Thursday, May 5, 2011

Media Censorship in Russia and the World

During my final week of classes I finished a video project for my globalization and technology class. I'd like to share this project because it displays the importance of rhetoric and free speech across the globe.

Media censorship has continued to be a problem for individuals, journalists and even internet service providers. While communist countries such as Cuba and China are able to fully block online and print information from the reaching the public, others desperately try to limit informtion without stepping over the bounds of democracy.

In particular, Russia had begun to crack down on freedom of press about a decade ago as journalists, photographers and editors were threatened to release anything negative about Russia and its government. As a consequence, about 22 media professionals were killed in order to silence their stories and information.

As a country known for its multitude of freedoms, America does not allow for the government to control the media. Consequently, the public takes the use of media for granted because Youtube, Facebook, Google and the rest of the internet is available at any time without any censorship.
Allowing news and information to be censored in other countries severely limits rhetoric's ability to cause positive change in the world. Silencing one reporter indirectly silences millions of people who do not receive that information.

So how can we address the censorship happening around the world, leading to the deaths of journalists seeking the truth?

We can use our freedoms to continue their message. We can tweet, blog, post, chat and record information so that others know what is going on. Just maybe it can lead to a positive future filled with change for the better.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Linking in to the Future

With all the various social media tools out there it becomes difficult to know what sites and services to join. All of the various social media tools can benefit corporations with awareness and reputation management, but individuals searching for jobs don't always get the same results. Facebook can be too informal and Twitter doesn't apply to interviews so what's left?

The answer is Linkedin. This website is not just a social media tool, but also a major corporate networking site. Knowing how to correctly display your information and make contacts can build your reputation with future employers. According to blogs such as How to Change the World and TechRepublic, there are five main ways to use Linkedin correctly. When put together, you can create a greater online footprint and a positive reputation when entering the corporate world in search of a job.

The first way is to increase your visibility and improve your connections online. Instead of adding only a current job position, it is important to add all previous jobs and positions so you can create more connections. The more connections you have, the higher your name will appear on search results.

The second step is to improve your Google Pagerank by using search engine optimization. Those with Linkedin accounts show up pretty high on Google searches but you must select a public profile with a full view. Also customizing your profile's URL address to your actual name increases visibility so your profile can easily stand out in a search. Not only is your profile self-promoting, but it is also self-monitored so you have the power to control the information that others see.

The third step is to perform a reverse company reference check. Linkedin has a tool that allows companies to check references you provide on your profile, but you are also able to check the references of your future employer and company. Not only can you find out information from former employees, but you can also find out background information on your future employer. Background research gives you an advantage in the interview and could help you establish common ground with your employer.

The fourth step is to learn about the health of your company. Searching your company by unchecking the “Current Companies Only” box allows you to view former employee profiles and determine the turnover rate. Also contacting former employees will help you determine if the company is a right fit or if there are unknown risks involved with working there.

The final step is to ask for advice using Linkedin Answers. This new feature allows you to ask a business related question to people in your network or in a wider forum. It allows you to get a real answer from people who have direct links to the topic and it can help you understand your industry or company much better.

Just because social media exists doesn't mean everyone needs to jump onto every site and network. Choosing quality over quantity by using the right forum in the right way can ensure a successful interview and career. Using Linkedin is the best social media tool a recent graduate can use and it can lead to so many new opportunities and contacts that Facebook, Twitter and other sites can't provide.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reversing Global Progess

All kinds of relations, including foreign and personal, depend on equal understanding between people. Sometimes good communication skills can be enough to establish common ground, but other times mindsets and beliefs are far too different to reach any kind of understanding. Whether they develop through nature or nature, a person's ideas and beliefs shape the way the world is seen and even the strongest communication skills cannot break through fortified belief systems.

Unfortunately, the world itself developed in different systems and stages, causing divisions between economic structure, political systems and living standards. Information also suffered a major division, especially during the technology boom. While we may not notice it, information is received very differently in first, second and third world countries. It can be filtered, altered, tweaked or even completely censored to control ideas and beliefs in different countries.

Frank Roby, CEO and founder of Concero Global, Inc., talked about the power and fear model in global communications and how it applies to both developed and developing countries. "There are third world situations in first world countries and first world situations in third world countries," said Roby.

The model places the following attributes to the different developing levels as follows:
First world: Truth or guilt
Second world: Honor or shame
Third world: Focus on survival, sense of limitation, live in fear

The model describes important ideas that can be labeled to each specific level, but sometimes these ideas can be seen over all three levels. Communication therefore takes on the task of relating information to all the different ideological systems while remaining focused and unbiased. The key is to connect the levels so that information does not get treated differently, causing information to fall subject to misinterpretation. "Things aren't isolated from each other, they're connected," said Roby.

While the world may be connected, information doesn't always stay connected the same way. Some governments censor the internet while others censor the newspapers. Radio managed to stay under the radar and programs like the BBC global radio has provided hundreds of countries with reliable information until recent budget cuts.

Due to lack of funding, BBC decided to cut out 69 languages from its global radio to stay within a smaller budget. Not only does this take away the ability to receive unbiased information, but it creates an opportunity for a government to control information through other media outlets. Those countries may start to shape their ideas and beliefs differently without accurate news and it would dramatically impact relations with the rest of the world.

As Roby discussed, unfortunately messages will be lost to those countries until a new solution can be found. As long as we continue to strive for truthful news and messages then we can continue to make an impact in all three levels of the world. Power and fear exists in all three levels, but information works to manage that balance by using communication as a channel. "Relationships strive for balance and communications works to achieve that balance," said Roby.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Power of the Majority

Social media has been the hot topic of communication professionals for a while, but now that the buzz about its potential has begun to die down companies are beginning to see its real effects. Social media not only contributes to the ease of communication, but it affects the dynamics of corporations and its audiences.

Matt Gobush, manager of corporate communications at ExxonMobil, talked to us about the changing influencing environment in corporate communications and the way new technology has changed the structure of audiences.

He presented the above pyramid of audience levels and explained how these numbers are beginning to change in dramatic ways. For companies who do not deal directly with general consumers, it made sense to target only the top 15% of the public with policy makers and opinion leaders. The attentive public made up about 25% while the general public made up about 50%.

Social media has now begun to collapse the pyramid because "technology is empowering the attentive public and influencing policy makers," said Gobush. With new technology and media, the general public is no longer kept in the dark and it allows everyone to voice opinions and ideas in large numbers that cannot be ignored by corporations and policy makers.

One of our previous speakers, Mike Lake, discussed target audiences as well but made it clear that the general public was divided with fairly solid lines from the upper opinion leaders and policy makers, at least in the world of online gaming politics.

Even if some industries will continue having strict differences between audience members, social media will somehow blur even the strongest lines into a more cohesive and interdependent audience. In the end it comes down to the strength of communications and the ability to accurately target your audience with correct messaging. "It's a universal skill and experience you can apply to a lot of areas," said Gobush.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Battle Between the Franchise

It is inevitable that global companies face some sort of crisis once in a while, but many are well prepared with large teams of communication specialists. Brinker International manages over 1,500 restaurants worldwide and yet their crisis communication team consists of only 4 people, making it difficult to tackle some heavy crisis issue if one were to develop.

Chili's and Maggiano's: The Two Brinker Brands

As part of that small group, Maureen Locus, the head of communications for Brinker International, discussed the difficulties of managing crisis communications in company owned restaurants as well as franchises.

While franchises, which are privately owned by individuals, are under certain contractual agreements with Brinker, they do not always abide by the same rules when it comes to communications and crises. For example, all franchises are given guide books with information about mission statements and other cultural aspects of the company to ensure consistency. They are even given numbers to call the specific help department when dealing with a major issue, but franchises do not always take advantage of Brinker's Restaurant Support Center.

Locus cannot control how or when information about a crisis is received from a franchise, so it becomes even more difficult to handle brand management when dealing with franchises over company owned restaurants. Despite this obstacle, Locus and her team do the best they can in dealing with crisis situations as they develop. The best way to handle any situation is to first make sure team members are briefed on some talking points and then to keep consistent messaging with the media.

Throughout it all though, whether it is a franchise or company-owned restaurant, Brinker makes sure the culture is extended to every team member in the company. At the end of the day, the most important thing is the Chili's or Maggiano's experience as it pertains to the guests as well as the team members. As Brinker states in its motto, Life is short; Work happy. Even if crises cannot be as controlled with franchises, Brinker's communication team strives to protect the brand as best as it can and ensure the longevity of its culture.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Marriage Between Marketing and Communications

Communication hasn't always been a two-way street. Especially in the form of marketing and advertising, communication was all about getting the message across to consumers without worrying about feedback. Now that the internet has given power to blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other means of communication, companies have been forced to acknowledge the consumer and put them into the marketing equation.

Robert Martin, Principal and Managing Director of MM2 Public Relations, spoke to our class about the changing atmosphere of communications and how public relations practitioners are now part of marketing integration. "Now you're in on the discussions as the campaigns are evolving," said Martin.

As the world of communications changes to adapt to marketing, now marketing changes to incorporate more communication ideas. Martin discussed how the traditional 4 P's of marketing have changed to include 4 new concepts. The original included the following:

Product: What are you selling?
Price: What will your product cost to consumers?
Place: Where will you sell your product?
Promotion: How will you advertise your product?

Martin argued that the new ones have developed due to the rise of consumer feedback and input. "Consumers are sort of dictating what's happening in the world and in communications," said Martin. He believes this has led to the introduction of the following 4 concepts in marketing:

Portals/Platforms: What media tools and online outlets will you use to reach your audience?
Permission: Do you need permission from consumers to publish certain information on the internet?
Participation: How can you get your consumers to become interested and invested in your product?
Personalization: How can you personalize your message to reach a certain audience?

Everything has become focused on the consumer and thus communications has become a vital part of the marketing mix. Outlets for messages and advertisements are constantly changing and it is up to public relations practitioners to keep up with these outlets as well as the needs of the audiences. Communication in advertising is no longer about throwing your message blindly at the audience in hopes of a positive reception. "You can't assume you can dictate the entire conversation and get people to do what you want them to do," said Martin. "It's a little more interactive, a little more two way."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Legislation and the Internet

While many of our speakers have given great overviews about the public relations industry concerning jobs and trends, our latest speaker decided to take a different approach towards his speaking subject. Mike Lake, head of Southwest operations for Burson-Marsteller, gave an interesting presentation by walking us through a typical public relations strategy plan. We were all probably expecting a big name corporate campaign, but instead we learned about the political side of public relations concerning the current legislation for playing online poker.

Creating a messaging approach to teach people about the issue surrounding the legalization of online gaming was one of the most interesting parts of the presentation. Since the most influential people in politics live in D.C., it was natural to include D.C. elites, business leaders and key media as the targets for messaging. It is also important to include those that are influential in the world of gaming, but it struck me as interesting to find that influential bloggers and other "thought leaders" were some of the targets as well.

The internet has become a strong influential power in the world, but it's still difficult to grasp the idea of the internet being a powerful force in government or politics. Only recently has the power of Facebook, Twitter and Blogs been explored as evident with the successful revolt in Egypt, which became mobilized through the use of Facebook and the internet. "You get a lot more saturation online and people have more access to it," said Lake.

Blogs such as Full Contact Poker, PokerStars Blog and Bill's Poker Blog not only provide industry news, but also give tips and discuss strategies in an open forum with readers. While the writers of these blogs do not have the ability to pass laws, they most certainly have the ability to influence opinion because of their large following. As targets for a campaign to promote legislation for online poker, their opinions would get to the public audience much faster and more efficiently than through any political route. The internet is a hotbed for communication and "The digital stuff is the new frontier of our business," agreed Lake.

Whether you're trying to influence consumers to buy more Coca-Cola products or vote Republican in the next election, the internet remains a vital tool in relaying information out into the world. Those who write and publish information through the internet become just as important as members of legislation. Bloggers might as well be writing laws because readers treat their words as such. Whether or not online gaming becomes legalized, the way in which influential targets receive and transmit information about the legislation becomes the key to gaining a communications advantage.