Archive | Campaigns RSS feed for this section

Astroturfing is evil

17 Jul

Antiastroturfing This is the provocative opening salvo from Trevor Cook’s campaign against activities that fake the appearance of grassroots support.

The term astroturfing (ie synthetic grass) is not widely used in the UK. But it seems to me it’s already outlawed by the relevant codes of contuct. The CIPR code of conduct emphasises the importance of integrity: ‘honest and responsible regard for the public interest’ and ‘never knowingly misleading clients, employers, employees, colleagues and fellow professionals about the nature of representation’.

The PRCA’s professional charter (pdf) is even more explicit. A member firm shall ‘conduct its professional interests with proper regard to the public interest’ and ‘have a positive duty at all times to respect the truth and … not disseminate false or misleading information knowingly or recklessly, and use proper care to avoid doing so inadvertently’.

Of course, most UK practitioners have not signed up to either of these codes as they’re not CIPR members, nor do they work for PRCA consultancies. But this shows that the industry (or its professional wing) is already opposed to ‘astroturfing’.

Fair dues

6 Mar

It reminds me of those mid 1990s announcements that company X had set up a website (they gained some approving news coverage early in the Web 1.0 era). Marks & Spencer has hit the press with advertisements declaring its move to Fairtrade coffee (and gained a news report in The Guardian too).

Of course, the timing’s good, with Fairtrade Fortnight beginning today. But I can’t imagine many more large organisations gaining much easy press by making a similar announcement. Fairtrade’s good; I support the campaign – who doesn’t?; it’s just that the more successful it becomes, the less newsworthy it will be.

(Congratulations to my first year student who spotted this. The warm-up questions asked them to identify an example of editorial and an example of an advertisement from a newspaper; the follow-up was to identify an example of public relations. Bullseye!)

Where PR saves lives

18 Jan

The many critics of PR tend to pick on its two extremes: the sometimes nefarious world of lobbying and the often flakey world of celebrity promotion. Yet many PR people work on public awareness campaigns for government agencies or not-for-profit organisations. Their campaigns often do good, and sometimes save lives.

The successful ‘back to sleep’ campaign is being credited with a 75% decline in SIDS – ‘cot death’ – since 1991, as reported in medical journal The Lancet. Yet the media picks up on the downside of the campaign – its relative lack of success among low income families. Will this give another crumb to the critics: a chance to characterise public relations as the elite talking to the educated, but not reaching out to the have-nots?

Love in the time of chlamydia

10 Oct

That headline’s gratuitous: it’s the (brilliant) title from a recent Telegraph Saturday magazine article (not online) on sexual health.

I use it to introduce the theme of the next issue of the PR student magazine, Behind the Spin. The editors (I’m one of them) are looking for student articles about health awareness campaigns. Drink driving; blood donation; quitting smoking; anti-obesity; sexual health. Your proposals are needed now; finished articles by early December.

Articles from the current issue are appearing on the Behind the Spin blog and the magazine has been sent out to CIPR student members and contributors. Take a look.


3 Oct

Former Yes Minister scriptwriter Sir Anthony Jay gave a good description of what’s needed for home-made campaigns on the Today Programme:

  1. Organisation
  2. Publicity
  3. Ability to write letters (in the language of your bureaucratic opponents).

The piece was broadcast at 7.47am and is now available online.

Campaign without words

30 Sep

Heritage Watch is campaigning to protect ancient monuments in Cambodia. Their campaign aims at education, and tactics include the use of cartoon story books. Dougald O’Reilly is the charity’s energetic spokesman (he was interviewed on BBC radio last night).

Landmark PR

9 May

The Landmark Trust has been receiving some spectacular press coverage over recent days, based on its 40th anniversary celebrations. It’s a select and specialist conservation charity, which makes this major media coverage all the more impressive (examples from The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times; The Daily Telegraph article is not yet online).