28 March 2011

A critical view on NGO's and Activism

When we think about large NGO organizations such as Greenpeace and World Vision, we tend to see these organizations as publics with very specific goals in mind to change behavior in society. In comparison to for-profit corporations, NGO's focus on societal changes rather than income. However, both sectors use very smilar strategies and tactics in order to reach their desired goals. This blog post tries to position NGO's within the public relations industry and discuss the power and influence of the 'third sector'.

Activism within the Public Relations Industry
Activities of NGO's are entirely based on public relations practices, which allow them to spread their message amongst their stakeholders, providing a platform for changes in society. For NGO's it is key to have an excellent relationship with their publics, as they are the heart and soul of every NGO organization. Essentially, NGO's use persuasive tactics to change ones mind about an issue. By using these tactics, it is key to question the objectives of all NGO's, to ensure honest practices with a meaningful purpose for the industry.

The Power of NGO's
The importance and massive influence of NGO’s is undeniable. After extensive growth in the past 20 years, NGO’s reached a level of influence that easily exceeds that of large corporations and even countries. With such an importance in society it is important to analyze and observe their size and financial power, as well as what political and societal powers they have developed over the past two decades. Influence of NGO’s is so strong that they have the power to influence virtually any corporate company if they seem to have a problem with their practices. With this power, a lot of responsibility comes along and it important to have a closer look at their operations with the rise in power they have gained.

When NGO's fail - Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherds
In a blog post by Captain Paul Watson, Greenpeace has been exposed of distracting public attention of illegal whale fishing by investigating in corruption within the Japanese whaling industry. While this may seem a regular activity of Greenpeace, it is important to keep in mind that issues such as corruption is something governments should take care of, not NGO's. Another issue with their investigation was that two Greenpeace employees broke into a whale fishers home and removed whale meat from the workers. While Greenpeace was trying to expose a scandal, this act was completely illegal and not in the honest practice of the third sector industry. In addition to the illegal activity of the Greenpeace members, the ownership of whale meat is not even illegal in Japan. The problem with this 'scandal', was that there was absolutely no scandal being investigated, but merely trying to hurt the whale fishing industry with brute force and unethical practices.

NGO's are essential in our society and they try to do more good than bad. Whale fishing is a horrible act which needs to be stopped as soon as possible. However, this example clearly shows that NGO's may act more extreme as they claim. This 'eco-terrorism' does not only create distrust within the third sectors, but also questions their tactics in achieving their goals. With the power the third sector has gained, responsibility towards their goals, stakeholders and objectives has to be continuously practiced within the limits of the law and with the most honest practices possibles.

Suggested reading:
Criticism of NGO's: http://knol.google.com/k/non-governmental-orgnaizations-ngos-criticism-of#

LA Times article: http://articles.latimes.com/2009/feb/14/world/fg-japan-whales14

17 March 2011

Overlapping Disciplines: Social Marketing and NGO PR?

Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioral goals for a social good. Social marketing can be applied to promote merit goods, or to make a society avoid demerit goods and thus to promote society's well being as a whole (Wikipedia.org).

Just like 'traditional marketing', social marketing uses identical tools to achieve specific goals and objectives. While traditional marketing goals may be the increase of sales or the maintenance of brand reputation, so essentially financially related objectives, social marketing focuses on good causes and societal changes. Both disciplines strife for different goals but they both rely on creating a "...management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements..." (Chartered Institute of Marketing). With this definition in mind, it seems that both are identical in their activities and tools of use, but different in setting goals and objectives. This comes not necessarily as a surprise as both are heavily related with each other. The question now is how social marketing overlaps with public relations, if they compliment each other or if they should be treated as individual disciplines.

Public Relations is about maintaining images and relationships by using tactical tools such as public speaking, conferences, media relations, social media, crisis communication, surveys and many many others. These tools are used to persuade the audience into following and promoting ones message. Specifically in NGO PR these tools are used to promote an NGO organization, who has its own agenda, goals and objectives in mind. Organizations such as Greenpeace are entirely based on PR activities and use these tools to follow their mission. Looking at the definition of Social Marketing from above, it seems that Greenpeace would use NGO PR to present themselves to the world, maintain their brand image and communicate with their audiences and publics, while using social marketing to actually reach their goals of societal changes. Social marketing seems to be used to promote a very specific cause, such as trying to make people stop smoking, while PR may be used to create pressure to key leaders or lobbying towards tobacco companies.

Looking at both fields of communication, it seems that both have specific tasks to fulfill in each others own way. To be effective in ones goals, it is important to understand both disciplines with their strengths and powers. Successful communicators need to understand both areas and use them in conjunction, rather than seeing them as individuals tools. Social marketing combined with NGO PR activities work together very well, while overlapping on certain areas. However, each discipline follows distinct goals in mind, so it is key to understand and use both of them at the same time.

I kindly forward you to one of our guest speakers from University, Sean Kidney, who is a leading figure within the social marketing industry and board member of Greenpeace, amongst many other organizations.

05 March 2011

Online Soapboxes: New Problems of New Communication

"We have a far more sophisticated audience today than in the past, one that sees more clearly behind the manipulations and stagecraft of its political leaders"
Allisa Quart

Technological developments were always substantial parts of any successful political communication campaign. Whether in ancient Greece during elections of their futures leaders by screaming on the marketplace to support their causes, or with the invention of the printing press throughout Europe in the 16th century, technological developments played a crucial role in any communication to the people. Political communicators quickly realized how important media communication was in any campaign, so mass media communication tools such as radio and Television were quickly adopted in their toolset soon after their introduction to the mass. Today, these tools are strategically used with very specific communicative tools in mind.

In contemporary political communication and public relations, social media and the digital space is not just a novelty, but a crucial tool for effective communication. Obama's 2008 political campaign is seen as the first successful and fully integrated political social media campaign in history. Obama's advisors quickly realized that social media communication was on the rise and that direct and open communication develops trust and transparency towards their potential voters. With their open approach to be transparent and more 'connected' to their audiences, the Obama campaign revolutionized political communication for future political campaigns around the world. But with this new communication tool and its power, new responsibility and problems occur.

When we look at the fundamental philosophical aspects of Social Media: transparency, sharing knowledge, information, contacts, content, profiling; we clearly see the importance for campaigning and political communication. Before the 'digital revolution' in our age of information, communication within politics had more control over their messages and how they distributed it. Now, with information traveling faster than ever and the highly tech-savvy average social media user, everyone has the power to manipulate messages and exploit political messages for their point of view.

While the political social media revolution changed the way politicians communicate with their audiences and spread their messages, individuals or 'enemies' have the same powert to change perceptions as well. At the same time, citizens are now actively being engaged to positively contribute to the cause and help winning elections. Clearly, social media not only changed the way we communicate with each other personally, but also on a political level.

The political digital revolution changed the way we support or destroy our causes. This development allows messages to spread faster than ever, which may be of advantage as well as a disadvantage for political communicators. Just like in crisis communication within corporations, social media should not be ignored but actively being followed and practitioners should manage the message by following the fundamental to give a feeling of trust within politics. A feeling that has been gone for far too long in this industry.

Politics 2.0 - The power of the Citizen shows how social media is now a fundamental part of any political campaign and how much power the citizens have.

01 March 2011

Social Media - An Interactive Introduction

So what exactly is Social Media? How does it work and where does the name come from? What are the sociological and cultural aspects of Social Media? Why is Social Media relevant and so important to the Public Relations industry? How can Social Media experts help you? What are the benefits and disadvantages of Social Media? How to deal with it the best way?

So many questions and only one video to answer them all.

This presentation is quite short and limited on the content, but I hope it will give you a basic and fundamental understanding of Social Media. Please feel free to connect with me if you have any questions or other inquires. Please comment and share this with anyone who is interested in Social Media and the Public Relations industry.

I recommend you to watch this video in HD quality for the full experience.

Enjoy :-)