Writing: An Essential Part of Being A Good PR Practitioner (2)

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In Writing: An Essential Part of Being A Good PR Practitioners (1) I posted several days ago, I talked about the challenges for international students to be a good writer. In this post, I want to share what I learned from our programs which is helpful to improve your writing.

Lesson 1: know the standard of writing and obey it

I am sure that many international students are very good at English since it has become a required course in many countries.  Many of them are “A” students in their own countries. Some of them are even English teachers in their own countries. However, the standard of English using is not and can never be 100% the same in the world. Since we are now in the United States, everything we say, we write and we present will be evaluated according to United States standards. It’s better for us to know the standard using of English here and obey it.

This rule applies not only in English using but also in PR writing. Many fellows are experienced PR practitioners and very good at PR writing. However, I heard complaints like “Why would I got a B for this assignment? I did it a lot when I was working and I did it well” more than ten times. People will think “Is there something wrong with my experience?” or ” Is there something wrong with the professor?” Maybe there is nothing wrong with either party. Your experience in PR is terrific. And your professor’s grade and comments make sense. Maybe, the only one thing that goes wrong is that you are following different standards. Something works in your countries might not work here. So know the standard of the United States and obey it is a first lesson and an essential lesson that should be learned by every international students who are dreaming to have their PR career in the United States.

Lesson 2: make sure that your writing is correct before it is good

Many international students, including me, are so desired to make our writing professional and good that we forgot we have to make it correct first. Typos, grammatical l errors are all mistakes that can be identified and corrected by ourselves. However, we pay so much attention to our content that we just blind ourselves in front of those mistakes. I am not saying that the content is not important. Instead, it is the soul of a writing. A writing cannot be good without good content. My point here is to remind myself and international students like me that we have to make sure that our writing contains no typos and grammatical errors. Every time you try to impress other with good content, that little typo will give you a big punch in the face.

Lesson 3: Make it simple and make it readable

The most important thing I learned here is that “A good PR writing is simple but readable. ” I used to have a myth about writing: a writing with complicated sentences and words less used by others is generally much better.” However, from writing workshop I learned that “the simpler the better”.  In PR practicing, we are writing to delivery messages to our audiences. In most cases, our audiences are general public.  If we used some obscure words and hiding our messages in complicated sentences, our audience may not be educated enough to identify them. Even though we are writing to Wall Street people, “make it simple” is still the rule we should follow because they don’t have patience to spend more than 3 minutes to follow every clue we provided in our writing to decode our messages. We should be very clear that PR is not about us, but about our audiences. If we make it too complicated to read, our audiences will go away to read something else.  As Professor Noltenmeire said, ” Make it easy for your audiences. If you don’t, someone else will and your audiences will take his messages and ignore yours. “

There are still so much to learn to improve my writing, further to qualify myself to be a PR practitioner. Yes, for international students, there are so many challenges. But try to think it in a positive way, we have experienced and learned more cultures than others do. And what we observed and absorbed from our own countries may do us a great favor in PR practicing.

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Passengers of Ryanair Airlines flights can begin enjoying Easter Breaks in Florid

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Recently I was trying to write a press release

Ryanair Airlines flights, Europe’s favorite low fares airline, will launch the cheapest flight between UK and Florida. From 18th March, 2014, passengers will enjoy flying from Manchester to Florida for only £50. “Only Ryanair sells Europe’s lowest fares with no fuel surcharges guaranteed, across over 1,600 routes, connecting 180 destinations, while delivering Europe’s No 1 customer service, with the most on-time flights, fewest cancellations and least mishandled bags”, said by Ryanair’s Robin Kiely.

In this journey, Ryanair offers only one class in a brand new Boeing 777 for the travel on Tuesday and Thursday from Manchester as well as Wednesday and Friday from Florida. The plane will arrive at Orlando Stanford International Airport, which is 2 hours away from the city centre in Florida. Also, passengers will enjoy a 12kg free cabin bag allowance for the flight.

From 6am on Christmas Day 2013, passengers can book seats on http://www.ryanair.com at prices of £50 for one way and £80 for return trip. The first 50 who booked the tickets will only be charged £1.

Writing: An Essential Part of Being A Good PR Practitioner (1)

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Writing is never an easy job for students, especially international students. However, if you are a student majored in Public Relations. Aha! It is one of the most important routine jobs you have to do.

As an international student, English is always a trouble for me for two reasons. First, I am not as good as native speakers in writing. Even though many international students can communicate with other in English successfully. But that does not mean they can write in a concise, well-organized and logical way. Because speaking English is much more casual than writing. You can use oral words, body language, even drawing to help others understand what you mean. Many oral expression has lots of grammatical mistakes. But it won’t diminish what you mean. However, writing requires more and your readers requires more. They hope to read elegant words and correct grammars. All in all, readers are less tolerant to your mistakes and typos than listeners. The second reason of poor writing lies in lack of cultural background. Even though you use the write words, you have no typos, you got all the grammars right. But that does not necessarily make you a good writer. Because you don’t have culture background of English-speaking countries. You don’t know how to use appropriate metaphors to make your writing attractive. You don’t know how to use slangs to make your writing “less is more”. And you don’t know how to use history stories to support your ideas, either.

Writing is always a big trouble for international students on the way to be good PR practitioners. I was always worried that how can I write as well as native speakers. It is a “mission impossible”. However, it is not an excuse for terrible writing. Just as our professor said, “Your clients don’t care about whether you are an international student or native student. They pay you for professional writing. And they suppose you will write professionally. If you can’t, then let somebody else do your job.” It sounds cruel but it is true.

So every PR practitioner should master writing skill. In the field of PR, writing is mostly around press release and pitch letter. I learned something on writing  recently and want to share it with you. ( TO BE CONTINUED)

White House VS The Congress

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Typing “government shutdown” in YouTube, there turn out to be about 2,800,000 videos about this topic. In this essay, I will mainly talk about how the two sides battled through videos in YouTube.

President Obama contrasts the images of the GOP with the government in order to win the favor of the public and the media. He clearly pointed out in several videos: why we have to shutdown; what departments will keep open and what close; what consequences will be caused by the shutdown; who should be blamed for this. A video named “President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Government Shutdown” was posted on YouTube by the account “The White House”. In that video, President Obama claimed that the government was forced to shutdown from October 1st. The video has 94, 832 direct views in The White House YouTube pages (The White House, 2013). Not to mention shares in other accounts and on other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

President Obama shapes the GOP as callous, interest-driven regardless of its people. According to Obama, the GOP chose to shutdown the government even though they know the severe consequences it would cause. And they put the whole country at risks only because they don’t agree a law. The law aims to benefit thousand millions of people who do not have health insurance and are dying everyday (Obama, 2013).

Contrary to the GOP, President Obama shapes the government as a responsible and caring government. In his speech, he repeatedly mentioned that some departments would keep working without payment during shutdown in order to guarantee basic and essential needs of the public like security. However tough it is, the government shows determine to implement the Obama care for the reason that it will benefit the public. Also, he urged the GOP again and again to reopen the government for the people’s sake (Obama, 2013).

In response, the GOP criticized that it is the government who refused to negotiate and it is the main reason that things cannot be settled down. “Never negotiating is not a sustainable option” (Canter, 2013). Boehner, the house speaker, criticized that the government expressed that they refused to negotiate unless GOP surrendered. They didn’t care how long it would take because they thought they were winning. But GOP wouldn’t treat it as a game and no one is actually wining. The Congress appealed a lot in video to Obama to negotiate to with GOP in order to bring American people and society back on track. (Boehner, 2013)

In my opinion, no matter how the two sides sell their version stories, no matter how hard they try to shape the other party as a group driven by own interest and care less about its people, they are the same in essence. It is in fact battle caused by political interest conflicts between the Democratic and the Republicans. And the only purpose lies in maximize the interest of their own party.

References:

Barack Obama (2013). President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Government Shutdown. Retrieved from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmRA_tML2tE

Barack Obama (2013). Obama Speech on Government Shutdown, Day 3. Retrieved from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unRS9QU6U2A

Eric Cantor, John Boehner(2013). Refusing to Negotiate Is an Untenable Position. Retrieved from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?       v=ON1WRL6_MUo&list=PL4CGYNsoW2iDrXgdBrJrhW1crDVY4UgKJ&index=11

John Boehner (2013) This Isn’t Some Damned Game. Retrieved from:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LG1PbuFiTUE&list=PL4CGYNsoW2iDrXgdBrJrhW1crDVY4UgKJ&index=14

The White House (2013) YouTube, President Obama Delivers a Statement on the Government Shutdown. Retrieved from:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmRA_tML2tE

Video

Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow” and Its Parody

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The main goal of the animation ad is to change people’s perceptions of Chipotle’s fast food. Chipotle tries to show people the efforts they put to source their ingredients and food and to show its concern for sustainable farming.

 

To some extent, the ad succeeds in image building. In the ad, Chipotle builds up good image for itself by contrasting its competitors with itself in the ad. It positions competitors as the evil “Crow Foods Incorporated” food conglomerate, while implies itself as “The Scarecrow” who represents Chipotle’s values and integrity. Also, the ad uses animation to evoke emotion and therefore develops a strong attachment and bond between the audiences and the brand. However, it falls short in two points. First of all, the whole tone of the ad is depressing. After watching this video, I feel sorry for those chickens and cows. I know that Chipotle hopes to send out the message that they care about sustainable farming. But this ad fails to do that.  It does not make me pay attention to Chipotle’s concern for sustainable farming and appreciate its food. Instead, it makes me feel sick of all kinds of fast food. It makes no differences whether it is Chipotle or Chipotel. Look at the sad eyes of the cow and I just feel sorry about eating any kinds of meats. Second, the ad is far from truth. By saying far from truth, I am not indicating that Chipotle does not use “naturally raised” meat source. Actually, it does, but not to 100%. To audience, it is misrepresentation and lying as long as there is 1% meat source is not “naturally raised”. As long as it is not 100% natural, it is unacceptable to claim or to imply to be natural. The other problem about the “naturally raised” lies in that there are no comprehensive, consistent regulations regarding the use of terms like “natural” and “humane.” That makes it tough for people to evaluate any company’s claims about agricultural practices. Once you claim to be “natural”, people will evaluate and interpret it according to different standards. At that time, words like “we have different standards” are just not enough and not convincing to the public.

 

If I were Chipotle’s PR counsel, I would not agree to produce this animation ad for the reasons above. In fact, after this ad was published, a parody came out to mock at Chipotle’s dishonesty. Therefore its reputation is affected. And next time when people watch Chipotle’s ads, even though they like it, they just like it from the perspectives of advertising. But they will not believe what it claims in the ads for it was caught dishonest before. However, things can be changed if there is a third party endorsement of its ingredient sourcing. It can make its information much more objective, impartial and credible.

 

 

 

 

“Crowd Psychology” and Its Relations with the Evolution of Public Relation

Nowadays, public relations is widely used in all most every industry to build up relations and foster communications with targets. It almost becomes an indispensible part of successful business. The majority holds the opinion that public relations is an emerging industry due to its short history compared with other industries, for instance, doctor industry. However, long before public relations came into being a profession, it has already existed as another form, social psychology, penetrated all aspects of people’s daily life and influenced people’s behaviors and thoughts. This essay will introduce “crowd psychology” and its relations with the evolution of public relations.

Crowd psychology is a branch of social psychology. Social psychologists have developed several theories for explaining the ways in which the psychology of the crowd differs from and interacts with that of the individuals within it. Among them, Gustave Le Bon’s is one of the most worth mentioning.

Gustave Le Bon is a French social psychologist and sociologist. He is famous for his 1895 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind. According to Le Bon, ‘The Crowd’ is a unit in its composition and no individual opinions, values and beliefs exist. As he says in one of his more pithy statements, “An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will”. (Le Bon, 1895)

Le Bon suggests that here are three phases of the crowd: submergence, contagion, and suggestion. During Submergence, the individuals become anonymous in the crowd, which makes them lose their sense of individual self and personal responsibility. He believes in that a person will lose its individuality, autonomy and judgment and tends to follow the crowd’s “collective unconscious” and long as he/she becomes part of a crowd people. He points out the characteristics of crowd psychology: “impulsiveness, irritability, incapacity to reason, the absence of judgment of the critical spirit, the exaggeration of sentiments, and others…”(Le Bon, 1895). This makes them subordinated to instinctual drives of collective unconscious. Then comes the Contagion. Contagion refers to the spread in the crowd of particular behaviors. It means that individuals in a crowd will follow the ideas, emotions and behaviors of the crowd. Suggestion comes after contagion. Individuals in a crowd have a singular mind. Then suggestions generated from the strongest members in the crowd, which guides the rest of the crowd.

“Public relations” in ancient time echoes Le Bon’s theory on crowd psychology. Although the term “public relations” did not come into beings and “public relations” was not yet a profession, it is believed that the history of public influence and communications management dates back to ancient civilizations. (Erman, 1971) And the pattern of public influence at that time exactly reflected Le Bon’s theory on crowd psychology.

Take the Babylonians for example. Babylonians used stone tablets to educate farmers on how to sow and harvest crops in 1800 BC. Some scholars regarded it as the first known example of public relations (Cutlip, 1994). In this case, Babylonians in unit actually is “the crowd” in Le Bon’s words. And the people who created the stone tablet to use to teach other farmers are the strongest members of “the crowd”. They put forward suggestions and guide other farmers who have already lost individuality and comply to “collective unconscious”. Even though people did not have a concept of public relations and “the crowd”, public relations were already practicing there and “crowd psychology” made sense.

The PR field anchors its work in historical events in order to improve its perceived validity, but it didn’t begin as a professional field until around 1900. (Diggs-Brown, 2011) Even though “The three main elements of public relations are practically as old as society: informing people, persuading people, or integrating people with people” (Bernays, 1923), it is undeniable that the concept of public relations is different from the profession of public relations, namely, practicing common sense “public relations” differs from developing a professional public relations practice.

Talking about the foundation and development of PR, Edward L. Bernays should not be missed. Edward L. Bernays is referred to as the father of public relations and the profession’s first theorist for his work in the 1920s. He was influenced by the ideas of Le Bon’s crowd psychology, and of Wilfred Trotter, who promoted similar ideas in in his book Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War.

In his PR campaign, Edward Bernays used this psychology successfully. For instance, he used this psychology in one of his famous PR campaign, that is, promoting sales of bacon. He conducted a survey of 5,000 physicians and reported their recommendation that people eat heavy breakfasts. The public trusted it and the sales of bacon surged. Edward Bernays’s exact words in his work Propaganda are suitable to explain this case.”If you can influence the leaders, either with or without their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the group which they sway. But men do not need to be actually gathered together in a public meeting or in a street riot, to be  subject to the influences of mass psychology. Because man is by nature gregarious he feels himself to be member of a herd, even when he is alone in his room with the curtains drawn. His mind retains the patterns which have been stamped on it by the group influences.” (Bernays, 1928)

The 5,000 physicians in this case is the third party. To the public, they are credible and reliable; they control information and make decision for them, in other words, they are “the leader”; they are the strongest members of the crowd. They make a voice and the rest of the crowd followed the suggestion. That’s how this PR campaign worked. And crowd psychology contributed to its success.

 Social psychology plays an important part in influencing people’s behaviors in everyday life. It’s widely used in the PR profession as a useful method. On one hand, Gustave Le Bon’s theory together with other scholars including Walter LIppman, Gabriel Tarde, W.E.B. DuBois, Wilfred Trotter provide PR practitioners with basic ideas of crowd psychology’s impact and application in PR campaign. On the other hand, it is not 100% correct and still bears lots of disputes. When it is real-world practice, it should be used accurately, ethically and strategically.

References

Barbara Diggs-Brown. Strategic Public Relations: An Audience-Centered Practice. Cengage Learning, 2011

Scott Cutlip. The Unseen Power: A History of Public Relations. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994.

Adolf Erman. Life in Ancient Egypt. New York: Dover Publications, 1971

Edward L. Bernays. Crystallizing Public Opinion. Liveright Pub. Corp, 1923

Edward Bernays, Propaganda. Routledge, 1928

Gustave Le Bon. The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, 1895

The Development and Influences of Public Relations in China

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After reform and opening-up, China witnessed a rapid development in a very short time. The promising economic and profound opportunities here attracted a great amount of foreign companies to invest in local economics. Along with foreign investment is a brand new industry called public relations. Though public relations has only several decades’ history in China, it influenced a lot on Chines culture. This essay will briefly introduce the development of PR in China and dig deep into PR’s contribution on promoting the awareness of Corporate Social Responsibility.

 In 1978, the Third Plenary Session of the 11th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China established the reform and opening-up policy, which brought the term public relations into the public’s eyes. Since then, international PR firms established their branches in big cities like Beijing, and costal cities like Guangzhou. For example, Hill & Knowlton was the first company to set up an office in Beijing in 1984. After five years’ development, PR had been established in China in the middle of 1980s.

After 1985s, professional associations and PR researches blossomed in China. In June 1986, the first official PR institution, Shanghai Public Relations Association (SPRA), was set up, followed by China Public Relations Association in 1987, China International Public Relation Association (CIPRA) in 1991, etc. By the end of 1991, more than 100 PR associations been founded in China .

The Third Plenary Session of the CPC 11th Central Committee marked the expansion of PR. It passed a number of decisions on the establishment of a socialist market economic system in 1993, which caused rapid and drastic change in all aspects of life. Interest in the profession of public relations increased. From 1993, PR has been widely use as an effective way in business. It has been widely used in almost every industry. Also, the development of social media enhanced and accelerated PR’s development in China.

Few Local companies have the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility until PR was introduced into China. PR’s rapid development in China and its strong influence on business urges many companies, both local and international, to think about Corporate Social Responsibility. Therefore, many companies devoted to taking their corporate social responsibility and contribute a lot to the social development, which creates a good atmosphere and build up a good model for the various walks of life to concern corporate social responsibility.

Corporate Social Responsibility is one of the main themes in the field of Public Relations. In the book A Three-Dimensional Conceptual Model of Corporate Performance (1979), Carroll A. B. defined Public Relations as “social responsibility of business encompasses the economic, legal, ethical and discretionary expectations that society has of organizations at a given point of time”, which emphasized that other than focusing on making profits, companies should also concern for society, communities, environment, employees and ethics. The term Corporate Social Responsibility was defined by Du et al. (2010) as “a commitment to improve societal well-being through discretionary business practices and contributions of corporate resources”. World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s definition for CSR “is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large”. CSR has increasingly gained importance and influence within the corporate world and has evolved from revolving mainly around philanthropy of powerful individuals to incorporating corporate social, ethical and environmental responsibility (Waddock, 2008). Despite the rather complex categorization of the phenomena, CSR is generally perceived of as both ethical and moral correct, as well as it is an approach believed to be benefitting all stakeholders (Waddock, 2008). Waddock found that today, a major part of corporations’ assets are funded in intangible assets such as goodwill, reputation, and human capita, which supports the claim that CSR approaches are important for corporate success and legitimization. And the power of various stakeholders is emphasized since goodwill and reputation is constituted by how stakeholders perceive an organization, i.e. how the corporate communicative tools are interpreted.

Foreign-invested companies play a leading and important role in promoting corporate social media. Take Starbucks for example. Starbucks is one of the most popular foreign-invested companies in China. Corporate social responsibility is the concept created to describe how organizations now consider the welfare of the people by being responsible for the impact of their activities on all groups of people involved and affected by their business, for example their employees, customers, and stakeholders. Many businesses have taken CSR very seriously that they have gone beyond “following laws” but do more than being “responsible”. The Starbucks Coffee Company is one of those corporations. They run business by responsibility and conducting itself in the ways that are giving trust and respect from its customers and neighborhoods. In this situation, the so-called “shared planet” means Starbucks emphasize on ethical sourcing, environmental protection and community support. Moreover under company’s operation, they also believe supporting the good workplace for partners or staffs encouraging ethical business practices and maintaining legal compliance, corporate governance and also public policy (Starbucks 2010c). In the Responsibility page of Starbucks’ website, the slogan is obviously noted “We’ve always believed that businesses can – and should – have a positive impact on the communities they serve”.

Led by foreign-invested companies, local companies started to think about how to keep balance between profitability and social responsibility. Also, they started to try different activities and programs from which the public, the employees and the communities could benefit a lot. From then on, corporate social responsibility is well practiced by local companies.

The past four decades, China witness the blossom of PR industry. The practice and rapid development of PR brought obvious changes to Chines culture, good and bad. In order to maintain PR industry on the right track, there are much more we should learn from foreign advanced experience and established regulations and laws to regulate this industry and maintain its wholesome development.