Underpinning how social you want your PR


It was great to see tweets like this one from Lisa Pool as we concluded “How social do you want your PR?” at the headquarters of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in London on January 24.

The title of the evening meeting – one in the CIPR’s Social Summer series of conversation and networking events – at which some 50 or so people took part was the central question raised in an assessment of the broad digital landscape that’s in our PR view, from what was on our radar in 2012 to what we can’t avoid in 2013.

The focus clearly was on the social web and tools and channels, and where they fit into our overall communications and business picture. So the conversation centred around five areas that are unquestionably in our faces right now:

  • Influencer marketing
  • Neutral point of view
  • Content curation
  • Content marketing
  • Brand journalism

I explained how I see each of these topics (detailed in the presentation deck I used, embedded below) and why I think they are very important for us as communicators as we work for our employers or clients in helping them achieve their business objectives.

In addition, there’s something as equally important as these tools and channels that too often escapes our attention in the dazzle of the social web. It’s closely intertwined with those tools and channels, underpinning everything, as the practice of public relations and other elements of organizational communication evolves as business and our broader society do.

That ‘something’ is remembering our primary goal as public relations practitioners, encapsulated in the CIPR’s definition of that practice:

Public relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.

Public relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.

It’s also about how to practice our profession that too often manifests itself in poor practices like thoughtless, careless and irrelevant email pitches; creating content that adds no value whatsoever to the conversation it aspires to influence; and, last but not least, poor ethical behaviours, all of which results in diminished trust in you and your word.

So in thinking about the social web, and the tools and channels you will use to communicate and engage, think about the PR basics and the six attributes I believe are key and which you have the power to embrace.


It’s not about perfection or being perfect (nobody is perfect!). It’s about being relevant, measurable, valuable, ethical, open and professional. None of that needs permission from a boss – it’s down to you.

If you can get these right, the world is your oyster.

Finally, here’s my presentation deck which you’re also free to download and use under the terms of its Creative Commons copyright license:

Also, Julio Romo contributed some valuable insight into six other elements in our sights as he added to the conversation:

  1. Rise of the “Pro-sumer”
  2. Get your content mobile ready
  3. Use video in your comms
  4. Data can empower PR
  5. Skills for a new communications world
  6. The End of PR 1.0!!

Add Julio’s thinking to yours and mine as you contemplate your next steps:

And, see Grace Park’s thoughts that add another perspective to this overall picture.

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How social do you want your PR?


That’s the title of a discussion session I’ll be leading in London on Thursday December 6 January 24, 2013 as part of the CIPR’s Social Summer series of meetings, designed to encourage an informal and relaxed atmosphere with interesting conversation and networking opportunities.

[Update Dec 4:] It looks like Christmas festivities have had an influence on the event for the original date of December 6. As a result, the CIPR has rescheduled it for Thursday January 24, 2013. Description, etc, unchanged. Actually, I think Jan is a better time – we will start the new year by looking forward into that year.

Here’s the programme description from the event description page:

How Social Do You Want Your PR?

One of the things we’ll remember 2012 for will be the raft of social media buzzwords and phrases that came our way. Influencer marketing, neutral point of view, content curation, content marketing, brand journalism… just 5 of the many. Should we give much credence to such words? Do we even know what they mean? And what influence should they have on PR and how we do things?

A quick review of these and other topics will set the scene for a forward look into 2013 to shine a spotlight on what PRs should be paying attention to in the coming year – and how that attention can pay dividends in the leadership role PR ought to assume in the broad business landscape.

I’ll start with a short presentation to set the scene, then the floor opens up for what I hope will be a vibrant and stimulating discussion.

“How Social Do You Want Your PR?”  takes place at the CIPR headquarters in Russell Square, London WC1 (map) on December 6 Thursday January 24, 2013, and costs just £12 including VAT. Session opens at 5pm, kick-off presentation at about 5.20pm, and we conclude our conversation at about 7.30pm.

Come with your questions and points of view! Sign up today.

The journey begins: guidance from the CIPR on PR and Wikipedia published

cipr1wikipediaguideIt’s taken quite a while but it’s finally here – Wikipedia Best Practice Guidance for Public Relations Professionals: version 1 of a document that sets out a formal picture on how the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) believes public relations practitioners should behave when it comes to content on Wikipedia.

The most controversial view clearly stated in the guidance – the concept of which has been in the doc since its earliest public incarnation as a draft made available in May – is that PRs should not directly edit content in Wikipedia that is about their clients, their employer, related brands and issues, or competing organizations and associated brands when there is a conflict of interest. (the text in bold is my emphasis).

In a press release the CIPR issued earlier today, CEO Jane Wilson makes that point clear with crystal clarity:

[…] The main theme of the guidance is quite simple – where there is a clear conflict of interest created by the relationship between the public relations professional and the subject of the Wikipedia entry, such as a client or employer, they should not directly edit it.

That conflict-of-interest qualifier is key to understanding what this guidance document is all about.

It’s at the heart of much of the public debate about PR and Wikipedia that has taken place, informally in the CREWE community initiative on Facebook spearheaded by Phil Gomes, Stuart Bruce, John Cass and many others, as well as formally as illustrated by the CIPR’s document and the people directly involved in its creation, notably Philip Sheldrake, Phil Morgan and Gemma Griffiths as well as many members of the CIPR’s Social Media Panel.

I believe the guidance document is an essential step in helping practitioners (whether CIPR members or not) gain better understanding of Wikipedia – the community itself as well as how the content creation and editing procedures work. It makes clear sense to better understand a community whose content you want to contribute to in some way, and engage with those in that community on the terms of engagement of that community.

In my view, that’s a simple step we in the PR business can easily undertake and commit to doing. After all, we’re pretty good at community-building and -engagement, are we not? If we want to change the Wikipedia system, well, offering opinion, ideas and insight into how to do that as part of the community is the way forward.

So we have guidance. The PDF document published today – which you can freely download – is a first step, probably the easiest one. I think it’s also impressive that it’s issued not only in the name of the CIPR but also in the names of other professional bodies who publicly support it and are committed to it from the outset – the Canadian Public Relations Society, the Public Relations Consultants Association in the UK, and the Public Relations Institute of Australia.

Now we embark on the real journey – putting the fine words into tangible action. One area I think will take a lot of work surrounds the broad notions of conflict of interest and neutral point of view (click the links to see how Wikipedia sees those terms) and how that works in a PR context.

All of this will require education, awareness-raising, helping others understand, reaching out to Wikipedians, patience, commitment, diplomacy – and, yes, courage. I’d like to think we’ll see reciprocity from the other side of the fence, as it were. I believe that will come sooner or later.

But first, let’s get PR’s house in order in relation to Wikipedia. One step at a time.

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Integrated CIPR news on your desktop – shame about mobile


The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) launched a social media newsroom on January 23. In  their words, it “integrates announcements on our website with our Twitter feed, Facebook and LinkedIn pages and with the CIPR Conversation.”

It’s a good example of an organization evolving how it communicates information about itself (and, in this case, about a profession and its membership) and how it enables easier sharing of its content in ways that are measurable, eg, social-share buttons, and linking content in diverse online places.

I heard about the newsroom yesterday when I was out and about in London. I’d just finished a meeting so a moment to check email, Twitter and Google+ on my mobile device. No wifi at that moment but a good connection via 3 UK’s cellular network. A note on G+ from David Philips had the news. Naturally, I clicked the link and headed over in my mobile browser to take a look.

What a disappointment! What I got was the desktop website squeezed onto the 4.3-inch display on my Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone.


The news site – indeed, the entire CIPR website – doesn’t offer a version that’s designed for use on a mobile device. As you can see from the screenshot, the site is, in essence, unusable on a mobile device like a smartphone.

Yesterday on Twitter, the CIPR’s Andrew Ross said that they haven’t yet made the step to a mobile site. Matt CIPR added that a mobile version is in the pipeline, “but it should still display ok on most smart phones.”

Hmm, I guess that depends on how you define “ok” in this context. In my initial experience, definitely not ok.

Think about it: you’re out and about, you want to see something on the CIPR’s website – read a news announcement, check some information, sign up for a course, maybe add a comment on The Conversation – but you get only the desktop website on your mobile. And that gives you the desktop experience – not really workable on a mobile device like a phone.

Just try the screen-pinching, squinting, “precision” finger-tapping and swiping in a busy Starbucks, never mind on a crowded bus. And if your cell connection isn’t that good, it will be like watching paint dry as the page attempts to load in all its graphical glory.

Not something you want to do more than once.

Undoubtedly the experience will be better on a larger-screen mobile device, eg, an iPad or one of the myriad Android tablets with their seven- to ten-inch screens. But display is only one part of the picture, as it were – great to be able to clearly see what you want, it’s then how you use that content on a device that you touch to interact, not point and click or hit an enter key.

Whether or not we’re embarking on the “Post PC Era,” there is no question that the “Mobile Era” is here.

Smartphones have become an integral part of people’s daily lives wherever they are: we use smartphones as an extension – even a replacement – of our desktop or laptop computers these days as we multi-task and, whether it’s for business or personal, consume and quickly share other content.

I do hope a CIPR mobile-optimized site comes very soon. In the meantime, enjoy what is a good resource on your desktop.Just don’t expect much if you try it on a mobile.

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Being inclusive about PR ethics

changingalightbulbOne of the great things about the Ethics Awareness Month initiative from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is that it helps focus clear attention on a core issue in the profession that, in many people’s minds, needs that attention.

It doesn’t matter a bit that the PRSA’s initiative happens to be organized by the professional body that represents practitioners in the USA. To give full credit to them (as well as recognize some good common sense at work), it’s very open – anyone with a point of view and some good ideas on ethics can contribute no matter where they are and whether they’re a member of the PRSA (or any other body) or not.

One feature of the initiative is the weekly tweet chat anyone can participate in around the hashtag #prethics. I took part in the first one on September 6 organized jointly by PRSA and the CIPR in the UK. It was a great discussion.

I wrote about it and the copy of my post that was syndicated in the CIPR’s The Conversation blog attracted some discussion in the comments.

Discussion on this topic is terrific, just what we need to have wherever it takes place. I hope the exchanges of views to my post contribute to some measurable course of action on this topic.

Yet it seems to me that there’s a risk of slipping into a cul-de-sac over territorial rights, being side-tracked by a debate about which professional body should lead the charge on the ethics debate.

That’s the least relevant matter, in my view. I don’t care who leads any charge as long as this important issue is on the agenda and that a clear course of action emerges. Heck, I’m not a PRSA member nor a CIPR one yet I find the debate wholly relevant to my practice as a communicator and I engage in discussion with peers who are members of these associations as well as others like CPRS in Canada. PR is just one part of my professional communication activity, one reason why the IABC is my professional association of choice for more than 20 years.

What I’d like to see is our lightbulb moment on ethics in the profession – where anyone, anywhere, is part of the discussion – not a discussion about how many PR organizations does it take to change the lightbulb.

If you have an opinion, why not chime in? Here, there or anywhere you feel like. Just connect your comments to the #prethics hashtag.

Related post:

So what will you do for ethics in PR?

The subject of ethics in public relations often provokes strong opinions from people, especially when questionable practices fall under the critical spotlight – as Scott Adams so cannily grasped in this Dilbert cartoon in August.

Ethics in PR issues from the past few years that readily come to my mind range from Edelman’s shattered pedestal over not one but two Wal-Mart kerfuffles in 2006; the anti-astroturfing campaign by Trevor Cook and Paull Young in that same year; ongoing PR spam (very much a matter of ethical behaviours, in my view); Burson Marsteller’s Facebook dirty tricks fiasco this year; and of course the News of The World phone hacking scandal that came to a dramatic head in July and the subsequent role of PR.

While such unsavoury events always provoke much debate, opinion-sharing and hand-wringing about ethics by many inside the industry as well as outside – especially in the mainstream media – not a lot actually happens, really, to credibly address such things in a way that’s scalable. So as fast as one crisis fades from public memory, another one comes along to outrage or entertain, depending on your point of view.

I believe that individual responsibility is the best way to address behaviours and practices within and by the profession where believing in and abiding by codes of conduct/ethical behaviour is fundamental. Yet that can only have a chance of working when it’s part of a framework, something that people are willing to sign up for, as it were, and where leadership by example is the essential ingredient.

I also believe that the industry’s professional associations occupy a critical role in this regard and could make a huge difference in one key area (in particular) – leading by example in education and awareness-raising about ethical behaviours.

I’d accept without question that bodies such as the PRSA in the US, the CIPR in the UK and the IABC from a global perspective already do a great deal through professional development and other activities for members. Yet I think it needs more, something that gives it a firmer push onto everyone’s agenda.

That was the prominent thought in my mind as I participated in a tweetchat (an online discussion via Twitter) on Tuesday jointly hosted by Rosanna Fiske and Jane Wilson, respectively Chair and CEO of PRSA and CIPR.

During the course of an hour, a wide- and far-ranging discussion and exchange of views about ethics and behaviours took place with some excellent views, ideas and suggestions ebbing and flowing in the discussion.


I think we had a good indicator of leadership by the fact that the PRSA and the CIPR collaborated in leading discussion this way on the topic of ethics, as the PRSA noted in its post-event report:

[…] We’d be remiss if we did not address the importance of this Tweet chat and of enhancing ethical standards in PR. It is something that both of our organizations firmly believe in and will continue to pursue for years to come. Simply put: Ethics form the backbone of PRSA and the CIPR. Our respective ethics codes — PRSA’s Code of Ethics and the CIPR’s Code of Conduct — are well established as the profession’s global standards for ethical conduct.

If anyone ever had any doubt about the significant role and value that ethics plays in PR professionals’ levels, Tuesday’s Tweet chat stopped that idle chatter cold in its tracks. We were impressed with the level of commitment and interest among the commenters to better understand and uphold ethical standards. From @thefishareloose Tweeting that “socialmedia and access to Internet is making it harder for people to hide a lie which should help show why #prethics is so important” to @brandjack commenting that “ethical behavior is what gets results” for clients and organizations, the chat demonstrated the level of recognition and respect that ethics now has in public relations.

September is PRSA’s Ethics Awareness Month. Why don’t we all make September our own ethics awareness month by asking ourselves: What am I going to do?

Here’s a start: before the end of this month, read your respective professional association’s code of conduct:

(If you’re not a member of any of these bodies, read the codes anyway.)

Tell your colleagues and/or your clients you’re doing this and will uphold the code’s values. Ask them to do the same. Ask your boss to do it. If you’re the boss, well, you know what to do.

Individual responsibility. And a framework. Sounds good to me.