An argument for ‘network governance’


An argument for ‘network governance’. National governments can’t guarantee global human rights, so van Heerden says multinationals must pick up the balls that national governments drop and they need a safe place to do it.

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Four and 20 blackbirds – Bring Tweets To Your Content (via WordPress.com News)


Check out this new wordpress feature to integrate tweeting and blogging. As a relative newcomer to the potential of twitter, I think I’ll be using this tool a lot.

Have you ever wanted to quote or share a tweet but had to painstakingly take screenshots of said tweet, upload them, and then embed the images in your post? Today we are launching a new feature dubbed Twitter Blackbird Pie. The new feature makes displaying tweets in all their glory as simple as pasting a link in your post as shown below. http://twitter.com/wordpressdotcom/status/600049276948480 What is Blackbird Pie? Twitter Blackbird Pie is a me … Read More

via WordPress.com News

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Having remote fun at the non-political political rally


That much-loved buzzword ‘engagement’ happens for a lot of reasons. Today’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear is one of the best social media/politics examples I’ve ever seen.

Of course it took an army of well-paid, smart people to put it together. But it proves that the simplest idea is usually the best one. Oh, I wish I could be in Washington for #10.30.10! But thanks to social media, I can participate and save the plane fare.

Favourite Rally Sign

Scary fun

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Politics gets sexy


Here’s some interesting fodder for political science students. A new study suggests there’s a link between pornography and support for the winning political party. Maybe post-secondary education institutes should be mixing sociology and political science a little more often…

Seriously, though — I wonder how politics affect female hormones and search terms?

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What’s the difference between members and internal stakeholders?


Those in corporate communications environments know that there are clear differences between customers and internal stakeholders like staff, management, suppliers and contractors. Recently, I was asked to explain the difference between members and internal stakeholders. A good question — one that I wish I’d answered in greater depth. So here I go, but the answer isn’t all that simple.

For the non-PR audience, a stakeholder is any person, group or organization that has a stake in an organization because they can affect or be affected by that organization’s mission, goals, actions, objectives and policies. The definition includes individuals who may not realize or care about what the organization is doing. Thus, it includes groups and individuals that the organization must inform/engage in order to achieve its objectives.

The simple answer (yeah, I know I said there wasn’t one) is that members and internal stakeholders play different roles and have different – sometimes conflicting – expectations from the organization. Crucially, expectations can change depending on the issue at hand, so what do you do when their expectations conflict?

Begin by building a stakeholder relations framework to establish if there are gaps in understanding between what you’re doing and what each stakeholder expects. Prioritize stakeholders in terms of their legitimacy, power and urgency on issues. Identify common ground  using two-way communication and develop strategies to resolve the crisis, or at least focus on the most critical stakeholder(s) first.

An SR plan generally includes linkages so that everyone understands a stakeholder’s function (Rawlins). In this case, members enable the organization. Enabling stakeholders make it possible for the organization to exist. But members also have expectations and a direct interest in what internal stakeholders (like staff, management and consultants) produce. Internal stakeholders provide the functional input on behalf of the membership.

Why and when does it matter?
1) In issues and crisis management. Each stakeholder has different general and specific expectations from the organization, and those expectations will sometimes conflict. The key to successful issues management lies in finding common ground and ensuring that stakeholders are prioritized according to their legitimacy, urgency and power. If you can’t please all of the people all of the time, then at least an organization should be able to monitor how decisions are likely to affect key stakeholders.

2) For measurement purposes. To the extent that it is possible, an organization should always be working to reduce gaps in awareness, understanding and engagement for each of its stakeholders. Knowing who they are and why they care is the first step in determining whether you’re on a path to achieve your objectives. Without knowing the difference, a gap analysis (are we meeting their needs? Why or why not? What can we/are we prepared to do if not) is impossible.

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The risk of spin


It’s a slog building up personal or corporate reputation – there’s almost no limit to what a company will spend to build a brand, but it takes so little to damage it beyond reprieve. And in politics, entertainment or sports, any number of examples could serve to show how hard it is to earn and how easily it can be ripped apart.

Reputation management should be the No. 1 thing that organizations and individuals work to protect. Everything leaders do — and in an era of social media, everything others do and say — has an impact on this valuable asset. But it’s all too often sacrificed out of fear. And oddly enough, it’s those closest and most concerned about it who are most likely to ruin it. More than 80 per cent of crises are caused by management and staff. The reaction is common enough if you you’re a fan of Machiavelli. And while he had a lot to share about human nature and power, to be completely fair, he didn’t have to thrive in the modern world.

In politics especially, where I’ve served a number of years, fear and competitive staff behaviour seems to trump common sense in a crisis. I’ve watched really smart people circle the wagons, avoid communicating and make decisions that they later defend ‘in the interest of the governed’ that were really motivated by a desire to appear strong, while remaining essentially irresponsible. I would argue that it is still generally accepted in many political circles that backing down, sharing credit, apologizing or changing policy demonstrates weakness. But what we expect from leaders may surprise you.

Doing the right thing is hard — often, it’s even harder than building credibility, because after all, building a reputation depends heavily on your marketing budget. Cost is one thing, value is something else again.

Can you afford to put your reputation in the hands of the social media masses? No? Then take control of the message, anticipate your weaknesses, leverage your strengths, build a culture of trust and listen as carefully to your front line as you do your campaign manager, COO or Executive Director. Issues management can prevent or control the outcome of a crisis. And in business or politics,  a good reputation is better than cash in the bank.

Posted in communications planning, Crisis Communications, Employee relations, Issues Management, public relations, Reputation Management, risk analysis, Social Media, Stakeholder Relations | Leave a comment

An oily debate


A chart of the planned increases in oil produc...

Image via Wikipedia

Few issues ignite environmentalists the way the oil sands development (aka: the tar sands) does. Recently, a peer review study linked evidence of fish abnormalities to high levels of toxins and pointed to oil sands activity as a direct cause.

The companies fund a joint government/industry science-based environmental monitoring project called RAMP (Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program). RAMP includes representatives from local and aboriginal communities, environmental non-government organizations, government agencies (municipal, provincial and federal), oil sands and other industries, and other independent stakeholders.

RAMP is in damage control mode, and the Alberta government is in Toronto promoting the oil sands. It’s a perfect storm: Government and industry against community members and environmentalists in a battle for public support.

Question: can government and industry use PR to mitigate the damage?

Answer: depends where the gap in understanding is. If it’s between what stakeholders expect you do and what you are actually doing, then you have to change what you’re doing. If it’s a perception problem, then yes, communications can help, but only if you’re prepared to include all your critics and get ahead of this emerging, smoldering crisis.

As the debate heats up, latent stakeholders will become aware of the issue, and depending on the response from either side, they could begin to feel more urgency. The project has reportedly faced criticism in the past, but independent studies were not available. This time, the credibility of RAMP’s science is being challenged, and nothing could be worse for the reputation of an evidence-based program. Government will face increased pressure to respond, which may include dismantling the RAMP project.

Some are calling for an adult discussion to divide fact from fiction. As the author points out, no one is ‘telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’. So maybe it is a perception problem, but that’s something industry and government needs to answer honestly.

Given the scope and horrific mismanagement of the BP oil spill disaster, almost nothing industry says will generate credibility. And governments (especially pro-oil Alberta) aren’t trusted on this issue either. So listen up: include your critics to find common ground and resolve the matter. If nothing else, a proactive approach will turn the volume down and limit the flow of misinformation.

PR experts: would love to hear your thoughts on this issue!

Posted in community relations, Crisis Communications, Issues Management, Reputation Management, risk analysis, Stakeholder Relations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment