Online reputation management in China

Online reputation management (see this blog 18/3/2013) is now being used in China – although the government isn’t too keen on it and the users seem to have slightly different motivations to those who seek to clean up their online footprint in other countries.

In a culture where face (which is sort of like reputation) is all-important it is perhaps not surprising that people worry about new threats to their reputation and new ways of losing face. Now an enterprising company has stepped in to exploit these concerns. read more

Revealing communication hiccups

Almost every communication program is affected by some small hiccup or other. Most of them are just minor unless they inadvertently highlight a major public relations problem an organisation is experiencing.

This week saw Opera Australia have a minor hiccup – an error in an email broadcast to Melbourne opera subscribers – which highlighted one of the major complaints Victorians have about Opera Australia, its Sydney-centric focus and its relative neglect of Melbourne. read more

Media secretaries

There is a common assumption that political media advisers are a modern invention but, although the quantity of them is at levels never before known, they have actually been around for a long time.

Reading an excellent essay by Ruth Starke on Don Dunstan in the March Australian Book Review I was struck by her assertion that “It is arguable whether any (sic) politician in Australia had a public relations officer on staff in 1965” in the context of Dunstan’s appointment of a young David Combe as an adviser. Ruth Starke describes David as a ‘public relations officer’ although one imagines that David would have been the combination of strategist, party operator, media adviser and many other things he was during much of his career. read more

Making sense

Public relations academic writing is, so far, mercifully free of the excruciating prose of many social sciences, literary theories and other sources of incomprehensible and impenetrable thought even if it does follow what someone once described as the ‘barbaric’ social sciences referencing and bibliographic systems. read more

Think tanks and transparency

The Americanisation of Australian politics is exemplified by the growing number of think tanks here – although thankfully so far some Australian ones are generally more transparent and more independent than their US counterparts.

The Institute of Public Affairs 70th anniversary dinner (the blog didn’t attend and wasn’t invited) is an example of the problems which can arise. Personally, despite being opposed to much IPA thinking, I find many of their ideas interesting and worthy of debate. Director, John Roskam, presents some interesting ideas in between the ideologically-driven stuff (such as his AFR columns at the start of the GFC calling for dramatic cutbacks in government spending) and Chris Berg has some challenging thoughts about the nanny state and the health thought police. However, the IPA doesn’t disclose details of donors or supporters so, when they publish a viewpoint on some issue or other, you can’t check whether someone who might benefit from it helped make it possible. This is not to suggest that the IPA colours its views to that of its donors but rather to highlight the fact that the general policy of disclosure of interests practised in most media outlets and academic journals is not followed by the IPA. That general policy is simply a matter of transparency. read more

Not just the employees

It has now been well-established by research that people who watch Fox News in the US are more likely to be wrong about things more often than those who don’t.

This is not suggesting that the relationship is causal as it might be a matter of people who are likely to be wrong on things choosing to watch Fox News rather than Fox News promulgating the errors. Or, of course, it could also be a bit of both. read more

An Easter reflection

Easter is a perfect time for reflection about the big questions of life, humanity and history – like for instance whether it was Christianity which destroyed the Roman Empire.

It had been a popular belief among many historians, in particular Edward Gibbon, who blamed the spread of Christianity and monasticism for the decline and fall. However, whatever the reasons for the Empire’s end, it is clear that Christianity converted what was a relatively diverse and tolerant Empire into one in which intolerance and ideological rigidity became paramount. In his book AD 381(Pimlico) Charles Freeman describes how Theodosius, the Eastern Emperor, issued decrees which were the beginning of more than a thousand years of intolerance driven by imperial political priorities rather than religion (even if the Christians caught on the intolerance stuff pretty quickly). In an earlier book, The Closing of the Western Mind (Pimlico), Freeman describes the effect of bringing to an end the diversity of religious and philosophical beliefs which flourished under the Empire. read more

Psychology train wreck – part two

More news on the train wreck which seems to be approaching for some recent psychological research and another warning for those in the communication business using some of its research outputs.

A paper has been published on PLOS ONE, a leading open science online journal.  (  The paper details are less relevant than the subsequent discussion. However, it appears the paper was trying to establish whether studying science makes you a better person. Now the automatic reaction to any question like that – whether it be about science, the humanities, law or psychology – is that George Steiner settled the matter in an aphorism about concentration camp guards and culture which removed the need for any large scale studies forever. But whether the study was necessary or not it is expected to reach certain standards. read more

What the history of PR can teach us

One of the most productive changes in the study of PR in recent years has been the new emphasis on both the history of the industry and how it relates to broader approaches to history.

For many years the standard PR historical summaries emphasised its US origins, a few ‘Great Men’ who acted as pioneers and the antiquarian search for the first uses of the words ‘public relations’. This was forced into an artificial evolutionary model progressing from press agentry to publicity to profession. It was the PR industry’s version of the Whig interpretation of history. read more

What’s the easiest PR job in Australia?

When PR people judge how well a PR campaign has done the degree of difficulty is often a major factor in weighing the merits of various projects. But there’s not so much attention to the easiest jobs and campaigns.

 Currently doing PR for Tony Abbott would have to be up there among the easy ones. Just do nothing and craft a few populist sound bites and you will soon be advising a PM. Admittedly there would always be that worry that he might say or do something really, really stupid. But even then there is always the safety net that News Limited and the shock jocks provide. After all, imagine a situation in which the toughest questions you get all day from the interviews you arrange are zingers like: Do you think Julia Gillard should resign today or next week? Just how dishonest and incompetent do you think she is? read more