Identity, Branding & Corporate Reputation

Cornelissen, J. (2017). Chapter 5—Corporate Identity, Branding, and Corporate Reputation. In Corporate Communication: A guide to theory and practice (5th ed., pp. 108–128). Sage.

Organizational identity is at the core of corporate branding. A company’s reputation is the result of its image, which is constructed and demonstrated through actions and communications. Making sure that the organization’s identity, brand and reputation align allows companies to manage and protect their relationships with stakeholders. This consistency is usually achieved by walking the walk and talking the talk. Communications professionals can greatly impact this by ensuring that internal core values match their distinct and authentic external image construction.

As a publicist, I’m constantly challenged with aligning my client’s identity with their brand. Transparency and consistency are tools that I use to communicate, both internally and externally. It’s not an overnight process, but when it comes to managing and stewarding stakeholder relationships, brand reputation really is the result of our strategic communication efforts.

L1, D3

Keywords: brand, corporate identity, corporate reputation, transparency

Strategic Communication Imperative

Argenti, P. A., Howell, R. A.  & Beck, K. A. (2005). The strategic communication imperative. MIT Sloan Management Review pp. 46.3, 83–89.

Communication is the link between organizational strategy and tactical execution. Not only can strategic communications support the development of successful strategy, but it can also help managers establish direct links between intangible assets and performance. The bottom line is that companies that want a competitive edge will have strategic communications plans that are long-term, integrated, and executed by professionals that understand the business.

As an outside contractor obtaining access and knowledge from internal teams can be difficult when working with busy organizations. The pressure to demonstrate measured performance is always high. However, no matter what the benchmark, I find that when I implement a strategic communications plan that each department can understand and participate in, the numbers almost always follow. Good strategies convert visions to outcomes, connect leaders, and strengthen the planning process.

L1, L5, D1

Keywords: communication strategy, integrated communications, leadership

Antecedents of relationships, public relations strategies, and relationship outcomes

Grunig, J. E. & Huang, Y. H. (2000). From organizational effectiveness to relationship indicators: Antecedents of relationships, public relations strategies, and relationship outcomes. In J.A. Ledingham, S.D. Bruning, E.J. Ki, J.N. Kim (Eds.), Public relations as relationship management: A relational approach to the study and practice of public relations (pp. 23–53). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., Mahwah, NJ.

This study revisits Grunig’s theory that public relations attributes to an organization’s effectiveness by reconciling goals with constituency expectations and goes on to investigate the relationships between organizations and their publics. It defines a relationship as a two-way exchange and links effectiveness to the way the relationship is managed. This comes down to the different strategies used to bridge what matters most to the organization’s constituents and the company. Really what this means is how well the organization communicates relative to how well the information is received can be measured and strategized for excellence.

Managing stakeholder relationships is my top priority when working with a client and understanding stakeholder expectations is critical. Not only are my clients very public, but most of their assets are considered community assets. Therefore, we must engage our constituents in a way that resonates with them and keeps them in our camp of supporters. Bottom line is even though we may share overarching outcomes, each group of stakeholders my require a slightly different communications strategy.

L1, L6, D1, D3

Keywords: two-way communication, active listening, public relations strategies

Examining Strategy & Tactics with Social Media Use

Plowman, K. D. & Wilson, C. (2018). Strategy and tactics in strategic communication: Examining their intersection with social media use. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 12, 125-144, DOI: 10.1080/1553118X.2018.1428979

Scanning the environment and managing relationships, even on social media, is a public relations practice. However there seems to be a disconnect between strategizing messaging in a two-way manner and tactical practice in engaging publics. Because social media conversations are so immediate and changing, the conversation and planning needs to be nimble. Strategic planning still has a role, but the ability to switch gears plays to the need to be nimble. This is the tactical implementation of social media that sometimes supersedes the plan. The main point is that social media should not be segregated from the overall public relations campaign.

Social media strategy may very well be one of the most important services that I offer as a freelance publicist. I always start with a communications road map that allows for plenty of room for adjustments and additions. Much like a dinner party, you might come to the table with planned witty repartee, but interesting conversations often veer off organically. The same is true for social. No matter how important the outward message is, I must be flexible and prepared to shift gears when appropriate.

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Keywords: social media, two-way communications, strategy, tactics

Social Media Dilemmas

Lam, H. (2016). Social media dilemmas in the employment context. Employee Relations, 38(3), 420–437. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-04-2015-0072

Social media has changed the privacy lines that previously divided personal lives from professional lives. Today everything we do on social is more visible and accessible. This visibility has created an ethical dilemma for employers in terms of how they use this information in terms of hiring, firing, etc. This shift in visibility requires a shift in best practices that protect each party without hindering new powers. This bleeds into the subject of transparency and consistency in organizational culture and values. Social media has, in some ways, removed the corporate veil in an organic pursuit of transparency.

The visibility and reach of social really is a game changer for the field of public relations. In a world where we once had privacy from the watchful eyes of our professional peers, today everything we do online is visible to the world. This works in our favor most of the time, but the old rules of time and place must be broadened. As a public relations professional, I always start with reviewing my client’s employee policy covering social media. Some clients embrace the new world and encourage employee posts, while others have designated online representatives. There is an inherent power with sharing information and equally important responsibility for using good judgement when it comes to assessing online personalities and behaviors. My role is to make sure that the brand, voice and identity align so the message received by our external stakeholders match that our internal stakeholders.

D1, D3

Keywords: social media, privacy, ethics, corporate reputation, internal stakeholder

Social Media Affordances

Vaast, E., & Kaganer, E. (2013). Social media affordances and governance in the workplace: An examination of organizational policies. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19(1), 78–101. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcc4.12032

This paper analyzed social media policies in a variety of industries to evaluate the trend of affordances. The overarching theme was that companies are moving away from just addressing risk management to providing a framework for encouraging posts that generate value for the organization. Social media provides a platform for leveraging employee stakeholder support as well as perpetuating transparency through third party discussions. The paper identified 4 affordances – visibility, persistence, editability and association.

This can be challenging to manage outside of the organization, however when embraced social media can be a wonderfully powerful tool in branding and influence. Most recently one of my clients faces the challenge of recruiting stakeholders to help influence the city to renew their lease. My role is to help rally and guide the conversation to demonstrate stakeholder support. By developing a story bank via social media, we not only collect public opinion by we help nurture a tremendous sense of community among stakeholders.

L1, L6, D3, D4

Keywords: social media policy, internal messaging, internal stakeholders

A Great Place To Work?

Dabirian, A., Kietzmann, J., & Diba, H. (2017). A great place to work!? Understandingcrowdsourced employer branding. Business Horizons, 60(2), 197-205. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bushor.2016.11.005

There are seven employer branded value propositions that employees care about; social element, challenging work, extent skills can be applied, professional development, compensation, role of management and work/life balance. This is based on the idea that employers care what their employees think of them and how they rate them to others. This impacts employee retention, recruitment and efficiencies. This article reviews how crowd sourced data, such as Glassdoor.com, can provide employers with valuable data for attracting hot talent and how to develop a competitive advantage.

In a world saturated with data, there are wonderful sources now available for vetting clients and hired professionals. Sources like LinkedIn provide valuable information such as experience, involvement and engagement. This is a tool that I use when embarking on new projects as a way to get to know my clients and the teams that I’m hired to support. Sometimes a little background can make all the difference in the world to getting a project off the ground.

L2, L4

Keywords: employee retention, corporate reputation, internal stakeholders, crowd-based data

Ways of Knowing

Wrench, J. S., Thomas-Maddox, C., Richmond, V. P., & McCroskey, J. C. (2008). Quantitative research methods for communication: A hands-on approach. (pp. 13-16). Oxford University Press, Inc.

This chapter distinguishes our general ways of knowing from scientific empirical evidence. Much of our way of knowing stems from traditions and authority. These ways of knowing become more complicated as traditions and authorities’ conflict or may not be true. There are six specific differences between common and scientific knowledge that include conceptualizing, reading, measurement, samples, analyzing data, and ethics.

Now more than ever public relations professionals are being tasked with providing evidence based strategic planning. The old ways of leaning on experience alone is fading. Yet in a world of data, there are tricks to discerning what matters and what doesn’t. I find that using data to back my strategy, not only helps me provide my clients with measurable results it also provides benchmarks for learning and creativity. While I still may act on a gut impulse at times, it’s important to back up those instincts with evidence.

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Keywords: scientific knowledge, ways of knowing

What Marketers Need to Understand about AR

Javornik, A. (2016, April 18). What Marketers Need to Understand About Augmented Reality. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/04/what-marketers-need-to-understand-about-augmented-reality

Augmented reality has a place in marketing when it enhances the user experience of the customer rather than adding another layer of technical difficulty. In other words, when the added feature makes the experience better there is value. Therefore, organizations considering implementing AR into their user experience must consider how much value the feature is really going to add in real time. This so far has tested positively on products vs experiences.

As an event publicist, most of my clients tend to be less digital in nature. A county fair experience is meant to be touched, smelled, heard and tasted. However, the entertainment industry is rapidly changing. Younger generations are demonstrating how technology and personal experience don’t always need to be exclusive. I’m always looking for new ways to enhance the guest experience. I applaud the investigation of how AR can add value to human experience and look forward to the day where we embrace its full potential.

L2, L3

Keywords: augmented reality

Mobile Communities

Ling, R & Stald, G. (2010) Mobile Communities: Are We Talking About a Village, a Clan, or a Small Group? American Behavioral Scientists. Sage Publications, 53(8), 1133-1147. DOI: 10.1177?0002764209356245

The use of mobile telephone communication contributes to the closeness of a social sphere. The paper evaluated how technology is impacting our social communities in terms of closeness. The closer the community the more important it was to have face to face or phone time. Other technology such as email, text and IM were preferred by less close communities. The overall conclusion was that technology enables communities to share and exchange information in ways that create connection. Mobile phones make strong ties stronger.

In a world of ever-changing technology, I think public relations professionals are faced with ever changing spheres of community. While working with a small town in the bay area, our goal was to bring visibility to the downtown area. In the days of old, this was limited to print publications and journalist familiarization tours. Today, the internet expands our reach to bloggers, influencers and visitors from all over the world. Text capability, email and social media allow us to stay in constant contact with our publics, not only keeping them connected to the places they visit but also to one another as the visibility of their engagement brings people together.

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Keywords: mobile telephony, community, social cohesion, social relationships, intimate sphere

Ethnography: Is Your Company Missing The Train?

Ohler, M., Samuel, P., & MacMurray, M., (2013) Ethnography: Is Your Company Missing The Train?, BMGI, Industry Week: Innovation, 1-9. Retrieved from

http://industryweek.com/print/33154

Ethnography is a research approach that evaluates how people approach and react in an environment. This organic method of analyzing what is missing or needed in an organization can be very effective. This is a method that is used to determine what makes the most sense to the people in the situation and how to best meet their needs. When executed properly, ethnography can help companies see opportunities when the obvious may have been overlooked.

This article makes me think about secret shoppers. While the shopper is evaluating the process of the experience, they are also looking for clarity and instruction on navigating the process itself. It’s a great way to test how well the engine is running, not just in terms of efficiency but also in customer service. My team does this for each event we promote. We walk the event on day one seeking out missed opportunities where we could improve our guest experience.

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Keywords: organizational excellence, efficiency

Telling a Story with Data

Davenport, T. (2013) Telling a Story with Data. Communicating Effectively With Analytics, Deloitte Review, 12, 69-83.

How we deliver data can directly impact if and how information is interpreted and used. There are several ways to communicate data in terms of presentation. This includes graphs, imagery, charts, infographics and models. Most analysts are not good at communicating the results of their research. The best way to communicate data is to outline the research, report the findings and promote an action step. The clearer the delivery of the information the more likely that the presentation will result in a decision or action. The point is to make it easy to understand, relatable and focus on results and implications.

In public relations we are always using stories to create an experience or evoke emotion, so it is only natural to start thinking of data analysis in a similar way. Stories help us package information along with their impacts in a relatable way. I use story boards and infographics to help my teams digest complicated charts and figures. It’s a great way to keep the conversation about what’s next rather than on how the information should be interpreted.

L1, L6

Keywords: data reporting, analytics, reporting, communicating results

Crisis Communication and Management

PR, I. for. (2014, September 23). Crisis Management and Communications (Updated September 2014). Institute for Public Relations. https://instituteforpr.org/crisis-management-communications/

There are two basic categories for an organizational crisis, operational crisis and reputational crisis. While the traditional strategies for dealing with a crisis remain true, the internet has influenced the breadth and speed of crisis information. Effective crisis management includes prevention, planning, and practice. There are three phases to a crisis: pre-crisis, crisis response, and post crisis. This article covers best practices, strategies and lessons learned by researchers and analysts.

One of the most important services I can provide a client is crisis communication management. As a fair publicist, our events are extremely public and highly visible. Planning and prevention are key to effectively managing a crisis situation, however in the event of a crisis it’s important to be prepared. I have four basic rules to follow: Get the facts, communicate open and honestly, show respect and be concise. Once it’s appropriate, redirect the story to something positive.

L1, L2

Keywords: crisis management, crisis best practices, crisis communications

Aristotle on Rhetoric (Intro)

Kennedy, G. A. (2007). In Aristotle on Rhetoric, A Theory of Civic Discourse (Second, pp. 1–23). Oxford University Press.

The introduction of this book covers the history of Aristotle and his influencers. These great philosophers and scholars studied the art of persuasion and logical reasoning. Aristotle, among others, believed that the skill of communicating eloquently and logically (rhetoric) could be taught to others. Aristotle’s work still influences our learnings today as we apply ethos, logos and pathos to the art of communications.

As a public relations professional, my clients rely on me to help them communicate effectively and persuasively. The use of logic, emotion and credibility is still very relevant today as it was in Aristotle’s time. Often when engaging in persuasive rhetoric, we ask ourselves what is reasonable before we question what is true. My credibility relies on how I obtain knowledge of the situation, my ability to gather the evidence necessary to persuade, and my ability to speak eloquently to a variety of audiences.

L1, L5, L6

Keywords: rhetoric, strategic communications, art of persuasion, Aristotle, philosophy

Models of public relations and communication

Grunig, J. E., & Grunig, L. A. (1992). Models of public relations and communication. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 285–326). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

This chapter addresses the four models of public relations; press agentry, public information, two-way asymmetrical and two-way symmetrical. Grunig and Grunig review the research and history of the models as well as how they are relevant and actually practiced. Overall, they argue that the two-way symmetrical model is the best practice for public relations in terms of ethics and effectiveness. It covers measurement, reliability, and validity. However, they concede that excellent communication management incorporates a mix of the models.

As a public relations professional, I am often urged to act as a press agent. Still today organizations fear open dialogue. Social media is changing the power models of yesteryear and pushing organizations toward a two-way symmetrical model. While I continue to use a variety of models when communicating with publics, I believe the two-way symmetrical model most effective when building lasting relationships and mutual trust.

L1, L5, L6

Keywords: public relations, excellent communications, public relations models

Dialogue as Condition Zero

Van Loon, R., & Van Dijk, G. (2015). Dialogical Leadership: Dialogue as Condition Zero. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 12(3), 62-75.

Leading with authenticity requires personal wholeness in the leader, practice, and discipline being open and present in work and life. Dialogue calls for being non-judgmental, paying attention, listening and being mindful. These conditions are at the heart of what is necessary to practice dialogic leadership. Dialogue requires these qualities and represents ground zero for authentic and ethical leadership. Developing these skills are key to deepening effective and authentic leaders. Complicated issues require complex solutions. True authenticity in self, strengthens our ability to show up and effectively lead with confidence and sincerity.

As an independent contractor, I’m rarely required to lead a team. However, I often work as an extension to an internal team and collaborate with other contractors. Each personality brings expertise to the table. I find that the more comfortable I am with the team, the more authentic and confident I am when it comes my time to lead. This comfort is usually developed out of dialogue and active listening.

L3, L4

Keywords: dialogic leadership, dialogue, authentic leadership

When to Skip a Difficult Conversation

Riegel, D. G. (2016, March 1). When to Skip a Difficult Conversation. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2016/03/when-to-skip-a-difficult-conversation

Deciding when to address a difficult conversation is critical in producing mutually beneficial results. In a 2013 Global survey of more than 200 professionals, 97% of respondents said that they were concerned about stress levels for the other person during a difficult conversation. It’s important to consider a few key factors when determining whether to have or avoid a difficult conversation. First understand your motives and what you want to achieve. Is there a secret agenda? What’s your contribution and do you have examples of what you are addressing? How important is the issue and can you offer a reasonable solution? Consider your position from the other persons perspective and make sure you decide to have the conversation with the right person.

One of my favorite projects was working with a CEO on her public image. This was a situation where she was a bit under fire publicly and needed a PR professional to assist her with communicating. Much of our time together included me coaching her on taking the high road, helping her to consider opposing perspectives and coaching her to ignore personal attacks. We worked on transparency and making sure that we were sending the right information to the right people.

L2, L3, L6

Keywords: conflict resolution, difficult conversations, effective communication, leadership

Is the Press Release a Genre?

Lassen, I. (2006). Is the press release a genre? A study of form and content. Discourse Studies, 8(4), 503-530.

This paper addresses rhetoric objective and discourse in terms of genres and how the genre reflects the community in which they are owned. The rationale is that a press release is contextualized by authors of varying communities and different purposes, therefore would not be considered a genre. However, the press release is a common and shared means for contextualizing discourse and therefore provides some shared meaning despite the variances. Experts in communications do recognize the press release as a means for community discourse and therefore is referred to as a media channel.

Press releases are an important tool that I use in most situations where I need to send out an official public message. Today’s releases vary from formal to informal, depending on the nature of the message and audience. Most press releases are written for journalists and are designed to be helpful resources for story inspiration.

L1, L5, L6

Keywords: press release, discourse, media channel, rhetoric objectives, linguistics

The Binds That Tie

Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. (1995). Chapter 1 – The Binds That Tie. In Beyond the double bind : Women and leadership. (pp 3-21). New York: Oxford University Press.

This book describes the binds that tie as a way that those with power exercise it over those without. The circumstances result in a no-win situation and has many labels, such as self-defeating traps and Catch-22’s, but twentieth-century psychologists call them double binds. Typically, women have fallen victim to such binds, but they are real for men as well. The binds are often between some deprecating choice between appropriateness and effectiveness. Often the powerless are forced to choose and experience punishment no matter the choice and with no means of escape.

In almost every organization that I have worked with, there is someone in power exercising it over someone without. There have even been a few instances where the person in power justified their behavior as protective and nurturing. I believe this to be one of the most vile methods of keeping people in their place. As a woman and business owner, I have had to combat such treatment with performance.

L2, L3, D3

Keywords: power, bias, discrimination, leadership

Beyond the Double Bind – Femininity/Competence

Jamieson, Kathleen Hall. (1995). Chapter 6 – Double Bind Number Four: Femininity/Competence. In Beyond the double bind : Women and leadership. (pp 120-145). New York: Oxford University Press.

In this chapter, the author discusses how women in the public sphere are expected to be both feminine and competent. However, these expectations are un-realizable since femininity is defined in a way that excludes competency. By these standards, women are bound to fail. This leads us to consider who has the right to define femininity? The way out of this bind is to deny those in power the ability to define the rules and place for femininity. It is the double standard that reinforces the bind and serves as a construct to keep the binds in place. The solution is also two-fold. We must stop treating women differently and also women need to see themselves as worthy, feminine and formidable.

Not long ago most of our county and state fairs were all run by middle aged, white men. It was very rare to see a woman in an executive role. Even more recently the women CEO’s are forced to choose a role between being feminine or formidable. The latter means she is a ball busting bitch and the earlier means she lacks competence. Coincidentally all of the fairs that I have worked with have been run by women, yet most of the board members are still men.

L2, L3, D3

Keywords: data reporting, analytics, reporting, communicating results

Social Media as a Strategic Marketing Tool

Galati, A., Crescimanno, M., Tinervia, S., & Fagnani, F. (2017). Social media as a strategic marketing tool in the Sicilian wine industry: Evidence from Facebook. Wine Economics

This study evaluated the use of social media on Facebook for 45 wineries in Italy and then compared the results to the demographics of management. The goal was to see what correlations exist, if any, between the use of social media and the characteristics of management. Social media effectiveness was measured by intensity, richness and responsiveness. Their findings summarized that small to mid-size wineries were more active on social and had higher values for intensity, richness and responsiveness. In contract larger wineries showed a more modest effort on social and reported higher spending on traditional marketing methods. This study also revealed that the wineries more engaged on social were run by managers with higher education levels, and in contrast wineries less engaged on social were managed by younger individuals.

The results of this study weren’t very surprising. Many companies use social media as an inexpensive tool for communicating with their customers. As we become more educated about how to make social communications more engaging and effective, we elevate the resources allocated to them. I have participated in this evolution. This year I cut my print ad budget in order to double our online efforts on social. As algorithms continue to change, paid ads will also become more prevalent.

L4, L6

Keywords: crisis management, crisis best practices, crisis communications

Data Mining and Brand Building

Moro, S., Rita, P., & Vala, B. (2016). Predicting social media performance metrics and evaluation of the impact on brand building: A data mining approach. Journal of Business Research, 69(9), 3341–3351. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2016.02.010

This paper tested the hypothesis that social media performance metrics can be predicted with data mining. The research included one year of Facebook activity of a cosmetic company. The data was categorized into seven input features and results were defined by twelve performance metrics. The overall results reflected good predictability for posts that included video and some sort of required action, such as a contest or special offer. What this really means is that managers can review social history and strategize based on the post’s content, timing, and brand loyalty. The predictability models allow managers to enhance post impact and brand building.

Strategizing communications is key to effective public relations and today’s metrics provide endless amounts of data to use in testing and adjusting our methods. Each year I always analyze the previous two years strategy and compare them to results. This allows insight into what has and hasn’t worked, when to send out messages, and what content generates the most interest. It’s an amazingly effective way to improving communications plans year to year.

L1, L5, L6

Keywords: social media, brand building, social strategy, engagement

Status Games

Humphreys, A., & Carpenter, G. S. (2018). Status Games: Market Driving through Social Influence in the U.S. Wine Industry. Journal of Marketing, 82(5), 141–159. https://doi.org/10.1509/jm.16.0179

This paper dives into the complexity and ambiguity of building influential wine brands in the U.S. market. Humphrey and Carpenter find that by playing the status game, wine firms gain a competitive advantage through developing symbolic capital. The pursuit of influence and power is the game, rather than trying to satisfy the customer. Firms develop influence by forming strategic alliances both within the industry and outside of it. Successful brands also influence by sharing resources with rivals, which in turn position them as leaders and mentors. The firms in power determine product categories, shape consumer preferences and set benchmarks. High status brands can influence key players for decades and even centuries. In summary, market-driving firms enjoy financial success as a result of gaining social influence and power.

Having grown up in Sonoma County (wine country) I can attest to the validity of this paper. The wineries in power are traditionally the ones with deeper pockets, celebrity winemakers, and high scores. We have several cult wineries in the valley where wines are coveted and sold before they are even bottled. It’s extremely difficult to achieve this exclusive status and many of our smaller wineries are struggling as a result. There are a few successful rule breakers, but they are criticized for making consumer wines instead of quality wines. I’m looking forward to investigating consumer preferences further to see if there are any trends changing in this regard.

L2, D4

Keywords: market orientation, status, competitive advantage, social influence, market driving