PR role in employee communication #2

November 19, 2009

In the previous blog post, I discussed three role public relations practitioners play in employee/internal communications: encouraging employee social networking, creating a change management plan, and developing employee recruitment and retention strategies.  However, there are more roles that PR practitioners take on in employee communication.  These key areas of employee/internal communications experience include diversity programs, employee issues, and crisis communications.

Public relations practitioners can improve employee communication through developing diversity programs.  Cornell University defines workplace diversity as, “focused on the differences and similarities that people bring to an organization. Diversity is often interpreted to include dimensions which influence the identities and perspectives that people bring, such as profession, education, parental status and geographic location.”  PR practitioners see diversity as an asset to the organization and can improve diverse employee communication by organizing diversity training and workshops to teach employees how to interact with a diverse group of people.

Another way PR practitioners can improve employee communication is to boost employee morale issues.  Terri Levine offers 10 steps to boosting employee morale.  They are research and analyze, motivate employees and management, always show appreciation, self-empower, prepare a new company mission statement, promote a family atmosphere, promote pride in the company, show interest in individuals, find way in which life can be made more pleasant and easier, and show loyalty.

Lastly, PR practitioners can improve employee/internal communication by writing up a crisis communications plan.  A crisis is any situation that threaten the integrity or reputation of your company.  It is important for public relations professionals to be prepared for crises before they happen.


PR role in employee communication # 1

November 19, 2009

Public Relations practitioners play an important role in employee/internal communication.  As the recent presentation given at the IABC Social Media Conference points out, social media is one way to bring employees into the communication fold.  As a public relations practitioner, you can encourage employees to participate in social network conversations to increase their satisfaction on the job.  According to the presentation given at the conference, 79% of business communicators report using social tools frequently to engage employees and foster productivity.

Other keys areas of employee/internal communications experience include change management, recruitment and retention strategies, diversity programs, employee issues, and crisis communications.  PR practitioners can start improving employee communication by implementing a change management plan.  Ways to do this include diagnosing employee resistance to change, helping employees transition through the change process, creating a successful plan for personal and professional advancement during change, and developing a change management plan for your employees.

It is also important for PR practitioners to develop employee recruitment and retention strategies.  Expert business source’s website offers great tips for employee recruitment and retention.  Some ways to achieve this is by using training, self-directed learning, coaching and mentoring, employee promotion, job enrichment, job rotation and cross-training, lateral moves, and job aids.

In this blog post I have discussed three roles PR practitioners play in employee/internal communication: encouraging social networking, creating a change management plan, and developing employee recruitment and retention strategies.

Example of CSR

November 15, 2009

Corporate social responsibility is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the environment in all aspects of their operations.  It is something that all companies should strive for and something that Starbucks has successfully displayed.

Starbucks is a great example of corporate social responsibility.  They do not put making a profit before satisfying their employees.  For example, Starbucks offers all full-time and part-time employees health insurance, costing them more money than raw materials does for the year.  Also, they implemented a corporate vision to adapt to and preserve the culture and mentality of the places they’re located.

Starbucks has taken many steps to ensure corporate social responsibility.  Starbucks made public promises to grow and trade all coffee responsibly and ethically, make all coffee cups reusable and recyclable, reduce its environmental footprint through energy and water conservation, recycle, and contribute one million community service hours per year.

After making these promises, Starbucks continued to implement them.  For example, Starbucks took major steps towards meeting its community involvement goal by taking part in community service projects to help rebuild the areas hardest hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  Also, Starbucks has kept its word and terminated fourteen contracts that did not meet their zero tolerance policies for missing standards on child labor, harassment of workers, and payment of wages.

Role of PR practitioner in CSR

November 12, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility is a concept whereby organizations consider the interests of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on customers, employees, shareholders, communities, and the environment in all aspects of their operations.  Public relations practitioners often get the job of ensuring corporate social responsibility because they are the ones dealing with the interests of customers, employees, shareholders, communities, environment, etc.  Therefore, PR practitioners are the one implementing CSR. 

Adrian Maguir lists ten things PR practitioners should do (or their role) in implementing corporate social responsibility.  To state them quickly, he says: Do a CSR audit, look at employment practices, look at marketing practices, look at environmental practices, look at community involvement, benchmark, understand why you need CSR, explain CSR and counter cynism, explain CSR to your external stakeholders, and celebrate success.  He says not to make token gestures, apply different standards, stand still, slide and backtrack, and do a King Canute.

His do’s and don’t’s outline the roles of PR practitioners in corporate social responsibility.  Many people argue that PR and CSR go hand-in-hand.   In the MBA toolkit article, they talk about the opportunity for CSR practitioners and PR firms to collaborate and play an important role in communicating a company’s message that contributes to a thoughtful and benficial CSR strategy for responsible to sustainable businesses.

After reading the different articles, I think ideally, the role of PR practitioners in CSR is it’s implementation.

Is This PR? Post #5

November 11, 2009

What started as a really bad day for unlucky Todd Jamison and his car turned into a great opportunity for good public relations for Hyundai and they took advantage of it.

Jamison’s car was parked outside of his gym when another car accidentally hit the gas as opposed to the brakes and literally ran over his car.  Imagine his surprise when he left the gym to find his car completely crushed.  Lucky for him, someone in the vicinity filmed that poor parking job and put it on Youtube where it received over a million hits.

Hyundai PR professionals were on top of their game and heard the buzz about the poor Hyundai being crushed on Youtube.  They decided to send their PR spokesperson out to the same spot and filmed them giving Todd Jamison a brand new Hyundai and posted that on Youtube.

Now all of the admiring fans of the bad parking video who already sympathized with Jamison saw Hyundai as the hero that swooped in and saved the day.  this was a great example of great public relations for Hyundai.

Is This PR? Post #4

November 11, 2009

The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) found itself in the middle of a public relations fiasco when it began asking Boy and Girl Scouts to start paying a fee for singing songs around the campfire.  Although they claim this was not their intention, the facts point otherwise.

Allegedly taken out of context, ASCAP’s vice president Lo Frumento promised he would “sue them if necessary” for not paying the fee.  He was persistant in denying any actual plan to collect fees from children’s summer camps, even though he was already collecting fees from 16 Girl Scout camps that year.  In an attempt to save face, he promised that all funds collected in the past would be returned.

However, ASCAP still plans to collect fees from larger, more profitable summer camps because they think those camps are more similar to resorts than an actual summer camps and therefore should have to pay fees.  What I’m wondering though is how they are going to differentiate between “large” camps and non-“large” camps.  Are they implying that large Boy and Girl Scout camps with be forced to pay?

Regardless of their reasoning behind the fees or their denials of ever having charged them, ASCAP committed a seriously harmful public relations blunder.  The fees caused a blogging frenzy, where people were more than amused with ASCAP’s dumb idea, and they made their less-than-amusement very clear.

Is this PR? Post #3

November 9, 2009

In 1982, Tylenol faced a crisis that could have potentially ruined its reputation forever.  However, with a good crisis communication plan following Johnson and Johnson’s company mission statement, they were able to turn a potential public relations disaster into an example of good public relations. 

After taking Tylenol extra-strenght capsules, seven people died from cyanide poisoning.  Although the cyanide poisonings were not Johnson and Johnson’s fault, they took immediate action to rectify the situation.  They made public announcements as soon as they heard the news warning people of the tamperings and recalled all Tylenol bottles from stores all over the United States costing their company over $100 million.

By taking immediate action and following their credo, Tylenol successfully proved to its publics that they cared about  them.  Their credo states, “We believe our first responsibility is to the doctors, nurses, and patients, to mothers and fathers and all others who use our products and services…”

In reintroducing the product after the fiasco, they marketed Tylenol in a triple-seal tamper resistant packaging.  This further proved to their publics that Tylenol was concerned for their health and safety and were willing to spend lots of money and effort into ensuring that safety.  In doing so, they brought their reputation back up and gained the respect of their publics in what could have been a public relations disaster.

Ch. 14- Cross-Cultural Communication

November 9, 2009

I found chapter 14 about cross-cultural communication very interesting.  It makes sense that in today’s society, communicating with people from different cultures is becoming more and more commonplace with new technologies enabling us to work together across oceans and in term across cultural contexts.  The only downside with communicating across cultures is that there can easily be confusion due to varying cultural attributes.  However, if we recognize these differences and work to reduce them, we can be very successful in communicating interculturally.

Rossman’s system distinguishes among cultures by analyzing attitudes regarding eight characteristics.  They are attitudes about: time; formality; individualism; rank and hierarchy; religion; taste and diet; colors, numbers, and sybmbols; and assimilation and acculturation.  Attitudes about these eight characteristics differ from culture to culture and it’s important to recognize these differences and be sensitive to other cultural attitudes when doing public relations with people from different countries.  If not, you can commit some serious faux pas that can offend people, regardless of your good intentions.

The book outlines a nine step process for achieving successful cross-cultural public relations.  The steps consist of awareness, commitment, research, local partnership, diversity, testing, evaluation, advocacy, and continuing education.  By following these nine steps, you can hopefully get better and eventually master communicating across cultures.
The University of Colorado has a webpage devoted solely to training students in cross-cultural communication strategies.  Here they have their own procedures for breaking down cultural communication barriers, but many of their suggestions are very similar to the nine step process outlined in our text book.

Cross-cultural communication is so essential to the present and future of public relations, so it is equally important to learn the different attitudes of different cultures and how to communicate effectively while ensuring that everyone feels comfortable.

Ch. 15 and readings- Legal and Ethical Issues

November 8, 2009

Legal and ethical issues surround the field of public relations constantly.  On Bill Sledzik’s blog on public relations and how it affects our lives, he talks about Pat Jackson and his understanding the public relations must move behavior.  He notes that in order to please CEOs, PR practitioners must change human outcomes.  Along with this persuasion comes ethical implicatons.  Whenever you are trying to get someone to do something that they wouldn’t normally do, you are facing an ethical situation.  In order remain ethical in your practice of public relations, he says, you must be transparent and honest.

This honest and transparent lesson that Pat is talking about is consistent with the code of ethics outlined in PRSA’s pledge.  It states, “I pledge to conduct myself professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public.”  By taking this pledge, PRSA members are adhering to the advisement of Pat Jackson to remain honest.

Chapter 15 was concerned more with the legal aspect of public relations than the ethical aspect.  It talked about some different areas of business law that are important for PR professionals to be familiar with because they may encounter situations concerning the laws on the job.  One thing that I found interesting in this chapter was the burden of proof in libel cases.  As a PR professional, it’s important to know that if you are representing a public figure that has been libeled, you have the burden of not only proving the allegation false but also proving actual malice.  Actual malice is defined the reckless disregard for the truth, so basically if a public official is libeled they have to prove that the libeler knew that the statements weren’t true and said them anyways.  This can be very difficult to prove.  The case that started actual malice is the Times v. Sullivan case. provides a brief summary of this case.


Is This PR? Blog Post #2

November 2, 2009

Southwest Airlines have gotten some bad publicity in the past due to their discriminatory policy concerning big or obese people on their flights.  They have gotten complaints in the past by slim customers about being seated next to a big person that took up half their seat.  In response to these complaints, they thought it would be best to make obese people purchase two seats.  The  obese people, of course, were outraged.  They don’t even have a good policy for distinguishing who can fit in one seat and who needs to buy an extra one.  They simply take you aside when you check in and tell you that you look too big to fit in one seat and you need to buy another one.  In the blog entitled Southwest Still Hates Fat People, this anger is expressed.

Regardless of whether you are thin or fat, the injustice here is clear.  Southwest’s bright idea to charge obese people for two seats earned itself a spot on Fineman Associates top ten bad PR attempts.

Southwest’s mission statement reads, “The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”  Do you really think pulling aside fat people at check-in and telling them that they are too big for one seat and need to purchase another is really warm and friendly, instilling pride in the customer?  I think that Southwest needs to rethink their policies and ensure that they are in line with their mission statement.