The Left and Right Hand of the Korean Media

July 24, 2008

Papers with agendas: this is by no means a shock.   However, I thought this article would be a good introduction to those less familiar with how the media lines up in Korea.  And here from the Korea Times also.

Editorial standards in Korea evolved from state-controlled media where standards for givens in other newspapers like three sources were overlooked.  The Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club published a great book for its 50th anniversary in 2006 called Korea Witness – it looks at how news has been reported in Korea over the last 100 or so years, written by various former and current members of the Club.  There’s some info here at SFCC legend Donald Kirk’s website.

The differing perspective of media, or perhaps what could be called ‘misreporting’, is illustrated by the recent MBC TV issue re: the misleading beef documentary that some believe sparked the beef protests.  I’ve experienced this distortion of factual information in the pursuit of the better headlines myself through work I’ve done with clients and how damaging it can be.  That said, I’ve experienced it first hand surrounding issues clients have faced in Ireland and England, so it’s nothing unique to Korea – journalist and the media are by no means infallible.   To be honest, it comes down to whose the most trusted source of information and is why organizations need to engage media in order to disengage.  A paradox that escapes some people!

The Professional PR Practitioner and Greenwashing

June 27, 2008

The Australian government is cracking down on unsubstantiated environmentally-friendly claims.  Yesterday, it wrapped Goodyear over its marketing of the Eagle LS2000.  A lot of the problem seems to come down to the claim made through media activity.

I used to work for a major teaching hospital in Dublin.  In the midst of Ireland’s ongoing health crisis and problems with A&E departments (it’s still continues although sadly I don’t see how it’s shocking news anymore).  The hospital had a mandate to inform the public accurately (and within its legal limits) of developments at the hospital.  Most of my role was fighting fires surrounding issues and often journalists would accuse me of misrepresenting the truth if it disagreed with the angle they were pursuing.  My role as a PR practitioner was to accurately inform the journalist of the situation, cross checking several sources within the hospital – nurses, doctors and management. 

It taught me invaluable lessons which I still adopt now.  It is vital that as PR practioners we advise our clients professionally and avoid the temptation of misrepresenting the truth in pursuit of securing column inches for clients.  We are not spin doctors; we are experts in understanding the media, what to communicate through it and how best to achieve that.  We are gatekeepers of information to the public(s).

This example of greenwashing points to the importance of taking our role seriously and understanding the importance of accurate information dissemination on behalf of our clients. 

It’s all too tempting to jump on trends, and to produce and position a product as environmentally-friendly.  Considering the noise around world environment day in Korea, I worry about Korean companies falling into this trap too. 

CSR is not about logos and vacuous statements.  It’s about fundamental business practices.  In turn, these business practices can be communicated positively.  The process shouldn’t be the other way round.

Rant over…

Ignore Online Media at Your Peril

June 13, 2008

It was no shock to read that Korean protestors have been leveraging the web and digital tools to aid their efforts.  Even water resistance cameras have come into play!

Online media in Korea is a medium that cannot be ignored.

Resource Crisis

June 12, 2008

This article caught my eye this morning.  Lee Myung bak is pointing to external threats to take heat off him, quite obviously, and I think the Korean economy is a lot stronger than this administration (and the previous) say publicly (although I think a resource crisis inflationary effects will hit marginals and less well off in the short term definitely).  The IMF crisis still looms large over policy makers heads and I understand this pessimistic expectation management.  What with the front page pictures in the New York Times and FT (Asia edition at least) yesterday, these are tough times indeed for the administration.

Kick the Habit! World Environment Day

June 5, 2008

I’ve always enjoyed eating meat but have been consciously cutting down my intake not because of some ethical notion nor equally through fear of contracting CJD from imported US beef…  My reason for reducing my meat intake is partly health based but also loosely based on the environmental argument.

Likewise, I now turn off the water when showering as I put on shampoo or lather.  However, I started to do this not because of environmental concerns.  The shower room in my new apartment in Korea actually leaked into my living area.  So to avoid flooding, I avoid the water running too long.  This habit has changed the way I shower everywhere.

Today is “World Environment Day: Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy”.  What creates change; what is the incentive?  I previously worked with Repak, Ireland’s packaging recycling body, for three years and remember attending a breakfast seminar on social behavioural marketing with my former colleague who I worked with on the account.  Our client had informed us that only about 10% of people will ‘do good’ as they see it and recycle without any financial incentive.  With Ireland set targets of recycling 50%, our communications strategy quickly evolved into using social behavioural marketing techniques and articulating the personal financial incentives to encourage the general public to recycle more.  The focused campaign was successful and Ireland met and exceeded its tough targets a year ahead of schedule.

Germany is an acknowledge leader when it comes to the environment and propogating the movement over the last 20 years.  This is because of bottom-up people power.  This is less visible in Korea, and in other Asian countries according to my colleagues in Edelman’s Clean Tech practice.  I was warmed today to see entire pull-outs in both the Chosun Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo, two of Korea’s biggest newspapers who have also recently taken up environmental campaigns themselves, the Chosun focusing on ways to reduce packaging and sporting a new green logo on its front.  Conergy (disclosure: current client) is building Asia Pacific’s biggest solar power plant in SinAn, Korea and POSCO announced yesterday (see and search for POSCO Taps Solar Energy for the article) that it is using its roofs for generating solar power also.  This is all down to the feed-in-tariff structures the government has established and there is real momentum appearing to happen within industry, at least. 

The next trick, however, is to articulate the incentives to the Korean public in a language or in the terms that are relevant to them.  What’s their leaking shower moment!?!  That’s how to kick the habit.

World Crises

June 4, 2008

Came across this interesting interactive map at Reuters.  It maps the news from AlertNet  to crises across the world by conflicts, earthquakes, food security, health, storms and sudden disaster.

A little morbid but a great news tool. 

Responsible Conduct is a Basic Expecation

May 30, 2008

Interesting article — Does Being Ethical Pay? — in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal on corporate reputation, based on some simple but decent controlled research.  It concludes:

“Companies should segment their market and make a particular effort to reach out to buyers with high ethical standards, because those are the customers who can deliver the biggest potential profits on ethically produced goods.”

The article also points out what our global CSR lead, Chris Deri, would call an “Irresponsibility Discount.”  His view is that the research seems to identify a material discount and negative correlation between irresponsible company conduct and consumer consideration and purchase behaviour.  He would also point out that the research, however, doesn’t actually uncover a significant halo effect for products considered ‘ethically sound.’  This seems to imply that responsible conduct has merely become one of the basic expectations for products, like quality, price and consistency.