The experience with speakers through this MA in Public Relations

The MA in Public Relations provided by the University of Westminster consists of both an academic and practical experience.
Besides the group works and constant practical assignments, I would like to share with my readers our experience with the speakers.
We met some of them in their workplaces (the Ministry of Defence, the agency, The British Library) and others came to the campus to give their lectures.

In this second term, we have received the visit of four speakers in the module about Corporate Communications at Marylebone Campus.

Images provided by LinkedIn

Images provided by LinkedIn: J. Frost, K. Ruck, M. Hoevel and C. Lowe

The first speaker was Jessica Frost, from Regester Larkin. She talked about reputation and risk management, and one of the things I liked most was her CV and her professional attitude and skills, coming as she did from another professional area. Apart from that, she described reputation management through those six verbs: predict, prepare, prevent, resolve, respond and recover. She talked about crisis management and the role of social media when an organisation is being challenged by a crisis: to what extent the organisation needs to understand its audiences, influencers, the social media platforms and channels, and the rules of engagement on social media. And the big piece of advice for preventing crisis: rehearse, rehearse and rehearse.
Next speaker was Kevin Ruck, from PR Academy. His lecture was about Internal Communications, and he described a broad landscape about internal communications theories and practices. He proposed public relations as a strategic management, according to J. E. Grunig´s model, and through an interactive lecture guided us within the employee voice concept, the importance of employee engagement (built from leadership, engaging managers, voice and integrity). He was a wise expert with a recently published book, ‘Exploring Internal Communication’. Usually after the speakers’ lectures we the students had to present a case study about the same topic; none of the speakers used to remain during our presentations, but that day the guest decided to stay. Guess who was presenting that day… It was me!!
After Mr. Ruck’s visit, we received an expert in Corporate Social Responsibility: Michael Hoevel from Glasshouse Partnership. It was a clever lecture about the reasons why business do CSR, the concepts of power, influence and efficiency, the accountability structure and the need of an integrated CSR aimed to benefit the whole organisation.
The last speaker in the term was Chris Lowe from College Public Policy. It was the first time I heard about lobbying from a professional practitioner. It turn out amazing and I particularly enjoyed when he described his activity as a perfectly legitimate task not as terrible as it is perceived in my country, where lobbying is still pervaded with secrecy and suspicion.
Bringing professional PR to this MA has been absolutely rewarding and effective for our knowledge and experience. It encourages us to face the future with good prospects.


Should the lobbying industry be banned?

Is it Lobbying a legitimate activity? Is it not transparent? Is it too powerful, or does it contribute to empower a minority? Does lobbying imply corruption?

These were some of the questions raised during an intensive debate about the lobbying industry last month in the University. After a long discussion the main conclusion was that lobbying should be more regulated (an official register?) and transparent, but it is not to be banned.
The situation of lobbying is a matter of public interest. In UK, there have been serious proposals to regulate it,
A month later, a speaker from a lobbying company described what his job consists of. He referred to it as an activity which seeks to influence public policy, government decisions or legislation. He talked about `better informed´ people as a consequence of this activity, which is legitimate and right.
What does a lobbying campaign consist of? The first step is to agree objectives with the client. It could be to get or change a law, to get licenses, contracts or grants from the government, or to defend own interests from a potential political attack. And to identify what the limits and constraints are about.
Then, research is needed: to find out who makes decision, who might support the campaign´s goals, to analyse how to get there… Once you have identified your objectives, meetings are to be done: with MPs, civil servants, ministers, etc. Very often it is more effective to meet civil servants than ministers, because those are who write the policy papers.
And also other meetings with organisations or groups with similar goals are to be done.
The next step is to build the popular support, and it is now when the media come to the fore. The media can be interesting or not in a lobbying process; it depends on the topic (there are topics which are completely boring to the media). It is recommended to use the media only if it is possible to create enough noise to shift the decision maker. It is a fact that politicians are very interested on what the media say. Another last important point of the process is to keep on influencing until the definitive answer it achieved.
Lobbying is about emphasising strengths and key points; it is usually about normal issues, not about big topics. The industry of lobbying is growing, although the concept of the activity itself varies in different countries. As a part of the democratic system lobbying is not to be banned, but improvements are needed to develop a better practice.