Monday, July 21, 2008

Here's what I'm thinking this moment about the Web TV one company is doing

It is different, it is creative, and it is catching everyone's attention.

No, it is not your father's news or communication vehicle, or even your grandfather's plan for sharing information, but a top-of-mind energy company is definitely trying something that's out of the box.

They've tapped into some proven talent and have joined with journalists who are currently at the top of their game when it comes to ethics and professionalism. Are these seasoned journalists taking a risk? Are they taking a leap and trying something new? Sure they are. But up until this point, they have not, as of yet, to my knowledge, compromised their values and ethics. I would be very surprised if they do so at this late juncture in their distinguished careers.

The venture has journalists, PR pros and politicians alike giving their thoughts, opinions and forecasts on what this new venture with Web TV means for the company, the consumer and the fields of journalism and public relations.

The program/effort discussed in the articles below will be web-based via a company called Branded News. I found the site interesting.

What concerns me most about the articles highlighting this new communication initiative is when politicians and journalists use a news story like this to take a jab at those individuals who work in the field of public relations and communications. The people I know and work with in the field follow a strict Code of Ethics that is a part of the national association of PRSA of which I am a member.

Read more below:

When reporters go to work in PR, I often hear the phrase "they are going to the dark side." I usually surmise that the person who made the comment knows very little about public relations. I use the opportunity to share the stories about the chances I've had to advocate for important causes and help tell others' stories - like the Fort Worth man who was living on $300 a month and was attacked by a pack of dogs while out on a morning walk. He lost part of his arm and his eyeglasses were destroyed in the tragedy. A viewer saw his story on the evening news and mailed a check for several hundred dollars to him so he could replace his glasses. Or the dear patient, David, who lost his home in the Fort Worth tornadoes. I mean he lost everything, including his beloved truck, and he had survived to tell about it. He was living on a very limited income and he wanted to thank those who helped save his life. He shared his story from his hospital room and within a couple of days a "Good Samaritan" showed up with a new truck for him, keys to a furnished apartment and offered David a new life and a second chance. The Good Samaritan told me at the time: "David's story touched me. I'm here for him and I'll be here for him as long as he needs me." The field is rarely dark and I have always found it to be challenging, educational, rewarding, exciting, heartwarming and a wonderful place to be because it is a place where I can help people and advance important issues around health and wellness.

I think those who make the "dark side" comments or even the "not a bunch of chumps" comment may have forgotten that many of us in "PR" went to journalism school and earned a degree in the field. Whether a journalism major is in the newsroom or the corporate board room, they have an obligation and a duty to tell the truth, share the facts and do the very best job they can do for those they are advocating for ~ be that their company, the consumer, their customers, their readers, their viewers, etc. In my opinion, PR practitioners are very often a stable, sound and vital link from the corporate board room to the newsroom and vice-versa.

Let's see what this new venture offers and reserve judgment as the players requested. Let's watch local talent venture out and try something new and hope for the best. Let's keep a watchful eye and continue listening to our customers and our stakeholders. It is an exciting time for our field and we shouldn't let a quote in the newspaper or on a Web site diminish the work we do and believe in.

Just like in Girl Scouts, here's a pledge for you. This time it is from the PRSA Code of Ethics and it can be easily applied to people in many different fields. It was written with PR professionals in mind: "I pledge to conduct myself professionally, with truth, accuracy, fairness, and responsibility to the public; To improve my individual competence and advance the knowledge and proficiency of the profession through continuing research and education; And to adhere to the articles of the Member Code of Ethics 2000 for the practice of public relations as adopted by the governing Assembly of the Public Relations Society of America."

The truth will always prevail. Those who do great work and live by a code of ethical behavior and judgment will succeed, and those who keep their stakeholders, customers, and the needs of their fellow man (woman and child) paramount and advocate for truth, honesty and fairness will always sleep soundly at night and have a place in this ever-changing world of communications and public relations.

Don't be mad, be good

(This post first appeared July 16, 2008 on the Next Communications Blog.)

On Sunday, June 1, 2008 legal analyst Andrew Cohen of CBS spoke out on former White House Press Secretary, Scott McClellen's new tell-all book. In his report, "The Flak on Flacks," Cohen accuses PR professionals of making a living on untruths. He even calls out PRSA's ethics. National PRSA responded. Cohen responds. And the arguing raged on, and on, and on.

43 days later, on Sunday July 13, 2008 a columnist for the Dallas Morning News wrote his opinion on a regional natural gas drilling company, Chesapeake Energy's corporate online video channel. The online news channel may have gone unnoticed if not for the fact that a local television news anchor, Tracey Rowlett, left his anchor position on the Dallas/Fort Worth CBS affiliate for Chesapeake's (coming in September 2008 from Branded News.) The DMN column even quoted a Texas state representative to further make his point:

State Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, isn't buying that Chesapeake will fund the newscasts and not exercise any influence over them. "Lies, lies and more lies," he said.

"Only the extremely, extraordinarily naive would think any corporation would hire a PR operation to get the truth out," he said. "Let's not be naive about the Chesapeake Broadcasting Network."

The Dallas Observer's Blog, Unfair Park had Tracey Rowlett's side of the story including:

Nobody is covering these issues, and the Shale is the most important thing to hit here since cattle. It's that kind of an economic issue. It'll be a full discussion program. Folks keep thinking we'll be shills for Chesapeake, and that's not what this is.
Truth & PR
I disagree with Andrew Cohen's sweeping generalization of PR people as liars. I was pleased to see a quick response by PRSA national through the letter plus e-mails to membership keeping us updated. Further I don't appreciate Rep. Burnam's equating PR with lies. Actually, I thought it was kind of funny for a politician to call PR people liars. And as for the local news anchor, Tracey Rowlett leaving one news desk for a perceived corporate communications news desk, maybe the guy just wants to get into a more stable industry! (Thanks, T-Mo.)

But it is hard to argue with the perception of public relations as a profession in society.

I've read where maybe the public relations profession should have a PR campaign. I don't think this is possible. I don't see how anyone could change societal views of public relations any more than I think people will start thinking highly of politicians, lawyers, used-car salesmen or journalists. We are viewed in a negative light. There is no denying this. People see us using "spin" to cover up problems.

I fall under the broker paradigm of public relations: An intermediary between an organization and its stakeholders to find mutually beneficial solutions. (Tip of the hat to Kami Huyse on her insightful post.)

What I do know is this: I can only control what I do as a communications/PR professional to influence how my sphere of influence sees my profession. I hope when people look at me and the work I do, they see a credible and honest professional who keeps in mind the best interests of my organization or client.

I should not and I will not apologize for trying to make my organization or client look good for stakeholders. It is up to me to accomplish this task with integrity and truthfulness. We serve our profession by striving to be better at our craft including an adherence to its ethical standards. Professionals practicing this type of PR will not have to worry about this and any other backlash against our profession.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: nouQraz

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Common Craft: LinkedIn made simple

For any of our members who might by wondering how LinkedIn can possibly be helpful, this is a great video from the folks at Common Craft. It is especially relevant for small business owners or service providers to show the usefulness of a network:

Thoughts on blogging

from the July issue of the eChaser...

Laura Van Hoosier, APR, Greater Fort Worth PRSA

As the oldest child, I’ve always had a mind of my own. My mother says that by 2 years old I was giving her direction on our next steps. Now I’ve been inspired by my fellow GFW PRSA members to start a blog, and it’s perfectly in line with an independent spirit.

For me, it’s really just a “live, work, play” online journal (nothing as interesting as my high school diary that my mom read) — a wonderful forum to post web sites, updates about my daughters, family happenings and anything that’s in my world. I sent the link to a few close family members, and my aunt in Hawaii wrote back, “BLOG! BLOG! BLOG! We enjoy keeping up with you this way.” was the easiest way to get started, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. Each morning I wake up thinking, “What will I post today?” But it won’t matter one iota if I’m the only one who ever reads it. Already I have enjoyed looking back to reference articles, facts, funny things the girls did, photos, etc.

Lisa Gail Barnes, Richie Escovedo, Linda Jacobson, Sarah McClellan-Brandt, Terry Morawski and I are blogging away at To join us, e-mail your blog's link to the chapter webmaster, richie.escovedo[@], and he’ll post it.

You’ll hear how Richie and others have forayed into new media at the July 9 meeting. It ‘ll be a hands-on program, so bring your laptop, and the presenters will walk you through useful tools and tactics you can implement right away for your organization.

Here’s to our country’s independence. Yours and mine, too.