Archive for the ‘PR week’ Tag

Women have their way in PR

A crackling debate about women in PR broke a buzz of discussion among the entire class. And most importantly, it got me thinking why aren’t there enough women on the top positions in the PR sector? The debate picked up two important ‘so-called’ weaknesses that pull women back from ruling the roost.

1)     Their first priority is their family. They do not opt for demanding job profiles lest they would neglect their families.

2)     Women are not practical enough and do not have a business bent of mind. After all, it is all about running a successful business and making profits.

Climbing the ladder

 But there were some very strong points thrown by the opposition that women are known for multi-tasking and there are so many influential women who have been successful in striking a balance between home and work.  For Eg: Indira Nooyi, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo is a role model for many Indian women.

Since I have a soft corner for my species, I would say that women till date have not been given enough opportunities to show what they have and now that the stereotypes are slowly crumbling, women are gradually making their way up the ladder. Women are smarter, more efficient and more competent in delivering multiple duties at the same time.

According to an article in PR Week 2002, a survey conducted among 200 female respondents from the PR industry shattered many a myth about them. More than 50 per cent of the women surveyed were graduates – a further ten per cent having a post-grad qualification. Of those who were married or co-habiting, 47 per cent were the main breadwinners for their family; which means that they are well qualified and competent enough to shoulder any responsibility provided they are given a fair chance to prove their worth.

Though, the survey results clarified that women in PR are not very apprehensive about sexual discrimination or male dominance over managerial roles. Rather pressure from the family and the upcoming younger talent who are eager to put in extra hours is what intimidates them.

Signs of change showed up even a decade ago. Biss and Co. Chairperson Mrs. Biss entered the industry in 1978 who has witnessed more female MD’s as her boss says that the industry welcomes anybody who is talented and upfront – regardless of gender.

A survey conducted by the CIPR reveals that increasing number of women enrol for PR degrees and courses across the world and more and more women are entering the PR sphere. This trend does barge into the male dominance and allows more room for diversity, deeper understanding of the profession from different perspectives, fertile dialogues between the company and its publics and expansion of market shares. Women have the charm and elegance which is just the right quality for this profession.

Women are a great work force with a deep understanding and endurance and bringing them into any work space will introduce a balance, growth and acceptance of innovation in a fundamentally ‘male supremacy’ environment.  

Related Articles:

PR Week on Diversity:

Indira Nooyi on the women power:


Is there anything called ethics in PR?

Time and again, Public relations has been associated with all things unethical – lying, spin-doctoring, and even espionage. Many critics argue that there can be no ethical public relations because the practice itself is akin to manipulation and propaganda. Or how else would you justify those PR agencies who deal with the tobacco or ammunition clientele?!

There is considerable body of evidence to prove that modern PR practices have thrown ethics out of the window. To list a few popular spin doctors of the industry, Hill and Knowlton who have many a scandals in their kitty. Max Clifford, the famous media manipulator who honestly admits that telling a lie is sometimes necessary and he’s proud of being able to do that. Alastair Campbell, communicator, writer and strategist had a major role in justifying USA’s attack on Iraq.

 An unfortunate belief among many journalists, policy makers, and laymen is the belief that the term ‘public relations ethics’ is an oxymoron: either an unreal possibility, or smoke and mirrors to hide deception.

Take coca cola India for example. The fizz giant is struggling to brush away a series of scandals by trying to spin the facts and shed their responsibility. The bottling plants have been discharging toxic wastes into the sacred rivers; the only source of harvesting for the farmers, have reduced the underground water tables to an all time low and have been careless about pesticide traces in the beverage.

On the other hand, a fashion retailer deserves a mention in terms of being ethically and morally upright in their PR practices. I once presented a case study in my fashion PR class about Monsoon Accessorize which is now a global brand with 1000 stores. I have never come across a more environmentally responsible and socially contributing company ever. And hey, if twisting some facts and hiding some malice is what PRO is ought to do for a client, then I think it’s high time they learn from Monsoon.

But Simon Goldsworthy, a senior lecturer in PR, Westminster University says in an article in PR Week that, “BBC journalist Andrew Marr says we must all deviate from the truth every now and then – he says ‘a day of honesty would be enough to finish most of us’Could you imagine a world where PROs spoke freely about every single worry affecting their company? Of course not. It would be a foolhardy PR professional who would say a client has big problems.”

At times, telling a lie just becomes a necessary evil or a part of his duty towards the client. PRO owes full responsibility to keep up the reputation of his client at any cost.

Max Clifford Founder, Max Clifford Associates says in the PR Week February 2007, “The only mantra I work to is that your duty is to your client. If I’m not comfortable lying, I won’t do it, but there will be plenty of other agencies lining up to take the business. All PROs at all levels lie through their teeth. I lie on behalf of a cross-dressing MP, a prominent businessman who is having an affair with a man, and a gay footballer. Always the aim is to keep their identity out of the press. There’s only been one footballer who was revealed to be gay, and he hanged himself. I know the ruin that will befall these people if news gets out. Here the truth is destructive – I lie because there is no choice.”

The current state of ethics in public relations practice depends heavily on codes of ethics adopted by every company and individual practitioner. Truth as said is very relative. A former editor of The Observer once said, “There’s your truth, my truth, and then there’s the real truth.” It all boils down to an individual’s choice of how much can he compromise with his moral values and where does he choose to draw a line. Same stands true for a company.

Think Global, Act Local

Local Public Relations has been known for the benefits it drives to its clients and the reputation it enhances leading to better business prospects for them. International or Global Public Relations is no different. It has a similar set of objectives based on clients need and a strategy to ensure a positive outcome. Where it varies is in the scope of its operations.

Global or Local PR?

Local PR as the name suggests acts in a localised environment and deals with a target audience which either reside in that particular area or have their interests associated with it. Segregating such a group and reaching them economically could prove to be an arduous task. Local PR deals extensively with local media and opinion leaders and tries to influence them in their clients’ favour.

International PR on the other than has a multinational approach and deals across cultures. The overwhelming challenge is to ensure that the campaign is perceived in a similar way across nations and the message doesn’t get diluted or misinterpreted. The local opinion groups rooted in their inherent culture could take a different approach on the communication being presented to them during such a campaign. It is of the utmost importance to understand what strategies work in one region and offends local sensibilities in the other.

But are they really so distinct from each other and can they function independently? ‘The best PR is that which works on both a global and a national basis,’ insisted Weber Shandwick CEO Harris Diamond. ‘There is no question that globalization is a reality, but all PR is local. According to Diamond, even ‘think global, act local’ is not an accurate descriptor of how global PR ought to work. ‘It’s an attempt to think about PR better, but “think global, act local” implies that a central strategy exists, a sort of NASA mission control.

Innovating and adapting to this environment is the biggest challenge an international PR initiative faces at its very conception stage. Local PR has the advantage to deeply connect with the local target audience and customise their approach. The small size of the target group makes the campaign more agile and effectively ready to face problems and offer counter measures speedily. The international PR has to make sure that the campaign takes into consideration number of international factors like the ongoing political scenario in the countries where the campaign is going to be implemented. This becomes of prime importance for example if you are holding a campaign on human rights in a country like China. Anticipating the possible outcomes could help smoothen the process, however it does impact on the overall efficiency of the campaign.

Lending total responsibility to the local agencies may also not prove beneficial because their messages would be limited only to a particular sect, community or a group which comprehends the language and the context behind it.

And going completely International may miss out on the local flavour, the culture, the background knowledge and may lead to misinterpretation of the message if not put in the right context. Harris Diamond gives the example of an Australian ad for the Electrolux vacuum cleaner – suggesting that the ‘Electrolux sucks’ tagline would not work in America.

Michael Burrell, vice-president, Europe, Edelman says in an article in PR Week Nov 2005, ‘It’s how to put global brand messages into local markets. It’s about getting the trust from clients to let you give business to indigenous agencies if you don’t have the skills in a certain area already.’

In conclusion, I would say that ‘think global, act local’ is the best way a PR campaign can be executed into any market, with the right message conveyed with a global appeal that brings everybody on a common platform and yet maintains the indigenous appeal.