Chuck Gao's PR Blog

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

Lobbying & Democratic Process

Despite its negative reputation, lobbying is an important vehicle for ensuring citizen participation in the democratic process, allowing a vibrant and participatory democracy.

According to Lionel Zetter,  “lobbying is the process of seeking to influence government and its institutions by informing the public policy agenda. It is also, of course, the art of political persuasion”(2008). As a matter of fact, Most of time when journalists talk about lobbying, they usually frame their comments in a negative fashion. “This is partly because some lobbyists have behaved inappropriately in the past, and these usually minor scandals are retrieved from the morgues and given a fresh airing every time a journalist pens a piece on the subject. It may also be because journalist feel that only they should have a direct influence on the public policy agenda, and they may be jealous of the influence which lobbyist can do exert”(Lionel Zetter, 2008).

I then looked at the history of lobbying, “Public policy is not made in vacuum behind closed doors. Public affairs specialists play a vital role in this process”(Sharif Rangnekar, 2012). Lobbying has been going on since time immemorial, and there is certainly a case for saying that lobbying is one of the world’s oldest professions, whenever an individual, or group of individuals, wields power over society, there will be other individuals or groups of individuals who will have tried to persuade them to exercise that power in a particular way. Therefore we can argue that lobbying is both natural and inevitable.

In fact the first recognised UK lobbyist was Commander Christopher Powell, who did not set up shop until just before the second world war. Commander Powell’s firm, Watney and Powell, was bought in the 1960s by another ex-military man, ormer Royal Marine Commando Professor Tim Traverse-Healy OBE.

Traverse-Healy traces the true origins of the lobbying industry in the UK to the landslide victory which Labour won in 1945. Clement Attlee set about transforming the UK political scene, setting up the National Health Service and seeking to nationalise whole swathes of British industry. It was the Labour government’s attempt to nationalise the British sugar industry which prompted the launch of what Traverse-Healy refers to as the UK’s first political public relations campaign – with its Mr Cube figurehead successfully fending off the government’s nationalisation ambitions.

The Labour victory in 1945 firmly established that party as the alternative government in the United Kingdom. If the Conservatives were not the government, then it would be formed by Labour and not the Liberals, who were in long-term decline. This persuaded big business in the UK to organise in order to defend itself against future nationalisation plans, and against higher Part One – Introduction To Lobbying 7 taxes and tighter regulation. The result was the formation of such bodies as the Economic League and Aims of Industry – and the emergence of a recognisable lobbying industry in the United Kingdom.

Democracy enables the realization of two values: First, it expands the autonomy of individuals to the sphere of collective decision-making, it enables collective self-determination (Jean Rousseau, 2006). Second, democracy embodies the value of equality among individuals. When individuals living in a community cannot agree how to manage their lives in a polity, the right of equal say for every individual acknowledges the equal value of every person and recognizes the fact that every individual’s good and every person’s interest must be considered (Peter Singer, 1999). According to pluralistic theory of democracy, which views democracy as an arena in which interest groups struggle to attain the utmost realization of their interests.  “A proper democratic process exists when the struggle among interest groups is conducted fairly. The product of such a process is arrangements that constitute a compromise reflecting the inter-group power relations, i.e., how many citizens have a certain preference and to what degree of intensity. (ROBERT DAHL, 1959)” It seems that for the pluralists lobbying is a desirable phenomenon. It enables groups to clarify their interests to the elected representatives and constitutes part of the normal democratic process of attempting to influence outcomes, along with means such as participation in the public discourse or contribution of funds to political parties and election candidates.

Lobbying programme can be divided into four types, which are profile raising, contract programme, policy shaping and legislation changing (Lionel Zetter, 2008). EU and the US built a good-sized industry with government affairs and public affairs experts. There are more than 34,000 lobbyists in the US. In EU, some 3,000 interest groups and 300-odd companies are involved in public affairs and over 100 management companies work in this space, employing some 15,000 persons. In India, estimates suggest there are more than 20 large- to mid-sized public relations firms offering public affairs expertise. There are also a few stand-alone government affairs consultancies following structured processes. The number of single-man agents, think tanks, NGOs and in-house practitioners is hard to count. (Sharif Rangnekar, 2012)

With the help of lobbying, we has seen how many changes have been made for America, The UK, or Europe Union, the significant changes have had, and continuously having impacts on many aspect of citizen’s life, from food safety laws, intellectual property, the opening up of insurance, banking, aviation and many other sectors, reduction of duties, raising of voices for farmers and human rights, and changes in laws and individual taxation, to give a few examples.

As EPACA suggests, a democracy must recognize lobbying regardless of whether it is carried out by individual citizens or companies, think tanks, governments and other groups. To realize the positive potential of this activity, there is a definite need to recognize this profession so that distinctions between fixing, preferential treatment or crony capitalism are clear.

Admittedly, there are three flaws in the democratic process resulting from lobbying: personal corruption (the ‘revolving door’ phenomenon and the dependence of representatives on campaign financing); unequal power of influence resulting in the distortion of the public agenda; and niche lobbying without competitive counter lobbying.

While the onus lies on the lobbying industry, its existence has more to do with the ethos of a democracy and the belief of plurality and evolution. The industry with its skills perhaps needs to develop a strategy to push forward, acquire greater visibility and be held accountable. It needs to work with government, politicians and the media in reaching what is a balance between visibility and confidentiality. Else, what is not seen or known will always be feared and speculated about.

However, I convinced that democratic process could not possibly live without lobbying. And I would like to suggest expand the scope of the transparency requirements in the law, by requiring lobbyists to publish online all written material transmitted to politicians and to list all areas of lobbying activity.

 

References:

Sharif D. Rangnekar (2012). Lobbying, a democratic essential, Available: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/dBMnAq6vIyunw5CvRddEXI/Lobbying-a-democratic-essential.html. Last accessed 10th Feb 2014.

Jean Rousseal  (2006), the social contract book 1, ch. 6.

Peter Singer (1973), democracy and disobedience. Jeremy Waldron, LAW AND DISAGREEMENT ch. 5.

Robert Dahl (1959), a preface to democratic theory; HELD, supra note 23

Lionel Zetter (2008). Lobbying : the art of political persuasion. Harriman House: Petersfield.

Luigi Graziano (2001). Lobbying, pluralism and democracy. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

Stuart Thomson Steve John (2001). Public affairs in practice a practical guide to lobbying. london: Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

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Case study–Wechat’s hongbao campaign

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Last Saturday was the beginning of the celebration of Chinese Lunar New Year, with this being the year of the horse, which is one of the 12 Chinese zodiac –or Shēngxiào.

People born in the year of the horse are said to be a bit like horses: animated, active and energetic – they love being in a crowd. They are quick to learn independence and they have a straightforward and positive attitude towards life. They are known for their communication skills and are exceedingly witty.C130N0023H_2014資料照片_N71_copy1

One of the best well-known customs that Chinese people does every Chinese New Year is sent red envelope, aka “hongbao” The red color of the envelope symbolizes good luck and is supposed to ward off evil spirits. Red envelopes are usually given out by married couples to single people, especially to children or work colleagues.

I feel apologize if so far I may left you a impression that this is a culture blog, however, the main protagonist of the campaign is a virtual “red envelope”.

Tencent’s (Chinese internet giant) social media platform WeChat has found a way to turn traditional seasonal practices digital, in order to raise number of users of Wechat and promote its payment system.

The lasts-3-days campaign created a buzz over almost every social media platform, it suddenly became hottest topic all over the China, and everyone was talking about it from Sina Weibo to New Year’s Eve dinner. Surprisingly, most of the comments were admiring and even in a slight state of awe at the big success of WeChat’s hongbao campaign, which lets users sending of money to friends and relatives in an electronic form of the cash-filled red envelopes typically given out this time of year, over the popular instant messaging platform. In a fun twist, users can select one friend to send an envelope to, or let the app randomly divide money between a group of friends, with only the first 20 people to open their envelope receiving the money.

The over-night success cannot live without the contribute of PR. So how did PR generate this buzz? The new version WeChat was released at 25th January, the first coverage can be found as “Wechat hongbao explode new year social ” from south metropolitan daily, after one day, different kinds article such as strategy and tips emerged on the Internet. The agenda successfully settled on 28th, taking advantage of Wechat’s communication character, the campaign promptly became no.1 topic on “pengyouquan” (Wechat community) and spread virally, then the over-night buzz was blast at 29th, the Chinese New Year’s EVE.

Tencent released campaign statistics on 31th January officially: As of New Year’s EVE, the total attendant user number was approximately 5 million, the peak was appear at 30th January 1 am; moment peak number: 250,000 red envelope was open. Tencent’s share prices also benefited from the new feature’s popularity, surging 11.05% in Hong Kong before the stock exchange there closed for the Chinese New Year holiday. Moreover, According to China Daily, the introduction of the app is rumoured to have led to over 100 million users to sign up to the WeChat payment service, although the figure has yet to be confirmed.

Credit to:

WeChat launches online ‘red envelope’ app for Chinese New Year: http://www.thestar.com.my/Tech/Tech-News/2014/02/04/WeChat-launches-online-red-envelope-app-for-Chinese-New-Year/

Alibaba, Sina cast envious eyes on Tencent’s ‘Hongbao’: http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/1421989/alibaba-sina-cast-envious-eyes-tencents-hongbao

微信“抢红包”:一场精心策划的公关大餐: http://www.chinapr.com.cn/templates/T_Second/index.aspx?nodeid=19&page=ContentPage&contentid=6054

B2B Social Media Communication, Do Not only Putting Eyes On Facebook

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Because of its popularity and number of users, Facebook is now often regarded as the most social media website. However,  the  number of users of other social media sites are also increasing significantly in 2013, such as Twitter, Instagram, vine, or even Tumblr or Pinterest, to name but a few. The marketers can no longer ignore their impact for b2b communication. There was a proven trend lies in the fact that audiences are more like to see mobilized and visualized contents, so it’s time for marketers to expand their communication strategy into other outlets as I mentioned.

Doubtlessly, B2B companies are not using social media in the same way as consumer markets. Products positioning differ, sales cycles differ and product markets are differ as well. Communicating strategically Social media is always evolving and so are the decision-makers using it. Recent studies published by Eloqua and Forrester Research have offered important statistics showing what B2B decision-makers are and aren’t doing on various social networks.

CIO Social Media Habits

When it comes to more targeted audiences, some new research from Tech Heads debuted showed the social media preferences of CIOs and senior IT leaders when they’re researching a new product:

  • 29 percent use Google+
  • 28 percent use LinkedIn
  • 28 percent of “disruptive CIOs” use LinkedIn Groups
  • 22 percent use Facebook
  • 20 percent use YouTube

Instead of putting attention just on single social media site, Integrate social media websites into an entirety, by utilizing Linkedin, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter or Google plus etc. these channels will definitely magnify the communication effect to a multiple of geometric growth. For example, Linkedin, who currently have approximately 240 million professional, it will likely turn into the leading position in the B2B market in the near future. Or you can even build a social media community like CISCO did, (Case study can be found Here). In addition to that, a good community could attract Outside Writers Contribute Content. According to Jeffrey L. Cohen, “Not only Cisco communications staff and subject matter experts, the Network also features outside journalists who have covered business and technology for the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Forbes, Fortune and Business Week. This brings a new level of content to the site. Many B2B blogs feature guest posts, and some even feature outside experts writing on a regular basis, but to add this level of business and technology journalism to an online newsroom is beyond the realm of what anyone else is doing. This is providing value to customers, prospects and others in the Cisco ecosystem by creating top-notch content and spotlighting it along with company news.” (The case study can be found at http://socialmediab2b.com/2011/09/b2b-cisco-social-newsroom/)

Corporate Communication, just public relations with a new name?

Before I start, I want to just updating myself a lit bit. I’m, now, suffering hardly from staphylitis, a mouth inflammation cause by heater that made my throat deadly sore. I have been tortured by it for half week in every single minute rather than only if I swallow. It is ironic that I just post a blog last week named “a great start”, so probably the god just wants to tell me a great start doesn’t mean anything, you have to stick on it, ball hard!

So here let’s go back to the topic. Firstly, let’s have a look of two professionals’ perspective:

“Anyone following recent developments in public relations, particularly in English, has noted the increasing use of the term corporate communication. It has become a popular title for communication executives; some schools are offering master’s programs in it”

                                                  -Peggy Simcic Brønn, Associate Dean, Norwegian School of Management

“Corporate Communications and Public Relations are often grouped together in universities and by employers seeking to fill communications positions. Both necessitate that you excel in fundamental communication skills — speaking, writing, and an educated and innate ability to know what critical information needs to go to the people who need it, when they need it.”

                                                  -Karen S. Johnson, Demand Media

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job titles in media centre differ in 2 corporation

European communication monitor conducted a survey in 2011, which covers 2029 PR professionals, showed that 67.9% of them no longer thought PR was still a suitable label for the profession, compared to Corporate Communication, while only 46.7% of them thought Public Relations still stands. Not only because of they have same aims, which are build reputation and trust, Corporate Communications and public relations share so many commonalities that you would be forgiven for using them interchangeably. However, There are some subtle and not-so-subtle differences.

After read some related blog articles, I deicide to put it in a simple way: start from analyse the key words and areas they working in.

Key concepts in Corporate Communications:

Trust
Reputation
Stakeholder
Image and Identity
Corporate Brand

The areas Corporate Communication working in:

Business to business marketing
Crisis and issues management
Employee Communications
Government relations
Change management
Investor relations
Corporate Social responsibility programmes
Media relations

So far, we can easily found out there is a term that PR don’t usually use too much—stakeholder. Correspondingly, some areas are obviously not belong to PR as well, such as B2B marketing, Change management, Investor relation and Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. Corporate Communication looks after business relations, and always dedicated to a harmonious employee-corporation relationship.

“ Corporate communication is an instrument of management by means of which all consciously used forms of internal and external communication.” (Van Riel, 1995) While Public Relations encompasses management in identifying, building relationships between company and various publics, compare with Corporate Communication, PR have wider demand of skills apart of communication, you should expect to have a solid understanding of how media and journalism works, and you may also need have a strong ability in social and oral communication

I would like to quote an example to end this blog; this is from Richard Edelman, the CEO of Edelman, when he was responsing to internal suggestions that Edelman redefine itself as a communications agency rather than a public relations firm.

Consider a scenario: your company has been responsible for spewing toxic sludge into a pristine stretch of river, destroying wildlife and polluting the water supply. Your CEO comes to you for advice.

I know what the public relations advice in this scenario should be: stop spewing toxic sludge. What’s the communications advice? Lie? Craft a compelling narrative to convince people that toxic sludge is good for them?

The fact is that there’s no “communications” solution to this problem. It’s a problem that requires a change in behavior. Managing the relationship between an organization and its publics—public relations—requires good behavior and good communication, and if we define ourselves exclusively by the latter we are doing a disservice to ourselves, our profession and our clients.

The great start

Social-media-for-public-relations1-644x320After having a splendid holiday, coming back to study has been a real tough move for me.

However, having finished the first week of second semester, I found the class schedule is very attractive as well as challenging for me.  The course arrangement is obviously far more intensive than first semester, no need to mention that I’m seeking a part-time internship, which make this situation even worse.

Anyway, A good news for the optional module laying in the fact that we chose the course we want, in other words, the course we taking are to our taste.

At the beginning, I was had a big trouble to choose optional module between 2 of 5, because Cooperate Communication, Digital PR, Consumer PR even fashion PR are all my cup of tea. But fortunately, I was informed that Digital PR and Consumer PR was going to merge this year. Then the choice became clear to me, fashion PR is the least I want among them, so I give it up.

I’d like now talking about some thoughts of Consumer PR. Consumer PR is my favourite sector of PR, as I had great interest of social media, and running a lifestyle or fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) company has always been in my long-term career plan. Broadly speaking, not like marketing, Consumer PR regard consumer as audience uses different communication tools to engaging them. Even though the endgame is always to drive sales, but Consumer PR usually considered to be more subtle and sophisticated than marketing, and its unique selling point (USP) is to change attitudes and behaviour indirectly. Moreover, compare with marketing, Consumer PR is usually more using two-way symmetric communication nowadays, and the practitioners are transfer their attention into social media.

The first class is about history of modern consumption. This is the field I was interested on my graduate, I had read some book about this to leant consumer behaviour, such as La société de consummation (Jean Baudrillard), Consumer Culture and Postmodernism (Mike Featherstone), and a lot of Chinese publication. Also, as I was major my second B.A degree in psychology, I’m always trying to code consumer behaviour from the angle of subliminal or subconscious psychology, so when Jon talked about Packard’s eight Compelling Needs and Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy, admittedly, I was really enticed.

What we talk about when we talking about creativity—Paul Smith Exhibition

‘People can write in lots of different ways – short sentences, long sentences. But one of the things that must be used in literature is punctuation marks. I always say to people who aren’t comfortable wearing colour that they should think about it like a punctuation mark. Wear a navy blue suit and simply punctuate it with a coloured sweater or a T-shirt.’

—Paul Smith talking about how to persuade someone who doesn’t wear colour to wear it.

Learning the news from newspaper, I went to London Design Museum for the exhibition of Paul Smith. When I got out from the cab and cross the passage, an stunning view of River Thames jump into our view, an new and stunning angle I’d never seen before.

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London Design Museum is standing in front of River Thames, on the building’s white front façade, the word ‘HELLO’ is written in highlighter pink, while the adjacent wall reads ‘My Name is Paul Smith’ in matching type.

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Paul Smith is famous by the fashion clothes brand named by himself, but he’s creative life is far beyond just designing clothes.

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Mr Paul Smith original plans to become a professional cyclist when left school at 15. He join fashion industry by a coincidence, then started his first business from a 12-feet-square room, year by year, he consistently being creative in every detail of his life,and this is finally lead him to success. even today, he still trying to get involve in every detail of his company from choose fabric to find shop address , and this is seems because he haven’t realize how successful he is. He told journalist that he was so surprised when he was surrounding by his fans at Tokyo earlier this year.

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I recently reading a book about how to be creative of  Public Relations Campaign planning, it given plenty of ideas about how to generate “a big idea”, But now I realize trying start to use different angle to observe and judge every ordinary things, using lateral thinking, and being engaged in creativity is, definitely, more useful to follow the guide which tells you how to produce creativity.

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