Friday, 12 November 2010

I Am Spartacus

The power of the Twitter community is famously known for breaking news and highlighting issues. The recent hashtag, #Iamspartacus has added something new to that list - political activism.

Twitter user Paul Chambers was recently convicted and fined for posting an angry joke on Twitter :"Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!"

Even before his court appeal failed, the Twitter community was already deep in debate about the saga, tweeting under the hashtag, #twitterjoketrial. Shortly afterwards, one Twitter user under the name christt decided to retweet the exact same phrase that got Paul Chambers into trouble, and encouraged others to do the same in protest against the charge.

This 'Spartacus' style show if solidarity spread so quickly that the phrase was a key national trend within hours. Even social media addict Stephen Fry tweeted that he would pay Chambers' fine after the hearing.

If the government does decide to convict and fine every Twitter user that repeated the phrase, at least it'll be an easy way to solve the deficit. We could have all have a glass of bubbly on the NHS. Just saying...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

What the new Twitter means to me

Last week the new Twitter began a phased-in launch which will be completed over several weeks, and though I don't yet have it on my account, I think it may actually make my life a lot easier. Very excited. If you're reading this Twitter, me next please.

The main difference is that there will be a double-page instead of a single page home screen, which will allow you to view more information without having to click away from the homepage, a bit like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite but less complex. This is how Twitter puts it:
"On the site, you’ll see the familiar timeline, yet underneath each Tweet is a handful of information, deeper context and even embedded media. Simply click on an individual Tweet and a details pane slides out on the right and reveals this content"
(Aside, I feel I ought to give an old friend a mention; the new Twitter also means it's time to say goodbye to the fail whale)


I think I am most excited about being able to view multimedia more easily and view profiles without leaving the homepage (Usually I painstakingly right click and 'new tab' to avoid losing my page). My only concern is that the new Twitter won't be available on my Blackberry app. It probably wouldn't be practical anyway. Life goes on.

I lied. I am actually most excited about the first ever Twitter advertisement to promote the new Twitter. Impressively, this video gained over a million views on its first day on YouTube. I can understand why. It's the happiest video ever and I want to watch it over and over and over...

Friday, 17 September 2010

PR in a digital world

I just found this video on the KetchumPleon website and found it really interesting. Those featured are discussing what social media means for the PR industry, and they raise some interesting issues:

These are the most poignant for me:

  • "Do a lot of stuff and see what works" - Many PR professionals are afraid of getting it wrong in social media and creating a reputational disaster. What they forget is that everyone starts in the same way, so they should probably get stuck in and make a few mistakes now so that they're not the last ones off the starting block.
  • "Content is KING" - This is really interesting, because PR professionals should already know this. Maybe some think that because the platform is different the rules have changed. It's still not about vanity, it's about engagement and mutual interests.
  • "Social media is always on" - And PR professionals are always working, in my experience. They might say that they do 9-5 hours, but more often than not their phones are ALWAYS on and they will ALWAYS answer, and they've always got their ears to the ground - they can't help it!
  • "There are a lot of institutional barriers between the PR industry and social media" - This is the problem. With large companies particularly, there are too many rules for online engagement. I understand the need for guidelines, but when there are too many rules, people often don't bother INCASE they get it wrong. And there goes that missed opportunity. Shame.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Oh My Lady Gaga.

OMLG. I understand that it's all part of Lady Gaga's image to be outrageous, but she is in real danger of crossing the line from eccentric to psychopath. A meat dress?? I know she likes it rough but this is sadistic. Next she'll be sawing off her poker face for the paparazzi. Not all publicity is good publicity Gaga.

Picture from

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

How to get a first in PR

I can't believe I completely forgot to brag about the article I wrote for Behind The Spin: 'How to get a First in PR' a few weeks ago. Have a look and let me know whether you agree with my methods.

I wrote it as a list of rules, all of which worked for me but I had to discover them on my own. Despite my previous claim, I didn't write the article to brag. I think I would have found my degree a lot easier had someone told me those rules when I started.

Signature PR: Sophie Blecha, Marte Semb Aasmundsen, King Houndekpinkou, me and Catherine Birch

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sofa surfing in London

I've never been to London for more than a few days before now. I've also never been sofa surfing before. Yet I have come to London for 4 weeks to surf various sofas whilst working an unpaid full time intership, and with an overall budget of £100. Luckily for me it's working out just fine.

Here are my tips:

1. Try and stay with people you already know so that you can relax.
2. Pack as little as possible and be mindful that you will have to live out of your bag - no wardrobes in living rooms!
3. Find a supermarket and stock up of cheap food because buying lunch every day is simply too expensive.
4. Stock up on early nights where you can because you never know what the next day will bring.
5. Be sure to thank your hosts with chocolate, flowers, cards, and/or by cooking them a scrumptious supper.

Simple. Happy surfing! :-)

Friday, 3 September 2010

Video: The Last Exorcism on Chatroulette

I am so impressed with this viral. Not just because it's hilarious to see young men jump out of their skin, but because it's highly creative and it communicates the right message for the film genre.

Everyone knows that Chatroulette is not about meeting people from all over the world and engaging in intellectual discussion (I made that assumption once with a friend...we were shocked to say the least). If you don't already know, Chatroulette is crawling with horny males looking for hot women.

This viral plays on this perfectly. It's sick, it's hilarious and you won't forget it in a hurry...

Facebook virtual currency for sale as gift cards

I read in Mashable today that Facebook are selling vouchers in the U.S. which will serve as virtual currency on the website. I am slightly concerned that this is not a joke. Check out the article for yourself: Target to Sell Facebook Credits as Gift Cards in Stores

So people are going to spend REAL money on fake money, so that they are out of pocket in real life but better off in virtual life. Someone needs to explain this logic to me please.

End Of Week One As An Intern

This is the last day of my first week as an intern in corporate PR, and so far I have been pleasantly surprised. I had expected to be used as a human filing machine and to have to suck up to people who clearly didn’t want stupid young interns under their feet asking questions. My expectations couldn’t have been further from the truth...

What has surprised me is that absolutely everyone here is so friendly! I’m being treated as an equal by all levels, which is...weird but great. All interns were invited to the western themed Ketchum Summer Party last night and it was great fun (although I wish I’d brought a chequered shirt). I really enjoyed just chatting and socialising with everyone.

Me (left) with some of the other interns at the Ketchum Pleon Summer Party

I have three weeks left of my unpaid internship at Ketchum Pleon, and time has flown by! Ok so I haven’t been given anything challenging or really important to work on yet, but hopefully I will earn that work in time. Meanwhile I’m enjoying just being in a smiley office.

I have found myself wondering whether anyone here ever has an off-day...

Friday, 27 August 2010

Students and Grads: Finding Your Way In Social Networking

Social networking is a daily activity for most of us, but we sometimes forget that our actions online can very easily be traced back to us. Any websites that you have a profile with, any Tweets that you post, photographs that you upload and blogs that you comment on will usually be the first to appear in online searches...and you'd be naive to think that an employer isn't going to Google you when you apply to work for them.

If you are a student or graduate it is important to market yourself as you would a business online and create your own brand. You have core values, perhaps even a mission statement (what you want in your career) and it’s also worthwhile to continue the same avatar across several social media platforms. It’s not just enough to link up your social media channels, you must provide your online audience with continuity as well as an understanding of who you are and what you stand for.

Don't contradict yourself!

This is quite a challenge. As a student it is difficult to know what you want to achieve from the offset online and to add insult to injury it can be almost impossible to change your social media footprint once it’s there. One year you might be commenting on several blogs about how much you want to go into social media only to decide a year later that you are more interested in public affairs. Therefore it is imperative to be honest and inform your followers about changes you make to your direction and explain why.

I recommend creating an account with because if you comment on blogs, this website will already have your history. Using Disqus you can review all the comments that you have made and even delete some if you need to (It may not be able to delete your comment on a blog but it will at least change your comment to anonymous).

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

PR Industry Steps Up Crisis Communications Training

Crisis communications is an established PR discipline, but its invaluable importance is finally being recognised by businesses following numerous corporate blunders that have recently saturated the news and damaged the related companies indefinitely.

Businesses want their crisis communication insurance policies in place, now. Having watched the carefully built up reputations of Toyota and BP fall to pieces over the last year, thoughts have turned from building reputations to maintaining them, and the PR industry is responding to the business opportunity.

From October, the CIPR will be running a masters-level diploma in crisis communications at their London headquarters. According to PRWeek, the new course ‘will give PR practitioners the skills to respond to threats and challenges to corporate reputation’.

Ann Mealor, interim CEO, CIPR said:
"This is an exciting and timely new addition to our qualifications. It will build skills, knowledge and understanding, enabling people in PR to step up to the mark at times of crisis when a clear and authoritative response is required" (PRWeek)
A CIPR conference on ‘Reinventing crisis management in a wired world’ is also scheduled to take place on 23rd September. The clever PR agencies are taking note and stepping up training. Businesses don’t just want crisis communication teams; they want the best crisis communication teams available. It’s not as if BP didn’t have them, and look what happened there...

In my opinion, the most important aspect of crisis communications is to keep the brand and corporate values in mind at all times. So BP, if your values state that you care about the environment, don’t hold back the extent of a catastrophic oil spill until the last possible moment. Instead disclose it immediately and get all the help you can to clean it up.

And PR agencies, use the disaster stories to set yourselves apart and make sure you know where others went wrong.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Moving On From Community Publishing

I have been a community publisher for for over a year now. I have been writing several local news articles/features per week, promoting the website, attending town meetings and putting on events. I have built good relationships with local business owners, event organisers, community groups, sports clubs, and many local individuals both online and offline.

As of 31st August 2010 I will no longer be working for The Local People, and will be taken over by a new publisher. Her name is Margery and she is brilliant. I am confident that I'm leaving the local community in more than capable hands.

I have had such brilliant fun getting involved with my local area and discovered so many exciting things about Dorchester and the people who live here. When I applied for the job I had lived in Dorchester for 21 years, and thought I knew it inside out. I was so wrong! There is so much more going on than I realised and it is constantly changing and evolving.

Me at the Dorchesterpeople Live Band Night

I have thoroughly enjoyed the many discussions and debates that regularly take place on amongst residents, and it's clear that there are a lot of people who care about the town. I have particularly enjoyed many fierce debates about the West Dorset District Council development plans. Wow, I think everyone in town has a strong opinion on the subject!

I now have an advantage in embarking on my career in public relations because I understand the importance of local communities and realise that hyperlocal websites can provide the perfect platform for engaging with them...and encouraging them to engage with each other!

I have worked with some fantastic people over the last year and I feel I have been totally supported in my efforts so far, by The Local People and by other publishers too. I only hope I can find the same thing in my next place of work.

But employee or not, I will still be getting involved with and writing articles, uploading photos etc. I am hooked on community debates and local gossip so mark my words. You have not seen the last of my avatar Dorchester people.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Superdrug Proves Age Old Selling Tactics Still Work

I was in Superdrug the other day, as I tend to be every now and then, picking up some essentials. Nail file. Check. Shampoo. Check. Cotton wool pads. Check. But then something out of place caught my attention…

I noticed that a prominent sales stand was stacked high with bottles Optimum SWISS APPLE Overnight skin renewal serum on sale at £9.99. But that wasn’t what caught my eye (I am still quite young and not interested in looking younger when I still get asked for i.d). What I saw in the centre of these bottles was a recent newspaper cutting from the Daily Mail with the headline ‘£9.99 Elixir Of Youth’.

It wasn’t a neat cutting or even a photocopy and it was slightly wrinkled, but it was obvious that this article was placed there to sell the Optimum serum. After bombarding the nearest shop assistant with my questions, I found that the shop manager had taken it upon him/herself to try this tactic and that the serum has been flying off the shelves ever since. I had thought it was a bit tacky but I suppose the sales speak for themselves. It worked.

Aside from the bargain price of the serum and its’ prominent placement in the shop, this tactic proves the high value of public relations in helping consumers to make their choices. However I would suggest that in this case, the short amount of time between reading the article and making the buying decision is the main attributor to the high sales.

Friday, 20 August 2010

My Online Makeover

As I recently became a graduate and can no longer call myself a student, as you can see I decided it was time to swap my baby blue scribbly online visual identity for something more adult...ok a little bit more adult. I have changed both my blog and Twitter page to this pretty peach rose theme. I am rather girly and tend to wear peachy pink colours so I think it suits me. What do you think?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

My Own Little Tag Cloud

I thought it was about time I jumped on the wagon and created my own little tag cloud. Unfortunately I struggled to embed it into the sidebar without having to use a magnifying glass to see it afterwards, so I have included it only in this post.

I made it on Wordle. The only problem is that you can't resize it on the website, and if (like me) you don't speak html it's a small nightmare. It's still a bit of fun that succeeded in entertaining me for ten minutes nonetheless!

I like staring at it and creating phrases and sentences. The most obvious is 'Want PR Job'. Very insightful. It's like the online version of reading tealeaves...ok actually it is just a pretty collection of randomly placed words that give a rough overview of the content of your blog.

I prefer Typealyzer, which I mentioned in a previous post. It not only describes the type of blogger you are but also shows a diagram of your brain activity when you write. Now that really is insightful (if slightly less colourful).

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Dissertation Marathon

I recently received my unit results and was pleased to learn that in the dissertation marathon, I came in 1st. If you have never written a dissertation, let me tell you it is unbelievably painstaking waiting for the decision on how you will be graded for something you have slaved over for months and months. But when you get the result you wanted, the good feeling is the opposite equivalent times ten.

The study was titled 'Is Political Blogging A Worthwile Tool For Engaging Young People In Politics'?, a subject I chose because I thought it to be a timely piece in terms of current affairs (funnily enough, the hand-in date was the same day as the general election). I also have an interest in politics and the study of social media, so that's how it came together.

I wrote a summary of my dissertation which I recently had published as a feature on 'Behind The Spin', an online magazine for students and young practitioners. The article is called 'Political blogging: can it reach young people?':

"Politicians are increasingly under pressure to engage with their constituents online. Some engage via social media. Some don’t. Some are blogging. Some aren’t. In the run up to this year’s general election in the UK, I was researching whether a blog would prove to be a useful way for politicians to get young people engaged…" (read the full article)
'Behind The Spin' is supported by the CIPR and is put together by Richard Bailey. If you are a PR student or professional I strongly recommend that you have a read and consider making a contribution.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Have Faith Fellow PR Graduates!

Students all over the UK have been terrorised by shocking news stories surrounding graduate jobs in the last few days. Headlines such as 'British job market bleak for fresh graduates', 'Nearly 70 graduates for each job vacancy' and 'Bar rises as graduate job squeeze tightens' have had us all sick with panic.

The obvious truth is that giving up faith is not the way to become the 1 graduate in 69 who gets the job. I am writing this for fellow PR graduates who, like me, have not yet landed themselves their dream jobs.

Ok, admittedly it is healthy to have some perspective and understand that getting a job is a little more difficult than usual. So here's a little perspective for you from M&C Saatchi Sport & Ent­ertainment CEO Steve Martin commenting on the launch of the brand new PR agency, 'M&C Saatchi PR', in PR Week today:

"The PR market is in growth and we feel the time is right to step up our offering in the broader consumer PR space. We just feel that there is an amazing opportunity in the PR sector now and hence we are launching the new agency to make the most of this from both consumer and corporate points of view"
I hope this makes you all feel a little better. It may be that we graduates have to work part time for a while (like I am doing) until we find the jobs that we want, but patience is a virtue. Possess it if you want to succeed, and don't lose sight of where you want to be.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Goodbye Southampton Solent University

On Monday I completed my final day at university, so I am now preparing to launch myself into the professional world of PR and Communications as a relatively small fish in a huge pond. The student comfort blanket has been officially confiscated.

On the one hand I am sad to say goodbye to my friends for life, and I know I will miss the deadlines and getting stuck into various projects at once. However the thought of my future career prospects is exciting and I can't wait to start jobsearching.

To give you an idea - I am realistically looking at a high 2:1, with marks for the past year that I have already had returned varying from around 65 to 75. Although, there are plenty of grades that I haven't received which could make a huge difference, hopefully nudging my average to a 1st - fingers crossed!. Handing in my dissertation (see picture) was a huge relief, and I almost didn't want to part with it!

My biggest fear at the moment is losing touch with the industry now that I am not immersed in a PR environment and talking about it everyday. I intend to continue blogging about PR and Communications, read the PR books that I haven't had time to read yet, and keep up to date with publications such as PR Week and Behind the Spin.

You might say that I am being unwise in taking my time to search for a job, but I want to make sure that I give it a lot of thought and planning. I want to find a job that I really want, and that I will stay in for a long time. I will definitely keep you posted and any advice is welcome.

Monday, 3 May 2010

The ethical grey area

Although we studied cultural and ethical dimensions of negotiations this week, I have decided to focus on ethical negotiations because of its relevance to the case study. In addition, the ethical grey areas that exist within negotiations are of interest to me.

When the lecture began we were asked if lying during negotiations is ethical. Of course, I immediately said no. However, we were then bombarded with lots of questions about whether exaggerating benefits, downplaying negatives, omissions, saying you don’t know when you do, etc, is lying?
I was slightly stumped. I thought back to the study of BATNAs, and how theory dictates that in most situations they should not be revealed, but is it lying to imply that your BATNA is something different to what it actually is? These questions fall into an ethical grey area.

Thompson identified four aspects to lying in negotiations (2005, pg 166):
1. The speaker is aware that he or she is misrepresenting information
2. Regarding a material fact
3. The other party relies on this fact
4. By doing is so is damaged – economically or emotionally

These aspects are quite obviously unethical because they involve a party being openly deceptive about facts. I think the grey area contains misrepresentations about motivation. Thompson also identified two types of information misrepresentation. The first is passive – a party does not admit their true motivations. The second is active – deliberately misleading another party with a false claim about your motivation (2005, pg 167).

I would agree that passive misrepresentation falls into the grey area, and I would happily use this in a negotiation situation. However I would agree that active misrepresentation is unethical and belongs in the naughty area. Using active misrepresentation is also likely to ‘snowball’ and could cause problems in the future if a future situation is revisited.

With reference to the case study, we are only aware of the factual aspects to the meetings. However I would imagine that there were deceptions in the grey area. One of the borough councils in the negotiation had only just implemented a new performance management system, and other councils were trying to convince them to install a new system in collaboration with the rest of them.

Whilst this would benefit all of the councils collectively and save money overall, this borough council was likely to lose out individually. I can imagine that benefits were oversold and disadvantages ignored by the other councils whose true motivations may have been to benefit themselves in the long run.

Thinking ahead...negotiating the job offer

This week’s lecture was incredibly useful for me in terms of my future career. What we learned this week will not just apply to negotiating a graduate job, it can be transferred for promotions, pay rises, self-development, and anything else that I may wish to pursue within the workplace.

Negotiating a job offer is a classic example of ‘expanding the pie’. The process is very similar to the 5 step negotiation process studied previously. The following steps were suggested:

1. Figure out what you really want
2. Do your homework
3. Determine your BATNA and your aspiration
4. Research the employer’s BATNA
5. Determine the issue mix
6. Prepare several scenarios
7. Consider getting a ‘coach’

(taken from Thomas, 2005, pg 356)

What I found most helpful is the sixth step. Preparing several scenarios is an extension of determining yours and your employer’s BATNAS, because it involves projecting forward and imagining what could happen. In any negotiation situation, preparing your responses to potential situations could be beneficial for maintaining control of the situation when it occurs.

Conflict in the workplace

The meetings conducted by Dorset Strategic Management Partnership were task-oriented. The various district and borough councils met to agree on a plan for a new performance management system. Emotions and personal needs were not initially part of the negotiation process.

There are two main types of conflict, personal and task conflict:
“Personal conflict is often rooted in anger, personality clashes, ego, and tension. Task conflict, also known as cognitive conflict, is largely depersonalised”
(Thomas, 2005, pg 129).

The negotiations from the case study could be classed as task conflict (assuming that conflict arose) which involves negotiation on tasks independent of the individuals involved. However there is significant and complex history between the councils which would take a lot of further research and interviews to uncover. It is possible that relationship history could have traversed to personal conflict, which is not ideal for reaching the best solutions for the organisation:

“Task conflict is often effective in stimulating the creativity necessary for integrative argument because it forces people to rethink problems and arrive at outcomes that everyone can live with. As a general principle, personal conflict threatens relationships, whereas task conflict enhances relationships”
(Thomas, 2005, pg 129).

In this week’s lecture we studied personal conflict and examined some of the reasons that conflict can arise at work. I was reminded of the definition of conflict mentioned a few weeks earlier, which stated that conflict can only arise when one party PERCEIVES that another party is negatively affecting them. Therefore, emotions and interpersonal relationships can play a large part:

“Not only must a party perceive a conflict, but it must also feel it. That is, it must become emotionally involved in experiencing feelings of anxiety, tenseness, frustration and hostility towards the other party”
(Huczynski and Buchanan, 2007, pg 776)

In the lecture we discussed how to deal with put downs, so as not to become emotionally involved and allow conflict to escalate. For example, if a work colleague says “that’s typical of you” should you confront them, ignore them or question them? An appropriate response might be “in what way?”.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Is Third Party Intervention Always Ethical?

The case study for my assignment is 'Dorset Performance Management Partnership' so this entry will study third party intervention from a business perspective. DPMP is made up of Dorset County Council and all of its borough and district councils, collectively serving a population of 700,000.

Third party intervention is a classic conflict resolution method, and is usually called upon when conflict has arisen and is out of control. The following types of third party intervention are the most common:
  • Mediation: a procedure whereby a third party assists disputants in achieving a voluntary settlement
  • Arbitration: a procedure whereby a third party holds a hearing, at which time disputants state their position on the issues, call witnesses, and offer supporting evidence for their respective positions (Thompson, 2005, pg 348)
However third party intervention is not as straight forward as that. Who the third party is makes a huge difference.

During the lecture we acted a role play involving a dispute between an employee who had made a formal complaint against her supervisor. The third party 'mediating' the dispute was the manager. The manager's role was to encourage the two to resolve their differences, clarify the situation and discover whether there was cause for a formal complaint.

Due to the authoritative position of the third party, the conflict resolution can be described as Med-Arb: "Mediation - Arbitration consists of two phases: (1) mediation, followed by (2) arbitration, if mediation fails to secure an agreement by a predetermined deadline. The same party serves as both mediator and arbitrator. Thus, arbitration is only engaged if mediation fails" (Thompson, 2005, pg 349).

Third party intervention often takes place within organisations, so the mediator cannot be considered impartial. In this instance, the manager may not have wanted to fire a loyal supervisor who he may be friends with. Equally the manager may have been concerned for the organisation's reputation if the allegations go further. In this respect, the third party was biased.

The DPMP made the decision to procure a new performance management system across all its councils and chaired meetings with representatives with each council to collaboratively decide what their needs from the system were. However, it seems that the meetings were chaired by a member of Dorset County Council - an authority with its own agenda and needs from the new system.

Both case studies raise the question as to whether third party intervention with an involved party is truly successful in negotiating a fair outcome. It depends from which perspective it is viewed - it may benefit an organisation to send in their own representative rather than recruiting an impartial party to settle the score. However my argument is that it is not ethical and so may backfire on organisations that use this method for high risk cases.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Negotiation Process In Action

This week we put together what we had learned about BATNA and conflict negotiation strategies and studied the process of negotiation. We began with the 5 step negotiation process (Robbins, 2005):

1. Preparation and Planning
2. Definition of ground rules
3. Clarification and justification
4. Bargaining and problem solving
5. Closure and implementation

Following this we were split into groups of six which were further divided into teams of three. One team took on the role of an advertising agency and the other took on the role of an accounting firm. The aim of the exercise was to negotiate a win-win solution to link the two in a business partnership for the long term. Unfortunately, in the time we were allocated, our team only reached step 4 - bargaining and problem solving.
We were having some issues in settling on a mutually acceptable price (both teams had been briefed that they were not permitted to pay/accept more/less than a fixed amount - these amounts were too far apart). Although we expanded the pie, neither teams were willing to break the rules, even though we were also briefed that we were aiming to establish a long-term relationship.

This case study led me to realise that there is no simple method for settling a negotiation, especially as each situation is different. The theory provides a good structure for the process, and offers explanations for certain outcomes, but the skills needed to settle can't be learned by simply studying conflict. They must be practised and rehearsed.

After this lecture, my realisation was confirmed when I began reading 'Negotiating A Job Offer' (Thompson, 2005, pg 354) and found the following advice: "When negotiating a should be comfortable with your own bargaining style. You should be well versed in building trust and rapport, know the ins and outs of power and how to handle creativity".

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Local Councillors Stuck In The Dark Ages

West Dorset District council recently uploaded a video on You Tube to communicate its plans for new offices in Dorchester, Dorset. In the six minute video, chief executive David Clarke explains that the current offices are not fit for purpose and shows viewers what the new buildings will look like.

Local websites such as and happily embedded the clip into their websites and the video received over 200 hits in just three days. That's pretty impressive for the small historic county town of Dorchester.

What happened next literally astounds me. Instead of embracing this new form of free, two-way, accessible communication, local councillors were apparently outraged that they had not been consulted about using You Tube (ironically this was probably because were concerned about the risk to their reputations). Then instead of resolving the issue internally, these councillors went straight to a popular local newspaper and voiced their concerns to the entire local area!

In the Dorset Echo article entitled 'Anger over West Dorset District Council's Charles Street release on You Tube', Councillor Molly Rennie, said: “Why don’t we listen as a council? Consultation is not about leaflets and it is certainly not about You Tube. How many of you look at YouTube to find out what is happening? It should be about talking directly to the public and listening to what they have to say.”

If this comment isn't enough to get you social media enthusiasts fired up, in the same article Councillor Stella Jones said: “How much did this video cost and why do we have to go to YouTube to see it?”. Hang on - why do we have to go to You Tube?? Forgive me if I'm wrong but You Tube isn't a Mount Everest climb, it's a free website that everyone in Dorchester (and the rest of the world) can access from the comfort of their homes.

This is certainly a reality check. I must admit I found it difficult to believe that there are still organisations in the UK with such archaic views. Below is the video that was uploaded onto You Tube:

If you are on team social networking, perhaps a few comments on this You Tube video would set them straight.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Bargaining and Banter...I mean BATNA.

In bargaining situations, your BATNA (your best alternative to a negotiated agreement) includes the alternatives a negotiator has outside the current negotiation e.g. "If I don't buy your car, I can buy my Uncle's car for £2,000" (Thompson, 2005, pg 78). Related to this is your target point and your resistance point. You should aim to discover this information from the other party, but there are rarely situations in which you should disclose yours.

In a class exercise we were instructed to act out the sale of a car in pairs - one the buyer and the other the seller. We were told that the car's market value was £5,000. In my pair, I took on the role of the buyer. In order to identify my BATNA I created my reasons for buying the car. I imagined that I was a car dealer buying the car for resale, so my best alternative to a negotiated agreement would be to find another seller who would offer me a better deal. I set my aspiration point at £3,000 and my resistance point at £4,500. I had to buy it for less than its market value in order to make a profit. Once negotiations had begun, we both began to realise that our settlement rages did not overlap, so neither of us were willing to shift our resistance points. I later found that the seller had decided not to sell the car for less that £4,700. If we had only been using distributive negotiations, it is likely that we would have reached deadlock and no deal would have been made.

However, we then strayed into integrative bargaining, which means that other resources are brought into the equation. I disclosed the fact that it would cost me to clean the car and have it serviced before resale. The seller then agreed to have the car cleaned before handing it over. This shifted my resistance point slightly. I explained to the seller that I would be able to pay for the car and take it off her hands as soon as it was ready. This shifted the seller's reference point slightly. The seller then explained that the car has a new satellite navigation system installed (which I knew to be worth a few hundred pounds) and that I could keep the music system. This shifted my reference point a lot because I would be able to sell the car for well over the market value with these extras. As a result, we finally agreed on £4,650.

My partner and I did what theorists would call 'expanding the pie'. The trigger was when we began to share information with each other: "Negotiations would not go anywhere if negotiatiors did not communicate their interests to the other party...[however]...A negotiator should never ask the other party a question that he or she is not willing to answer truthfully" (Thompson, 2005, pg 80). We shared some of our issues, but not our resistance points. Once we discovered what issues were affecting the bargaining, we began to think of ways we could help each other resolve them: "To capitalise on different strengths of preference, negotiators need to compare and contrast issues and trade them off" (Thompson, 2005, pg 81).

Thursday, 18 February 2010

An Hour with ITN Political Correspondent Chris Ship

Yesterday evening I spent an hour in the company of Chris Ship as he gave a talk to journalism students at Southampton Solent University (a few other PR students and I gatecrashed).

I went along partly because my dissertation is on the subject of political blogging and the socialisation of young people into politics. Unfortunately Chris was there to talk to students about television journalism rather than politics. Although I raised my hand a few times, the journalism students were so keen to get their answers too that he didn't get to me - the girl at the front in the bright pink cardigan - until the very moment supervisor said 'time's up'. I did get a sympathetic nod from him, which is something.

The talk, which covered Chris' tactics in covering stories from Lord Mandelson eating an apple to the war in Afganistan, provided some interesting insights from a PR perspective. Understanding the tactics that television correspondents use to try and coax information out of politicians will prove helpful in the future. E.g. As a PR professional briefing a client about to be interviewed after a crisis.

Chris told us that when he is not filming live, he will often ask the same question over and over again in order to get a more in-depth answer before editing the clip. He said that many politicians are wise to it and will repeat exactly the same answer in exactly the same words however many times and however many ways in which a question is asked. These camera-smart politicians have prepared a message and they stick to it.

We were then shown the following video of ITV News Political editor, Tom Bradby, interviewing the new commons speaker, John Bercow. Bradby was attempting to stir up Bercow about the fact that he is an ex-Conservative MP who gained most of his support from the Labour party. As you can see, Bercow was having none if it:

What I would like to know is who do you think comes off worse in this clip - Tom Bradby or John Bercow?

Monday, 15 February 2010

What is the personality of this blog?

Apparently Typealyzer has the ability to analyse your personality type according to your blog posts. Yes, you read that correctly! According to my blog, this is me:

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.
They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I would be interested to know how accurate those of you who know me personally think this evaluation is. I know you won't say I'm arrogant, I'm far too brilliant. Now hurry up and comment, that is if you are intelligent enough to think of anything worthwhile to say...I'm joking of course! ;-)

This diagram apparently shows my brain activity when I am writing:

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Working towards collaboration

Today in our Persuasive Communications class we were asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine our personal approaches to conflict. We were not told what the approaches were until we had found our match in order to get a true result. The approaches, by Huczynski and Buchanan (2004), include:

1. Competing/Forcing: Get your own way (my score was 12)
2. Avoiding: Avoid having to deal with conflict (my score was 7)
3. Compromising: Reach an agreement quickly (my score was 9)
4. Accomodating: Don't upset the other person(my score was 10)
5. Collaborating: Solve the problem together (my score was 13)

I am satisfied with my scores because whilst I have a spread across the different approaches, my highest score is in the collaborative method which is seen as the ideal. However this questionnaire only determines where you sit naturally, and does not necessarily mean that I have the ability to determine when an alternative approach is required. If this result is true, I am probably more likely to switch to the competing/forcing approach when things go wrong.

The five mentioned approaches are based on two dimensions - how assertive or unassertive each party is in pursuing its own concerns, and how co-operative or uncooperative each party is in satisfying the concerns of the other. The following graph that illustrates this:

There are other elements to conflcit resolution. It is not just about the approach, it also depends on the type of conflict and the methods being used to resolve it. Three types of dispute resolution are:

1. Interest-based: Attempts to help parties find a resolution that satisfies their needs and interest e.g. mediation during a divorce
2. Rights-based: Attempts to determine which party's position is more valid e.g. legal code
3. Power-based: Each party coerces the other into doing what that party wants e.g. strikes by employees
(Conrad and Scott Poole, 2005)

Conflicts may begin with one of these types of resolution and move on to another. For example, the Royal Mail strikes have shifted between all three types of resolution over many years. If only to be a fly on the wall at the TUC meetings between RM bosses and the CWU and note the conflict styles in play!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Marshmallow Test

I showed you a video not long ago about an experiment using marshmallows to test deferred gratification in children. E.T. (Expressionable Thought) then sent me a link to the blog 'Mind Ova Matter' where there is a video of the same test being carried out elsewhere. It's so cute I had to share it with you.

The concept is that a child is left in a room with a marshmallow for 20 minutes with the promise that if they don't eat it, they will be brought another marshmallow after that time. You can imagine how that would be tough for a child, although there is plenty of comedy value in watching it.

The Marshmallow Test from Jérôme Magron on Vimeo.

I actually asked my parents whether I would have eaten the marshmallow and they answered no. They said my younger brother would have though! Interestingly we both have similar intelligence yet he is playing in a band and has his own house and I'm two years older, have no money, am studying for a degree and living at home. I'm clearly still waiting for my second marshmallow!!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Flexibility Holds the Key to Success

Sorry for the delay with this entry - third year priorities and all that! You will be please to know that my dissertation presentation (for which you followers were dumped for, sorry) went very well and I am on track with conducting my primary research. I'll keep you posted! Anyway...

Last week in our Persuasive Comms lecture, we discussed the different perspectives or 'frames of reference' for dealing with conflict:
1. Unitarist: sees organisations as essentially harmonious and any conflict as bad;
2. Pluralist: sees organisations as a collection of groups, each with their own interests;
3. Interactionist: sees conflict as a positive, necessary force for effective performance;
4. Radical: sees conflict as an inevitable outcome of capitalism. (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, pg 792)

We were told that most of us will already hold one of these perspectives naturally, and that we will therefore deal with situations according to these views. I'm pretty sure I naturally hold an interactionist view - I agree that there needs to be conflict to achieve successful outcomes but that there is an optimum level which should not be exceeded. I am definitely most comfortable working in this way within a team.

Radical is a bit too erm...radical for me as well as highly unethical. Although I understand how they might be appropriate perspectives in some cases, I couldn't relate to the other two frames of reference very much. Afterall, 'Groupthink' is my worst nightmare! I later discovered that interactionist is the usual management view, which tends to exist in fast moving organisations that need to be open to change in highly competitive industries. Sounds good to me! :-)
I shouldn't get too comfortable though. I also learned that it is important to be flexible in your frames of reference, as there is value in being able to view conflict from different perspectives. That's a given I suppose, because at the core of any successful PR professional is the ability to understand and adopt the viewpoints of others. Our adopted frames of reference on conflict will determine:
1. What we notice in our environments;
2. How we will interpret those noticed events;
3. How we expect others to behave;
4. How we will behave ourselves. (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, pg 792)

In organisations where there are different frames of references in action at once, interpretations of events will be very different and this can cause misunderstandings. So if we have a group meeting at uni and there is debate about what plan of action we should take, someone with an interactionist view may come away satisfied that the meeting went well whereas someone with a pluralist view may come away dissatisfied with how much hard work it was to come to an agreed decision. This explains why an understanding of the different approaches is important.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Does conflict deserve such a bad press?

We've just started a new section to the 'Persuasive Communications' unit about conflict. In an organisational context it's an interesting topic. Having just completed a report for 'Ethics, Issues and Crisis Management' about Royal Mail's internal modernisation issues, I feel like I've already had a bit of a head start.

When you first think of conflict, you tend to think of the negatives. You wouldn't be wrong in thinking that conflict can destroy an organisation, which is probably why it gets such a bad press. Not many journalists are going to report on a conflict that actually solved a company problem - where's the drama in that?

Theorists define conflict as "a process which begins when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected, or is about to negatively affect, something the first party cares about" (Huczynski and Buchana, 2004, pg 791).

In our PR class of around 25, we were asked how many of us actually enjoy conflict. I was one of only two to raise a hand. The other was one of my close friends, perhaps that's one of the reasons we get along so well! The thing is, I think conflict is important and highly beneficial in any situation.

For instance, in our group work in PR, conflicting ideas are worked through in order to reach a solution that everyone is happy with. Two people may come to the table with completely different views of what needs to be done to achieve our objectives, a potentially argumentative situation. However, by compromising and talking through the reasons for our ideas, we can reach an agreeable compromise. The key is to arrive with an open mind and a willingness to listen.

Huczynski and Buchanan also said that "Conflict is a state of mind. It has to be percieved by the parties involved" (2004, pg 791). Therefore, if our group had not communicated our ideas effectively to each other, in theory there would not have been any conflict...well not at that time, anyway.

I think it's better to have conflict and resolve the issues early on than to have miscommunication. It's hardly productive if we continue to work on a project with different ideas of the outcome. That's a mistake I made in my first year. It only leads to more intense conflict further down the line, often when it's too late to resolve fairly.

A video we watched during the seminar 'from no to yes' said that the three rules of conflict resolution are:
1. Active listening
2. Win yourself a hearing
3. Work to a joint solution

The conclusion I can draw from the first week of this unit is that conflict is a good thing when issues are communicated effectively and resolved with an open mind.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

I will not eat the marshmallow!

I was feeling gutted about spending my Saturday night working on an assignment when all my friends were out partying. In ten minutes of indulgent internet procrastination, I came across this video.

The idea is a simple one - but it has really helped to motivate me. I'm sure I'm not the only one that can benefit from watching this video, which is why I have chosen to share it. I WILL NOT EAT THE MARSHMALLOW!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Different mindsets...???

I was being a PR geek and browsing YouTube for public relations videos when I came across some advice from Duncan Shaw, KCNC-TV executive producer. In his video he talks about how you tailor your client's story for different media, a very well known PR tactic.

However, I could not get my head around the last point he makes. He says that the way in which something is reported in the morning is different to the way in which it is reported at night because audiences are in different mindsets. Mindsets? What does that mean?
Surely you tailor stories for different channels because they have different audiences who want different things from their chosen channel regardless of the time of day. For instance, a news story on BBC1 will surely be reported in the same way at 9am as it will at 10pm, but it will be different to the type of story reported by Channel 4.