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Public Relations

"Journalism and PR: News Media and Public Relations in the Digital Age"

Sina Odugbemi's picture
journalist and public relations on cameraThe communication business worldwide is, at bottom, a collaborative tussle between two tribes: the tribe of journalists working for newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations versus the tribe of publicists and communicators who work for different organizations, and those personalities important and rich enough to afford full time support. For decades, if not centuries, there was no doubting which tribe was stronger. Journalists had the whip hand simply because they were the gatekeepers. They controlled access to mass publics, they shaped reputations, and they decided what mattered and what did not. When I was active in the media, both in Lagos and London, my colleagues and I disdained PR practitioners. They were supplicants, always imploring us to use a press release, always anxious about how a boss or the organization they worked for would be portrayed by our newspaper.

Well, according to John Lloyd and Laura Toogood, the pecking order is changing. In a new book published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford, United Kingdom, the authors make the following case:
 

Public relations is booming at present, and its mechanisms and practices are being adopted by corporations and companies across the globe. Journalism in the developed world is undergoing a series of radical changes, and is available in a greater choice of forms than ever before. The first, however, is highly profitable: while newspaper, magazine, and some forms of broadcast journalism struggle to discover a stable model for making profits. This will not change soon.

Newspapers and magazines under pressure are thus pulling their editorial closer to public relations and advertising to secure funding, both in the carriage of native advertising and in using public relations narratives. The internet, which increasingly carries all media, blurs the distinctions which had taken physical form in the pre-digital era. (p. 129)

Reputation and Governance Styles: The Leader as a Smart Aleck

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Because we have a global audience, I must start by explaining that, according to the Oxford American Dictionary, a smart aleck is “a person displaying ostentatious or smug cleverness’.  It also reports that one usage of the word ‘smart’ means: “(of transactions) unscrupulous to the point of dishonesty”. If you watch crime movies the way I do, there is a tendency to admire ‘smart play’, that is, ruthlessly clever and effective maneuvers. The best crime bosses are masters of ‘smart play’. In order words, they are smart alecks.

What is fascinating is how often (particularly in the massed punditry of elite global media) a capacity for smart play by political leaders is glorified. Leaders are routinely judged and compared with regard to whether or not they appear to shape the game, determine events, or impose their will on others and so on. If they do not seem to do that, they are dismissed as effete. If they seem to do that, they are admired and glorified.  What is particularly striking is how often the writers who say these things leave out ethical standards. I believe, for instance, that true evil is a willingness to act without ethical considerations. Yet, notice how often leaders are admired for ostentatiously clever play even if the methods are odious.

But I am interested in a much narrower question. And it is this: if we leave out ethical considerations, is a reputation for ‘smart play’ good for a leader? Does it make her more effective?  To throw this into bold relief, I am going to tell two kinds of stories- one domestic, and the other global.
 

Strategic Communication vs. Communication

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

As we reported on this blog, CommGAP organized an Executive Course in Communication for Governance earlier this month. The communication part of the course was characterized as "strategic communication" - which made me wonder what, exactly, strategic communication is, how it is relevant for our work, and whether it's different from "communication" per se. A faculty member from the course pointed us to an article by Hallahan et al., titled "Defining Strategic Communication," which states that "strategic communication" is "the purposeful use of communication by an organization to fulfill its mission." The purposeful use of communication makes it "strategic." The authors elaborate that : "Six relevant disciplines are involved in the development, implementation, and assessment of communications by organizations: management, marketing, public relations, technical communication, political communication, and information/social marketing campaigns." Although the authors see strategic communication as "an emerging paradigm," this clarification defines strategic communication as a set of tools, not as a discipline. Marketing, public relations etc. themselves are no disciplines, but approaches drawn from broader fields, such as economics and communication.