What would we do without PR?

Public Relations (PR) has a valid role in today’s democratic society. Moloney and Colmer (2001; pp.89) suggest “The thesis is that PR is on a journey from being the property of the UK elite to the possession of many, if not most of its citizens.” Liberalisation led to economic growth which created a sustained customer boom, therefore creating an incessant need for PR services in society and this has grown to become a necessity in many parts of today’s society.

The 20th century gave birth to a new type of media relations (Zerfass, et.al. 2016) and this has created a dynamic shift in PR to correspond with the digital age (Toledano and Avidar, 2016).

According to Moloney (2004; pp.163) “The shift to online and social media communication has impacted the practice of PR.” PR practitioners can now create online content to influence public opinion and create awareness of a company/brand but it’s down to the individual if they decide to consume the information online. This epitomises Habermas’ (1989) “The Public Sphere”, reiterating the idea that all citizens in society now have access to transparent information and whether we consume this information, is completely up to us.

PR and Mass Media

PR is now prevalent on social media in many different forms. Businesses are now promoting their brand on their Facebook pages, influencers are now endorsing products on their Instagram and celebrities are expressing their views on their twitter feeds. Therefore, social media is now a powerful way to support PR (LaMarre and Suzuki-Lambrecht, 2013). It is now possible to promote a PR campaign fully online.  Social media is free, easy to use and consumed by much of our society today.  Therefore, PR through social media is very important when carrying out any PR strategy today.

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One could also argue that PR professionals are still seeking coverage from journalists but also bloggers in today’s society. According to Walden (2015; pp.526) “Bloggers play an influential role in society by breaking news, discussing news and being cited in the traditional media, which makes this a critical stakeholder group for PR professionals to work with.” The blogger phenomenon has really grown in the past few years and now PR professionals are working with bloggers to promote brands and endorse products on their Instagram and YouTube channels. Therefore, the practice of PR is changing to meet with the current trends in society.

It is now so easy to have a direct means to publics through online PR. Social media allows PR practitioners to maintain relationships with their publics in a more coherent and sustainable way (Komodromos, 2014). PR through social media can reach a lot more people and better communicate a message around the world (Toledano and Avidar, 2016). Morris and Goldsworthy (2016) claim we are living in a creative industry and PR is prominent in popular culture, clearly showing that PR’s role in the media is very important.

Social media is only one aspect of PR in the media. Engagement with newspapers and print media is just as important. Today, PR practitioners work to try and influence public opinion through the media. Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.14) emphasise this idea noting “Public Relations is at the heart of things” through being at the centre of mass media. Van den Heijkant and Vliegenthart (2018) argue “PR materials are an important and easy accessible resource for the news media and might seriously impact the actual content of media coverage.” Therefore, PR has a distinctive role in controlling content in news media today.

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PR and Business

PR also has an important role to play within business today. Organisations require coherent PR strategies to promote a new product or service to their consumers. To connect with consumers, maintain relationships with consumers and attract new consumers, organisations need to have a strategic PR plan in place.

PR practitioners can support businesses in many different ways. PR practitioners can manage any crisis that may occur within a business. A crisis can occur at any time in any place and if businesses are not prepared, they face huge repercussions in terms of their reputation and credibility. Companies can hire PR professionals to create coherent crisis management plans that will look at the possible crises and provide steps to ensure the crisis is managed effectively. PR practitioners can also speak on behalf of a company to ensure they respond to a crisis in the right way that is legally sound and will protect the company image. Therefore, PR can have a very important role in managing crises.

Another aspect of PR in business is Sponsorship. Sponsorship is used by PR practitioners to increase public awareness of a company, reinforce public awareness of a brand and enhance its reputation. According to Ronald, (2004; pp.42) “PR can help management to get more benefit from sponsorship by guiding management to projects that will produce massive national or worldwide media coverage and the most heartfelt public gratitude.” PR practitioners can use their means to promote the good that a company does and overall enhance a company’s public image. For example, a company can use PR to promote their corporate social responsibility. (CSR) If a company is involved in charitable work or has programs that support the community, PR practitioners can use this to increase brand awareness and improve the company’s image.  Ronald (2004; pp.43) goes as far to suggest that PR can “be like bread cast upon the waters that returns to thee many fold and repeatedly”. Therefore, using PR in sponsorship can have huge advantages for businesses today.

PR and Politics

PR and Politics are hugely intertwined in today’s society. PR has been used in Politics since the 1860’s but Morris and Goldsworthy (2016) argued the Thatcher and Regan years created enormous needs for PR services. Since then, there has been a huge reliance on PR in political communication. Hobbs (2016; pp.372) supports this view claiming ‘spin’ is central to processes that constitute representative democracy.  Nowadays, politicians rely on their PR advisors or “spin doctors” to influence public opinion and control the agendas of the media. Moloney (2004; pp. 967) goes as far to suggest that PR “is an integral part of political presentation in the intermediated mass democracy which is modern UK politics.”

According to Morris and Goldsworthy (2016; pp.12) “PR has become an important role in the battle to secure people’s votes.” Therefore, PR is very important in effectively communicating political messages to the public to gain support and influence public opinion. Especially today and for the past 2 years our newspapers, television screens and social media pages have been infiltrated with the word “Brexit” making it hard to avoid politics in society. Political parties and advisors have been using PR throughout the last few years to try and influence public opinion and sway voters to leave or stay in the European Union. Therefore, PR has a very important role in politics today.

To secure votes and support, political communication is about conveying the right message and PR practitioners today stand right behind politicians advising them the best route to take to gain support (Moloney, 2004). This idea of ‘Spin’ can cause some debate in the literature, some would argue that PR is the voice of people’s values and opinions as Moloney and Colmer, (2001; pp. 89) note, “We can be publicly gay, or single parents; start businesses; go on strike; campaign for consumer rights; speak for war or peace and take up nay faith or hobby which suits.” Showing that PR allows people to have their own views and express these views explicitly.

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On the other hand, Hobbs (2016) argues that spin can allow Political advisors to twist the truth and cause some ethical issues in government. An example of this is the Conservative party’s Brexit campaign, Boris Johnson in an effort to secure public support for the Leave campaign, toured around the UK in a bus with a very distinctive message on it….

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This claim that £350 million pound will be spent on the NHS could have swayed many voters to vote leave in the Brexit referendum on this promise alone, but it was then revealed that this was in fact, not the truth. After the vote it was abandoned by the Conservative party along with many other promises (The Independent, 2016). Therefore, it can be argued that PR in today’s society can be associated with manipulation just to get votes (Moloney, 2004).

Another way Political parties influence opinion through PR is through controlling the agendas of independent media organisations through information management (Moloney, 2004).  In the context of Northern Ireland some newspapers support unionist views and some newspapers support nationalist views and content of each will be targeted at audiences that support these ideals. In the wider UK according to YouGov (2017) The Daily Mail is seen as right wing, The Guardian as left wing and The Independent as centrist. Therefore, one could argue that newspapers are trying to persuade opinion rather than provide information that allows individuals to form their own opinions.

All in all, PR has a very distinctive role within politics today. Moloney (2004) suggests that it is hard to distinguish between PR and Politics and the two go hand in hand. This shows that PR has become an essential part of political presentation to communicate a message and defend this message, PR practitioners are essential to a governing body clearly indicating PR has a very important role in a mass democracy.

So, what would we do without PR?

PR is all around us and with the changing trends and creation of the digital age PR’s role has changed and adapted to these concepts. PR is not just about press releases, it’s about using social media to enhance brand image, a political image or even a blogger’s image. It is hard to ignore PR today, we see it everywhere, in our newspapers, on our televisions and twitter feeds. We are constantly being influenced through PR and PR allows us to express our own opinions and values. Therefore, it’s hard to deny the importance of PR and its roles in today’s society.

Orlaith Strong is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @orlaith_strong and Linkedin: @orlaithstrong

Has PR lost all Credibility in 2018?

The term PR can unsurprisingly evoke a feeling of doubt in people’s minds. PR can be seen as way the media twist the truth in an attempt to deliver a certain message. The element of persuasion can sometimes overshadow judgement and cast a damaging light on PR. However this is not the case, PR today has emerged significantly from what people may relate it back to as propaganda. People are quick to criticise PR due to reports that PR shys away from persuasion as a form of propaganda as it can be argued that the purpose of PR is to manipulate opinions. In discovering the elements of professional and reliable information people can soon realise the credit associated through PR. The progress through the years proves that PR has become more credible through their relevant and trustworthy news sources.

 

It seems that anytime I tell someone I am doing a PR degree they recognise it as standing on street corners promoting clubs or creating publicly stunts for good advertising. It is not uncommon that PR can be misinterpreted as a means to sell or exploit. Fortunately this isn’t the case, PR has a lot more than just promotion and publicity stunts. One of the more famous stunts being the white Range Rover outside Harrods in 2016, which tactically used PR and advertising to promote their brand image for the new Revere Range Rover Vogue.

People often question what is PR and why is it needed. The PRCA describe PR as the way in which organisations communicate with the public, promote themselves and build reputation and public image (Prca.org.uk, 2017). PR is in fact the back bone to organisations positively communicating key messages to consumers. Every organisation no matter who small depends on their reputation therefore PR is needed to promote survival and success in the most competitive of industries.
The world of PR is chaotic and crazy but for all the right reasons. The PR industry invites you to experience things you never imagined and learn things you never knew. Credibility is merely a small element of PR that is unfortunately sometimes negatively portrayed. Influencers and brand ambassadors create the perfect platform for organisations to promote their brand messages to their target audience and building upon their reputation. Aristotle used the term Ethos throughout PR which is given to a character such as a celebrity endorser or influential figure which gives the organisation more credibility.

 

The intensity and multitude of information and messages throughout PR in today’s modern world are at an all time high. So of course there are elements of exaggeration within the media but more importantly there is logical information that the public can rely on. The truth is that PR is everywhere you go and it is nearly impossible to escape it. There is a mass of messages and promotions in every aspect of life and it is important that we use these opportunities effectively to communicate the right message.
However the right message may not always be that simple to communicate. PR may not always be controlled and positive PR can always turn in to negative PR, which is something to consider. NYPD proved this through their social media request of asking the public to send in positive pictures with the police, which of course didn’t last too long and were bombarded with negative images and PR.

 

Although, it can be certain that PR is focused on promoting an organisations image and reputation, there is so much more planning and preparation involved. Today’s PR professionals have to processes a variety of skills within a competitive workplace. PR practitioners support their consumers and the public by communicating messages truthfully and effectively, ultimately creating a mass of credible PR.

Caoimhe Conway is a 4th year Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University, Jordanstown. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhe_conway /  Instagram: caoimheconway / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caoimhe-conway-bb0b03152/

Digital Strategy – Have You Got One?

Two words – digital strategy. What exactly is it, why do you need one and how do you get one? Want this explained for you without all the marketing gibberish? Read on.

Authors Karel Dörner and David Edelman broadly describe digital strategy as ‘ranging from being a general vision for change to the adoption of digital tools for improving interaction and marketing communications, to achieve overall organisation goals’.


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Is your organisation strategic in the way you use digital or do you just react?

A definite no-no for digital strategy is to use an ad-hoc approach to simply react with no defined purpose or strategy. If your company is doing this – then STOP or else be prepared for your competitors to eat your digital dinner.

Why should you digitally transform your organisation? Digital business is vital in our digitally savvy era for a company’s growth, customer relationships and overall success nowadays, no matter how big or small. Ultimately, companies without a digital strategy are directionless – they have no strategic goals for what they want to achieve online or who they are targeting with their content.

A good digital strategy will successfully use various online engagement methods such as social media management, blogs/bloggers, promotional emails and search engine optimisation (SEO). When these methods are combined with analytics, which measure their success, it can be extremely potent in increasing market share and delivering a strong ROI.

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What does analytics even mean? Basically, analytics measure engagement.

Using analytics to set specific goals and track your progress as you seek to reach your audience, alongside a cohesive strategy, allows you to effectively reach your target audience using the platforms they prefer.

Building the right brand image on the internet is the hardest thing for your company so it’s important you do it prudently. To keep your brand ahead of the curve you need to constantly update your content and strategy to reflect ever-changing consumer desires. Any digital strategy requires constant and consistent attention as change is the only constant.

So, you’ve read this far and are now wondering how to develop a digital strategy for your company? You’ll be glad to hear that it’s much simpler than it seems.

Money, money, money.At this point it is important to highlight how allocating not only a substantial initial investment but also a sufficient long-term budget to your strategy is crucial – namely for promoting social pages/tools, implementing marketing campaigns and investing in analytical tools.

The SOSTAC model is perhaps the most recognised and useful tool when it comes to planning marketing strategies.

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To be strategic your company must have specific objectives, based on completion of a situational analysis, which are aligned to your overall goals.When developing a digital strategy, it is essential to know your customers – what information can you identify on your current customers? What value proposition do you currently offer and what can be offered? Following this, a strategy can be further developed for how digital will be used to achieve these goals. All of this is done with an indication of how exactly success will be measured and voilà – you have yourself a digital marketing strategy.

Objectives for your strategy can include one or more of the following examples: do you want to increase awareness of your brand? Engage with the target audience? Build trust? Create ‘buzz’? Expand reach? Generate traffic? Increase market share? Increase sales? Achieve customer relationships management goals? You get the idea.

 Strategy answers the ‘how do we get there?’question and typically follows with customer segmentation and targeting alongside positioning and sequencing. Tacticsconsist of a clear channel plan detailing how exactly your company will reach set objectives. Actions detail the tactics and describes who does what and when. Then, control– performance must be monitored and analyzed, as highlighted in the above image of the model, to evaluate success and pinpoint how to improve your strategy.                                                                                                                                                                      

Some companies continue to shy away from adopting a digital marketing strategy, but I encourage you to invest in the channels of the future today to ensure you don’t fall behind.

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Amy Greer is a second year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: @amyagreer & LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/amygreerrr

PR, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

PR the bulletproof vest for the rich and famous, the lying politicians key to the white house, the reason we help others.

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Why is it whenever you mention PR, people automatically think of all the negatives behind the word? The bad that has come about because of it? The rich and famous pay a large team of PR Practitioners to protect them from the public eye. People like Harvey Weinstein have been protected, even after the monstrous things he has done. Companies like BP have been hiding in the shadows for years and then one day, like Harvey, things got out of control and stories were let out and reputations were destroyed. Tony Hayward would like his “life Back” after destroying the environment with his “little Oil Spill” and after saying things like that I don’t think we should let him have it back.

And I wont even go into the “bad and ugly” things we see in politics because we’d be here all day. But not all PR practitioners do these, what are seen as ‘immoral’, things. PR can be seen like people you have the good guy and the bad guy. Batman and The Joker. But what the good guy does surly out weighs all the things done by the bad guys?

Charities all work with a PR team to persuade people into donating, volunteering, helping. But then why is there such a negative view on persuasion by a PR practitioner. Propaganda is a word that usually comes hand in hand with PR but what is done isn’t lies or manipulation most of the time PR shows the public what is truly happening.

Those God-awful advertisements we see on TV about drink driving  and speeding are hard hitting but it shows the truth behind what happens when you get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or if you break the speed limit. Its not lies or propaganda it’s the truth. Choosing to use such gruesome and traumatic visuals could have had a very negative effect, but the opposite happened as it scared many out of the notion… well we still have the odd idiot that will get behind the wheel… Here we can see a PR team using unusual (at the time) tactics to make an impact on the public in Northern Ireland.

Another campaign that has been a huge success for the past 33 years has been Band Aid. Every Christmas this single raises over £2 Million for famine relief per year. I’m sure that you are all sick of Christmas songs by now but this, I feel, is a great example of PR at its best. The song, written by Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats and Midge Ure of Ultravox, has been a huge success and a very strategic way to raise money. The song has been released a few more times by more current artists, the most recent one included artists such as, One direction, Paloma Faith, and Ed Sheeran. This campaign raises money every year and therefore is a huge success in my books. This is another example of the good PR does. So why are there so many negative connotations with regards to PR?

PR is an extremely important aspect of all major charities and without it many audiences wouldn’t be reached. So all in all I feel the good most defiantly outweighs the bad. Who cares if the spin doctors are meeting in dark alleyways, or if we are being persuaded to donate to Dogs Trust. Shouldn’t we be doing our bit anyway?

Tierna Garvin is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MissTierna and on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tierna-garvin-bbb3a0143/ 

 

4 things marketers can learn from Willy Wonka- ‘The Marketing Legend’

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (starring Johnny Depp, obviously) has always been one of my favourite films- such a child at heart!!

 

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This version was released when I was nine. I would have been sitting in front of the TV drooling over all the delicious chocolate and sweets, desperately wanting little Charlie Bucket to find the last golden ticket. Twelve years on, I’m not afraid to say I still love the film however I am watching it from a PR and marketing perspective… yes, my Saturday nights are exciting!

This is totally my own opinion, after all I’m only a final year student, I’m an amateur but from my placement year working in a marketing department I think businesses could learn a thing or two from this fictional character.

  1. Being the best

Aside from the catchy songs that I sing along to, every decision Willy Wonka makes shows us that he’s entirely focused around being the best. As the saying goes ‘businesses should “be the cheapest or be the best”.  With all the success Willy Wonka has he still recognises the need for cheaper products e.g. when he creates high-quality Everlasting Gobstoppers specifically “for children with very little pocket money”, transmitting a chocolate bar by television, and a stick of gum that tastes like a three-course meal. He makes sure that he is front-page news; fame is at the heart of what he is trying to do and he wants the promotion to be talked about, shared and trending.

  1. Competition is fierce

 

He closed the gates of his factory for good merely because competitors kept stealing his recipes, this as a result shows us just how advanced he was in his thinking in comparison to his competitors.  Now, I wouldn’t say that it’s a good idea to close up shop just because you have competitors but this is why we have creative marketing strategies, to make us ‘stand out from the crowd.’ The lesson from Willy is that if you do not have a plan for improving your current products or services and developing the next game changer in your industry, your competitors probably will.

  1. Re-opening and the media

A great creative idea will always capture the imagination of the media and echo with the audiences. What other way to do this than to hold a good old competition. In the world of social media today we see competitions for winning literally EVERYTHING from TV’s to Holidays to a huge makeup give away and the thing is, does anyone ever actually win the prizes? Is it a tactic to gain more followers and raise more brand awareness on particular social media platforms? Surely someone is going to catch on to this! The beauty Willy Wonka’s competition was that he didn’t really need his target audience to do anything, except buy as many chocolate bars as they wished to find the golden ticket, then again for any child this would be a dream, so it’s no chore!

He relied on the media like newspapers, television news and brochures. As soon as the word got out people of all ages were delving through stores in search for one of the five select Wonka bars, sales went up and profits surged!

  1. The Golden Ticket

Considering the fact that no member of the general public had ever stepped foot inside the chocolate factory, limiting the number of tickets to 5 meant that Willy Wonka automatically created a demand and major FOMO (the fear of missing out) in winning a golden ticket, it nearly becomes feverish. It created a buzz and had got everyone around the world talking about it. It was as if it was something that money couldn’t buy, you just had to believe in hope!

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As I said, Willy Wonka and his marketing strategy are fiction and not everything he does works in the real world. I mean, if companies could hire Oompa Loompa’s instead of people we would all be in trouble! However I think this is a fun way of looking at the opportunities for marketing and improving performance!

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CHOCOLATE DOES! Go on, have that chocolate that I have been tempting you with this whole post.

Laura Duffy is a final year Public Relations Student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Instagram @laura_duffyy and on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laura-duffy-8803b7105/ 

Employee Engagement – Needless or Necessary?

In an ever growing technological world, organisations are often the victim of the constantly changing environment. Since the early 1990’s we have seen the internet and the ability to communicate instantaneously grow at an exponential rate. Coexisting alongside this change has been the ever-growing ‘need’ for organizations to adopt this ‘relational’ flatter structure. Nowadays, If I were to suggest that an organisation in the 21st Century should be striving for a relational approach toward employees that seems like a reasonable statement, right? Well yes, that is correct, it is completely fair for me to say that this indeed would be beneficial to organisations. However, is it actually necessary? Well, there is no written rule that this has to actually occur… so sadly in short, no it’s not.

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For the record employee engagement can be outlined to be;

“A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of the business context and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employee and employer.” (Institute of Employment Studies, 2004)

The reality is that employee engagement is far from compulsory, if anything from my personal experience it comes down to employer choice and whether or not they can even be bothered and unfortunately, in my case (they cannot). I have no doubt in my mind that for whatever reason a vast number of organizations choose not to bother and that’s fabulous… if they feel it works. It is important for us to point out however that the main purpose of employee engagement is to induce a sense of value and worth within your employees, make them feel involved rather than left like a cog in a spinning wheel, quickly disposed of and quickly replaced. This, in my opinion, should not be in the minds of any employers.

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Strictly avoiding this occurrence should be of utmost importance as disengaged employees can often prove to be a nuisance. Research indicates that one of the main causes of employee disengagement is the fact that they feel they are not listened to and would not possibly be allowed to contribute to their job in any other way than carrying out the predetermined tasks stated for their job role, to me that sounds a little all too bureaucratic.

M6If we take this above pie chart, it shows an example of 10% of employees that are actively disengaged, not just disengaged. They are ACTIVELY not taking part in aspects of your organisation that would prove them to be a better employee, I cannot fathom the logic an employer may find behind letting this occur. The idea of the engaged employee is fiercely the opposite of this. For the purpose of this text, we’ll call it an ‘investment’ in the employee so that in time you receive an outcome which can lead to greater productivity, greater individual performance and greater willingness to work, to name a few. (Mishra, K, Boynton, L, Mishra, A, 2014) support this as they talk about employee engagement and point out that ‘employees are more likely to talk positively about the organisation, remain with the organisation and help their organisation perform more effectively every day” (p. 187-188).

Below I have highlighted some key statistics surrounding employee engagement. (Kumar & Pansari, 2016)

1. 84% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively affect the quality of their organization’s products, compared with only 31% of the disengaged who believe this.
2. 72% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively affect customer service, versus 27% of the disengaged.
3. 68% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively influence costs in their job or unit, versus just 19% of the disengaged

This graph below highlights key aspects of what an employee needs to have within an organisation to reach full engagement;

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To me, the graph and the three statistics highlight that honestly, it’s a no-brainer. All of these points stated in the graph sound like elements of an organisation that an employee should have and be entitled to regardless. In my head it makes absolutely no sense as to why employers would not even at least try and implement activities or work programmes to make the people that they have chosen to not only carry out a job for them but also represent the organisation that they own feel their worth within the workplace, it seems like a fairly simple equation, no?

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In fairness, this highly depends on the organisation in question and indeed in some cases employee engagement may not be in the best interests of the employer because they either do not have the funds, time or manpower to implement such a scheme and this may be why we are left with organisations still adopting the old methods of hierarchical decision rights, structure and leadership progression. In other instances, organisations competing in a particular market may not feel it necessary to engage employees as all they wish is for the procedures they have put in place to be completed with no questions and if targets aren’t met they deploy disciplinary actions.

M4On a more positive note, one organisation for me that stands out in the eye of employee engagement is Richard Branson and Virgin Media. The strong appeal that Richard Branson has established with Virgin is that his leadership style recognises that happy employees equal happy customers. He believes that employees and their experience within their own workplace really contribute to how they will treat a customer in the future. In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Mr Branson said

“The people out on the frontlines know when things are not going right. If you listen to them, you can soon improve all those negative things.”

In addition to this, if you talk to employees about what attracted to them to Virgin Media, ‘Culture’ will often be their answer. Within an article on the Virgin Media website, Richard Branson talks about how their culture saying it

“shies away from the predictable– thinking differently can open up great opportunities and possibilities. Virgin has never done business as usual, because we believe that the tried and tested route is not always the best path to success.”

They strive to achieve an organisation where employee attitudes are extremely positive at all times. In my opinion, this is what organizations need to aim for, this level of respect for employees creates a competitive advantage that is genuinely priceless. I believe that we will see even more and more relational strategies being introduced within the next five years. We need to realize that whilst employees don’t make the rules, they are in fact the core ingredient to success.

 

Reference List

Ruck, M. Welch / Public Relations Review 38 (2012) 294– 302; ; Holland, P., Cooper, B. and Sheehan, C. (2016), Employee Voice, Supervisor Support, and Engagement: The Mediating Role of Trust. Hum Resour Manage. doi:10.1002/hrm.21809

Mishra, K., Boynton, L., & Mishra, A. (2014). Driving employee engagement: The expanded role of internal communications. Journal of Business Communication, 51(2), 183-202.

Kumar, V. and Pansari, A., 2016. Competitive advantage through engagement. Journal of Marketing Research53(4), pp.497-514.

 

Matthew Johnston is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Facebook: Matthew Johnston and on Linkedin at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthew-johnston-172055153/

Forget The Greatest Showman – was P.T Barnum ‘The Greatest SPINman’ of all time?

If you haven’t been aware of The Greatest Showman bubble we’ve all been living in since Christmas, do you even own a phone with acceptable 3G coverage? (or clearly you haven’t been paying the Wifi bill in your student houses).

Because if Hugh Jackman Gifs are not dominating your Twitter, or Zac Efron all up on your Facebook newsfeeds, then you’ve definitely heard the glorious soundtrack that’s been number 1 on iTunes for as long as Apple have had, well, an apple, as their logo.

For those of you who weren’t like me and went to see the musical phenomenon 3 times… yes, you did read that right (“the biggest-grossing original live-action musical EVER”)!

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But let me assure you, there are *no spoilers* in this Blog.

However, what this blog is written about is the very man (played by the delightful Hugh Jackman) that this global movie is ‘loosely’ based on – the infamous life of the legendary showman and crowd-pleaser Phineas T Barnum, which many historical critics argue is “the man who in the 19th century possibly invented entertainment as we know it today.”

He may have invented entertainment, but he also invented his own style of questionable PR.

A man full of bigger-than-life ideas – Barnum marketed to an audience interested in mass, and often crass, entertainment regardless of how factual or ethical such displays were.

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With the real question being… did PT Barnum use PR in an ethical way? Especially, when The Greatest Showman – the movie – is feel-good, joyful viewing, painting a celebratory “body-positive evangelism for diversity” and celebrating those in the world who are unashamedly different.

These different people – the ‘human freaks’ – in “the movie about a circus” have their backgrounds and anatomical achievements humorously exaggerated just a trifle by PT… for publicity purposes (of course). As the famous lyrics are musically sung by the All-Star cast – “impossible comes true… this is the greatest show.”

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Impressively, the ‘Irish Giant’ on the advertising posters wasn’t actually Irish. But the circus audience didn’t know that one… as PT says in the movie “the press will love it!”

However, the arguable thing about the real Barnum recorded in history, is that he was known to have presented “freakishness” in the form of “living curiosities” through active exploitation.

And although it’s not a spoiler, this explains why the movie shows so angry protesters outside the circus after every performance.

Unlike in the movie, which in musical style rejoices “I am me, I am who I’m meant to be” about the uniqueness of human beings, Barnum and his colleagues are said to have created ethnic stereotypes when cordoning off this swath of humanity as “different”.

The Guardian writes: “Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump has been frequently likened by political pundits to PT Barnum. A professional bullshitter with a penchant for loud rhetoric, fake news and racial prejudice? He doesn’t play down the comparison.”

So Donald Trump is the new PT Barnum?

I suppose the White House HAS been actively referred to as a ‘Circus’ in the past year…

In 1865, Barnum’s book Humbugs of the World aimed to inform the public he wasn’t a con-man – that he hadn’t achieved his rags-to-riches success story by scamming the public.

He wrote: “There are various trades and occupations which need only notoriety to insure success,” he claimed – concluding no harm, no foul, so long as at the end of the day customers felt like they got their money’s worth.

As the song suggests from the movie – “It’s everything you ever want, it’s everything you ever need.”

I could go as far as to say PT Barnum was a remarkable publicity man who knew how to work Public Relations in his career… to HIS advantage. (Maybe just not so much the people he caught in his webs whilst spinning whatever he could to achieve whatever he wanted).

The Greatest Showman musical has just reached a whopping $160.766m domestic total in the cinema, and let’s be honest ‘The Greatest Showman’ is what you will find – in PT Barnum or in Hugh Jackman’s efforts alone –  whether you agree with it or not.

It’s a thumbs up from me. 

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Chloe Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University.  LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/chloe-campbell-337b26152 / Facebook: Chloe Campbell