Why Journalists go for your blog

There are some studies that compare a company’s Twitter profile to a blog.

The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer study, which I’ve always found to be a fascinating read on where we are in social media practice, had some equally strong indicators as to where traditional and digital media sit on the trust scale.

For instance, trust in company’s web sites are (hold your breath!) up!

So this infographic, which summaries a survey by UK-based Text 100 is a good sidebar to the study. It speaks of engaging journalists using social media.

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Trust in media went up. Really?

If you’ve been following the Edelman Trust Barometer over the past few years, you’ve known that this the value of this ingredient has had impossible to predict. The 2012 Trust barometer did, however throw some surprises.

Government is the least trusted institution. What else is new?

Trust in the media actually rose in the past year! (That has to be impressive, considering that two years ago, a Pew Research study found it to be at an all time low, with Americans who were aghast with inaccurate and biased news.). Gains were in India, UK, the US and Italy. Which is counter intuitive, considering how the Murdock scandal tainted much of the British media last year. Not surprisingly, social media, recorded the biggest gains in media trust.

More details here from Edelman Insights

When PR gets muddied, the big mops come out

Let’s hope the PR industry cleans up its house 2012.

Two stories at the end of last year really hit home that it’s time to bring out the big mops to clean out the stables.

The British case of executives in a lobbying and PR firm, Bell Pottinger, bragging that they could influence politicians and ..Google search results through some ‘creative’ tactics. Hmmm! Here’s how The Independent newspaper in the UK reported on the sting operation:

“Reporters from the Bureau posed as agents for the government of Uzbekistan – a brutal dictatorship responsible for killings, human rights violations and child labour – and representatives of its cotton industry in a bid to discover what promises British lobbying and public relations firms were prepared to make when pitching to clients, what techniques they use, and how much of their work is open to public scrutiny.”*

The sting was conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The claim that it could do some ‘image laundering’, and what they called ‘dark arts’ struck me as nothing new. Bell Pottinger is in good (bad) company.

If you look closely at lobby firms, they seem to dabble in this pseudo science. Why? because dictators and bad governments are gullible enough to believe that their record could be scrubbed clean with a bit of good

The Livingston Group, which is a lobbying firm offering PR, proudly lists the foreign ministry of Libya as a client; other clients include universities corporations and other countries –such as the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Turkey. Here’s a short list:

  • Muammar Qadaffi had a PR agency back in 2008, called Brown Lloyd James. It specializes in Government Relations.
  • During the first Gulf war, the government of Kuwait was known to have used about 20 PR, law and lobby firms. One of them, with a strong reputation for Government Relations, was The Rendon Group. It practically stage-managed stories around the ‘liberation’ of the country.
  • China uses a PR agency for what it calls calls “external propaganda work and culture exchange.”
  • The Podesta Group was an influential lobby for Hosni Mubarak’s regime. It calls itself “a bipartisan government relations and public affairs firm with a reputation for employing creative strategies to achieve results.”

Fortunately, regarding the Bell Pottinger PR scandal, the most reputable organizations, including the CIPR (the UK PR bocy) and the PRSA (the US equivalent)  have come out and condemned this practice. They rightfully call their claims idiotic or unethical.

And the other story?

A minor skirmish, but it involved the world’s largest agency, Edelman. The agency parted ways with its client, Twitter after a few months. But the fall out was not so much about PR practice but how they handled the break-up. Edelman was in the news last year when it took on Rupert Murdock’s News Corp.

As for the PR industry, there is an interesting move worth following. The PRSA is in the process of updating the definition of PR. This was the definition, in place since 1982:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

The new definitions, being voted on are here: worth reading, and watching out for!

Two interesting sidebars to the Bell Pottinger story, above:

* Bell Pottinger also mentions representing the government of Sri Lanka as one of its clients. The transcript speaks for itself.

* The chairman of Bell Pottinger, Lord Tim Bell, was the former media adviser to Margaret Thatcher, and chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi. As you know, the movie The Iron Lady is now showing.

Stealth PR from infant formula manufacturers exposed

Some PR agencies will never learn. There have been plenty of cases where ‘flogs’ (fake blogs) have shown up, only to be traced back to PR agencies attempting ‘stealth PR.’ (Google Edelmen + Walmart and see.)

The latest one is for a group calling itself Babyfeedingchoice.org exposed by the Center for Media and Democracy as the front of the Infant Formula Council.

The site is very well done. It has areas such as “Moms and the media” with great quotes for lazy journalists wanting to get the other side of the story –people offended by seeing a mom breastfeeding an infant– and Resources with links to other similar sites. Looks very credible, until you dig around, and compare it to the saga of the fake Walmart blog.