A Productive Culture

Creating and maintaining a productive organizational culture is challenging and takes time. A good working environment hinges on the organization’s ability to communicate effectively.

Relative to communication, organization leaders use a few trusted techniques to establish and maintain this positive working environment.

Leaders value employee opinions. Employee feedback is critical in understanding whether the organization is functioning internally and externally in line with its mission. There are several different methods of internal feedback. Organizations use everything from casual water cooler conversation, to employee appraisals, to outsourced surveys to gain insight into employees perceptions of the organization and its leadership. Where possible, leaders who meet individually or in small groups with each employee and foster genuine conversation tend to have more positive results from this exercise. This also is affirms employees value to the organization. Honest feedback in turn gives senior executives valuable information regarding the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. From this information the company can create a plan of action to address issues that arise and need improvement.

Leaders realize a break from the norm boosts moral and lends for greater camaraderie. Providing employees the opportunity to take a walk or have short breaks gives them the ability to reset and return more productive to their work. Having company-wide gatherings such as celebrative events allow employees to engage on a deeper level outside of work and foster friendships. Team-building activities give employees an opportunity for fellowship and friendly competition. These events make the workplace more enjoyable and a place employees want to be.

Leaders seek to optimize their communication abilities. They seek out the best tool for communication within their organization that is all inclusive, yet challenges people to grow. They make sure messages are clearly communicated throughout all departments and constantly evaluate themselves to ensure they are doing the best to use effective communication methods.

These efforts on the behalf of leaders echo throughout the organization and foster a productive climate. Teamwork and mutual trust increase among employees and with leadership. The organization can retain employees and have a positive culture for new people coming on board. Employees enjoy working and the environment they enter everyday.



When Intangible Becomes Tangible

In the business culture, an organization’s top priority is and has always been its bottom line. The profit margin is most important. After all, an organization must have some level of success to remain in existence. With that in mind, every asset is regularly evaluated and measured in terms of its effect on the organization’s balance sheet. These assets are often categorized as tangibles and intangibles. In a business, tangibles include physical property that can be felt or touched such as furniture, business equipment, vehicles, household goods, collectibles, and jewelry. Intangibles, on the other hand, are not physical items, but intellectual property such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.

In addition to being felt or seen, tangibles can be assigned a dollar amount. They can be quantified fairly easily. Intangibles are more of a guessing game when it comes to measuring their value to an organization.

Due to the nature of a business’ focus on its profit by means of quantifying its tangibles and intangibles, marketing for organizations must also adhere to these standards. This means public relations professionals have their work cut out for them. How could they ever assign a dollar amount the business will gain directly relative the services they provide?

A PR individual or team works to influence outside opinion and behavior directed toward an organization or product. Public Relations may encompass several forms of media and communication to build, maintain and manage the reputation of clients. Essentially, PR professionals attempt to convey to the public, all the positive aspects of an organization. The amount of success experienced due to these endeavors is difficult to measure. Nearly impossible. They will most likely never be credited to an increased profit margin.

Some aspects can be calculated. An organization can determine how many times it is mentioned in the media, its website traffic, “likes” on Facebook, requests for speaking engagements, calls, emails, etc. The digital buzz of an organization can be measured and tracked.

“In PR, The ROI [Return on investment] is more about communications objectives and less about financial objectives.” (MJW, 2013) Therefore, PR strategies often fall under intangible benefits. Brand recognition, reputation and market leadership are examples of an organizations PR intangibles. Without investing in research, those are concepts cannot easily be measured. PR attempts to tell consumers how to feel about an organization, relate positivity to its brand and bring it to the forefront of that particular industry. However, rarely can PR really know how good a job its actually doing. There are so many variables involved, complete accuracy could never be achieved.

Although PR professionals may be challenged proving why an organization needs them, it may be easier to let them know why they can’t survive without them. While PR may not directly increase their wallets, choosing not to invest in these services could actually have a negative effect on an organization’s bottom line. Public Relations does so many things that keep an organization from losing steam. They work hard to preserve values and keep the organization always in sight of the consumer. Beyond just promotion, an organization without a crisis management plan is a sitting duck. It may not survive if a crisis arose, without the help of a seasoned communicator.

Whatever makes the point, organizations must accept that PR contributes greatly to an organizations intangibles. But how intangible are they?

In a case study in New England, a business experienced a collapsed infrastructure due to ignored “intangibles.” The long-time CEO of the Market Basket family-owned Supermarket chain was forced out by majority stakeholders. What played out following his dismissal was a “stakeholder revolt that is showing the direct connection between intangible capital and financial results” (Adams, 2014). One thing led to another creating a catastrophic domino effect for this organization.

Adams analyzed the results in the form of intangible capital lost by Market Basket. The first was Human Capital. The company had excellent rapport with its employees. They feared this reputation would end with his dismissal. They walked off the job and even held protests at the stores claiming they would no longer work for the company if he was fired.

Relationship Capital  was the next to suffer. Market Basket was known for its loyal customers. They offered low prices and a wide selection that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Due to the bad publicity and empty shelves due to employee riots, customers were staying at bay and even transitioning other stores.

By this time Market Basket was in a mess. Strategic Capital also crumbled. “The culture, the vision and the business model were apparent to all the stakeholders, except maybe the majority shareholders. Their position was a clear message to the market that values and practices were going to change” (Adams, 2014).

These values and principles once thought of and recognized as intangibles, quickly jumped over to a whole new column. After changes in the board room, without these being considered, they in turn did eventually have an effect on the bottom line.

Adams states that the failure to steward these assets destroys profits and value and smarter companies pay attention to their intangibles.

I was thrilled to come across this article written by Adams. It portrays unfortunate circumstances for the organization, but a good analysis of the events that took place and how what seemed like a simple decision resulted in a major destruction for Market Basket. I struggle to accept that these principles are categorized as intangibles. I think this case study further drives home the point the line between tangible and intangible can be a very thin one. Public Relations and the strategic communication that comes with it is vital to the continued success of an organization.






Everyone is a Communicator

When an organization enters into a crisis situation, immediately the problem as well as its magnitude is addressed, teams are assembled and begin to process the best way to manage the crisis. Usually this involves dealing with the actual incident to stop the problem, then the focus shifts to how best to communicate with the media and public stockholders to minimize damage from the crisis. These steps sound simple, but they can be extremely challenging in the midst of a crisis. They can take place quickly or drag out several days, weeks or months.

One element of communication often overlooked in times of an organization’s crisis is its internal communication. Sure, the CEOs and communication professionals are remain in constant contact, but does it stop there? Crisis communicator Neil Chapman states that everyone in an organization is a communicator. Perhaps Chapman’s most notable work was unifying the crisis response command center for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He said within the context of this massive crisis, spanning multiple organizations, he felt it was imperative for the entire response team to be on the same page – everyone from the boardroom to those cleaning up on the beach.

The remainder of this post will emphasize the importance of communication within the entire organization and best practices for accomplishing this in the face of a crisis.

Employees are perhaps an organization’s most important stockholders. In challenging and uncertain times of crisis, they should be valued enough to be included in the communication process. They need to know what’s going on and be reassured that better days are ahead for the organization. “It [communication] is essential for the employees to respect their organization” (MSG). When they are knowledgeable about the problem and the solution, they can be more of an asset to the organization. During difficult times, it takes teamwork to get through it.

Communicating with all employees also provides a level of transparency and contributes to a team atmosphere. It can prevent employees from speaking negatively about the organization and the crisis or spreading false information.

Although an organization cannot predict every type of crisis that could possibly occur, they can prepare a general procedure of how to respond to unfavorable events. Planning a framework of communication is exponentially easier to do prior to a crisis. Many times crisis brings chaos and an organization’s response can be much faster and more appropriate if things are in place beforehand. The following steps can best prepare an organization to handle internal communication if a crisis should arise:

Maintain positive work environments and encouraging employee relationships. These two concepts benefit an organization in daily operations but are invaluable resources during challenges of a crisis. Rarely does a true crisis come to a resolution by an individual or one department. It usually takes several internal and sometimes external divisions to resolve the conflict. If interpersonal and interdepartmental communication is in good standing, the organization has a head start in its response.

Establish effective communication platforms. An organization must determine the best way to communicate with employees. In most cases, Email is preferred. Although this may be an effective communication tool, it’s important to have multiple modalities to reach everyone in the target internal audience. Depending on the organization, more traditional methods like face-to-face meetings or conference calls may be necessary. Notification systems such as SMS text messaging could be an important tool in cases of emergency where timeliness is a factor.

CEOs and senior executives must realize that it is likely their messages to employees will likely leak out into external venues. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing, as long as the message is crafted with that in mind. This can actually work in the organization’s favor. Employees will be sharing info regarding the crisis with those around them and likely the world via social media outlets. When an organization communicates effectively with its employees, it has more control over that information being shared.

Identify a Crisis Communication Team and Train Key Communicators. The spokespersons of an organization reflect its values and standards. The people who will communicate with media, stockholders and customers must fully understand their colossal task and its implications. Wisdom and poise is required to carefully steer the organization through the public communication process. This may mean multiple communicators for different platforms. Some individuals may be skilled in TV interviews while others excel in the social media arena. It’s key to have the right people in the right places at the right time.

Develop Generic Statements. Within every crisis plan, an organization should have a few generic holding statements stockpiled. These can be specific or vague depending on the nature of the organization and the predicted potential crisis. Generic statements would just inform the public that the organization is aware of the situation, activating its crisis plan and doing everything in its power to bring the incident to a resolution. These statements are canned and must be adjusted based on the events of the actual crisis at hand. For example, if the crisis involved injuries or death, the organization must immediately sympathize with individuals and/or family affected. These statements are released as soon as the crisis arises and will buy some time for the organization to gather important details to work toward bringing the crisis to an end and deciding the best way to communicate with stakeholders.

Many of these steps not only prepare organizations to manage crisis situations but also benefit in daily communication functions. One of the seven guiding principles of Arthur W. Page’s philosophy is for public relations professionals to “realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people” (Young & Flowers, 2012). An organization’s success could not be possible without dedicated, hardworking employees. A crisis is a time to show value in people and include them in the life of the organization.






Deceptive Marketing

This week my communication research has encompassed a wide range of marketing techniques and their effectiveness. I’ve reviewed the delicate and deliberate ways messages are developed. I’ve also studied how they are meticulously placed in society to reach their target audience, specifically in political campaign advertising, mass media marketing, social media platforms and guerrilla marketing. Some of my findings prodded me to dive more specifically into a particular form of advertising and its ethical grounds.

Marketing has transitioned in many ways throughout its existence. Digital marketing experts estimate the average American’s daily ad exposure to be anywhere from 4,000 – 10,000. Ron Marshall, Red Crow Marketing contributor, set out to get a better grasp on this estimation. He spent a day tracking this exposure and had reached nearly 500 before walking out the door that morning. After becoming “Brand-weary” he decided to call off the experiment concluding that the estimates were probably pretty accurate (Marshall, 2015).


We are bombarded with marketing messages in every form possible. Some of that exposure comes in the form of radio and TV commercials, print ads, brand labels, Facebook ads, Google ads, smartphone ads, or anything else a business can produce to get your attention and compel you to buy. In this competitive market, advertisers will go to all costs to stand out from the crowd to get their message heard. These organizations are getting more and more creative. Here are a few of the unique ways organizations are getting consumers’ attention:


Of course, most people won’t actually recall seeing 10,000 messages. This is because, in order to keep our sanity, we’ve developed a screening process to ignore most advertising messages. Less than 100 of them make it past our “attention wall” each day. It’s simply a matter of self-preservation. This is why you must be creative, memorable, and engaging. Finding an advertising agency or having a creative marketing strategy is a must. If you are not strategic, your efforts will be lost among the multitude of other advertising messages out there. (Marshall, 2015).

In effort to fight through the sea of advertisements consumers are exposed to daily, some organizations are resorting to rather extreme methods to place their products into the lives of consumers. Marketers have transitioned to attempt a more natural, organic approach. They have implemented techniques described as stealth marketing. “Stealth marketing, also known as buzz marketing, is any marketing strategy that advertises a product to people without them knowing they are being marketed to.” (Stealth Marketing, 2012). Although there are many types of stealth marketing, product placement and undercover marketing are the most common techniques. This marketing of course falls under objectives of immediate product sales, but also introducing consumers to a product to create excitement, openness and recognition to future advertising.

The concept behind undercover marketing is for an organization to hire actors to introduce their product into real life scenarios. “Act” being the key word. In 2002, Sony Ericsson used undercover marketing to expose their new product, one of the first phones with camera capabilities. They hired 60 actors in 10 major cities and posed them as tourists. The “tourists” were given the task of asking fellow tourists and bystanders to take their picture. This gave the public the opportunity to see this product in a natural environment. The excitement about this product grew, as did sales and the campaign was seen as revolutionary and largely successful.

This method of marketing has grown, especially in organizations with limited advertising budgets. Although it has proven to be effective, I believe it flirts with some ethical boundaries. This practice employs people to pretend or act in order to persuade others. They twist an everyday, natural experience into an advertising advantage. It’s deceptive and tricky.

Proponents of this strategy claim that it’s the consumer’s responsibility to use wisdom to decide if they like the product, regardless of how persuasive the actor may be. It is ultimately the consumer’s decision to purchase or adopt the new product, but it’s a little too fishy to me. I’m skeptical of persuasion and influence methods. I do not like pushy salesman or overly-involved shop clerks. I view a purchase as an investment of my earnings. I like to be able to decide on a product through my own research, rather than outside influences. To me, this method is just an inch away from lying. I wouldn’t feel right being hired to deceive others and I definitely wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of the undercover marketing technique. I value transparency in the organizations I support.

Currently, there are not any laws preventing this type of marketing from being practiced.

Some stealth marketing practices exist in a legal gray area. Some consumer protection groups have asked the United States Federal Trade Commission to investigate stealth practices as early as 2005 and many undercover marketing tactics are explicitly illegal in the European Union. Any company considering using stealth marketing should be aware of local laws regarding the strategy (Stealth Marketing, 2012).

The US FTC frowns upon stealth marketing, and intends to investigate these practices on a case-by-case basis, rather than launching a full scale investigation.

There are a several other techniques to market an organization or product in a more ethical and honest way. Advertisers should be vigilant to seek those out instead of leaning on a crutch such as undercover marketing. Representing an organization with integrity rather than through deception is a better business practice and in the end creates a more reputable brand and genuine sense of rapport with consumers.



How Many Ads Do You See in One Day?



The Role of Communication in Leadership

Leadership is a term often used to describe an individual or group who is placed in a role of authority. However, one who leads and is recognized as a leader is more than just a superior. This individual embraces an entirely different mindset. The person not only does what is asked, but goes well beyond the call of duty.

When we dissect the characteristics of strong and successful leaders, many things come to mind. Leaders seem to have mastered a toolkit of attributes that define them as such and set them apart from others. Some of the most common leadership qualities include commitment, integrity, poise, positive attitude, strong work ethic, forward thinking, empowering and highly motivated. Arguably one of the most crucial skills of a successful leader is the ability to communicate. This quality alone may be the entire reason a person can be regarded as a leader among peers and subordinates. One who possesses all the necessary skills must then be able to communicate them to be recognized with high esteem.

This week I have researched a few key concepts leaders communicate to those around them.

Environment – Leaders influence the climate of the organization. Based on their actions and interaction with others, they set the tone for the entire unit. This is the vibe or energy of the organization. It’s what people feel when they encounter an individual or company. It’s what lingers when they hang up the phone or walk away. It’s the perception they create and assign as good, bad or so-so.

It reminds me of the animated movie, Inside Out, which portrays a very tangible way for how an individual associates experiences with feelings. In the film, Riley’s memories are categorized into five emotions: joy, fear, anger, sadness and disgust. Each memory is represented by a color-tinted sphere and stored in the “long-term” warehouse. When she recalls a particular memory, she immediately associates it with the previously assigned feeling.

The aura isn’t just important for consumers, it also has a major effect on employees and in turn on the success of the organization.

Leaders’ effects on their environments are usually on display through circumstances. They exude poise and confidence. They keep cool in the face of challenging news. They serve as the compass for suitable reactions. They are highly concerned with organization morale and use appropriate means to keep it positive. They use humor to keep the workplace enjoyable and smiles to radiate its friendliness.

Openness – Leaders build organizations on integrity and trust. They are down to earth, real people who are transparent to those around them. They value the feedback from fellow employees and even seek it to stay updated on company issues. They are approachable and make a habit of listening and empathizing with others. They respond quickly and appropriately to challenges within the organization.

Commitment – They are hardworking and undeniably sold out to the work of the organization. They are one with the effort and it sinks into their bones. They view everything in life as relative to the organization. They set the example and are willing to do any task.

Empowerment – Leaders recognize the skills and talents of others and place them in positions to succeed. Leaders stay connected to people and they know what roles and tasks are best suited for them. They equip those around them with the necessary resources to achieve their goals. They challenge and push to greatness. Leaders unify the group and focus on attaining success together as a team. They also recognize, highlight and congratulate accomplishments as well as encourage in the face of defeat.

Shared vision – Leaders inspire others to dream. They encourage individuals not to settle, but to push the envelope and always thirst for more. They share a vision for the organization and provide objectives and direction to achieve it. They flatten hierarchy and promote equality from top to bottom. They respect all and take time to invest in people so everyone will see the value of the vision and “buy into” its principles. Leaders believe so strongly in the organization and its future, they practically breathe it when they speak. It resonates with them on a deep, personal level.

Communication – Yes, they communicate communication. I know it sounds a little redundant. It’s imperative that they do this well! Communicating well within an organization takes wisdom. They must have a pulse on the best and most effective channels within their employee system. This will look different for every environment. This can be every form of communicating from a phone call, to a Facebook message, a Twitter post or speaking in the hallway. It’s critical for a leader to know his or her message and how best to disseminate it. Other dynamics are important to consider when communicating, such as tone and nonverbal cues or gestures. All these play a part in how the message is received. Wording of the text, as well as its punctuation, in the message is key to others’ understanding.lets-eat-grandma1Leaders must be clear and concise when communicating an essential message. Employees need to be able to easily understand the intent without filtering through unnecessary fluff.

Leaders must be prudent in communication with employees. Many things are inappropriate to communicate because of confidentiality or privileged information. It’s important for a leader to know what can be shared, and what’s for his or her knowledge only.

This week I’ve become aware of just how important communication must be in leadership. It’s everything! It’s much more the physical communication taking place, but the transfer of intangible concepts as well. Leaders are the heart and soul of their organizations. They become that central piece because of their extraordinary ability to communicate not just with their words, but other principles essential to their organizations’ success including environment, openness, commitment, empowerment and a shared vision. Leaders who embrace these develop healthy working environments. That in turn leads to satisfied and purpose-driven employees. Happy employees strive for organization success and become walking advertisements creating a positive external brand image. It’s a win, win.

Channels of Internal Communication

Vector businessman online communicatiion connection business

Successful organizations tend to also have excellent communication strategies. I’m of the opinion that to communicate well externally, an organization must be united internally as well.

Productivity increases 20-25% in organizations with connected employees, however 70% of employees are not engaged at work (Paton, 2015). It stands to reason, most organizations have room to grow in the arena of internal communication.

Internal communication is simply communication that happens within an organization. That can be in any form from an official address to an impromptu conversation between employees.

The communication climate is the general framework of communication flow within the organization. It differs according to the nature and mission of the organization as well as its leadership. It can be freely flowing (open and welcoming) in some environments and stifled (quiet and confidential) in others. It’s one of the key components of a successful organization and is recognizable almost immediately upon entering.

Regardless of the climate, internal communication can always improve. Over-communication isn’t a term that’s used very often when referring to communicating within an organization.

This week I’ve studied some traditional methods of internal communication, as well as some more modern platforms for information sharing within organizations. Since effective communication is so valuable, leading to motivation, productivity and loyalty, choosing the best way to communicate a message internally can be challenging. This decision requires wisdom and foresight from organization leaders. The message content, audience, severity and timing must be considered when selecting the preferred communication channel.

The most common form or organizational communication is email, which became popular in 1993, soon after the internet was invented. This has transformed communication in the business world. It makes it possible to transfer text, images, and attachments immediately. All that’s required is a digital device and an internet connection – both easily accessible. This form of communication is so easy to use, therefore, it is. The average employee receives 147 emails a day (Hussein, 2014) and spends 1/3 of his or her day reading, organizing, prioritizing and replying to email (Trinkle, 2014). Therein lies the challenge. As easy as it is to send, it’s just as easy to miss. Recipients may not see your email because it gets lost among all the other email traffic that takes place in their inboxes during a day. Even if employees receive the email and open it, they may not read the message entirely or may misinterpret what was intended. Other email challenges include errors in the message, requiring follow-up emails adding more confusion. Often emails are sent to incorrect recipients or the correct recipients are left off by mistake. Organization-wide emails only go to current employees, which can create challenges when new employees join. They can be a step behind before they step foot into the door. As convenient and efficient as email can be, it doesn’t come without its own challenges and mishaps.

Intranet came onto the larger organization business scene mid-90s, around the same time as email. Intranet is an internal digital platform for an organization only accessible by its members. Current widely used intranets like Jostle and Communifire provide organizations the capacity to house all pertinent information and communication in an easily accessible location. It is contained within an organization’s network and not available to the general public. It serves as a starting point for employees to access company specific information and outside resources. Its communication benefits include employee accessibility to important documents, communicating messages to particular organization audiences, keeping employees current in policies via training tools, as well as enhancing employee connectivity through interaction and collaboration. The challenges of this tool can be numerous. Connectivity issues, password problems, an ineffective layout can be a few of the hurdles in adopting this method.

In-person communication is a strong communication tool to disseminate information internally. Individual and staff meetings are more personal, direct and conducive to two-way communication. This provides a better opportunity for the employees and leadership to be on the same page. Different members may report on key topics/events in their area and the leader uses this feedback to encourage, provide advice or redirect back to organizational goals or standards. Often employees are recognized for service, which gives employees value in the organization. Obviously, members must be present for this form to be effective.

Tele/Video conferencing has become an increasingly popular form of organizational communication particularly in connecting people located in different places. Collaboration is possible with people from all over the world using this platform, usually accessed by an internet site and or phone. This can be a major cost saver to organizations with members spread across multiple locations and can assist with organization communication. Usually these virtual meetings are recorded for reference or sharing later. Technical issues do arise from time to time, and if not resolved quickly can compromise the exchange of information.

Social meetings can often have more impact on an organization than formal meetings. These events can be birthday celebrations, staff lunches or invitations to an outing after working hours. These breaks from the working norm can boost morale and deeper the connection between employees and the organization.

Printed communication in some forms, is becoming an outdated form of information sharing, but still remains a requirement in many organizations. These includes everything from signature-approved memos, internal newsletters, a staff handbook, a resource library and even signage on a bulletin board. These methods serve to be effective in some ways can present their own challenges as well.

Some more modern channels of communication are in line with social media trends. These digital communication tools improve employee engagement through teamwork and collaboration. Some of the popular internal social media tools include: Yammer, Podio, Wrike and Skype. Yammer is a employee communication hub that fosters communication and collaboration giving employees the ability to chat, share files and organize projects. Similar in function, Podio and Wriken are web-based platforms for organizing team communication, business processes, data and content in project management workspaces. Skype gives employees a platform for digital voice and video calls, keeping them from accumulating costs on their personal devices/plans.

These digital tools are meant to assist the communication within an organization. Leaders must keep in mind the audience and members of their organizations and their openness to trying new technology. These forms are immediate fails if the employees are not on board.

Selecting an appropriate communication channel can seem like a daunting task, but in the end the organization leaders must choose the most effective channel for a particular message with the resources available in that moment of time.

7 Surprising Stats That Show the Importance of Internal Communications




Journalism vs. Public Relations


Welcome to week 3 of my blogging journey. This week has been sort of a game changer for me. I dove into my research this week firmly grounded in my opinion on this topic, but as the week has progressed, I have found myself gradually shifting my thoughts. Also, in this week’s excursion, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for both roles.

I tend to categorize myself more as a Public Relations professional than a journalist. Both are required to be expert communicators. You could say that both are demanding roles that require constant attention. One might argue they don’t differ much, but I disagree. In many ways, they are nearly opposites. George Orwell once stated that “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

When I ventured further into studying this concept, I have to admit, I was a little close- minded. A local event prompted my digging. A school newspaper had exposed a story via Social Media that could have strong negative implications on public perception of the school. My first (PR) reaction was one of complete confusion. How could the newspaper staff think it was a good idea to share this, knowing the effects could be damaging? Do they not all want the best for the school? Do they not all want people to be proud of the institution they represent? Aren’t they all on the same team?

I’ve come across several similar instances of this toggle back and forth of journalism reporting and censorship from authority. I’ve found stories of principals banning students from reporting on controversial subjects in their school newspapers (Bailingit) and students fighting the administration’s censorship (Cheun).

After researching a little, I’ve changed my tune. The unfortunate reality of journalism (and the world we live in) is that it’s not all fuzzy puppies, rainbows and unicorns. “Bad” things do happen, all the time, and journalists have a responsibility to relay that to the public in an unbiased way. Had this particular story been tabled, the real news would not have been known. Journalists recount occurrences accurately to share information, remove doubt and preempt incorrect perceptions of what took place. In some respects, journalists serve to clarify or confirm the truth. It’s a big job and words are extremely powerful. To keep our industry credible, we have to remain neutral. We have to report the facts. We are entrusted with getting it right and in an honest way. We are all familiar with one who stretched the truth a little.


Brian Williams most likely will not be remembered for his broadcasting career that span across three decades. People will not remember that he won the Peabody award for his coverage of Hurricane Katrina or his decade of service as an MSNBC nightly anchor. He’ll be remembered for lying, or “misrepresenting events” which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003. Once again, journalists have a big job.

I’m not sure which is more difficult, reporting unbiased, honest events or being on the flip side of that coin. Public Relations professionals in a way, are on the receiving end of that news and when it involves their client, they must step up to the plate.

PR pros almost live in a tainted reality. It’s not all their fault, it’s their job. They exist to present their client worthy – with a halo even. They shine the light on all the positive attributes of an organization.

If public relations only entailed promoting a client, I’d say that would be a fairly easy, carefree job. Sure, promotion certainly comes with its own challenges (budget, talent, reaching an audience, etc) but doable none the less. The real challenge in this world is not just promoting a client, but maintaining that positive image with consumers. This is where crisis management comes into play. PR professionals usually have no control over what is reported about their clients, but they have to be ready in an instant to respond.

This past week the PR staff of a couple local elected officials have been hard at work trying to manage negativity in light of their representatives’ public comments. Governor Bentley has been heavily criticized after stating that “Our education system in this state sucks,” in response to the release of Alabama’s poorly ranking test scores. Educators and administrators across the state have expressed their distaste in his comments, his support as governor, as well as his character. Whether he meant to or not, he has stirred major controversy.

Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal was also under fire recently for using the term, “colored people” referring to African Americans. In a speech where he rallied people to vote for the Amendment 1 bill that would allow the state of Georgia to takeover failing schools, Deal said, “The irony of some of the groups who are opposing doing something to help these minority children is beyond my logic. If you want to advance the state of ‘colored people,’ start with their children.” He later said that he was referring to the NAACP, who have been opposing the bill.

The challenge for the PR pro representing these officials is to try to manage the situation as best as possible. Unfortunately for the PR pro, these comments “catch fire” in a sense and seem to not go away for a while. They seem to stick with their initiators and even mark them at times. Usually a quick response from the speaker is required, providing an explanation or apology for the comments, but in many cases the damage is done.

The next several weeks and months are critical to this persons public perception. The PR staff must do everything in their power to convince the public the slip was an isolated incident and doesn’t reflect the true character. That’s a big job as well.

Social media is one platform that can play a role in the clean up process, but in challenging times, it can provide even more of a platform for people to express their frustrations. Where people would previously write letters or emails to convey their dislike about a specific instance, now they can post it to a public digital wall for the world to see.

So this week has been an eye-opener for me. I’ve discovered the world of difference between journalists and public relations professionals and the major challenges they each face in those roles.