CSR= PR tool?

It’s no news that CSR and PR are closely interrelated. In a company, every action must be supervised by PR in order to make sure that no conflicts or misunderstandings arise. On the other hand, CSR is all about environmental issues, respecting human rights at the workplace and ethical approaches.

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The main question that arises is: do companies use CSR as a PR tool? Critics would argue that CSR programmes are undertaken to distract the public from the core issues and that corporations use CSR as a tool for their commercial benefit, by building relationships.

From my perspective, the majority of companies do boost their credibility and image due to their CSR activity, but the core issue is whether they use it just to promote their brand and be seen as a trustworthy, responsible and environmental-friendly company, or they actually undertake CSR activities with a real feeling of contributing to the community.csr-corporate-social-responsibility-370x229

In 2010, Marks & Spencer was named the UK’s greenest supermarket by Ethical Consumer magazine, based on companies’ policies on ethical and environmental issues such as animal welfare, workers’ rights and sustainable sourcing. In this case, did M & S have any PR benefits? Of course, the news was all over the media and this “award” brought them a lot of extra credibility.

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Did their profits register a tremendous increase? As Diana was saying, people that care more about price that quality and can’t afford to shop from M & S won’t change their behaviour just because of this national recognition; but on the other hand, being named the UK’s greenest supermarket certainly brought M & S an advantage in comparison to its closest competitors: Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, etc.

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So, in my view, any CSR activity carries PR benefits, but I think it’s highly unethical of a company to undertake CSR approaches and activities, just for media coverage and building reputation. Any CSR campaign should be based on a real concern and care for ethical behaviour, environmental impact and respecting human rights.

Ruxandra

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Ethical Sourcing – Quality or Price?

When we speak about ethical sourcing we speak about products that are sourced and created in safe facilities by workers who are treated well and paid fair wages to work legal hours. Ethical sourcing also implies that the supplier is respecting the environments during the production or the manufacture of those products.

Now my question is: how many of you actually CARE where the products come from, who worked for them, how many gallons of water were there used or how was it tested? In such a difficult global economical situation, the question comes down to: do we afford to care?

Can you AFFORD to pay up to double in food to provide your family ethically sourced products? Do you have the TIME to spend to read each and every single label in order to comprehend which product is ethically sourced and which is not? In my case anyway the answer to these questions is generally NO. And considering the present market and the present economical situation I find that ethical sourced products are fit for those who can afford them, who are extremely interested in the issue, highly opinionated and dedicated to ethical consumerism. Even though ethically sourced products are not MUCH more expensive than any other, it probably makes a difference for a mother or for student at the end of the month.          

There are some other elements blocking accessibility to ethical consumerism. Some involve lack of awareness, for example, of which product is ethically sourced and which is not and one of them is labeling. In my view if a particular product was promoted and advertised on the shelf or FRONT label as ethically sourced, and the price difference was not tremendous, me as a student, I would go for it. But yet again, I would not want unethically sourced products to get the same treatment. For example when going to a cheap clothing shop, I would not want to know that my T-shirt was made in Uzbekistan by a 6 year old or that working on my phone, a person was not paid properly.

The conclusion is, sometimes people can’t afford to have QUALITY and they only look at the PRICE! Stay tuned, Ruxi and Oana will blog about CSR and animal testing!

Tell us what you think!

This little video explains the process of ethical sourcing including major stakeholders, of a major company. It is quite interesting and easy to understand.

by Diana

Media and Reputation

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There are many examples out there in which the media takes a story, frames it one way or the other and presents it to the public. Some of the most popular and recent ones might be Megan Stammers and Jeremy Foster, the teacher and the under aged student that ran together for a holiday in France; another might be Jimmy Savile’s allegations that he had been abusing children during his life, and many more.

Jimmy Savile was a UK national pride whom is now accused of heavy sexual perversion. Worse than that? He can’t even defend himself anymore and everybody forgot to mention all the amazing stuff he has done in his life. This is how a reputation gets distroyed forever and the media is the presenter of the story. There are many sides to an issue. Sometimes the media’s framing over a story completely destroyed innocent people’s or organisations’ reputations, some other times the media was the one that helped solving a case. Problem is: when is it ethical and when is it not?

Perhaps, in a black and white world, the answer will be that it is not ethical to present a story to the public that has not been officially proven. But the best way to go around it would probably be to present an issue AS IT IS to the public, without any human bias, to present fairly and balanced all sides of the story and to wait for the official conclusion. But even like this there is a high chance that somebody’s reputation can be heavily stained, journalists are people and readers have the freedom of having their own opinion at the end of the day.

The use of media in such cases is sometimes useful, like finding some ones whereabouts, helping catch a fugitive of the law and so on. Completely forbidding the appearance of cases like this in the media, not only that does not apply with the liberty of speech but also it cuts from the power of it in situations in which it can be actually useful.

Therefore the best conclusion here would be to present a story as it is, without framing it or showing only one side of the issue. If there are allegations that have not been proven yet, they should be called so and the facts presented in the media should be presented without human bias and without any personal conclusions or opinions attached to it.

When it comes to PR though, reputation management would not be as exciting if the media would not stain reputations at the smallest gossip. On the other hand the media is not only a channel through which reputations can be destroyed but it goes both ways – it is also the one that can restore it. And in the end…we now have social media…any laws against the freedom of speech on ANY issue would be USELESS!


by Diana

No-comment…

Everybody lies and we all know it. We hide, invent or alter events for a variety of reasons: to avoid conflict, to protect relationships or to save reputations. But each individual defines “a lie” in his own way: withholding information, deceiving, omitting facts, misleading alternative beliefs, etc.

In the media, all over television and radio, we often hear interviewees responding to journalists’ questions with NO COMMENT. What do you think about when you hear those words? Do you still believe in what that person has to say? 

Personally, in such situations, I tend to question his/her honesty and transparency. On one hand, people choose to say NO COMMENT and withhold information just because they feel the need to play a safe card: saying nothing than answering to a question that you are not prepared to handle; words can destroy careers and reputations. But on the other hand, offering such a vague answer, often leaves room for interpretation. There are many cases when journalists invent facts or provide inaccurate stories about companies or individuals, just because the persons entitled to provide information choose not to. I certainly think that it is better to have an open attitude rather than avoiding communication with the media, as people often believe everything they read in newspapers, and inaccurate facts could damage reputations.

As many would claim, it is acceptable to say NO COMMENT when telling the whole truth would be damaging to a company or an individual. The main question that arises is: Is telling just a part of the truth considered lying? We all know that framing is a tool often used in the PR industry. PR professionals, when communicating to their target audience, often highlight particular aspects of an issue that might interest or appeal to that specific group of people. At the same time, they omit other details considered irrelevant or useless to that audience. Is this considered ethical? It should be. PRs are often in charge with researching and “translating”. They need to know what kind of information interests each group of stakeholders, and how to make that raw data accessible and easy to understand for them.

What do you think? What’s your reaction to a NO-COMMENT answer? Vote and share your views!  

By Ruxandra

Blabbing about what?

Public Relations (PR) is what I would define as ‘information flow management’, between an individual or an organisation and the public. PR attracts audience’s attention using topics of public interest and aiming to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, customers, suppliers, employees, governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in order to maintain a certain reputation about an individual/company.

As PR is based on public communication, it has always had special ethical responsibilities and challenges. This is due to the incredible potential they have for abusing their positions. The power to influence society means that PR holds enormous responsibility to be ethical. But what does being ethical mean?

Ethical principles have been studied since the period of the Ancient Greece with Plato and Aristotle developing the concept of the ’Golden Man’; when the classical philosophy collided with messianic monotheism the idea of ethics moved towards a deontological approach. The decision of right and wrong is decided on a universal basis, the Bible’s Golden Rule, “Do onto others as you would have them to unto you”. A more modern deontological approach is presented by Kant and the ‘Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals’ based on the role of cause and effect. Another approach to ethics, presented by English philosophers John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, is utilitarianism – ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. In the 20th century attention has been focused also on other theories such as: Subjectivism, Contractarianism, Existentialism, Cultural Relativism.

As we can see, there are a lot of different beliefs of what ethics are and how an ethical person should behave. A lot of people would simply argue that somebody who is ethical would always tell the truth. But how can we define which one is the truth? Furthermore, the ‘truth’, ‘media’ and ‘public relations’ are not three words that are likely to see put side by side very often but as Newsom (2010) affirms: “The extent and veracity of this relationship depend very much on the point from which you view the unholy trinity”.

Ethics are about values and personal, organisational and social standards. However, contemporary society it has grown more diverse along a number of factors, including culture, ethnicity, economy and class. Due to this diversity, ethical issues arise from conflict between experiences, beliefs, expectations and values. The evaluation of what constitutes ethical practice is more and more difficult because different people have different philosophies.

This blog will explore matters of public interest, how ethics have been used in different case studies and what was the influence of Public Relation in the discussed issue.

More information about ethics and Public Relations in:

COOMBS, W. T. and S. J. HOLLADAY, 2007. It’s not just PR. Public relations in society. UK : Blackwell Publishing

NEWSOM, D., J. V. TURK and D. KRUCKEBERG, 2010. This is PR. The realities of public relations. 10th ed. USA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Oana.