first part of the tweet.” This will help social media aggregators identify fake news and remove it. It also means your own stories will rank in Google alongside the fake ones, giving readers a chance to be more informed. She also recommends posting comments under fake news stories, alerting readers to the fact it’s not true.

• Place –get your media release used by the most trusted mainstream media sites. Concentrate on that rather than a scatter gun approach sending your media releases wide and far.

• Polish – Headlines are important, it’s a catchy headline that gets shared most on social media, says Catherine. “Make sure your headline gets the gist of the message in it. It is no longer a teaser into the story – it is the story.”
For Patrick Crewdson, it’s a particular type of fake news that worries him the most. He’s less concerned about the parody of fake news generated by Macedonian teenagers becoming a problem in NZ with our small population, and is more worried about how the label of fake news has morphed. He says Trump is now using the term to describe any news story he doesn’t agree with, aiming to shut down coverage by major news organisations like CNN who he labels as hostile.
It’s a theme Patrick says he is starting to see at Stuff, with readers sending complaints to the editor on stories they don’t like, calling them ‘fake’. Bizarrely he’s starting to see these types of complaints even about weather and entertainment stories. “It’s increasingly a problem if people dismiss real stories as fake news because they don’t like the content,” he says. He argues that journalists and media outlets will need to work harder to maintain their credibility.

He believes the best way to increase credibility for media outlets is to:

  • Ensure reporting is beyond reproach
    Be as transparent as possible
    Publically advocate for themselves as media, including doing their own PR and explaining themselves
  • Get better at representing diversity and a range of voices. People are less likely to deem something as fake news if they can see themselves in it.

Raphael Hilbron represented the PR voice at the panel event, pointing out that “fake news is a problem for society, media and PR.” He said fake news is benefiting from the distrust the average citizen has of the media and other institutions, in part aided by the blurring of opinion and editorial.
He pointed to the gap in reporting that would have alerted the public earlier that Trump was winning the US election, instead the wide range of biased reporting meant we were blindsided, wondering what we had missed when he won. Highlighting the distrust of the media, Raphael cited a recent Gallop poll which said that in the USA only 32% of respondents said they trusted the media – the lowest result since the poll started.
He argues we are now seeing the rise of the ‘echo chamber’ where people are getting their news from very narrow spheres of influence, and are simply starting to believe what they want to believe, which leaves them “susceptible to the suspect agenda of others.”
He also referenced an opinion piece by Karl du Fresne which lamented the death of objective journalism in the Sydney Morning Herald, where journalists mixed comment with fact to offer their biased detrimental view on Trump. “Traditional media should uphold independence, accuracy, accountability and transparency. They have to prove that facts do matter, they need to convince readers there is a value in investigative journalism.” To be able to fund investigative journalism, media outlets will have to figure out how to convince online readers the news is worth paying for says Raphael.
He ended his time by reminding PRINZ members that our ethics are paramount, no-one in our profession should endorse lying or fake news, and that our own interests, and that of our clients, is best served by keeping to our code of ethics.

 

Thanks go to Central Division PRINZ committee member Annalie Brown (MPRINZ) for organising such a great panel and topic for Wellington’s first event for the year.

The Wonders of Work Experience

18 Oct

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The PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme allows students studying relevant qualifications to become involved and engaged in the communication and public relations industry. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Kendra Stone, PRINZ Student Ambassador at Massey University Auckland.

When I was 14 years old, I was already planning my future.  Mum had me see a career advisor- who had you take personality tests and produced a three-page report on whether you’d be a lawyer with three kids or a teacher with one.  I’d go in there all prepared with “Hi, I’m Kendra, and I want to be a journalist”, but in all honesty, I didn’t have much of an idea of what a journalist was. I thought that they were the pretty ladies who got to be all dressed up on TV, and men who wore really fancy suits, or perhaps the not-so-lucky ones who got battered about by the weather on live television.

“Honey, you’d make a great journalist as you’re always talking and asking so many questions,” Mum would say or “maybe you’d actually make a pretty good detective because you’re so nosy.”  I definitely considered both of these roles for a while, but funnily enough, my three-page report spat out a spiel on how I’d be a great psychologist.  Now in my mind, I imagined a psychologist to be someone lonely, sitting in a stark-white room dealing with everyone’s problems but their own.

Naturally, I was at a loss.  When we got home from the appointment, Mum filed the report in the ‘special documents’ cabinet, giving me a reassuring look of ‘we don’t have to worry about this for a while’.  When I reached year 11 in high school, I had this urge to get out there into the real world (as if school for 6 hours a day wasn’t enough for this blossoming journo/detective/psychologist).

Rocking up to The Radio Network with nothing but trembling, sweaty hands, I introduced myself.  Within a few weeks, I was driving the Black Thunder down Marine Parade, throwing bottles of iced tea at beach-dwellers and helping run the ‘Miss Mount Maunganui’ event.  Once I added that to my CV, I was excited to think about all of the other opportunities I could have if I simply put myself out there and asked!

When I finished school, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I did know it’d be something to do with communications.  I always knew I’d be good at it, because the most common note on my school reports was ‘Kendra needs to learn when to stop talking’.  Enrolling at Massey University in Auckland was the most exciting thing ever!  This little fish was about to move out of little old Tauranga and into the great big ocean of life!  This was three years ago now, and man has it been a super fun ride!

In my first year of university, I contacted South Pacific Pictures, asking if I could come in and see how things went down there.  I was allowed to come in for a few days, helping file media documents on lots of different TV shows from Shortland Street, to Outrageous Fortune, and The Almighty Johnsons.  I worked right next to Fern Sutherland, an actress from the show, and not going to lie I was pretty star-struck! There was also an office dog who liked to sit on my feet, and I definitely think all offices need some kind of animal to ease the stress.

My second year of university was even bigger for me as I contacted the NZ Herald and went in for a one-day stint to have a go at writing a column for the SPCA.  It was all very overwhelming, but extremely exciting at the same time.  Sitting next to reporters who’d had 20-so years in the industry was really cool, but I knew this kind of job wasn’t for me.  In realising that, I emailed over 10 different PR agencies around Auckland, asking them if they’d consider allowing me to come in for unpaid work experience.  After receiving many emails of “Thank you for giving this a go, but unfortunately we haven’t got the space to take anyone on”, I received one from BEAT PR, saying they’d be happy to take me on as an intern every week on a Friday.  This was my first experience with a PR agency-packing media kits, analysing media coverage and trying to navigate my way around Media Portal and Isentia.

The previous year, I had worked at a social media conference for a company called the ‘Online Academy’.  There, I networked with a lot of really motivated people, two of whom owned a company called ‘Starlight Media House’.   Just a few weeks after leaving BEAT PR, I heard from the managers there asked if I’d like to join their team as a Social Media Manager.  My time there was so valuable, as I learnt how to really understand the target audiences I was working with.  I worked with clients like Multiple Sclerosis Auckland, a plastic surgery company, a sanitary product company, and an interior design company.  This role taught me how to analyse my audiences in relation to what kind of content they engaged with the most, and I had so much fun learning about how these different companies operated.

When that came to an end over 12 months later, I applied for an internship position at Castleford Media.  I started this role in August of 2014, and while it was meant to last for only four weeks, I just finished there in August. The best way to describe my experience here? imagine that you’ve stepped onto the set of the film ‘The Internship’ (the one with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan).  The office was situated on the 16th floor of a Victoria Street West high rise, with huge open windows looking out to the sky tower, the viaduct, and people screaming as they were thrown around in the bungee ride.  I sat at Rookie Island (which is pretty self-explanatory), and I was surrounded by the travel and lifestyle, property, marketing, and graphic design islands.  As nervous as I was on my first day, I could not have felt more welcome.  Everyone there was like a family to me, and my role as an editorial intern was a perfect balance of experience, learning, meeting new people, and plenty of laughs! We even had stretch time at 3pm, flannel Fridays and group outings to the dumpling truck at lunchtime.  I learnt so much at Castleford Media, from using programmes like Curator and Scribe, to editing articles and coming up with content plans for the writers.

As all good things come to an end, so did this.  I left Castleford to devote myself more to my Communications group at University, organising tours to MediaWorks and NZME.   I was lucky enough to be appointed as the PRINZ Student Ambassador for Massey a role in which I’ve met some awesome people and been to some of PRINZ great networking events.

Now that I’m in my final weeks of my degree, I can look back at my work experience opportunities as a film reel, drawing on roles and scenes which stood out to me the most. If my career advisor could have predicted that I’d be lucky enough to have all of these amazing experiences, I probably would have asked him how that could be possible.  Now, I know that anything is possible if you put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, and always be willing to learn from others.  The last few years have been an absolute rollercoaster, but if someone asked me to ride it again, I’d be in the front seat ready to go.

Image credit: @Istock

What do you do when you feel an inch of self-inflicted pressure?

16 Aug

Written by Deanna Morse, PRINZ Student Ambassador

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The PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme allows students studying relevant qualifications to become involved and engaged in the communication and public relations industry. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Deanna Morse, PRINZ Student Ambassador at University of Waikato.

Self-inflicted pressure is what you see when people are lining up for a job interview; slightly slouched and folded in, protecting themselves. Within PR, this pressure can be found before pitching to a new client, public speaking or any stressful activity – no matter how confident you feel within your presence and knowledge – it’s nerve-wracking.

When productivity, results and reputation are on the line, how can you feel less stressed and more confident?

“Our bodies change our minds. Our minds change our behaviour. Our behaviour changes our outcomes.”

‘Communication’ – we’re trained professionals in our natural habitat, our passion and purpose at least five days a week. What about non-verbal communication? This is still part of communication after all. We often think about how our verbal communication governs how other people think and feel about us, but it is even more influential to understand the potential of how our non-verbal communication governs how we think and feel about ourselves – our thoughts, feelings and psychology.

Your body language shapes who you are. Do you know how to control and influence this?

Amy Cuddy- social psychologist, author, and lecturer at Harvard Business School offers us a life-hack: change your posture. By doing so, you can significantly change how your life unfolds.

Right now – make an audit of your body. Audit your posture throughout the day during different situations. Do you typically hold your arms, cross your ankles or hunch forward?

Expressions of power dynamics are universal and traditional. Let’s implement this expression into our daily life and see what happens.

What to do? Power pose.

Step 1: Dedicate two minutes in a comfortable setting

Step 2: Hands on hips, stand up straight, tilt your head slightly upwards and breathe.

Step 3: Feel the power – if you feel silly, remove all negativity from your thoughts and solely concentrate on feeling powerful within your posture. All it takes is two minutes.

Science works. Your testosterone rises and your cortisol drops, meaning your hormones configure your brain to be more assertive, comfortable and confident. You will also be less reactive to stress.

How can power posing really change your life in meaningful ways? Try it in evaluative situations: public speaking, delivering pitches or job interviews. As public relations practitioners, we’re pushing boundaries. We’re constantly making noise and forming relationships – we need our body and brain to be on our side.

What will happen?

You will feel it, you will become 100% ‘you’. Experiments show your presence will be captivating, comfortable, authentic, confident, passionate and enthusiastic. Tiny tweaks equal big changes.

It only takes two minutes, what’s stopping you? Try the pose then share the science.

To watch to Amy Cuddy’s ‘Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are’ TED Talk, click here.

Picture credit: iStock

Public relations, ethics, and social media: A cross-national study of PR practitioners

24 Mar

Written by Dr. Margalit Toledano, APR, Fellow PRSA, FPRINZ, University of Waikato

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You might remember that over a year ago I asked PRINZ members to respond to a questionnaire about ethics via a link that was posted on PRINZ Facebook page. Today I’m happy to keep my promise to share the published research findings with you. I actually conducted this research with a colleague in Israel as a comparative study on PR practitioners’ perceptions around ethics. More specifically, this study had two goals: first to identify  PR practitioners’ attitudes to ethical and unethical practices on social media and second, to compare practitioners’ attitudes to specific social media ethical issues in two different socio-cultural environments – New Zealand and Israel – two societies that are  ranked differently on international lists that compare levels of democracy in different countries. Based on the findings from online surveys conducted in both countries, the paper argues that PR ethics is linked to the culture and social environment in which practitioners function.

Would an environment that demonstrates more respect to human freedoms and transparency inspire more ethical attitudes towards PR professional challenges? The findings indicated a relatively high level of knowledge and strong support for ethical conduct among NZ practitioners compared to the Israelis. Though the sample was small and not fully representative, the consistency of the gap between practitioners in both countries is indicative of their different attitudes towards ethics: Israelis answered most questions with somewhat less ethical knowledge or care compare to the NZers.

The research also identified areas of confusion around what is considered acceptable practice in the use of social media as a professional public relations tool (i.e. issues of transparency, authentic identity, and blogger payments).

The NZ PR industry is supported by a liberal and free environment that should not be taken for granted. It is in the best interests of practitioners to protect NZ democratic values and deal with the new ethical challenges presented by social media.

Read Margalit’s full research here.

Native advertising: what it means for PR practitioners and our clients

28 Oct

 

Written by Anna Radford, FPRINZ, Cadence CommunicationsImage for Anna's blog post

 

The news media’s increasing move towards content commercialisation and commoditisation has raised a number of ethical and practical questions.  We all know it is happening but the landscape is constantly shifting and changing, making it difficult to get a handle on what’s really going on.

How does the paid content model work?  What does it cost? What does this shift mean to us as PR practitioners?  Is the age of ‘pure’ editorial over? Are media releases heading the same way as dinosaurs? What should we advise our clients / employers?  Is native advertising ethical?  Are organisations dancing with the devil if they start dealing with media on a paid basis? Are they shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t?

These are some of the many questions I wanted answered when attending September’s CAANZ session Who’s buying? The future of content commercialisation in NZ. And I was not alone, if the large number of PR and advertising professionals in attendance was anything to go by.

The below-mentioned panel, chaired by Ben Fahy, editor and associate publisher of NZ Marketing and stoppress.co.nz, shared their thoughts on commercial imperatives versus a purist approach, where the lines sit between earned and paid media, and the resulting ramifications for organisations and agencies.

Panellists were quick to point out that paid content is nothing new, with advertorials having been around for the best part of a century.  What has changed is the type, prevalence, pervasiveness – and in some cases, subtlety – of the commercialised content models now on offer.  For example, Tim Murphy, noted that the NZ Herald has identified that it has six different types of content categories on a continuum from news to advertorial.

Traditional news organisations are under threat.  Their survival depends upon generating more paid content so it’s here to stay, whether we like it or not.  It’s a new and rapidly evolving model and the media have no more idea than we do about where it’s going and what shape it will eventually take.  There’s a lot of experimentation going on to find out what will work and what will not but some common themes are emerging.

Panellists were unanimous that there’s nothing wrong with having paid content – so long as it is transparent to readers and viewers.  Although they all pushed this point, I suspect there are gaps between theory and practice.  This suspicion was borne out when one panellist mentioned in passing that paid content was not always transparent in their media.

There are clearly some ethical grey areas and it will be interesting to see how these play out over time. Several panellists commented that their organisation had been challenged on social media when they had been perceived to stray too far into blurred territory, but in my view, more robust systems are needed than simply relying on consumer complaints to keep them honest.

All panellists agreed on the importance of having a good fit between paid (and unpaid) content, the media’s own brand and the media’s audience.  Ignoring this will undermine the media’s and the content provider’s brands and alienate their audiences.

As content generators this means that public relations practitioners and advertisers will need to be more creative about how to get our client’s / employer’s brands into editorial copy, telling compelling stories while remaining true to all brands concerned.

We must also support our clients / employers to relinquish a degree of control, which could be difficult for those who are used to always promoting the positive.  As Simon Wilson put it: “I get really frustrated by old fashioned advertorial pages; they’re dull and boring. Clients use that absolute control over the content to make what’s so obviously an ad.  [You need to] understand the importance of taking an editorial lens rather than trying to shoe-horn the content in. Don’t be obvious in pushing your own barrow.

Simon’s comment made me realise that things aren’t actually so complicated at all.  Sure, we are in the middle of a huge shift, with all of its challenges and uncertainties.  But in many respects nothing has changed.  That’s because we as PR practitioners still need to be clear about what our client/employer wants to achieve from the communication exercise.  We still need to understand our media and consumer stakeholders and their needs and motivations.  And we still need to create clear, compelling and relevant content.

What’s so new about that?

The panel

Tim Murphy, former editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald, former chair of the national Media Freedom Committee and executive committee member of the Press Council

Ellen Read, National Business Editor, Fairfax Media NZ

Duncan Greive, freelance journalist and editor of culture website The Spinoff

Simon Wilson, Metro’s outgoing editor

Alana O’Neill, Head of Integration, Mediaworks

Image credit: iStock

An Undergraduate’s Journey for Real-World Experience – Internships

1 Sep

Written by Rose MacNicol, PRINZ Student Ambassador

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In 2015 PRINZ introduced a ‘PRINZ Student Ambassador Programme’ to increase engagement with students and, in addition to the Graduate Member class, give them a membership pathway. The programme gives students a head-start in the industry, encouraging them to participate in the PRINZ community. This blog post is written by Rose MacNicol, PRINZ Student Ambassador at Massey University, Wellington.

As a soon-to-be graduate, I remember hearing a guest speaker at one of my second year lectures saying, “although achieving a degree is a great success, you can’t forget about the importance of gaining real-world experience within the industry.” Sure, I loved developing campaigns and media releases for my public relations classes, but I never really thought of applying these to the real world.

My first experience with an internship was a bit of a flop. This was due to the fact that I didn’t receive a lot of guidance which left me spending way too much time staring at a computer screen with no idea what to do. I decided half way through this internship it would be mutually beneficial for both the organisation and myself to break it off.

Although a bit hesitant of going back to gain experience in the workforce, I entered third year and discovered a new internship opportunity at the Ministry of Social Development. I worked in the Central Regional Office of Child Youth and Family for three months. I worked on many different stories and uploaded them to their intranet, interviewed people, and attended local events. I worked closely alongside the communications manager and developed a number of skills and become a confident member of the office team.

Keen to meet more people within the industry and gain further experience, I applied to become a PRINZ Student Ambassador. Successfully achieving this role, I was introduced to a mentor who provided me with the connection to another internship focusing on social media which was an aspect that hadn’t been covered in my previous internship.

The following are key tips which I have learnt from my experiences with internships. These can apply to both PR practitioners within organisations and interns themselves:

  • Network: This is crucial, as soon as I entered first year the necessity of this skill was drilled into me. Talk to everybody, and put yourself forward for as many networking events as you can. You never know when or where the next internship opportunity, or keen student may be lurking.
  • Mentor-Student Relationship: Getting to know each other and communicating regularly avoids feelings of isolation which may be felt by the nervous intern. Informal morning catch up meetings give both the intern and the mentor a chance to let each other know how they are doing, and what needs to be done.
  • Be Eager: As an intern, be open and keen for every opportunity. For the organisation and intern it is vital to not be afraid of learning new things, even if they may be different to what you’re used to.
  • Ask questions: Understanding how the office works, what role each team member has, and knowing they are on the right track with their tasks is vital for an intern. The old phrase, ‘no question is a dumb question’ is key to a successful intern experience.

Picture Credit: iStock – Getty Images

FYI: For Your Independence?

28 Apr

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Katie Mathison, FPRINZ, PRINZ Central Committee member

The move by the New Zealand Herald to “help relaunch … and help run” the FYI website is an interesting one, but why have they done it?

If you had to guess why a news outlet has bothered getting into a website where people can file OIA (Official Information Act) requests and get responses published, you’d probably say that they’re positioning themselves as the media champion of the OIA. And in the process getting one over on their competitors and drawing in more readers and advertisers.

FYI.org.nz was founded and managed by Rowan Crawford (@wombleton), self-described Open Government javascript gunslinger, who seems to have had less interest in the OIA itself than in the software solution.  He’s moving on to other things and the Herald has moved in, presumably handing over cash on the way.

The Herald, like all journalists, sees the OIA as a way to get news fodder. But the Herald clearly also sees the OIA as a news item in itself. Witness the Herald’s own commentary on the ‘relaunch’, in which they reference the Ombudsman’s current review, and requoting PM John Key’s “Sometimes we wait the 20 days because, in the end, Government might take the view that’s in our best interest to do that”.

So what changes? Apparently nothing. Where is the competitive advantage? Apparently nowhere, unless the Herald decides to delay posting OIA responses on FYI, so that they get first dibs on making comment before their competitors see it. And therein lies the rub. We have an independent, free-spirited public website that carries the .org (not-for-profit) suffix coming under the control of a profit-making news company with a .co suffix. Is this what the New Zealand public wants from FYI? Basically users will now submit their OIA requests to the Herald, which is weird whichever way you think about it.

But maybe there’s not enough people who will care: in the six plus years FYI has been up and running only 1256 requesters have used it, averaging about one request a day. It will be interesting to see how the Herald manages to convert that to profit.

In the interests of full disclosure, I work for a central government agency that is one of the 12 selected for the Ombudsman’s review.

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