Tuesday, 6 April 2010

MA PR 2010 class

Lovely post from my classmate Divya on her blog. Happy and proud to have had such lovely and amazing classmates! Lots of love to all these awesome girls and guys!
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Thursday, 25 March 2010

They're getting ready for 2012. Are you?

Harrow residents have decided to get ready for the 2012 London Olympics...their own way! They are no longer willing to passively sit around their living rooms watching all the action take place on TV. They want in on the action! So with whatever knowledge they have and with the equipment at their disposal they've started to seriously train for the sporting event of their choice. Whether it's swimming, gymnastics or tennis, members of the Harrow community have taken it upon them to become the most active borough in London and the best prepared for the grand international event of 2012. And we have the video to prove it!

For more information visit:

P.S. Big thank you to Babusha and Menglu for getting out of bed at an inhuman hour on a Saturday and running in the rain...several times; to Filippo for getting down and dirty in the rain and making friends with the mud...several times; to Sarah and Street for taking time out of their busy life to be awesome; to Menglu for borrowing me her camera, but most importantly..the egg!; and to Jayne for letting me borrow me her amazing kids!! (I'd offer to babysit but I feel like I might need a babysitter of my own to get the job done:P)

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Friday, 19 March 2010

"Social media: as you can see we're learning as we go. Thanks for the comments."

"Need a break? So does the rainforest" is the latest Greenpeace campaign against Nestlé, who they accused of using palm oil in their Kit-Kat recipes, from companies that are 'trashing Indonesian rainforests, threatening the livelihoods of local people and pushing orang-utans towards extinction.' 

The above video went viral almost instantly,with almost 200,000 views on YouTube alone, and it made critics take Nestlé Facebook page by storm, flooding it with complaints and accusations of unethical behaviour.

And that's when the series of bad decisions by Nestlé started, showing off the ugly side of social media and the tremendous repercussions it can have on a brand, accounting for a true PR disaster for the company.

First bad move that they made was asking for the video to be removed, citing copyright claims. If the company is so worried about their image, shouldn't their first priority have been severing ties to the rainforest destruction actions that they are responsible for? Because, let's face it, nothing good can ever come out of trying to hide the trash under the rug.

More even, Nestlé can learn a lesson in social media from Greenpeace who, immediately after the video was taken down from YouTube, posted it on Vimeo and used Twitter and other platforms to spread word about Nestlé's censorships attempts. They eventually got the video re-uploaded on YouTube and the story made every national and local newspaper, whether in print or online.

Administrators of the Nestlé Facebook page didn't really do a good job either of accommodating the influx of negative comments. Among their responses we saw:

"…we welcome your comments, but please don't post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic - they will be deleted.
"Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it`s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus." 
"Oh please .. it's like we're censoring everything to allow only positive comments." 

Not even in the face of the disaster that was their Facebook page at the moment could they accept that they had completely lost control over their corporate social media communications. Snapping back at your commentators, trying to impose your rules cause it's your playground they're in, is never the right course of action. And these snarky Facebook comments only succeed in infuriating users further. Nestle's entire social media crisis response strategy was a huge fail, showing off their lack of preparation or planning for such a situation. At the moment the company has over 95,000 fans on their Facebook face, a great number of which joined solely to write their complaints and thoughts surrounding the situation. The final count was of over 120,000 negative comments agains the company's actions.

The first sensible thing posted by Nestlé throughout the entire situation was "Social media: as you can see we're learning as we go. Thanks for the comments." It may, however, have come a bit to late. 

Things got even worse on Twitter, where the company has a whooping 9 followers!(why do they even bother having a Twitter account in the first place when engaging in a conversation with users is definitely not in their intention?) The only response on this social media platform from Nestlé was a link to a statement on their website. They totally missed out on the opportunity of starting a dialogue with their followers, answering their questions and calming down the situation. 

As Ian Duff, a spokesperson for the Greenpeace campaign against Nestlé, correctly observed: "Nestlé have brought this outrage onto themselves." By being completely unprepared and incapable of correctly managing their social media platforms. And the problems were not only brought on by the crisis situation Greenpeace threw them in. The roots ran deeper, into an dreadful social media strategy, which is unacceptable for a corporation of the likes of Nestlé. 

This Nestlé PR disaster should be a lesson for all corporations, big or small, on the power of social media, and how easily it can turn against you. However, the Greenpeace case should also stand out as a best practice case of how to use the power of social media for your cause. Social media doesn't have to be something than companies should fear and avoid. But it should be something treated with all seriousness and any social media strategy should be thoroughly though out, planned and implemented within a clear framework or rules and practices. 

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PR vs. Social Marketing

"Everyone can sell chocolate. Selling getting up, going to the gym and exercising every day takes a real marketing genius." Stephan Dahl

In the 1970s Philip Kotler and Gerald Zaltman discovered that the same principles that were being used to sell products and services to consumers could be used to 'sell', to the same people, attitudes, ideas and behaviours. Thus a new discipline was born - social marketing - with a background in both social sciences and policy and commercial and public sector marketing.

According to French & Blair-Stevens, social marketing can be defined as "the systematic application of marketing, alongside other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals, for a social cause." It can be differentiated from marketing as its efforts are directed towards a social good and not a financial gain. It has received, however, its fair share of criticism with claims that it is only interested in getting people to change their behaviour but not really caring how they do it.

The National Social Marketing Centre in the UK has produced an 8 point social marketing National Benchmark Criteria that is used to help encourage and promote greater consistency in the use and application of social marketing:

• Clear focus on behaviour and achieving specific behavioural goals
• Centred on understanding the customer using a variety of customer and market research
• Theory-based and informed
• 'Insight' driven
• Uses 'exchange' concept and analysis
• Uses 'competition' concept and analysis
• Has a more developed 'segmentation' approach (going beyond basic targeting)
• Utilizes an 'intervention mix' or 'marketing mix' (rather than relying on single methods)

Used mainly in the public sector and non-profits, social marketing is used for campaigns raging from health issues awareness, reducing smoking or traffic safety.

One of the questions from this week suggested that PR, a field with somewhat questionable ethics, should look and learn from social marketing. Because social marketing is somewhat of the marketing industry's conscience. But isn't that a bit paradoxical? Marketing is used to promote alcohol and cigarettes or cars that run at 200 km/h (and it is perfectly legal to do so), but then public institutions resort to social marketing, which was especially created as a discipline to ask people to stop drinking, smoking or exceeding the speed limit.

This is not to say that social marketing is not efficient or beneficial, because it most definitely is. But it is far from being the ethical high-ground to be used to guide related fields of practice. PR surely has a valuable lesson to learn from activism methods of generating change or social marketing approaches to dealing with the audience while reaching its socially beneficial aim. But in today's world, where boundaries between advertising, marketing and PR tend to get more and more blurred, public relations is probably better off not just learning from social marketing but by engaging and collaborating within change initiatives and campaigns, thus making a commendable contribution.


  • French, J, and Blair Stevens, C. (2005) Social Marketing Pocket guide (1st Edition) National Social Marketing Centre for Excellence, http://www.nsms.org.uk/

  • Kotler, P, Zaltman, G. (1971) Social Marketing: An Approach to Planned Social Change. Journal of Marketing 35:3-12.

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    Thursday, 18 March 2010

    NGO = PR

    "I love a challenge and saving the Planet seems like a good one" - Paul Stamets

    PR plays a major and defining role in the activities of non-governmental organisations - whether we are talking about charities, social welfare, religious organisations or foundations - although people working in the Third Sector are reluctant to admit it; or as our guess speaker from Friends of the Earth said - they would do anything to separate themselves, their work and job titles from anything having to do with public relations. However, at the end of the day, the tasks that they perform and their abilities are exactly those of a PR practitioner.

    What are the key abilities and skills that a third sector practitioner must have? Just to list some of the most commonly mentioned: fundraising skills, persuasive pitching abilities, budget management, research capabilities, relationship and network building skills, media relations skills, organising skills, negotiation and planning skills, documentation and dissemination of information abilities. And what are the key abilities and skills that a PR practitioners should have? I would exactly say the above mentioned.

    The main thing that advocacy groups do is raising awareness, whether it is for an event, an environment cause, a social issue or for them as an organisation. Raising awareness refers to alerting the general public that a certain issue exists and should be approached the way the group desires. And how do you do that if not through PR campaign?

    What did our speaker described himself to be? "The brand destroyer". Because according to him that's what NGOs are in the business of doing: destroying or threatening to destroy the reputation of big brands in order to get their way - impose the cause they are working for. And how could NGOs put that amount of pressure on the likes of Nike, McDonalds or Lukoil if not through well mastered PR skills and techniques?

    All in all, NGOs entire existence as Third Sector organisations is based on their ability to practice good PR, whether it is to raise funds, to describe services to their beneficiaries, to inform the public about their accomplishments, to distinguish themselves from other NGOs, engage in media relations or to promote their causes.

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