A visit to the British Library

It is 10.30 in a cold London morning (12.03.2013). The hall of the British Library becomes a warm meeting point for the whole class group from Corporate Communications module. This impressive building hosts since 1998 the British Library.
We meet Micke, the Director of Communications and Ben, the Internal Communications manager. They both insist on the fact that the British Library is not a museum or a lending book organisation, but a research institution.
They offer us a very welcome cup of tea in a meeting room which is mainly dedicated to their deals with their stakeholders. They are 13 people within the communications team, which reports to the Marketing and Communications Department -this is an interesting point: Marketing and Communications in the same department.
During an hour and a half our hosts describe for us what their job consists of: the projects they are setting up, their media activity, their advocacy plans.
The responsible for Internal Communications describes they are two people working in that area, and the tools they count on to develop their important function in an organisation with more than 700 employees and a website with 20 blogs run by the employees themselves. When asked about how they control those 20 blogs’ content, the answer comes straightforwardly: there is no control; the employees know the British Library policy and guidelines and that is it.
Intranet, internal emails, staff surveys, video interviews, especial channels, newsletters, and a special social media platform for the staff made by Microsoft: Yammer…, are the means they work with to spread their messages to their public. They also have a staff engagement plan and an updated social media strategy. They encourage their employees to use social media but providing a frame to assure they do it properly.
Marketing and Communications work together in the organisation and they feel they are colleagues, not competitors. Marketing defines the audiences and Communications works with those audiences through different means. Another case of blurred boundaries between what some years ago would have been a real battle.
They evaluate their job through external agencies: monitoring, financial or GRP areas are evaluated by different companies.
If you have a look at the British Library website you can see that it is quite complete and updated.
Definitively, The British Library communications team works.


Monitoring Social Media activity in a company: Cadbury´s case study (2 and conclusions)

Cadbury´s social media activity is frequently updated: they post every day or every two days. They maintain the same content line on the three platforms, with little variations. The community manager of Cadbury partakes very often with audience´s comments –he shows his identity without any objection- and interacts with the consumers.

Cadbury´s content strategy helps to build communities around little events, dates or issues. Its most successful content is just showing the product directly to the public (chocolate itself provokes engagement). By showing the product to the audience it gets totally engaged (chocolate creates addiction?). The quick reactions are: “Want it!” ; “Now!”; “ I’ll try!”.

A high level of resonation by an audience with a positive tone and sentiment come from Cadbury´s social media strategy. The audience engagement is increasing week after week.

Increasing audience, increased number of posts, increasing participation (comments).

From ww.cadbury.co.uk

From ww.cadbury.co.uk

My recommendations to Cadbury´s social media strategy:
The company should study how to use social media channels to reach new audiences, more than maintaining the faithful ones. The company should try to find key influencers.
It could be helpful to develop different strategies by diversifying the content on the three platforms –each of one has different audiences-, instead of repeating it.
YouTube is a strong platform and it could provide a new and more global audience with a proper strategy. The company should improve this section.
Cadbury is proactive and persuasive, because of its high quality product. But it is necessary to be prudent when encouraging chocolate consume in a society with serious problems about obesity and not healthy eating habits. The company should study how to promote a kind of advice in this sense.

Monitoring Social Media activity in a company: Cadbury´s case study (1)

Monitoring the activity of a company in social media requires a high dose of persistence and an accurate sense of what is social media strategy about. I monitored Cadbury´s activity in UK between January and February 2013, and found out interesting data about it.
The company works in three platforms: FaceBook, Google+ and Twitter. It is completely focused on consumers and its mail social media goals is just to raise and maintain AWARENESS about its products, which the company does in suggestive ways with posts like “They are back: have a fling with a CremeEgg!”.
It also goes after increasing ENGAGEMENT by creating and promoting consumer micro-communities (the Cadbury Kitchen, among others): building faithful communities which are growing and expanding their messages to the people around them by sharing contents (this is Cadbury´s audience segmentation).
They are PERSUASIVE and try to convert people to their new products.

Cadbury works with a strong and powerful product: chocolate, an easy-to-create and promote consumption habit. They do not need to convince people to have chocolate, but just to keep reminding them of doing it as often as they want.

Their consumers love the brand and are faithful to it; Cadbury knows it and makes the most of this fact.

Who are they (the consumers)? They are mostly women, but also men, with different ages depending on the social platform (younger in Google+, middle age people in FaceBook), between 18 and 54. They go from traditional housewives to casual and dynamic young people.

Is Social Media winning the battle against Traditional Media?

It is a fact that the PR industry is dazzled by the social media factor due to the possibility of reaching the public directly, with consequently more autonomy and independency to manage the communication process. David Meerman in The New Rules of Marketing and PR affirms: “We have been liberated from relying exclusively on buying access through advertising or convincing mainstream media to talk us up”.

 In that sense Social Media has opened different ways for PR practitioners to access to broader and more targeted audiences, but it does not mean that it is the end for traditional media.

 Meerman´s statement is understandable from the point of view of an organisation interested on delivering content. However, how does the public behave when they need specific information? The report “Influencing the influencers” (*) describes: `Media consumption has changed with the proliferation of digital media, but influencers continue overwhelmingly to trust traditional media. Influencers get news from faster, digital sources, but often from the online version of a newspaper or broadcaster (…). The public is far less likely to get their news from social media outlets´.

 And: `The people and outlets that are trusted on Twitter are by and large the same individuals and organisations that are trusted offline (…).  Embracing social media is a good thing but in the rush to have a greater digital presence, organisations shouldn’t forget that it is traditional media outlets to which the public still turns´.

 In a recent congress about journalism in Spain, the director of a local newspaper affirmed that what is published on Twitter does not become a piece of news until it is also published on a newspaper.

 So the public need to corroborate the information which comes from social media with traditional media to make is trustable and credible. Two-ways communications are not replacing one-way traditional media, since still traditional media coverage is needed. That is the way the public behaves. Traditional media are still trusted as a resource of guarantied information, even with social media making it easier and quicker to access or share information.

[*] Report: Open Road, Rebecca Reilly and Nick Nye (2011), Influencing the influencers, London

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.

An ‘Excellent’ vision about Public Relations practice: James E. Grunig

This is the 6th month in this Public Relations MA, and we have had many opportunities to study the theory about Public Relations produced by one of its main gurus: James E. Grunig.
James E. Grunig is a theorist with more than 20 years of experience. His Four Models of Public Relations are for us -the students- quite familiar.
The first one, ‘Press agentry/publicity’ is characterized by a one-way communication process, where organisations use ‘persuasion’ and ‘manipulation’ to influence audiences to behave as the organization desires.
His second model is called the ‘Public information model’, also with one-way communication process and organisations using pses press releases and other one-way communication techniques to distribute organizational information. The Public Relations practitioner is often referred to as the in-house journalist.
‘Two-way asymmetrical model’ is his third proposal, with an imbalanced two-ways communication process, and with organisations using persuasion and manipulation to influence audiences to behave as they desire. They do not use research to find out how stakeholders feel about the organization.
The last model, the ‘Two-way symmetrical model’, offers a two-ways communication process where organisations uses communication to negotiate with the public, resolve conflict and promote mutual understanding and respect between the organization and its stakeholders.

Today we are reading one of his articles, ‘The paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation’, published in 2009. In his article, Grunig describes how digital media can make the profession more global, strategic, interactive, two-way, symmetrical or dialogical and socially responsible.
He connects this potential of social media with other of his most renowned theories: The Excellence Model, a theory which promotes the PR practice as a separate management function within the organisations. An integrated communication function where the PR department integrates all public relations activities without reporting any more to diverse organisational sections like Human Resources, Marketing, Finance or Law.
Because social media are above all ‘two-way’, he encourages chief communication officers to get properly qualified and to think more globally.
Because social media are ‘conversations to join’, he reaffirms the content of his ‘situational theory’, where he defends how members of publics always have controlled the messages to which they are exposed (and no the organisations). And advises PR professionals to stablish better relationships by joining these conversations.
He recommends insistently not to use social media in one-way communication if organisations are expecting social-networking success.
Finally, Grunig affirms that social media could help organistions to identify theirs stakeholders; they are an excellent tool to scan the environment and to segment the publics, and to anticipate and deal with issues and crises. They can also be an effective instrument to evaluate communication programmes and to measure relationships and reputation.
This is another way to yield excellent results in this exciting profession.

Internal Communication, Engagement and Social Media

engagementInternal communication is coming again to the fore within corporate communications since companies are more conscious about the value of employees as an important part of their stakeholders. Many organisations are suffering the consequences of a changing business environment (which implies employee movements after mergers or acquisitions, brain drain, etc.) and globalisation is reducing differences among companies, which perceive the need to distinguish themselves from the competition, their rivals. Employee engagement is becoming one of the main strengths in organisations. This engagement does not only affect to employees who are in the public-facing line, but to all of them in general. Public relations can contribute great value to the organisations by developing effective internal communication.

Organisations are discovering that engaged employees form a real asset to the company, contribute to productivity and are a saving money source. Organisations want engaged employees to stay within the company, but to make this real they need to improve the way of building mutual relationships. Old one-way management styles are ineffective in this new business environment.

Social media activity is increasingly becoming part of the daily life in developed societies and it is developing more and more digital ways to connect people. This fact is provoking a deep change in people´s behaviour, building up a more interactive society. The employees, as a part of this interactive society, also feel the need of being better informed within the organisations, they demand to participate in decision-making process and require quicker and more functional communication channels. The Net generation (people who could be qualify as `social media natives´) is increasingly gaining access to the workplace and this fact reinforces the current demand of change in an organisational dialogue which can be no more one-way style because there is no more one-way outside. Stakeholders have become more demanding, better informed and more critical. They are empowered because of the digital revolution and in consequence organisations must improve the ways to deal with them.

Social media tools, as a component of this organic social change, could provide the organisations the means to develop an improved communication strategy between employees and senior managers, who should integrate this practice into their strategic management and improve their current internal communication practice. But there are still many reservations, since these new tools suppose a big innovation.