Lobbying, a democratic essential

This is a guest blog post by Sharif D. Rangnekar, President of the Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI), ICCO PR Board Member, and the Chief Executive officer of Integral PR. This post originally appeared on livemint.com.

Lobbying, as a practice, attracts a very negative response that excludes the reality of how public policy evolves in a democratic country. This misperception is the product of the opaque manner with which the profession operates and because lobbying attracts attention only in the light of contentious issues and not when positive outcomes are achieved. In India, the reaction is perhaps justified given the history of misuse of power and the abuse of a system involving a variety of influential people. Yet, these are exceptions, even if this is all that gets amplified in the name of lobbying.

What must be understood is that governments, parliamentarians or even the media do not function in isolation from the people at large. Nor are they custodians of all knowledge or what people need or how a country thinks. It is with inputs from citizen’s groups such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), think tanks, consumer interest societies and industry chambers and associations that debate and discussion translates into policy. It is worth noting that these groups employ a lobbyist or lobby on their own. Such things don’t happen in a vacuum.

Internationally, lobbying is said to date back to 1215 when King John of England allowed people to petition him on any violation of rights. The US interpreted this as the right to be heard.

According to European Public Affairs Consultancies’ Association (EPACA) guidelines (adopted by the Public Relations Consultants Association of India, or PRCAI), lobbying has two primary aspects—“a society that does not have autocratic decision makers must use a group process to make political decisions,” and “lobbying as an aspect of legislative process”. Yet, since the good results of lobbying were not visible to the public and tainted stuff was all that made news, the European Union (EU) created a register where interest representation had to be recorded, with EPACA carrying out monitoring and self regulating.

In the mid-1990s, the big concern in the US was that of government officials switching roles to represent corporations. They had easier access to the system besides a wealth of information that citizens would not have had. The register ensured that every representation was recorded and failure to do so within specified time led to hefty fines.

With these structures, 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.

Even with this size and importance of work what is in place are largely guidelines of PRCAI that are based on EPACA norms and US laws. These are followed by a handful of participants.

Yet there is a structure. Some firms follow the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and others state their own codes of governance that disallow the use of any form of influence other than dialogue, discussion and representation. The services offered to clients often fall under government affairs, advocacy, public affairs or even multi-constituency engagement.

With this spirit, the interest of their clients then translates into direct engagement, platform creation or association (working with chambers or industry associations), media relations and, importantly, the use of research and global examples related to the evolution of policies in question in different societies. There are registers at every government office one signs but there is an absence of declaration or identification of purpose or profession. Hence, there is a sense of anonymity.

Yet, with the help of lobbying, India has seen significant changes in policy, consumption and general evolution ranging 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.

Further, the association—PRCAI—needs to be strengthened. Participants must sign the dotted line and agree not to make any payment in cash or in kind, or barter so as to influence regulation. And when it comes to public (taxpayers) money, the need to exercise greater caution has been underlined by PRCAI and this must be committed to by one and all.

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.

 

Minimal report on sustainability and corporate social responsibility is better than no report at all

This is a guest blog post by Maja Recnik, Education Director at SPEM Communication Group, Slovenia

One can never find the appropriate time to start reporting on sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Global companies are currently at the head of the game in the area of reporting about sustainability while global organizations, such as United Nations and ISO, define reporting methods and structure. In the next year European Union plans to prescribe reporting as obligatory for all European companies. The least European companies can do to adapt to this rising trend is to start now.

Let us look at how some global companies handle this.

According to data received from the audit firm KPMG 95 % of 250 largest companies in the world annualy report on sustainability. The ratio would be approximately 20 % if 5000 largest companies in the world were taken into consideration. Of all companies included in database CorporateRegister.com exactly 6400 make the report. If smaller countries and more languages were included, this number would probably raise to 10000 companies. This is still a small number but the trends predict it would definitely increase. For the next year, for all companies with at least 500 employees the European Commission announced the revoluton in reporting. Thus it won’t only make a huge change in company’s attitude towards sustainable business but will also follow north European countries where reporting is already an obligation.

The need for reporting on sustainable operation and social responsibility emerged in 1990s when the photography of 12-year old boy, who was sewing Nike shoes with his bare hands, was published in media. The photo soon surrounded the world and despite Nike’s effort in the last twenty years to rebuild reputation the image could not disappear. The definition of sustainable development as three aspects of the operation, economical, social and ecological, emerged after the year 2000. Companies should plan their development in a beneficial manner for the next generations. The United Nations first introduced reporting for environment in order to establish common standards so the efforts of companies could be compared. After the year 2010, knowing that companies by doing their work don’t pollute the environment wasn’t enough anymore; besides sustainable growth they must also attain positive effects on environment and society. The future will introduce more specialized reporting areas and integrated reports. The Organization GRI (Global Initiative Report) intends to introduce the next generation of G4 standards which are supposed to focus more on materiality. The event is presumably going to happen next week in Amsterdam. The novelty is the transition from wide scale reporting to reports considering important issues that affect the operation of business and the relationship of participants towards the company.

Preparation of report is a process lasting approximately six till eight months when doing it for the first time. According to specialists’ experiences the report is useful in 90 % because it creates a dialog between the company and participants, on the basis of which it is possible to predict risks and determine opportunities. At first, it isn’t necessary for the companies to choose one of the international standards but can start with minimal observation of their operation on business, society and environment. Elaine Cohem, the counsellor for sustainable reporting at Reporter Beyond Business, who at the invitation ofZavod Ekvilib gave lectures to companies in Network for Corporate Social Responsibility Slovenia, pointed out 25 common indexes for measuring sustainability. Some of them are for example total electricity consumption, joint gasoline and other fuel consumption, the number of kilometres by plane, water consumption, kilograms of trash. In the field of relationship with employees, the indexes are for example employee contentment, the number of absences due to illness or injury, gender diversity, number of training hours. In the field of relationship with customers: customers contentment, product safety, the number of complaints, suppliers satisfaction, payments in due time. Another important area is the field of charity as for example the amount of donations to local communities, number and hours of work of volunteers and other. It is essential that the company collects the required data first. It must accomplish discussions with various participants because thus it already gets the basic data for defining the reporting. Beside the process going on in the company it must be noted that these reports are of most importance to employees and academics who analyse them and then also to customers and suppliers.

The majority of global companies already has a 10-years reporting tradition. Reasons for this are not only various sustainability and companies reputation scales but also greater consumer awareness. Between the same price and the same quality the consumer will probably decide for the company which has a story of sustainability. Likewise we will rather accept a job in a trustworthy company. Magazine Corporate Responsibility (CR Magazine) is one of many which regularly publish data considering company reporting. Its scale of 100 best corporate citizens in USA is a top-level list for measuring practices of corporate citizenship. Global company PPG which shares a joint company in Slovenia in assocciation with Helios Company was selected among finalists. The magazine gathered 318 points from public available data such as annual report, management statements etc. in seven categories: environment, climate changes, human rights, philanthropy, employee relations, financial communities and government. PPG company has issued a sustainability report in April for 2012 where it published sustainability goals and defined new vision till the year 2020. Their sustainability framework follows more than a year long internal and external analysis to determine the most important effects to the company and participants. The company made a plan to decrease environmental impact, improve health, safety and welfare of employees as well as enhance and report about donations and charity of its employees, all these to be accomplished until 2020. In their opinion this was a great step forward which will help all employees in the world to get a method and measurable goals for promotion and development of sustainability practices. Some of the goals are reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for 1.5 % per year, reducing overflows and releases for 10 % per year, initiating programs for employee welfare and attaining 30 % sale of sustainable products until the year 2020. The report is made by GRI standard G3.

Other successful global companies with high quotes in the sustainable development field develop concepts where they put themselves and key participants in the forefront. In Unilever the key participants are employees and consumers. Their vision is creating consumer awareness to the point at which they will use cleaning agents more economically and qualitatively. By doing that the company will indirectly affect environment protection and economic independence of consumers. In a similar innovative way Marks and Spencer began their sustainable concept named Plan A since plan B no longer exists. His sustainable model brought not only the reduction of costs but also the increase of profit. Technology company SAP is the first that made a report on sustainability on network and interactively connected itself with its participants in order to get feedback. 100 individuals from different target groups replied and they were valuable source of information on how to improve operation.

Experiences of big global companies are of invaluable importance for companies who are only at the beginning of understanding sustainable operation. The European Union tries to put itself in the forefront. What will these changes bring will be possible to see only when all companies are obliged to operate and report sustainably.

The Matryoshka Effect: exploring Russia's global brand

This is a guest blog post by Andrey Barannikov, CEO of SPN Ogilvy, Chairman of  Russian PR Association AKOS and ICCO Board Member There are topics that one can discuss forever. For Russian PR practitioners, one of those is the country’s image in the world. This issue has been regularly raised on key national industry events over the past few years, so you would think that the topic is rather outworn. However, recent news on the business, political and other arenas keep bringing the issue up, urging us to look at it again and again, each time from a new angle. On April 24th, SPN Ogilvy, in partnership with the leading global PR industry expert The Holmes Report, held a panel discussion in Moscow dedicated to the brand of Russia and the way corporate and product brands affect it. The panel became The Holmes Report’s debute event in Russia. As Arun Sudhaman, partner and Managing Editor of The Holmes Report, noted, the Russian PR industry shows an impressive development dynamics, both in terms of quantitative and qualitative indicators, and the appearance of The Holmes Report in Russia is, in a way, an acknowledgement to this. The panel called “The Matryoshka Effect: Russia’s face within and without” featured several senior Russian PR practitioners representing such companies as VTB Capital, Shell, MegaFon, UTAir and a government agency Rossotrudnichestvo dealing with foreign affairs. I will try to give you an overview of what was discussed. A national brand: why does it matter? The presence of Russia at the international scene, as our colleague Arun highlighted, is getting more and more noticeable, in terms of Russian companies entering the global market, and also in the light of the political transformations and upcoming sports events. That’s why the question of the national image obtains a particular importance, taking into consideration the growing globalization – after all, it affects the success of domestic business in the world and the ability of a country to attract foreign investments. According to the latest international research Arun cited (Futurebrand etc.), the reputation of Russia as an investment destination is quite strong – it ranks fourth among the European countries – however, the number of projects is decreasing, and the brand of Russia is in the state of decline (alongside with Pakistan and Paraguay – not the most desirable company for a country aiming to boost its reputation before investors…). The coming Universiade, the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and the 2018 FIFA World Cup are opening ample opportunities to change this situation. Referring to the London Olympics, Arun fairly mentioned that such events help to change not only the country’s image abroad, but also the way citizens perceive their country, business, culture and themselves, which is probably even more important. Business takes the lead “Business is an avant-guard of the international dialogue, it is a communicator and mediator. The way it looks and behaves shapes an idea of the possibility to work with this country”. This very important point was made by Olga Podoynitsyna, Managing Director and Head of Global Corporate Relations and Marketing of VTB Capital, a company for which improving the perception of Russia internationally is an organic part of their communications with the global media. Leading international media outlets are the key “opinion leaders” shaping investors’ attitude to the country. However, as Olga sadly concluded, today the international media are still influenced by the same stereotypes as 5-6 years ago: in their eyes, Russia is still made up of matryoshkas (nest dolls), vodka, caviar, the Kalashnikov machine gun and girls. However, the surveys show that the image of Russia also has a few characteristics investors consider attractive – those are connected not only with its economic potential, but also with intellectual and cultural resources. These are the things Russians should communicate more actively to key global decision-makers. It’s not that simple! However, a country’s image is a complex phenomenon. Petr Lidov, PR director of MegaFon (one of Russia’s top 3 mobile operators), argued that it would be wrong talking about the creation of Russia’s image as a single entity, which would be the same all over the world and for everybody. Indeed, the perception of Russia differs from country to country, depending on the history of our relationships and on the national values. If the West, where democracy stands above all, treats Russia cautiously, then in China, where power is revered, our country is deeply respected. The sector discussed also matters: e.g., Russian oil, gaz and banking industries look very attractive to foreign investors, while no one can call Russia a much-desired tourist destination (although perhaps the potential here lies within positioning it as an extreme travel experience?..). Finally, the country’s geopolitical image and its leaders’ images also form the context of its perception. You know who we mean. Language is power The discussion on Russia’s image would be incomplete without representatives of government agencies. Oleg Belyakov, Adviser of the Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, recalled a statement of the Ambassador of Switzerland in Russia: “I have never been to any other country the reputation of which would differ so much from the reality”. Unfortunately, all the efforts to improve the country’s image undertaken on the federal level so far have not been able to improve the prevalent negative attitude towards it. One of the major problems is that there is no one “in charge” of it – however, the country’s image is indeed everybody’s concern. In this respect, the government, the business and the PR community should be playing as one team. Another problem is that, sadly, we are often not aware of our own resources and the new generation doesn’t feel the connection to the cultural and historical heritage of the country. It is important to show that this heritage is not gone – it is there and present, and it is one of the strongest sides of Russia, in particular, in the eyes of the global community. A powerful resource, the potential of which is underestimated, is also the Russian language, which does not only helps spreading the culture of Russia, but also affects its economic positions in the world: you do business with those who speak the language you know. My father used to be a respected indologist, and I still remember that magazine published in Russian in India – a simple and cheap tool, but what an effect! So there is a huge opportunity for the government and business cooperation lying in the development of Russian language and culture centers across the world. Think globally To succeed on the international scene, domestic companies must remember that Russia is part of the global world. Igor Ignatiev, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Shell Russia, felt the importance of the global vision when he worked at the Sakhalin 2 project, where the tiniest event on the oil platform would instantly become a global news. The company’s task was to educate the employees that the way each of them acts forms the perception of Russia as a global energy leader. According to Lev Koshlyakov, Deputy CEO for Corporate Communications of UTair (one of the leading Russian airlines working internationally), when entering the international scene it is important to think, first of all, what values we bring there. For his business, the expert defined the following combination: “international expertise of a company with a Russian experience”. A riddle wrapped in a mystery It would of course be impossible to elaborate a strategy of building the country’s image within 2 hours. However, the experts and the audience agreed that for the country in general and for every Russian company it is crucially important to:

  • Think in a global perspective;
  • Tell the truth about the problems and, at the same time, take measures to solve them;
  • Appreciate and leverage the resources available;
  • Start from small details, such as putting signs in English in the underground or ensuring adequate behaviour of Russian tourists abroad, for a start.
And, going back to the matryoshka metaphor, perhaps the most elegant way to close the discussion on this rich subject was sir Winston Churchill’s saying quoted by Lev Koshlyakov: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. May be, after all, that’s what Russia’s brand is?..кредитка онлайн заявка на кредит

The Matryoshka Effect: exploring Russia’s global brand

This is a guest blog post by Andrey Barannikov, CEO of SPN Ogilvy, Chairman of  Russian PR Association AKOS and ICCO Board Member

There are topics that one can discuss forever. For Russian PR practitioners, one of those is the country’s image in the world. This issue has been regularly raised on key national industry events over the past few years, so you would think that the topic is rather outworn. However, recent news on the business, political and other arenas keep bringing the issue up, urging us to look at it again and again, each time from a new angle.

On April 24th, SPN Ogilvy, in partnership with the leading global PR industry expert The Holmes Report, held a panel discussion in Moscow dedicated to the brand of Russia and the way corporate and product brands affect it. The panel became The Holmes Report’s debute event in Russia. As Arun Sudhaman, partner and Managing Editor of The Holmes Report, noted, the Russian PR industry shows an impressive development dynamics, both in terms of quantitative and qualitative indicators, and the appearance of The Holmes Report in Russia is, in a way, an acknowledgement to this.

The panel called “The Matryoshka Effect: Russia’s face within and without” featured several senior Russian PR practitioners representing such companies as VTB Capital, Shell, MegaFon, UTAir and a government agency Rossotrudnichestvo dealing with foreign affairs. I will try to give you an overview of what was discussed.

A national brand: why does it matter?

The presence of Russia at the international scene, as our colleague Arun highlighted, is getting more and more noticeable, in terms of Russian companies entering the global market, and also in the light of the political transformations and upcoming sports events. That’s why the question of the national image obtains a particular importance, taking into consideration the growing globalization – after all, it affects the success of domestic business in the world and the ability of a country to attract foreign investments.

According to the latest international research Arun cited (Futurebrand etc.), the reputation of Russia as an investment destination is quite strong – it ranks fourth among the European countries – however, the number of projects is decreasing, and the brand of Russia is in the state of decline (alongside with Pakistan and Paraguay – not the most desirable company for a country aiming to boost its reputation before investors…). The coming Universiade, the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and the 2018 FIFA World Cup are opening ample opportunities to change this situation. Referring to the London Olympics, Arun fairly mentioned that such events help to change not only the country’s image abroad, but also the way citizens perceive their country, business, culture and themselves, which is probably even more important.

Business takes the lead

“Business is an avant-guard of the international dialogue, it is a communicator and mediator. The way it looks and behaves shapes an idea of the possibility to work with this country”. This very important point was made by Olga Podoynitsyna, Managing Director and Head of Global Corporate Relations and Marketing of VTB Capital, a company for which improving the perception of Russia internationally is an organic part of their communications with the global media.

Leading international media outlets are the key “opinion leaders” shaping investors’ attitude to the country. However, as Olga sadly concluded, today the international media are still influenced by the same stereotypes as 5-6 years ago: in their eyes, Russia is still made up of matryoshkas (nest dolls), vodka, caviar, the Kalashnikov machine gun and girls. However, the surveys show that the image of Russia also has a few characteristics investors consider attractive – those are connected not only with its economic potential, but also with intellectual and cultural resources. These are the things Russians should communicate more actively to key global decision-makers.

It’s not that simple!

However, a country’s image is a complex phenomenon. Petr Lidov, PR director of MegaFon (one of Russia’s top 3 mobile operators), argued that it would be wrong talking about the creation of Russia’s image as a single entity, which would be the same all over the world and for everybody. Indeed, the perception of Russia differs from country to country, depending on the history of our relationships and on the national values. If the West, where democracy stands above all, treats Russia cautiously, then in China, where power is revered, our country is deeply respected. The sector discussed also matters: e.g., Russian oil, gaz and banking industries look very attractive to foreign investors, while no one can call Russia a much-desired tourist destination (although perhaps the potential here lies within positioning it as an extreme travel experience?..). Finally, the country’s geopolitical image and its leaders’ images also form the context of its perception. You know who we mean.

Language is power

The discussion on Russia’s image would be incomplete without representatives of government agencies. Oleg Belyakov, Adviser of the Head of Rossotrudnichestvo, recalled a statement of the Ambassador of Switzerland in Russia: “I have never been to any other country the reputation of which would differ so much from the reality”. Unfortunately, all the efforts to improve the country’s image undertaken on the federal level so far have not been able to improve the prevalent negative attitude towards it. One of the major problems is that there is no one “in charge” of it – however, the country’s image is indeed everybody’s concern. In this respect, the government, the business and the PR community should be playing as one team.

Another problem is that, sadly, we are often not aware of our own resources and the new generation doesn’t feel the connection to the cultural and historical heritage of the country. It is important to show that this heritage is not gone – it is there and present, and it is one of the strongest sides of Russia, in particular, in the eyes of the global community. A powerful resource, the potential of which is underestimated, is also the Russian language, which does not only helps spreading the culture of Russia, but also affects its economic positions in the world: you do business with those who speak the language you know. My father used to be a respected indologist, and I still remember that magazine published in Russian in India – a simple and cheap tool, but what an effect! So there is a huge opportunity for the government and business cooperation lying in the development of Russian language and culture centers across the world.

Think globally

To succeed on the international scene, domestic companies must remember that Russia is part of the global world. Igor Ignatiev, Deputy Chairman of the Board of Shell Russia, felt the importance of the global vision when he worked at the Sakhalin 2 project, where the tiniest event on the oil platform would instantly become a global news. The company’s task was to educate the employees that the way each of them acts forms the perception of Russia as a global energy leader.

According to Lev Koshlyakov, Deputy CEO for Corporate Communications of UTair (one of the leading Russian airlines working internationally), when entering the international scene it is important to think, first of all, what values we bring there. For his business, the expert defined the following combination: “international expertise of a company with a Russian experience”.

A riddle wrapped in a mystery

It would of course be impossible to elaborate a strategy of building the country’s image within 2 hours. However, the experts and the audience agreed that for the country in general and for every Russian company it is crucially important to:

  • Think in a global perspective;
  • Tell the truth about the problems and, at the same time, take measures to solve them;
  • Appreciate and leverage the resources available;
  • Start from small details, such as putting signs in English in the underground or ensuring adequate behaviour of Russian tourists abroad, for a start.

And, going back to the matryoshka metaphor, perhaps the most elegant way to close the discussion on this rich subject was sir Winston Churchill’s saying quoted by Lev Koshlyakov: “Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. May be, after all, that’s what Russia’s brand is?..

Ten Good Reasons To Be Happy About The PR Agency Business

Blog post by David Gallagher, Senior Partner and EMEA CEO of Ketchum, ICCO President
Twitter @TBone Gallagher

It is customary at various industry events to discuss issues of common concern – the rising power of procurement, the threat of other marketing disciplines and questions about where growth will come from and which industries to specialize in. It’s easy to define our common interests by our common challenges, and there is of course tremendous value in finding common ground through national associations and ICCO.

But I am by nature an optimist, and I’d prefer to focus on the reasons we have to celebrate our business and to discuss how we can continue to develop our industry in a way that benefits our people, our clients and our own personal aspirations.

In fact I’m so optimistic, so encouraged by what I’ve seen in my meetings around the world, that I can think of ten reasons to be happy in the PR consultancy business today.

1. PR is (almost) truly global.

For decades we’ve talked about the globalization of the PR business, and we have in fact seen consultancies arise and organize all over the world.

A key objective of ICCO is to help organize new associations wherever there’s interest. This further professionalizes the industry and expands the perspectives and insights we are able to share with our long-standing members. It also give us the scope and reach to begin organising into regional structures that will enable us to provide both a global perspective and regionally relevant agenda; in Europe, for example, we will host a Summit this autumn in France to focus on issues of European interest, and we’re looking at new ways to facilitate cooperation on specific items of interest to our members, like coordinated activity in Brussels.

We are in active conversations now with groups in Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as the very well-established and respected Council of PR Firms of Canada. We will host a summit in India next year, and we will fulfil a personal ambition of mine to begin working with groups and agencies in Africa, which promises to be the next big area of geographic growth for the industry.

2. PR is truly local.

While globalization steals the headlines, the real action may be in localization: through a combination of social media applications that focus on highly specific localization, and the tracking of search and post trends by city and even post-codes, the potential for PR is enormous.

Whether agencies work for local clients that now are now ‘turned on’ by PR and its potential, or for global multinationals, there are several trends worth noting:

  1. Content style is moving from the formal to informal, in all languages. This requires a detailed and nuanced understanding of how language and imagery are used locally, and creates opportunities for us to add value beyond mere translation to communications planning and activity.
  2. Beyond language and culture, there are opportunities to support clients locally in community management, customer support and other important aspects of client business.
  3. There will be opportunities to provide training and learning support to clients interested in working locally workforce’s knowledge and awareness of business practices and cultural norms.
  4. Global brands will continue to find ways to connect with local sensitivities and community-mindedness. McDonalds for example is experimenting with a MaccyD’s brand in Australia in recognition of how the brand is actually seen and discussed there.

Much of the ICCO agenda focuses on helping member associations track these trends and opportunities for the benefit of their member agencies. Training programmes, greatly upgraded with content and trainers from support through the UK PRCA will aim to give local agencies differentiation locally via their national associations, and our regional and global conferences will highlight learning and best practices from all over the world.

If you believe the trends of globalization and localization are real and will continue, the implications are clear. Global networks like Ketchum must find ways to reach into the local markets that are most important to our clients – which seems to be all of them – in ways that are efficient and consistent for the client, and interesting and rewarding for our people. And while local agencies don’t need to surrender their independence, they will want to find a way to connect with the wider world of expertise, information and opportunity. Here again, ICCO is committed to helping its member associations do just this.

3. Technology will set us free.

Without a doubt, the most important development in PR right now is the rise of Internet-driven communications. I could write a separate blog post discussing this, but I think it’s the most important opportunity for us in 60 years.

Agencies seem to respond in one of three ways:

  1. Ignore it
  2. Outsource it
  3. Transform their business around it

My personal belief is that this is a once in a generation opportunity to modernise the industry, and that the only viable strategy is to transform our business around the rise of digital applications and social media.

The writing is on the wall, and more than likely it is a Facebook wall. Organizations that fail to engage with their audiences in these new ways are on a path to self-destruction. Those that embrace this – and the agencies that show them how, are the ones that will succeed.

4. Psychology is the new black.

As exciting as a world linked and driven by technology is for our business, there’s a whole new universe of opportunity much closer to hand: our understanding of the human mind. While much of the action focuses on moving information and ideas from point to point around the world, there is increasing interest in how ideas and opinions and decisions form in the 3 pounds of the average human brain. Advances in brain imagery and neurology, and serious analysis of well-designed experiences in sociology and psychology, are offering dramatic insight into how we interpret and use information and emotions to make decisions about what we buy, how we vote, whether to smoke or who to marry.

We would rightly say that we’ve always put psychology and our understanding of human nature at the heart of our work, but I think we’ll see social science take on increasing prominence in our strategic work. Concepts like ‘nudging’ and ‘framing’ are increasingly common in the way agencies are planning and designing strategy, and candidates with credentials in psychology or anthropology are increasingly sought after.

At Ketchum we’ve enjoyed a partnership with another Omnicom company called Maslansky and Partners. Their basic assumption is that what we say as communicators is far less important than what audiences actually hear. And before you say this is obvious, think about how many times we have included key messages in our content without ever doing the research necessary to know if the messages work. Maslansky helps track the relative power of different messages with audiences with highly specific testing in advance of any production or communication.

5. Advertising value equivalency is dead.

Well, if it’s not dead, it’s dying. Those of you familiar with the Barcelona Principles created by the Association of Measurement and Evaluation in Communications will know that the industry is finally getting serious about ending the charade of measuring the value of our work by trying to compare it some kind of comparable form of advertising.

ICCO will be working closely with AMEC to educate our member associations and the client community on the benefits of better measurement and the use of analytics in public relations. We will be supporting their next global conference in June in Madrid and I would encourage you to attend or follow the proceedings closely. My good friend and Ketchum colleague David Rockland is president of AMEC and I assure you nobody in our world is more committed to the application of measurement and research in PR.

6. Advertising is our new frenemy.

A constant refrain at PR meetings is the competitive threat posed by advertising agencies and their incursions onto “our turf.” There is no doubt to me that the lines between the different channels of communications and marketing are blurring, and there will be times when assignments we thought should rightfully be “ours” will go to an ad agency – especially as clients struggle to understand the difference between our approach to social media and content and theirs.

But I think there’s a greater opportunity than risk posed by the advertising community, and that’s in working together to solve client problems. Rather than argue the superiority of PR or the supposed weaknesses of advertising, I think we would be better served looking for ways to foster collaboration and joined up thinking. Our clients will thank us, our work will be better, and ultimately we’ll create greater opportunities together than apart.

You can expect ICCO to remain committed to helping member associations voice the value of PR consultancy and good practice, but you can also expect us to open dialogue with those representing other communications disciplines, and to identify best practices for integrated communications among member agencies.

7. Internal communications – an emerging market right under our noses.

One of the fastest growing areas at Ketchum is internal communications and change management. Rather than trying to ‘convert’ our external communications specialists, we’ve hired organizational psychologists and other specialists to help clients with employee engagement and advocacy, recruiting and retention, and managing major change initiatives.

This line of work offers access to whole new client budgets, expands the areas in which we can add value and create new relationships, and obviously helps to align internal and external communications.

At ICCO we will investigate the interest among member associations for developing content, training and growth opportunities in this area.

8. Corporate communications is taking centre-stage

With greater transparency and openness comes greater scrutiny on corporate and institutional communicators. External audiences – consumers, customers, investors and regulators – want to know that companies are doing what they say they are doing. This presents an opportunity for communications advisors to frame corporate policy, not just the words to describe corporate policy.

It also ushers in a new age of expectations for leaders, who are now expected to be more than merely good decision-makers; they now must be great communicators – engaging and inspiring, and giving a sense of purpose to the organization’s business.

At Ketchum we collect data annually on what the public expects from leaders in terms of communications, and we plan on making this available through ICCO and our member associations.

9. Our creative moment in the sun is upon us.

This year I have the privilege and honour of serving as president of the PR jury at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity. Now I know there have been some questions in the past about the lack of winning entries coming from PR firms, and the value of supporting a competition that’s not a “pure “ PR event, and I’ll save these debates for another day.
I will say, however, that I’m encouraged by the number of PR agencies who say they are entering work for Cannes this year, and the quality of the work I have seen at other competitions like the SABRE awards, the PRCA awards, and PR Week awards, has every chance of shining on the stage this summer in France.

10. We are changing the world.

I say this with no sense of irony or cynicism. We have always helped our clients make a difference in the world by helping them understand the expectations placed upon them by their stakeholders and to align their words and actions with those expectations, and in many cases this work has been instrumental to improving the lives of millions.

And now it seems PR agencies are making more direct contributions to their communities and society in general by putting serious effort into their own corporate citizenship, not just that of their clients. Just about every agency I meet has a cause they support with pro bono services, and many are building CSR into their own culture and business practices, not just in their list of offers for clients.

At Ketchum we have been deeply connected to a global organization called Room To Read, which promotes literacy and advocates education for children – especially girls – in Asia and Africa, and we make significant agency resources available around the world. As you can imagine, agencies that ‘practice what they preach’ are attractive to clients, but also to employees, who increasingly have high expectations of their employers.

I am sure you have got your own examples of PR you have done to support causes you and your people care about, and I would invite you to share them with the world so that others might learn from and be inspired by your success. And I am offering this invitation literally – I am involved with a project developed in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the US Ad Council called Creative For Good, in which social education campaigns of all kinds are placed in a database for use and inspiration by others looking for creative help and guidance.

Selfishly I’m hoping to have lots of PR campaigns on the site as a way of not just saying we can solve big problems, but showing it. I hope you’ll feel free to contact me directly if you’re interested in this.

 

Unpaid Internships in PR: The Australian Perspective

This is a guest blog post by Annabelle Warren, National Chair PRIA Registered Consultancies Group and ICCO Board Member for Australia; Chairman of Primary Communication

Each year we host interns in our office, and they are truly inspirational. Beyond raw talent and enthusiasm, they are professional, punctual, incredibly curious, eager and earnest. Some need a little polishing, most need a lot of early guidance. But for over two decades I have loved hosting interns, and I am not alone.

A recent survey of Australian consultancies showed 80% hosted tertiary interns and 60% hosted multiple interns each year. These internships were often the start of ‘beautiful friendships’, with 72% of Australian consultancies offering long term employment to their interns.

Australia has a culture of academic internships. These are compulsory subjects for students completing accredited PR degrees through eighteen Australian universities.

I’ve also been an academic, and supervised student intern programs. So I get really confused by this talk of ‘interns working for free for six months to a year’. That is a total crock. I’ve never heard of an Australian PR intern subject that requires six or twelve months activity. Most are between 80 and 200 hours.

If students are retained as juniors working in a business, they should be paid.

If it is a formal internship the student will be enrolled in a subject that outlines specified time periods, compulsory reporting and academic supervision. Well that’s my experience, and it may be a very Australian PR/Comms experience.

After the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA) launched new guidelines for managing internships last week, I was sent the UK Internship guidelines from the PRCA. There are several key differences, and a number of similarities, between the internship programs in Australia and the United Kingdom.

Legislation in Australia recognises that students can be enrolled in a subject which requires workplace learning. When this is the case, they are official ‘interns’ and they do not have to be paid for the time to complete that prescribed workplace activity. But once the formal internship period has been completed, the student may be considered an employee if they continue working in the consultancy. In this case there are clear minimum wage rates which apply – just less than $AUD 20 per hour if they are casuals.

The legislation also says a student is also allowed to observe in a workplace for a number of days without payment. If students are not enrolled in such a subject and the student does more than a few days of observation in the consultancy, then they should be paid for their efforts.

In Australia, we have a culture of shorter internships – over 60% of internships offered by Australian consultancies are from 2-4 weeks duration. This is unlike in the UK where over 75% of internships exceed one month and up to a year.

It is very clear in Australia that junior office work is not an internship. It is work, and it is common to find consultancy juniors who are enrolled at university and also working part-time and getting paid within consultancies.

The vibrant academic community in Australia has established close links with the PRIA and with individual consultancies. This relationship between a consultancy and academic supervisors can help identify the most suited interns and maximise the benefit to the student and the consultancy. It also provides a valuable two way feedback loop on skills needed, support programs and ideas to help each other grow and improve. For instance, most consultancies implore academics to beef up their teaching of writing skills.

The National Education Advisory Committee of the PRIA provided extensive information for the guidelines about the consistent requirements from academic institutions. For instance:

a. There should be an agreement between the student and the host consultancy about learning outcomes

b. The host organisation should appoint a supervisor and conduct formal induction and then ongoing review discussions

c. The consultancy should also be asked to fill in a report or evaluation

d. Each academic institution has an internship coordinator who should be available for questions from consultancies and to support the student

Consultancy on-boarding processes for interns should also cover insurance, confidentiality agreements, intellectual property, OH/&S requirements and codes of ethics.

All interns should be signed up to the same company policies and requirements as normal employees. This is probably the area which needs most attention. As interns tend to be short term, they may not be asked to sign all the contractual paperwork that is given to a full-time employee. However interns will have direct or consequential access to intellectual property, confidential information and be part of the daily life of the consultancy. So they must be covered by consistent company policies.

The choice for inexperienced students searching for an internship position must be clear. Sign up with a professional consultancy which is part of an ethical industry organisation. And stay clear of those terrible abusers out there on the sidelines of the marketing and communication industry.

My interns from the past twenty years are still wonderful friends – and they still inspire me by running major consultancies or in-house operations. There is no doubt in my mind that internships are a wonderful way to build the pipeline of talent and the future of our profession.

 

The New Look of Public Relations

This is a guest blog post by Roman Geiser, CEO and managing partner of Farner Consulting; President of BPRA Association of PR Agencies in Switzerland; and a board member of International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO).

Follow Roman on Twitter.

My interview last week on the persoenlich portal has generated some interesting reactions: it was an eye-opener for me that both my PR and advertising agency friends would feel moved to comment on the line separating their respective disciplines. Some insisted that PR will always remain PR, whilst others maintained that advertising is much more focused on ads and commercials than on integration. It seems that looking into the neighbor’s backyard from the comfort of one’s own continues to be the rule. Except that the hedge separating the two – to stay within the green terminology – tends to obscure reality.

It’s not about PR vs. advertising – success is determined by communications that bring tangible benefits

The main point I made was that communications’ playing field, and that of the agency market for both PR and advertising, is changing. The emerging business models of traditional media and the growing prominence of participation-based communications are pushing providers of a certain size towards convergence. By convergence I don’t mean PR mutating into advertising or advertising putting on a PR hat. For me convergence means an agreement to create trust based on strong, interesting content, which will lay the groundwork for successful dialogue, participation and collaboration.

Communications’ success is determined by the extent that it reaches the given target groups. Its success depends on context and target group proximity. Or, expressed in the language of today’s business models, from merely transmitting content to dialogue, from stakeholder management to meaningful commitment, from sender-oriented messages to benefit-focused content, from copy to visuals and to video.

Media convergence: an opportunity for every communications agency

This sums up a huge opportunity that awaits agencies, regardless of their core discipline. My company Farner is, first and foremost, a PR agency. But at the same time we are becoming a more integrated agency in line with the aforementioned trends. Within the framework of paid-for, earned, shared and owned content we find ourselves moving towards a 360-degree model. In the past, integration meant combing advertising, PR, event-based communications and below-the-line measures. Today, we engage with any available communications channel, entering into a dialogue with anyone, at any time – and always in appropriate tonality. The basis for this is a sustainable central idea.

Convergence preoccupies the world’s communications industry

At this point a quick glance at the PR giants’ battle for concept leadership would not go amiss. A couple of weeks ago one of the world’s biggest PR agencies, Fleishman-Hillard, announced its new strategy and positioning. The New York Times headlined it“The new look of Public Relations”. The article’s defining sentence read ‘The firm will be the most complete communications company in the world”. Fleishman-Hillard CEO Dave Senay contributed sound-bites ranging from “serve consumers with content worthy of sharing”, to “recruitment of non-traditional talent”, “channel agnostic” and “work across paid, owned, earned and shared media”.

A reaction from Richard Edelman, global CEO of the eponymous agency, had followed shortly. In his blog he claimed that strategies aimed at turning PR agencies into one-stop shops as devoted to advertising as to their public relations legacy, are misplaced. He went on to say that the market is shifting towards PR anyway because it draws on more than a set of tools or tactics – it is a mindset, a way of thinking.

Agile agencies are the winners

I don’t consider myself to be in a position to proclaim any winners in this battle of opinions raging among global PR agencies. But it does seem to me that, in fact, Edelman and Fleishman-Hillard think alike – although they express themselves differently.

Myself, I firmly believe that the key to success lies in establishing trust, making interaction and participation part of the message, that we have to create content relevant and useful to the recipient, whether consumer, activist, voter, investor or employee, and that an agency’s services must conform to global trends as well as hyper-local market conditions and existing brand positioning.

No one today has the ultimate answer. I do believe, however, that communications agencies that learn from and absorb today’s rapidly changing conditions most quickly, that are able to reorganize their in-house thinking, models, processes and procedures, talents and teams accordingly, and that generate communications solutions appropriate for the new reality, will gain the lion’s share of the market.

We’re working on it. And so are certain advertising, web and marketing agencies.

This blog post initially appeared on Farner blog
http://www.farner.ch/en/blog-en/the-new-look-of-public-relations/

The rise of Ethno-PR in Europe

This is a blog post by Juergen H. Gangoly, Managing Partner of the Vienna based PR-Agency The Skills Group, and ICCO Board Member for Austria (PR Quality Austria & PRVA)

Businesses and public institutions across the European continent are becoming increasingly aware of the economic potential of immigrant communities.

Unlike in the Anglo-Saxon world where, for historic reasons, “ethno-marketing” has had a long tradition, the business community and the public sector in most European countries long ignored the specific interests and needs of ethnic minorities. Marketing and sales strategists considered the economic potential of groups outside the majority population too small for profitable development, and focused on the high-income population segments instead.

Similarly the media, as well as advertising and PR agencies, for many years overlooked the growing immigrant communities in Europe. Opinion surveys, too, were often conducted only among the majority population. Most market researchers did not seek access to ethnic minorities, despite the fact that, in many European cities, these groups make up 20 percent or more of the total population.

At last some business sectors now seem to have woken up to the opportunities presented by minority groups. For many companies, the economic crisis causes “negative growth” in their regular markets. The struggle for market share draws the attention of marketers to ever smaller market segments, and managers long spoiled by success now rejoice over single-digit growth rates driven by small segments of the population.

In the spotlight

This puts the spotlight on the economic potential of immigrant communities.

In order to survive in the current business environment, industries such as telecom, insurance or consumer electronics need to address minority groups.

Nobody can afford to turn their back on large parts of the population anymore and not develop products or services which appeal to these groups.

The economic crisis has thus achieved what human rights organisations and other NGOs have sought to accomplish for several decades: change the public perception of immigrants from economic burden for their host countries to valued contributor to the economy and to society.

Thus interest in immigrants is on the rise in many places all over Europe: large corporations, banks, insurance companies, retailers, car manufacturers and many others have realised that further growth can be more easily achieved within the hitherto overlooked immigrant communities than in the largely (over-)saturated majority population.

What a miracle: immigrants also have an income, they are also consumers, and often even successful businesspeople. Immigrants buy cars and houses, and they go on vacation. And, sooner or later, immigrants also become voters, members of associations and pressure groups, and participate in the political decision process. All this has already happened, and now even tabloids which have never shown much sympathy for a multi-cultural society, have begun to report on immigrant communities.

This interest of businesses in immigrant groups and the ensuing demand for consulting services also affects the communication industry, which was quite unprepared for this development. Actually, in continental Europe, immigrants are still significantly underrepresented in most consultancies, and in most media, too.

Perceptions of incompatibility

This is not only caused by language barriers, but also by the image of immigrant communities, which is widely regarded as incompatible with the agency world. As a result, advertising executives, marketing experts and PR professionals lack in inter-cultural communication know-how. Many of them are not even aware of the numerous immigrant media which are published in both print and online forms.

Thus the “clash of cultures” not only happens between continents. In Europe it also takes place in the communication industry: whenever an agency, for the first time, is commissioned by a client to reach out to all the different segments of the population.

Given the economic situation, more and more clients want to improve their standing with immigrant communities. Even mass market players are increasingly ready to adapt their products and services to the needs of minorities, and they also understand that these offers have to be communicated in a different way. Among the pioneers in this area have been the telcos with special rate offers for calls to immigrants¹ countries of origin, or banks and insurance companies which purposefully recruited salespeople from minority groups.

Solid data

Besides relevant content, strategic communications also require solid empirical data. This creates problems for communication consultancies in many European countries, where so far little relevant data is available for the immigrant communities. The established market research companies only marginally reach these communities with their current survey tools.

Most available statistics provide (at best) a comparison between the majority population and “the immigrants”. That there are actually big differences between the first and second immigrant generations, and all the more between immigrant communities from different countries, is often ignored.

However, a change in thinking is already taking place. In Austria, the author¹s PR consultancy The Skills Group, the Austrian Affiliate of FleishmanHillard) has taken a first step to overcome this data shortage. Together with the Vienna immigrant lifestyle magazine biber, and the market research firm meinungsraum.at, Skills founded EthOpinion.at: the first opinion research firm in the German-language area which specialises in surveys of immigrant groups.

Together EthnOpinion.at’s three founding companies offer their clients not only (multi-language) surveys in practically all ethnic minority groups, but also in-depth interviews in focus groups. Results are then used for customised advertising, marketing and PR programmes and for developing new products and services.

New Austrians

Since its creation at the end of 2010 EthnOpinion.at has managed to acquire prestigious clients from different industries and political institutions.

More than 5,000 new Austrians (which is what EthnOpinion calls immigrants) regularly take part in online surveys. EthnOpinion.at also publishes a quarterly EthnoMix report, which is put at the disposal of the media and public institutions, at no cost.

Beside the economic success (which came quickly due to strong demand for the company¹s services), EthnOpinion also managed to positively influence the public debate on the subject of immigration.

Conclusion: if the communication industry lives up to its responsibilities, ethno-PR will not only pay its own way, but it can also help to lower social and cultural barriers.

What In The World Are Agencies Doing This Week?

One of the great things about involvement in the ICCO community is the opportunity to indulge in curiosity about what’s going on in the wacky world of PR agencies and communications consultancies./  With any luck and just a sliver of interest from you, this may become a semi-weekly feature on the ICCO blog, featuring news and trends that strike me as interesting and potentially relevant for the member associations of ICCO and their respective agency members around the world.

So what in the world are agencies doing this week?

1. They’re collaborating. Canadian-based smartphone manufacturer BlackBerry announced that they’ve handed their global PR brand brief to a combined team of APCO and Text 100. While it’s not unprecedented for agencies to combine forces to better serve clients, it’s not often that two from separate groups can set aside differences to match expertise with opportunity.

For what it’s worth, I think that the agencies and networks that can make themselves agile and versatile enough to morph into new shapes to match client needs are going to be a step ahead of those who cannot or will not.

http://www.holmesreport.com/news-info/13349/BlackBerry-Consolidates-Global-PR-With-APCOText-100-Team.aspx

2. They’re reinventing themselves. FleishmanHillard announced a rebrand and expansion of its offer to become a fully-integrated communications offer. The new branding features the tagline “The Power of True” and will incorporate a suite of earned, shared and paid media services.

It’s early days for the FleishmanHillard reinvention, but I think we’ll see more agencies – event giant networks like FH – recast themselves to be more competitive in a world where traditional boundaries between disciplines are quickly fading.

http://www.marketingmag.ca/news/pr-news/fleishman-hillard-rebrands-and-expands-77603?rss=yes

3. They’re focusing on ‘makeable ideas’.  Ok, the article below is in reference to ad agencies, but that doesn’t make the concept of makeable ideas off-limits to us in the PR world – especially those who’ve already re-invented themselves (see above)!

What’s a makeable idea? According to the author, “[Account planners] should guide the creative towards ideas that can be downloaded, worn, played, customized, broken into constituent parts, crowdfunded, gamified, or otherwise hacked. When you start thinking that way you are starting to create a “makeable idea.”

I particularly like one part of the process he suggests – focusing on platforms, rather than campaigns. The more we look at our work as an ongoing opportunity to interact with audiences rather than a set-piece of broadcasting with a beginning, middle and end, the more effective our work is like to believe.

http://www.fastcocreate.com/1681876/wait-a-minute-makers-before-agencies-can-make-things-they-need-to-create-makeable-ideas

4. They’re daring to look for bold ways to be good – including being bad.  I was with Ketchum colleagues from the around the world at a planning retreat in Geneva where Harvard Business School guru Frances Frei entreated us to find a few a few things to be bad at./  Not for the sake of disappointment, but to free resources and focus to be truly good at the things our clients care about most. I’m not saying whether we agreed, but it’s an interesting exercise to test assumptions about client service and an agency’s strategy to deliver.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2012/03/07/emulate-wal-mart-and-dare-to-be-bad/

What else are agencies doing? We’d love to share …