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Posts Tagged ‘Public relations’

Delighted one of the chapters from my book is included in the 85-page booklet showcasing work from Routledge’s New Directions in Public Relations Research series, edited by the redoubtable Kevin Moloney.

Full text here: PR booklet

http://b2l.bz/2TwlLl

 

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Privileged to have been invited to participate in this small research symposium concerning the future research directions of PR/strategic communication. The emphasis on sharing developing ideas & emerging thoughts not just presenting finished work was irresistible. I am bringing half-formed ideas for my next book to this gathering and look forward to their feedback later this morning.

We are a small, select group, mainly from German and Scandinavian universities – and an unusually youthful gathering. It is exciting to see a new generation of researchers coming through with a completely different academic and practice background from my generation. They may not have the grounding in practice common to my lot but they bring a new agenda informed by contemporary research in sociology, applied science and philosophy.

So, yesterday’s highpoint was a passionate conversation between those who embrace a post structural world of unknowable uncertainties and those who want to know that the plane will fly. I observed that these are not entirely incompatible in that science agrees that time cannot be linear but I still need to be at the airport tonight. The bridge is our reliance on stories to manage the complexities of the quantum universe.  Which brings us back to PR/strat comms.

Much of the discussion centred on – what stories do we tell in our conceptualisation of the field, in our teaching, in our selection of methods?? Are we just telling ourselves comforting lies or can we embrace something more robust. Is progress as illusory as linear time?

I was v taken by Peter Winkler’s (U of Vienna) presentation of competing paradigms in social thought and PR, highlighting the tropes and fallacies of each before identifying new combinations which might frame emerging researching directions – we plan to return to this at the end of the symposium this pm.

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Spent an interesting hour today talking through approaches to PR ethics with a wide range of practitioners in the PRIA and PRINZ. Good attendance (nearly 60) and excellent questions suggest a real interest in the topic. Well done PRIA for opening this space.  http://www.pria.com.au/training/event/webinar-bad-barrels-public-relations-and-professional-ethics

Slides are here: PRIA final

This presentation was loosely based on a paper just published online by Public Relations Review, A Jungian Conscience:Self-Awareness for Public Relations Practice which can be accessed via doi:10.1016/j.pubrev.2015.06.005

Really great that I’m now making consistent contact with practitioners on these issues –  last year chairing the panel at Euprera, the WPRF practice/academic research colloquium in Madrid, a contributed essay to Betteke Van Ruler’s Nu magazine and more in the wings….

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I have participated in several joint sessions between academics and practitioners of public relations in the past few weeks: at the Euprera conference in Brussels, I facilitated a Q & A between leading representatives from practice and the academics attending the conference (details here: See Professional Voices #2); the same conference also heard a keynote address from Brendan Hodgson, Director and Head of Digital Practice, Hill & Knowlton Brussels; and the World PR Forum Research Colloquium was attended by approximately 50% practitioners and academics, leading to a range of discussions, including a special session on undergraduate curriculum design.

The following observations are based on these experiences.

1) The first event, a discussion panel of senior practitioners, illustrated the difficulties faced in trying to raise ethical awareness in practice. The participants found it very hard to shift from their corporate positions – understandable given their roles and responsibilities – but disappointing as the focus was on learning from experience.  When I gave examples from my own time as a practitioner, distance was swiftly placed between my experience and theirs, even though questions from the floor suggested that most PR academics hear student reports from their internships every year,  revealing widespread routine abuses of trust and power.  The panelists were unable to accept the reality of such claims., reverting to the old ‘bad apples’ defense. There was also a common reduction of ethics to decisions about which clients to accept;  some defended their right to represent tobacco or arms manufacturers, as long as individual employees were free to opt out of such campaigns. One interesting example of an agency exercising its right to reject a client on ethical grounds seemed (details were obviously withheld) to concern a country in the middle east demanding work was completed according to their values rather than those of the agency. Overall, the discussion was lively but demonstrated a determined avoidance of reflexivity. The questions we were asking, as academics at this conference on communication ethics, were clearly not being addressed in contemporary workplaces, on this evidence.

2) The keynote speech from Brendan Hodgson of Hill and Knowlton offered an interesting overview of the wholesale relocation of PR to the digital environment and introduced me to rather scary concepts such as native advertising where the traditional indicators dividing ads from print copy are completely invisible, though Hodgson suggested that it was an insult to the consumer to suggest they couldn’t recognise when online copy in a digital newspace is paid for. One strand of his narrative was the inordinately hard time multinational companies, such as oil and related industries, have when ambushed by dastardly activist groups who distort the whole information process to challenge the assertions published by corporations. Interesting to see them portrayed, over and over, as victims. This was not the only point where the 5:1 (or higher) ratio between PR: journalists was mentioned. The consequences for democracy rarely featured in such discussions.

However, the aspect which drew most ire from the audience was the continual reference to ‘you academics’ and the somewhat patronising tone in which the practices of PR were patiently spelled out. He berated us for obtuse language in a section called Beyond Jargon, which explored the ‘purchasing decision journey’! After one heated exchange, I just asked the audience to indicate how many had practitioner backgrounds; Hodgson seemed very taken aback when about 80% of those present raised their hands. Later, in conversation he was passionate that students should have access to real world practice, apparently unaware that almost all PR courses have mandatory workplace elements.

3) This knowledge was also absent from the discussion on curriculum in which practitioners repeatedly urged academics to move away from theory and make sure students were fully skilled on entry. This discussion was framed almost entirely as a menu of skills required by employers, following on from the US Committee on Public Relations Education reports, most recently The Professional Bond (2006); one comment that the requirement to write, think and communicate were actually those of any competent adult made little impression, nor did contributions about changing frameworks in the UK and Australia for example, which require a range of graduate competence regardless of degree subject, including those prescribed by the report.

Conclusions:

1) Practitioners are still fixated by education as a supplier of skilled entrants, with little regard for the needs of the profession for long-term leadership, acquired through reflection and engagement with a wide range of thought,  not just the ability to write a blog.  I imagine sometimes the cohorts we could have produced, not so long ago, who were completely up to speed with MySpace.

2) Practitioners seem to have limited time or inclination to reflect on practice, leading to shallow, defensive positions when challenged.  This has serious implications for ethics, suggesting that the short term, concrete demands of clients will always win over longer term reflection on values.

3) Academics have failed to explain the realities of the educational world, including the  constraints and demands of our institutions and journals, and the opportunities we offer for reflection and engagement with deeper issues of relevance to practice. Given the excellent mix of practice and academics at the WPRF, it might have been helpful to have offered a simple introduction about academic language and the peer review process, for example.

4) Academics have also not clearly explained the actual content of most PR degrees, with their mix of theory and practice, the balance of workplace and classroom (and online) learning and the emphasis on problem solving, team work and project management which will be of far more long term value to employers than technical know how.

Finally, Betteke van Ruler once suggested that practitioners were from Venus, academics from Mars (van ruler 2005) ; in the past decade it does not appear that these bodies are any closer.

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Conference started with generous words for book from Prof Ron Arnett and now I leave with Best Paper prize (slides here Euprera2014). Official announcement here Euprera prize winners.

Good trip, eh? And now off to swanky dinner @ Maison du Cygne

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I’m very touched by the generous and thoughtful responses to my book from the range of international professors of communication who have endorsed my forthcoming book (due out in July). Makes me feel like I’ve written the book I wanted to write.

Book reviews for Public relations ethics and professionalism: the shadow of excellence

 

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Recent publications include:

Journal articles

Fawkes, J. (2014). Performance and Persona: Goffman and Jung’s approaches to professional identity applied to public relations. PUBREL Public Relations Review. http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0363811114000393

Abstract: Public relations work involves shaping, reflecting and communicating identity for organisations and individuals, and is in turn shaped by the professional identity both of the field and individual public relations practitioners. This paper explores these issues from the dual perspectives of sociologist Erving Goffman’s (1922–1982) reflections on the performance of work and Carl Jung’s (1875–1961) concept of Persona, the socially acceptable face of the individual or group. The former explores these issues through observation of external behaviours, the latter by engaging with the psyche. Goffman and Jung, despite their conflicting worldviews, offer a complementary understanding of the operation, internal and external, of professional identity.

The paper, which is conceptual and interpretive, with the objective of building theory, summarises contemporary approaches to professional identity in public relations and other fields, before introducing Goffman, who is often mentioned in this context, and Jung, who is not. Together these two scholars offer insights into the interior and exterior aspects of identity, which is here applied to public relations, raising questions both about the production of identity as a commodity for others and the production of self-image of public relations practitioners. The introduction of Jungian thinking brings the inward or experiential dimension of professional identity to this debate.

Fawkes, J. (2012). Saints and sinners: Competing identities in public relations ethics. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 865-872. doi:  10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.07.004

AbstractPublic relations ethics is confused and often superficial in its approach, relying heavily on traditional theory, with only occasional reference to more recent developments in professional ethics, particularly feminist and global ethical perspectives. This paper argues that the central ethical tension facing public relations as a field lies in its divided ethical identity, in particular between the idealized codes of conduct influenced by the US-based excellence project, which conjure images of wise counsel balancing duties to client and society, and practitioner-led expectations that they are advocates and should privilege clients over society. The paper touches on the wider context of professional ethics in the early 21st century from western and non-western perspectives, in order to frame current debates in public relations’ ethics. Taking a Jungian approach, it suggests that the saint/sinner models represent opposing aspects of an ethical identity or archetype which can only be resolved through self-acceptance and a willingness to embrace contradiction.

Book chapters

Fawkes, J. (2013) Public relations ethics and professionalism, in Tench, R., and Yeomans, L., Exploring Public Relations, Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, Chapter 12, pp 216-231

Fawkes, J. (2013) Public relations, propaganda and the psychology of persuasion, (ibid) chapter 11, pp 195-215

URL:  http://www.pearson.com.au/products/S-Z-Tench/Exploring-Public-Relations/9780273757771?R=9780273757771

 

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