Monday, March 16, 2015

Why Are There Not More PR Pros on Nonprofit Boards?

I have often noticed and admired PR professionals who serve on the boards of area nonprofits. This has, as we PR people would say, a "mutual benefit." PR pros do this as a part of their PR role of community relations. If in an agency, it's a form of new business development because of the networking with other board members. The organization also benefits from PR counsel at the board and executive level.
But I have also noticed that a lot of nonprofit organizations do not have PR professionals on their boards. So I did what academics do: I launched a study on the subject.
The results of my study is now a chapter in a recently published book:  Routledge Research in Public Relations: Public Relations in the Nonprofit Sector. My chapter, “PR Capacity on Nonprofit Boards,” gives insight on the value of having PR professionals serve on nonprofit boards.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 12.11.16 PMI worked with the assistance of the Johnson Center on Philanthropy to put together a list of the executives of the nonprofits in Michigan with more than 1 staff member. Of the 704 on the list, 215 responded.  Their answers to a survey reveal that executives of nonprofit organizations do not view having a PR professional serve on a nonprofit board as a priority, but rather as “nice to have.” 
Most executives in the study claimed that they did not seek out board members with a public relations background. Additionally, nonprofit executives do not have an accurate understanding of public relations as a whole.
Specifically, while a majority (76%) said that communications with stakeholders was a role and capacity sought in board members, only 11% indicated it was the most important board member ability. While 52% said they had at least one board member with PR education or experience, this may be due to the fact that 75% define public relations as “getting the word out.”
Clearly, there is a need for more PR professionals to serve nonprofit organizations at the executive and management level. Part of that service would be to educate nonprofit management about the full role and benefit of public relations as a sophisticated effort in relationship building, with multiple publics.
A summary of the result is found below:

 

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Reading List for People Making Transition to PR

A local broadcast journalist recently contacted me via social media and asked if I could recommend a book on PR because they were considering making the transition into the field.

OK, first of all, never ask a professor to recommend “a” book J But I have to say the instinct is good to do some research and not make assumptions about the field. I have written before on this blog that journalists do have some assets they can carry over into PR: http://gr-pr.blogspot.com/2012/01/assets-laid-off-journalists-can.html But there is also a lot to learn.

So to answer the question, here is a list of several books—and some other resources--by category and some other resources useful to potential and current PR practitioners. This is only partial (I just ordered another book today that is not on this list). So, anyone else who has suggestions feel free to note them in the comments. To be concise I list titles and last names of authors only, but they should be easy to find at any online book site.

Introductory PR Books
There are several introductory PR books used in college courses. The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) also has a list of recommended texts for those thinking of studying to take the exam to become accredited in public relations (APR): http://www.praccreditation.org/resources/recommended-texts/index.html . Here are some intro texts that I recommend.
  • THINK Public Relations. By Wilcox, Cameron, Reber and Shin.
  • Today’s PR. By Health and Coombs.
  • PR Strategies and Tactics. By Wilcox and Cameron.
  • The Practice of PR. By Frasier Seitel.
  • Strategic Public Relations: An Audience-Focused Approach. By Diggs and Brown
  • PR: A Values-Driven Approach. By Guth and Marsh.
  • Cultip and Center’s Effective Public Relations. By Broom and Sha. (an update of a classic)
  • This is PR: The Realities of Public Relations. By Newsome, Turk, and Krukeberg.


Research
Research is a fundamental skill of PR professionals. It has to be more than basic interviewing skills that a journalist has. There are several possible texts, but the one standard I would recommend is:
  • Primer on PR Research. By Stacks.


Writing
Journalists know how to write, and how to write in AP style. But PR writing is varied, and includes persuasive as well as objective writing. There are several good books on PR writing.
  • Public Relations Writing and Media Techniques. By Wilcox and Reber.
  • Becoming a Public Relations Writer. By Smith.


History
Every day in the blogosphere I read some bloviating blowhard carry on about some “new” vision in PR. And I grin, shudder, and roll my eyes. If only they knew their history. Several books and resources can help a new practitioner—or a veteran one—understand PR’s past to make better sense of the present and future.

Crisis
Journalists may have reported on a crisis or two, but that does not mean they know how to handle one as a PR person. Several good books on crisis communication offer practical and theoretical information:
  •  Lukaszewski on Crisis Communication. By Lukazsewski  Ongoing Crisis Communication. By Coombs
  • Crisis Communications. By Fearn-Banks
  • Crisis Communication. By Zaremba


Evaluation
Measuring the results of PR efforts has long been advocated and taught, and more recently it has been asked for by clients and management. But it still is not done well or completely by many. There is one great book I would recommend on the subject, this one updated to included social media measurement.
  • Measure What Matters. By Paine


Social Media
Social platforms have been around a while, and lots of people assume they know how to use social media. But using them for personal communication or as a journalist is different than managing social media for a brand or organization. There are many books on social media use, but these are the ones to start with. I’ll also add some online links that are helpful.


Law
There are many areas of law that affect the practice of PR. You don’t need to be a lawyer, but you do need to be informed.
  • Digital Media Law. By Packard
  • Advertising and Public Relatons Law. By Moore, Maye and Collins


Ethics
The PR profession gets a bad rap in the news and entertainment media, as I’ve written about countless times. Ironically, some of the big ethical blunders are made by former journalists. To be a “professional” PR practitioner means to practice ethically. PRSA offers a helpful Code of Ethics http://www.prsa.org/AboutPRSA/Ethics/#.VQIaTSkmXeM . There are also several good books on PR ethics.
  • Ethics in Public Relations. By Fitzpatrick and Bernstein
  • Legal and Ethical Constraints on Public Relations. By Gower
  • It’s Not Just PR. By Coombs and Holladay (This is a good one to give friends who criticize PR as only "spin")

Consider searching major publishers for additional books on topics of interest or relevant to a specific area of practice. For example, here’s a shameless plug for a book I wrote a chapter in called Public Relations in the Nonpfofit Sector http://www.amazon.com/Public-Relations-Nonprofit-Sector-Routledge/dp/1138795089
You can also go directly to publishers and search for public relations books, such as Routledge, which has a special series on public relations: http://www.routledge.com/books/series/RNDPRCR/ ; or Sage http://www.sagepub.com/home.nav  There are several other academic publishers as well.

In addition to books, several academic journals are available for free (vs through association membership or an academic library). These include:


Finally, there are various trade publications and reports that are useful to practitioners (some content requires subscription or membership; but some email newsletters are free):



Whew! That’s a lot. But there’s a lot to know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why Do PR Pros Seek Accreditation (APR)? Latest Research

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) established the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) program more than 50 years ago, in 1964. Since then, thousands of PR professionals have worked to earn the designation as a mark of superior PR skills, knowledge and ethical practice.

However, not all practitioners seek the APR credential. In fact, PRSA noticed the percentage of practitioners who are accredited has gone down in recent years. So the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB) has encouraged academics to look into the reasons why professionals do and do not make the effort to earn the APR mark of distinction.

Hence, my latest research research with my co-author Dr. Kaye Sweetser of San Diego State University. "Role Enactment, Employer Type, and Pursuit of APR" was just published in the journal Public Relations Review. The journal article is available here. Or, since the journal article is an abbreviated version, you can email me for a full copy.

Or you can just read on here for a summary!

First, a quick explanation of the key terms and variables in the study. "Role enactment" is an academic term that describes the specific role that PR practitioners enact in their jobs. Prior research has boiled these roles down to two: a "technician" is more of an entry-level role focused on tactics; a "manager" may still work on tactics but is more focused on strategy and advising organizational management and making communication decisions vs merely implementing them.

"Employer type" has to do with the fact that PR professionals may work for a corporation, but they could also work in many other contexts. Vast numbers of PR professionals work in non-profits, government agencies, educational institutions, the military, or public relations firms.

We were curious to see if the context in which a practitioner works, or their years of experience or level of authority/status in the organization, were factors in whether or not and why they sought the APR credential.

Results showed that employer type and practitioner role did make a difference. The practical take-aways:

  • Respondents pursued APR mostly for personal satisfaction or to be a better practitioner.
  • Seeking the APR to get a promotion was correlated with younger practitioners.
  • Those in PR for many years were more likely to pursue APR for higher salary than those who transfer in from other fields (who may seek APR for knowledge and legitimacy in their new field).
  • Pursuing APR to gain respect from clients/employer was more common for those in agency, nonprofit, or government/military.
  • Those in a manager role were more likely to pursue APR for higher salary, while those in a technician role were more likely to pursue APR for a job promotion or when seeking a new job.
  • A somewhat counter-intuitive result was that men are significantly more likely than women to be motivated by respect from an employer or client.


This research extended previous studies about the differences between those PR practitioners with and without APR. The UAB may use the results to tailor their promotion of the APR program differently to practitioners, based on their gender, specific role, years of experience, and the type of organization in which they work.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Documentary on Future of Advertising is Old News

A colleague shared with me this documentary called 'Transmediatic' which purports to be revelatory about the future of advertising. It is actually a summating of the present and a recap of where many have already been for some time.

Some key notions are that the "product is the message" and "clear is the new clever". These are just new clothes for the old notions of transparency, authenticity, two-way symmetrical communications, and mutually beneficial relationships that have popular by most legitimate public relations practitioners and taught by PR educators for as long as I have been one, which is since 2001. The documentary's line "the naked brand" reminded me of a book I once read. Sure enough, on my shelf is "Naked Conversations," by social media early adaptors and gurus Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. It was published in 2006, the year Twitter was launched.

We've kind of been there.

But to people who aren't in advertising or PR, the documentary is useful to give a visually rich explanation of the changes in the field, and indeed in society. Here then is a recap of what the documentary recaps for the initiated:


  • an "institutional speaker box" no longer exists
  • transparency is not a choice--does it happen to you or do you participate?
  • trust is the essence of every great brand
  • The Edelman Trust Barometer routinely points out that people don't trust executives
  • Consumer Sovereignty is an old concept made more relevant in today's media environment
  • 90% of people trust peer reviews; 20% trust advertising (see Yelp)
  • You can't create image (I always point out to students the distinction between image and reputation--one is merely communicated, the latter is earned and based on experience)
  • Related to above, companies have to shift from saying they are great to being great. (PR people have noted this for years, dating back to Arthur Page in the 1920s and the mantra of the Page Society today)
  • There are positive externalities to ads--such as information utility
  • Design thinking is where advertising needs to go (Our GVSU Ad/PR alumnus Mike Rios spoke about this on campus last semester. See this Guardian article about his and a partner's explanation of design thinking and an example of it in use to benefit society)
  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a continuing trend. It dates to the 1970s in PR. See CSRWire for stories of CSR. Or see the Pepsi Refresh Project as an example of CSR that provides social branding.
  • A final note: the US is NUMBER 1 in advertising, but NUMBER 13 in R&D. More focus on good products, and the advertising can be transparent, and bette than clever. That's also fundamental PR--mutually beneficial relationships. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Brian Williams, Journalists Lying, and The Moral Superiority of Public Relations

OK. The headline of this blog was a bit sensational and an obvious attempt at click bait. But a poor blogger has to do something to keep up with the big boys at Rock Center to grab some eyeballs. Do me a solid and read on.

Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News has taken himself off the air voluntarily for a few days because of his unfortunate episode of, to quote him directly, "misremembering" some facts related to report he did on the Iraq War.

Apparently he said he was in a helicopter in Iraq that was hit by enemy fire, and military veterans called him out on that. His statements when covering Hurricane Katrina are now also called into question, according to an article in USA Today, one of many national media stories on the subject.

Leave aside the fact that reporting should not be done from memory. Does not a journalist take notes or record when "reporting"? One wonders what else Mr. Williams may have fabricated in his recently celebrated 10 years in the anchor chair at NBC. Were he not an employee of this fabled (pun most definitely intended) network, Dateline NBC would be putting the finishing touches on a graphic for an expose called "Brian Williams: Decade of Deception."

But let's ease up on Brian Williams a little. After all, he's not the only national journalist to lie. Dan Rather over at CBS has his own wikipedia entry for his famous fabrication about George Bush's military background. Stephen Glass at the New Republic, Jayson Blair at the New York Times, and others are recounted in this Yahoo new media round up of old media journalism liars.

I have practiced both journalism and public relations. Now I teach public relations. And what I hear a lot is how public relations lacks ethics, and implied is how righteous journalists are by comparison.

So let's pause and reflect on this "teachable moment," shall we?

Any profession has good and bad practitioners. In PR, there are some who are intentionally deceptive or do other unethical deeds. But it would be unethical and intellectually dishonest to indict the entire profession. That is especially the case when a lot of research shows that unethical PR deeds are usually committed by non-PR professionals--lawyers, marketers, CEOs--or by people with no bonafide training or degree in PR. In fact, some of the largest whoppers of unethical PR are committed by former journalists (eg. Burson-Marsteller's smear campaign of Google for client Facebook). 

A lot of the criticism of PR is co-mingled with a phobic anti-corporate sentiment. But, we must keep in mind that NBC, CBS and other major national journalistic enterprises are also corporations. Big corporations. They shamelessly promote their various interests on their own programs. And they compete with each other relentlessly. They need attention, to have an audience to sell to advertisers, whom they want to charge ever more money.

There are a variety of reasons journalists may lie. Business competitive pressure. An ideological worldview contrary to the person or party they cover. Or simple ego to succeed.

The point is, they lie. We don't even know about all the times they lie. To insinuate that the institution of journalism has any moral high ground over the profession of public relations is just another lie.

Professions are neutral. It's the professionals who vary in their ethics. Brian Williams is the latest evidence of this. It's probably only a matter of time before we have more.

In the meantime, we all get to watch NBC and Mr. Williams engage in some public relations, as they seek to manage this crisis, work on image restoration and re-build the NBC brand. Now THAT should be good television.


Monday, November 24, 2014

The Influence of Ads on Investors

In the context of a law class discussion of the SEC, I was talking to my students about ads and investors. My own research shows that investors look not only at finance tables and "dry" SEC documents, but all manner of PR and advertising tactics when making investing decisions.

That point came up later today when after class I caught up on reading the daily industry trades and blogs. A review of a Dick's Sporting Goods ad in Adweek caught my eye for different reasons.

(Disclosure: I do own stock in Dick's and do not have a daughter).

The review talked about the dads and daughters connection, and making sporting goods seem ingrained in family history. But I was thinking about the class discussion and how as an investor in Dick's this ad was relevant to me for several reasons.

For one, as an investor, I am hoping the ad does well for the company. I am an investor after all. I'd like to see the ad lead to good sales which in turn boosts the stock price.

I also like the ad for the image quality. It makes Dick's look like a relevant and caring company. (Some might argue it is just another company exploiting a religious holiday, but we'll save that debate for another post).

The point is, even when ads push product, they affect more than consumers and purchase intent. They affect other publics, company reputation, and ongoing investor relations efforts too.

I think Dick's scored.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

PR Pros Have Increased Need for Video and Photo Talent

I have been wanting to write a blog post for a while focused on how public relations professionals are increasingly using photography and video in many forms and channels as part of their typical work. So when I caught wind on social media yesterday that well known local photographer and videographer TJ Hamilton is now working full time for Sabo Public Relations I took note.

You can read the announcement on the Sabo PR Facebook page.

I have known both TJ Hamilton and Mary Ann Sabo for a long time, and I worked with each of them in the past on different projects. I have a high respect for both for their talents and integrity. So hearing of the announcement is kind of like when long-term friends tell you they are getting married :-)

But I was especially interested to note that Sabo PR, which grew from a sole practitioner practice to a firm with several employees, had enough demand to hire TJ full time. This one firm illustrates what many firms and in-house PR departments are experiencing--an increased demand for still photography and videography for all the standard brochures, newsletters, annual reports, and media relations. But the need is even greater because of the many organizations needing visual content for web sites, micro sites, blogs, and all the flourishing platforms of social media, especially those with visual emphasis such as Vine, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

Visual PR is on the rise for internal publics as well as external. At an campus event recently I chatted with two recent grads working in large local companies. One just hired a full-time videographer just for employee relations videos and the other talked about her work in photography and video as part of her growing number of responsibilities.

Educators have not lost this trend. We are constantly updating courses to give students basic technical skills and a grasp of visual concepts so they can create visual content or be able to work productively with experts who majored in photography or video production. One example is a video the students in the Grand Valley State University PRSSA (Public Relations Student Society of America) made as part of a presentation they made at their annual conference. It's a take-off on "Mean Girls" to illustrate involvement and leadership. They recently posted it to their GV PRSSA Facebook page. As the students explained to me, they created and scripted the video, and hired a video production major to shoot and edit the video for them. Collaboration is part of creativity, right?

So, whether you have the tech talent yourself or not, if you are in PR you will find yourself talking more and more about visual aspects of messages with greater frequency. You'll have to if you want to be relevant in our increasingly visual society.