New Media and Public Relations

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2010 at 11:20 am

Just because social media is the PR tool everyone is talking about, it doesnt mean its should always be used.

The rapid development of digital technology makes it difficult to predict how publics and audiences will use new software, and which applications may be useful for public relations professionals even in one year’s time. Further, as Barr suggests the very idea of public relations as communication management is challenged in a society in which everyone is potentially a producer of information. social media That is, if you Google search any corporate name, you will find the company’s genuine website as well as links to Wikipedia entry, Youtube videos, news stories, activist websites and the like. An example is nestles PR disaster with social media. Which happened earlier this year.
What had happen was Greenpeace created a bizarre video spoof of a Kit Kat commercial. It portrayed a man at work eating the finger of an orangutan out of a Kit Kat wrapper.

Environment enthusiasts across the world immediately spread the word, which created a public embarrassment for Nestle. People started jumping onto facebook and naturally nestle fan page had increase number of fans, but most people were only joining to post negative comments about nestle. Greenpeace supports went as far as to change their facebook profile photos to anti nestle slogans, one example was the kit-kat food logo changed to the word killer. Nestle reacted with a mild threat saying : To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic- they will be deleted.” Eventually after some more posts by angry publics the nestle rep started to become condescending towards commenter’s, which just added more fuel to the fire. (see examples of posts here) Proceeded to delete post. This quickly spread over the net, and other social media platforms…the period between 13th and 22nd of march there were over 215,00 tweets of the issue..within minutes nestlea’s foray into social media had become one of today’s biggest online pr disasters.

Lessons to be learned
1) It’s not exactly two-way- symmetrical
2) Clearly pr people don’t make the rules when it comes to social media

In other words, there is a shift in power between organisations and publics. It is in fact harder for organisations to control debates and discussions from a top-down sense.
Although, as the affirmative side might argue that technological developments and new media tend to be viewed as additional public relations channels or tactics to serve strategic purposes, but public relations practices tends to rely heavily on this top down sense or asymmetrical and sender-message – receiver models of communication. But this power practitioners believe to be in their court is illusionary as suggested by Fawkes and Gregory (2000:122.)

“the over reliance on the transmission model of communication may have misled the practitioner into an illusion of control, while in reality users have always constructed their own meanings from messages, according to their own social and psychological needs.”

To elaborate, we can now see an even more fallacies in the statement that social media SHOULD be included public relations campaign.
Firstly, in every campaign the target public and demographic will be different. That is as herger and howell suggest we cannot assume new media is engaging or ensuring a symmetrical relationship with their publics or audience. Because of a digital divide, due to demographics and various levels of internet literacy and reach, relative anonymity of online users.

Secondly even if even if the selected audience uses social media the literature as previously mentioned has predicted that it is very hard for public relations practitioners to control how the information is perceived.

Basically, depending on your target public, and your overall s public relation goal, social media it not always necessary in a campaign.  But when it is, for example when to reach the internet savvy public then it should always be used in conjunction with traditional media to maximise outcomes. Public relations practitioners when using new media in campaigns do not yet exploit their potential to promote two-way communication and dialogue.

Social media is however, a better tool for relationship management – where applicable by applicable I mean in terms of the target public and overall pr goal, or suitable, in the sense of creating better opportunities for participation, consultation and discussion rather than a means of one way communication.


Barr, T (2000) Newmedia.com.au: The changing face of Australia’s media and communications. Allen & Unwin: Sydney

Chia, J & Synnott, G. (2009). An introduction to public relations: from theory to practice, Oxford University Press: Australia & New Zealand.

Fawkes, J & Gregory, A. (2000). Applying Communication theories to the internet.  Journal of Communication Management, 5(2), 109-124

Herger, K & Howell, G. (2007). The Good, The bad, and the blogger: the public relations challenge of the noughties. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 8, pp.91-108

For the facts of the case study on Nestle I have used several different blogs and web articles

Mc-Carthy, C. (2010) Nestle mess shows sticky side of Facebook pages. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20000805-36.html

McCusker G. (2010) Five lessons from Nestle’s Facebook PR disaster. Retrieved from http://prdisasters.com/category/social-media/

Team position. (2010) Nestle’s PR & Crisis Management Nightmare. Retrieved from http://blogs.position2.com/nestles-pr-crisis-management-nightmare

Weishaupt, J. (2010) Nestle meltdown on facebook shows the sticky side of social media. Retrieved from http://www.joergweishaupt.com/online-marketing/facebook-online-marketing/nestle-meltdown-on-facebook-shows-sticky-side-of-social-media.html

Nizam. (2010) Case study: the Facebook Nestle Mess. Retrieved from http://omgzam.com/case-study-the-facebook-nestle-mess/


Reputation and Crisis/issues perspective

In Uncategorized on October 15, 2010 at 11:15 am

The above video  presents a great summary of the relationship between reputation and crisis/issue management. Having already established a good reputation serves as an organisation’s valuable asset and insurance against any issues or crisis. Before i expand this idea, it is important to note the difference between an issue and a crisis.  An issue is basically any discrepancy between what a organisation does and what the public/audience expect the organisation to do. An example of an issue would be animal rights activists being concerned with cosmetic companies testing their products on animals. A crisis is something that is happens uncertainty and usually the cause and effects are unknown.

The relationship with reputation here of course is that if you have a good, strong reputation it helps organisations to absorb impacts of issues or crisis more readily. The most important driver of reputation is the quality of an organisation’s relationship with its key stakeholders. We can as far as to say that it is amongst the reason driving a proactive stance of public relations practice, building a solid reputation makes other public relations activities run more smoothly.

A good example is Bluescope Steel’s Tank a Day Challenge. Issues are clearly present in the nature of the industry Blue Steel is operating in.  Australians are concerned about the drought which has been at its worse in the last decade and water conservation has been more prevalent in people’s minds. With Blue Steel being one seen as one of the biggest consumers of water there is clearly a big gap between their actions and what people would expect from them. So given this they are also skeptical to unforeseen crises . Their campaign was successful in establish a relationship with the community that is mutually benefical, i.e. it delivered huge environmental benefits to Australian schools as well as  increasing BlueScope Steel’s corporate reputation. This has closed any gaps thus issues and helped protect Blue steel from unexpected crisis because of the strong reputation they have built.

The following it taken from the Golden Target Awards in the UTS Library online. Read the full report here

BlueScope Steel (BSS) approached Pulse Communications to help position the Company as a leader in owning water harvesting and conservation in a positive light. We saw this as an opportunity to create a corporate social responsibility campaign – called the Tank a Day Challenge (TADC) – that would engage stakeholders and communities around Australia to be a part of the solution to Australia’s water problem.

The Tank a Day Challenge aimed at educating the next generation (i.e. Primary School students) about the water cycle and empowering them with the message that they can help make a difference in their local community. The TADC offered 200 rainwater tanks to primary schools around Australia to help kick-start their water saving journeys – that’s one rainwater tank every school day of the year.

One year after launch and more than 2,000 primary schools have taken up the TADC – that’s a third of all primary schools around Australia and well over half a million primary school students (600,000) have completed the educational water saving quiz (as part of the TADC) which taught them about the water cycle and the importance of saving water.

The program has not only delivered significant environmental benefits to Australian schools, it has increased BlueScope Steel’s corporate reputation, which has paid commercial dividends for the company. read more here


Chia, J. & Synnott, G. (2009). An Introduction to Public Relations – From Theory To Practice. Australia and New Zealand: Oxford University Press

Golden Target Awards. (2006). ‘Bluescope Steel’s Tank a Day Challenge’. Retrieved 15 october, 2010 from http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/gta/?page=show&id=777


Public Relations Management in Organisations

In Uncategorized on September 14, 2010 at 11:02 am

The systems theory is a dominant theory in guiding and understanding PR practice. It is used to explain how public relations is the connection between the organisation and its various stakeholders and publics which make up its environment.

  • Achieves balance with the environment
  • Maintains interdependence among publics
  • Alerts the organization to need for  change
  • Works to achieve the goals of the organization
  • Plays a role in maintaining the organization

Given this, and the fact that the ideal model of public relations be one that is symmetrical i.e. aim to achieve mutually beneficial relationships with your public, then, i dont see how a closed system approach is efficent in today’s face pace corporate environment.

I think that because the public relations discpline is still changing and fast, and the environment they work in is always changing then the open systems approach is very apt to guide public relations practice. To illustrate, the importance of being reflexive to change you need feedback from your various publics, i will use the case of Department of Water in Western Australia’s communication plan.In particular this case was based on the internal publics such as their employees.

Here is the summery of the events: (click here to read full report)

In late October 2005, the West Australian government decided to establish a new agency to administer the State’s ongoing water needs.

Adding to the already significant challenge of establishing a new organisation was the imposition of an extremely tight timeline- less than two months.

When the department of water opened for business on January 2,2006, more than 100 staff had already been transferred – growing to the full complement of more than 600 by July. Staff were drawn from the Department of Environment and the Water and Rivers Commission, the two pre-existing agencies most affected by the decisison to establish a new department.

Staff morale in these departments was extremely low. There was both active resistance to the formation of the new agency , and lines of division between the two existing departments.

Recognising these challenges, the communication strategy focused squarely on internal communications, and real-time communication with all employees.

Less than 12 months later, a comprehensive employee engagement survey has shown that its staff are among the most engaged and committed to their jobs in the country.


Chia, J. & Synnott, G. (2009). An Introduction to Public Relations – From Theory To Practice. Australia and New Zealand: Oxford University Press

Gregory, G. (1993) “Systems theories and public relations practice”, Journal of Communication Management,  4(3), pp.266 – 277