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.

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CRISIS COMMUNICATION: A MATTER OF ANTICIPATING

TESCO has come to the fore with a new crisis about horse meat. The company has managed properly the first one, and we as future PR practitioners are quite interested on analysing this second case.
The South-African Paralympian athlete Oscar Pistorious hired a PR practitioner after having shot his girlfriend in the bathroom (accidentally?) some days ago.
A crisis can become a disaster if it is not properly managed: Some people know it and others do not.
A recent webinar about Crisis Management by the CIPR offered an interesting description about it.
Silent brings concern. When a company faces a crisis the consequences might affect the stakeholders, the share prices, the organisation´s reputation…, and it is necessary to react. The benefits of this are protected and enhanced reputation; incidents well managed (provide information, give solutions to affected people).

Crisis must be taken seriously. The best advices are 1) to anticipate it; 2) to prepare it; 3) to train people in the organisation.


PREPARE. A PR person should be something like the conscience in an organisation: to provide warning systems or to make risk audits to detect potential risks.
Do not forget that risks can easily evolve into crisis. How will you communicate with your stakeholders? Who are they in your specific company? And first of all: be transparent, be clear and offer the public a voice and the means to answer all their concerns.
How can you PREPARE potential crisis states? You should have an updated contact list with internal and external publics. Keep the information about the company updated; and count -if possible- on film coverage. Think that your website will be the face of the company, and make it clear both for internal and external stakeholders. Change your front page to let people you know and control what is happening. And do not forget to keep the board involved.
TRAIN for crisis times. Do is at least once a year. List what could damage your organisation and think if you have the right people (and it also means available people: in crisis time, there is not work timetable). Think also about lawyers (they perceive the crisis in a different way, and you should talk to them in a different language). After the exercise, you should evaluate it and get the feedback.
We have talked about the anticipation and preparation of a crisis. When things are properly anticipated, their management is easier and the managers do not suffer a crisis themselves.
We will talk about when the crisis actually happens in next post.