Tuesday, 23 February 2010


The Public Relations industry has been constantly evolving and adapting itself to the changing environment. The emergence and growth of social media has completely transformed the way businesses interact with their target audience and hence have made an impact on the public relations industry. As demand for social media increases, Public Relations practitioners need to educate their clients on social media. The video has been produced under the New Media module of my course. It is for academic purpose only. This video aims to introduce certain key aspects and issues regarding social media like what is social media, why is it called social media, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using social media, what are the sociological and cultural concepts behind social media and what is their relevance to PR and how social media can be used. Hope you find this video informative and please feel free to leave comments or email me at divyakapoor10@gmail.com. Enjoy!

Download answers to common questions on social media here

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Corporate Social Responsibility as a concept has evolved over a period of time. The Public Relations handbook by Alison Theaker defines CSR as voluntary actions that business can take, over and above compliance with minimum legal requirements, to address both its own competitive interests and the interests of the wider society. The term ‘social responsibility’ implies that business is motivated by more than just self-interest and is in fact, an activity that aims to promote the interest of society at large.

While formulating CSR policies, corporate organisations need to ensure that it is well integrated into the way their business is being administrated. It should not be considered as a separate set of activity that needs to be undertaken in order to build a strong and credible image. CSR is not only about donating money to charities, it is a much more holistic and comprehensive approach which organisations need to incorporate into their business strategy to develop and maintain partnerships with its stakeholders.

Benefits of doing CSR

After discussing some of the characteristics of CSR, the next obvious question which comes to the mind is why do CSR? Although there are lot of benefits of doing CSR, here are some of the key ones:

Building Good Reputation: Corporate organisations can build their reputation through CSR. They can also enhance their image of being honest and trustworthy. Once they build this image, organisations can develop a strong bond with their stakeholders. Johnson & Johnson’s chief executive officer, James Burke, demonstrates that companies with a reputation for ethics and social responsibility grew at a rate of 11.3% annually from 1959 to 1990 while the growth rate for similar companies without the same ethical approach was 6.2%. As Warren Buffet says, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Ralph Tench and Liz Yeomans in their book Exploring Public Relations explain the importance of a good reputation:

Risk Management: CSR helps organisation to develop a protective shield in the times of crisis. It enables businesses to operate in communities and act as a social license, a form of insurance against unforeseen risks to corporate image, reputation or profits for example, in the case of Cadbury, the company had such a strong reputation that even in times of crisis (salmonella discovery in their chocolates in 2006 in the UK), public still maintained their trust in the company. This does not mean that the company can escape from its responsibilities, it simply means that all its stakeholders would be more willing to listen and understand an organisation’s point of view during a crisis situation.

Human Resource: Another direct benefit generated by CSR is related to Human resource selection process. Studies done in 2005 have shown that over 75% of the MBA graduates would set aside the financial benefits in order to work for an organisation that has a better reputation in CSR and ethics. It also helps to improve employee morale.

Enhance and add value to the organisation products and services: For example, Sainsbury’s announced in Dec06 that it would switch to 100% fair-trade bananas by July 2007. They did it within the specified time frame and the result: 5% increase in banana sales (35 million bananas) since they switched to Fair-trade.

Brand Differentiation and competitive advantage: In today’s competitive market, companies strive for a unique selling proposition that can separate them from the competition in the minds of consumers. This brand differentiation and competitive advantage helps build customer loyalty and generate sales. Several major brands, such as The Co-operative Group, IBM and Cadbury etc. are built on ethical values. "Companies with their eye on their 'triple-bottom-line' outperform their less fastidious peers on the stock market" - The Economist.

Hence, we conclude that corporate social responsibility should not been as a distinct or a separate function, it needs to be integrated in to the day-to-day operations of the business. Also, companies can benefit in a lot of ways if they engage in genuine and consistent CSR activities.

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Friday, 19 February 2010


Social media has opened a plethora of opportunities in front of PR practitioners. The growth and development of social media has fundamentally transformed the way businesses are interacting with their stakeholders. Public Relations industry has been striving hard to deal with such fast-moving and dynamic developments. It is imperative for PR practitioners to be competent in using these new technologies in order to leverage current and future business opportunities. Therefore, with the help of two case studies, I would like to highlight the impact social media can have on a company’s policy and the need for businesses to understand that they need to adapt themselves with the changing environment.

Examples of the impact of social media on PR:

Case Study 1

Source: Public Relations handbook by Alison Theaker
Brands: Greenpeace and Apple
The Story: Greenpeace established a sub-website ‘A Greener Apple’to challenge the company over its corporate social responsibility. Greenpeace wanted customers to campaign for a Green Apple, focusing on iPoison and iWaste to urge CEO Steve Jobs to prioritise environmental concerns. The site used social media with lots of ideas for how users could promote the campaign. As a result, in May 2007, Apple launched a new policy to talk more about its environmental activities.

Lesson learnt: Social media can have a deep impact on a company’s policy and companies need to respond quickly to the demands of the social media interactions.

Case study 2

Source: Public Relations handbook by Alison Theaker
Brand: Avis
The Story: In January 2007, Avis started a blog ‘We Try Harder’ with the aim of getting established before gaining media attention. Initially, the blogs did not have a human voice and appeared to be self-congratulatory in tone. Also, the company was too slow in responding to customer demands. However, gradually the company realised these shortcomings and changed its approach by responding to the bloggers feedback. As a result, it helped the company in developing a positive image of brand and has shown itself to be delivering on its brand message and corporate values.

Lesson learnt: If used in the right way, social media can be an effective tool for building brand image and reputation.


As PR practitioners we learn that in today’s world of social media, it is impossible for any brand to hide itself, in fact, social media provides an opportunity for brands to be open, vocal and transparent about their plans and policies and if their messages are communicated at the right time and at the right place, social media can enhance their brand image and value.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


An interesting debate is going on in the PR industry; the hot topic is the “impact of new media in politics”. Recent articles in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Reuters UK all seem to be analysing the impact new media will have on the 2010 General Elections in the UK. I think Barack Obama’s successful online campaign during U.S. presidential election in 2008 is one of the best examples to illustrate the fact that new media provides a real time opportunity in front of political parties to proactively engage and converse with their stakeholders. This blog attempts to analyse why and how politicians are using the new media to influence their target audience.

How and why politicians are using the new media?

Emphasise: Political parties can use new media to reiterate their core message along with traditional media. For example, Webcameron is a website where Conservative leader David Cameron has been talking to voters since 2006 and has been emphasising the fact that Conservatives are much more capable of running the country than the Labour. Labour on the other hand is doing the same thing through its website http://www.labour.org.uk/.

Reach new audience: Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube enables them to reach a different segment of the target audience i.e. youth which is hard to reach through traditional media. For example, the Labour Party in Feb 2009 launched a system to integrate Labour MPs' websites with Twitter and Facebook.

Influence: Online advocacy (26%) is becoming the most influential channel for European consumers. Hence, political parties can influence their target audience using this medium of communication. For example, Labour party was first to start inviting bloggers to press conferences.

Speed: When Cameron launched the conservative party’s election campaign in early January this year in Oxfordshire; his “new media” team alerted tens of thousands of followers through instant updates on Facebook and Twitter. They also provided the followers with a link to the full speech so that they could download it. Political bloggers were briefed before they gave their instant analysis on to the web and Films were put on YouTube. Thus, with just the press of a button, politicians can reach millions of people within seconds.

Direct reach and Flexibility: Unlike traditional media where the messages need to pass through gatekeepers (the media), new media offers an opportunity for politicians to reach their voters directly. Moreover, it gives politicians the flexibility to change their approach as and when required. For example, David Cameron had an individual account which has been shut down at the request of Tory HQ. The webpage asks its visitors to follow conservative’s webpage for latest updates. The reason as Cameron explains is that it’s hard to convey complicated messages in just 140 characters.


I think new media cannot be seen as an end in itself rather it should be seen as a tool to amplify the message. Although 70% of households in the UK have access to internet but the real question is what percentage of this 70% is new media literate. Also, credibility is another issue which needs to be considered. Weber Shandwick’s INLINE communications research highlights that 40% of Europeans do not believe what they read on new media. Although, I think new media will definitely play an important role in 2010 general elections in the UK but political parties need to be conscious of the fact that they cannot simply rely on the power of new media. In fact, they need to adopt an integrated approach where all the channels of communications (traditional and new media) send across a simple and consistent message.

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Sunday, 7 February 2010


The public relations industry has evolved itself with changing times. The emergence of new media is a hot debate these days. According to a social media report by Josh Gordon, marketing consultant and president of Selling2.0 Marketing and PR are currently the leading business uses of social media. Although many public relations agencies claim to have joined the bandwagon; the question is how public relations as an industry is embracing the new media.

1.Code of conduct: Professional bodies like CIPR updated its 2007 guidelines for members and wider PR community to increase awareness as to how social media should be handled so that professionals can take informed and educated decisions about using the social media for their clients.

2.Integration: Clients are expecting PR agencies to have a good understanding of the new media. PR agencies are facing stiff competition from other digital or marketing agencies. These agencies claim that they are more proficient in handling new media. Therefore, PR agencies are launching branding and marketing arms to gain their share of the pie.

3.Emergence of specialist digital agencies: With social media trend on the rise, PR agencies are diversifying in to the new Digital domain. For example, Hotwire launched a specialist digital agency called 33Digital and Bullet PR, a PR agency specialising in the digital media was launched in Brighton in June 2009.

4.More investment in digital: PR agencies are investing heavily by training staff, hiring digital experts and bringing in external digital gurus. It is believed that the popularity of social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube could be one reason for the growing importance of digital PR. PR professionals are spending lot of time in running blogs, managing Twitter accounts, creating podcasts and vodcasts for their clients. For example, the website of Berkley PR, a technology public relations agency mentions that they are investing heavily in this growth area to ensure that they harness digital media to the best advantage of their clients.

5.Educating clients on new media: Since social media is a relatively new field, PR agencies are educating their clients about the potential benefits of using new media. This way client realise the value of new media and PR agencies are able to justify their budgets.

Can you think of any other ways through which PR agencies are embracing the new media?

Embracing Social Media
View more presentations from Jeff Turner.

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