The only thing that I regret is not having been able to understand (because of the lack of an english translation) of three and one half presentations (out of nine!) which unfortunately were in the Russian language (the Russian one of course, Belarus, Polish and half of the Latvian one).
However the ones I was able to understand (English, Italian, Lithuanian, Ukrainan and German one) were well worth it.
Here are some tidbits:
Ignas Zokas, Ceo of Spinter polling company from Lithuania opened the session by presenting the results of an April 07 study of that country’s business community (156 telephone interviews) and how they perceive the role of black pr in their country.
36% of the sample indicates that a public relators’ role is to create a positive image of the organization and 33% say it is instead to distribute information to the media.
31% indicate that big companies need pr more than others while 26% say that all organizations need pr.
42% believe the public relators’ most important task is to gain positive coverage while 58% say that it is to gain balanced and correct coverage.
If they had to choose between a public relator who indulges in black pr and one who doesn’t 71% would go for the first and 27% for the second (a bit contradictory with the previous, no?).
35% believe that all public relations agencies indulge in those practices and specifically 50% say that those practices are mostly used to gain direct advantages for their clients, while 47% say that they are used to smear their clients competitors.
A good 33% of the sample say that they have been themselves victims of black pr and the same number believe that in Lithuania the practice is more widespread than elsewhere.
Some optimism in the 32% who say the phenomena in decreasing while 28% insist that it is instead increasing.
Finally 47% believe black pr is not a crime, 40% indicate that it is less serious than bribing a public official while 10% say it is the same.
Refreshing isn’t it….?
Colin Farrington, Ceo of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, presented a paper under the suave title ‘a little more than half way to heaven- extending professionalism in public relations’ and said that public relations is ‘improving reputation by building relationships’ focussing on the importance of life long learning and professional updating. He also announced that the 2008 world pr festival organizaed by the Global Alliance will be held in London from June 23 and 24.
During the final discussion Colin made two important remarks:
a) a lot of what is called black pr is not in itself illegal but it is its opacity (i.e. secretness) which makes it so;
b) the relationship between journalists and public relators (particularly where the public interest is concerned) should not be chummy one by all means. The agendas of the two professionals are often antagonistic and so they should be.
Dmitri Gusev, an important Russian political consultant who reportedly had trouble in getting his visa, spoke through the telephone and reportedly talked about political black pr arguing how black pr is pervasive and is also being used by adversaries of the present leadership from abroad (mostly England).
Inga Latkovska, from Latvia, before she suddenly turned to the Russian language, succeeded in saying that if one cannot define pr (mentioning the more than 300 different definitions…) it is not possible to define black pr..and that was that! She did however say that in her country it was easy to bribe the media.
I presented the Italian situation which I had already attached here this morning in the next to the last post of this blog.
Yaryna Klyuchkovska, from Ukraine, made an excellent presentation talking about the recent smear campaign involving the Alga Group/Telenor case (Telenor went public by exposing documents indicating how Alga Group hired pr agencies to do their dirty work) and said that black pr is a norm.
She estimates that some 50% of the pr spent goes in those practices, without even considering political pr where it certainly much higher.
She explained this by citing the owner of the media political agenda, the economic pressure to raise media revenues (journalists receive from their publishers economic quotas to reach in money raised by private interest for coverage), shortage of professional journalists (most have families, she said) and, more importantly, lack of transparency in the business community.
Success is measured by number of articles, the control of the message and the channel…and insisted that once the ball gets rolling it is very very difficult to break the vicious circle (a sort of addiction?). The major question which always comes up when two public relators meet is…. ‘to pay or not to pay’.
But the most interesting presentation was that of Thorsten Lutzler of the DPRG, the German public relations association.
He began by saying that it is not true that black pr is practiced in eastern Europe and that in western Europe this does not happen.
He went on to show that 54% of the german public believes that pr is propaganda and that another 59% believe that pr and advertising are the same thing.
From 1 to 5, the public trusts pr consultants at 2.8 (journalists instead trust us at 2.5!) slightly higher than advertising people and politicians (2.4).
Journalists say we are truthful only at 2.1, responsible towards society and honest at 2.3.
The only characteristic which journalists attribute us with more than a 4 mark (4.4) is…..loyalty!!!
Thorsten then went on to describe various recent cases of black pr in his country, including the millionaire lobbyist which was found having the same bank account of the defence minister, media coverage for money, television soap opera producers paid by companies to plug their products, paid blogging practices, and questioned whether certain related marketing tactics were not also to be considered as black pr.
But possibly the most interesting part of his presentation was when he indicated the new policy of his association to go out in public and denounce every bad practice. In 2006 there were 28 council decisions, 24 of which ended with public reprehensions…. which is more than all the previous 20 years of the association’s history!
I will only add that when Jean Valin put together in 2002 the base study amongst 20 associations from around the world concerning the preparation of the Global Alliance’s ethic protocol which was approved in Rome in 2003, it emerged that a total of 16 cases had been investigated by the 20 associations in the last five years and that most of these cases involved feuds between professionals and had nothing to do with their practices towards their influential publics!!
This is it, my friends, from Vilnius, Lithuania. I would very much like to comment, but I am somewhat speechless if not on one issue: it is only professional associations who can turn this thing around !
The German case is exceptionally interesting and a model for all!!!
I am of course eager to receive your reaction to this freezing shower and on how we should (how can we not?) proceed with this discussion.