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.

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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. 


South-South Cooperation

May 28, 2008

I’ve just returned from visiting Ethiopia, and was lucky enough to mix in the circles of the foreign correspondents based there. 

There was a definite buzz in Addis Ababa about the level of investment flowing into the country.  I was surprised to see that an office block under construction was beeing developed by a fellow Irishman (the hoarding featured the flag!).  Last year investment into emerging markets reached an all time high but like everywhere, unsurprisingly, a slow down is predicated.  Speaking to some of the correspondents, however, they were curious to benchmark the huge growth in Addis versus developing Asian countries.  It’s hard to compare, and I’m by no means an expert. Although it seems to lag behind visible investment/development in Vietnam or Cambodia (which I also recently visited), it is remarkable. 

One famous Ethiopian journalist I spoke to remarked about the “unconditional” investment being poured in from China (it was visible to me without prompting) versus the conditions set by Western companies, and set by their own agenda.  He confidently predicted how Western countries were losing out long term on the increasing south-south cooperation.  With Indian and Chinese influence increasing, the question of global power shifting was debated long into the night over many glasses of tej

What is clear is that Western companies and countries are losing trust in Ethiopia and other Eastern Horn countries at least.  It reminded me of some of the basic trust building communication activities I advise clients to follow here in Korea, and how it really is more the case of how ‘foreign’ investors need to make strides in adapting and appreciating local cultures to be successful.  A lot of this is founded on the history and mistrust brewed between foreign companies and the Korean business environment as it grew or needed outside investment to stimulate its growth.

I guess the same mistakes are made in all parts of the world.  But by China?


What is popular may not always be best

January 4, 2008

According to today’s JoongAng Daily, the new administration may revive the practice of having press rooms in government agencies.

I certainly don’t want to use this space to discuss politics, but irrespective of how you feel about outgoing President Roh Moo-hyun, his proposal to close down the press rooms and replace them with regularly scheduled briefings, while not popular with the media, was in my opinion one of his smarter moves.

The press offices were, ironically, originally installed to help the Japanese colonial government control the Korean media. With the journalists literally under the noses of the government it was very simple to apply the requisite pressure to ensure that the ‘correct’ story made it to the media.

As Korean democracy developed, the press rooms became a way for reporters to have almost unlimited access to lawmakers. That may seem like a good thing on the surface, but it is at least a part of the pervasive problem that Korea faces in terms of confidentiality. Essentially, any individual lawmaker could go to a reporter and discuss government policy – real or imagined – irrespective of how far developed such policy was. The press rooms, far from being a resource for media to understand policy, bcame a tool through which individuals could leak information for their own political purposes. They also became comfortable and very lucrative postings for Korean reporters.

Roh Moo Hyun’s proposal that the press rooms should be replaced with official briefings was greeted with outrage by the media because it cut at the heart of this cozy relationship. However, the proposal makes a lot of sense. All organizations benefit from a single, unified voice when it comes to dealing with media. A company would be insane to allow reporters complete access to everything that goes on internally. Many of the conversations going on in within a company are confidential, speculative, exploratory or just plain dumb. No-one would expect to see those conversations in the media. When a formal position is reached, however, then the company needs to speak with one voice.

Why should government be different? I’m all in favor of a free press, and I’m not suggesting that governments call a press briefing, hand reporters a story and then leave while the reports tug their forelocks, say “Thank ‘ee sir” and print the government document word for word. A press briefing should be a forum for debate and governments should expect tough questions.

Holding a press briefing has the virtue that whatever is being discussed is an official government position. It may not be law, it may not be policy, but it is at least an on-the-record statement of the direction in which the government is leaning. A minor politician discussing internal government issues with a reporter in order to raise his own profile is little more than gossip.

I’ve discussed in the past the danger inherent in the lack of a firm press policy. The Korea tradition of un-named sources coupled with a general lack of discretion in talking to reporters causes problems for Korean and non-Korean organizations alike.

Other developed economies get along fine without press rooms and enjoy a healthy and widely respected free media. Lee Myung Bak’s proposal to go back to the press room system, while popular with the media, ensures that the general public will continue to be fed a diet of speculation and internal gossip rather than clear indications of what the government is actually doing with their tax money. In my opinion, that it is a step backward, not forward.


PR Measurement and Fast Food

October 24, 2007

A good post from Tom Davenport at Harvard Business Online talks about the need for empirical proof that the “solutions” offered by consultancies actually have an impact on the business.

I’m reminded of Sergio Zyman’s comment in “The End of Advertising as We Know It” that the job of advertising is “to sell more things in less time to more people for more money” and that anything that doesn’t do that is a waste of money. He also suggested a new payment scheme for advertisers that based fees on a percentage of profits derived from the campaign. Nothing like a good hanging to concentrate the mind!

Measurement of public relations activities is even more problematic than advertising, in many ways. PR is generally a “slow burn” discipline (though not always – ad-free product launches have garnered some more than respectable results) and so it is often difficult to quantify the impact of activities. Metrics like equivalent advertising value don’t really do the job – EAVs are a fundamentally flawed concept in my opinion, though not as flawed as “PR Value” which simply multiplies EAV’s by a given amount – 2.5 times is usual – on the basis that PR is more credible than advertising. K.D. Paine has an interesting take on EAVs and PR Value which I think is theoretically sound, though I’m not sure how it would deal with negative stories or stories that attack the key message.

Edelman invests significantly in global, regional and local research to try and provide clients with a reasonably high certainty of outcome and empirical evidence for our recommendations from the outset. Persuading clients to share marketing research information is often a challenge, but often this data can provide good additional data such as conversion ratios which can provide a useful base metric.

Once we start talking about measurement of results, though, we often run into resistance from the client. There are a lot of measurement metrics out there, but they all cost money. EAV’s are quick, simple and cheap – the fast food of PR metrics with roughly the same nutritional content. A more robust measurement model based on Output, Impact (Outtake) and Outcome metrics is often appreciated on paper but rejected on price.

I agree entirely with Davenport that consultancies need to provide empirical evidence that their recommendations are effective. However, what is also need for the PR industry in particular is an awareness among companies that PR forms an important and quantifiable component within the marketing mix and the implementation of the necessary internal processes and KPIs to reflect this. I would be delighted if clients demanded specific metrics: one of the biggest frustrations to me is concluding a conversation on the importance of measurement and the reliable tools that are available with the client saying, “That’s really interesting and I see the value, but we prefer to use EAV.”

And I’ll take extra cheese on my burger.


Second Life

July 6, 2007

It’s hard to get the time to write and maintain a blog.  But I find myself slipping away from the offline, real world and digging into some posts and feeds (or posting myself) as the day wears on.  It helps my mind re-wander back to work.  It’s my form of ‘cigarette break’ but I’m thankfully not addicted.

But then when you try the harder stuff…you just never know.

I just joined secondlife.com…and I got as far as my account summary.  I’m sure I’ll dig in later when I can motivate myself long enough as my curiosity had been piqued by good posts like this and I’ve been curious to explore it a little myself from a communications point of view.   

This I’ve done little of since joining the lazy-approach to online social networking!  All in the name of curiosity and research…


Company Evolution

June 11, 2007

Some food for thought for Monday, from Greg Hackett, Goodyear executive professor at the Kent State University business school.

“A study of the profits of 3,200 of the largest companies trading publicly on the U.S. stock exchange between 1960 and 2004 has revealed a third go out of business and a third are acquired on average 23 years into their existence.”

Companies on Hackett’s ‘danger’ list include mammoth companies:

  • Amazon.com
  • Dell
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Starbucks
  • Wal-Mart
  • Yahoo!

It left me wondering about the inevitability of business and how even the biggest companies will fall, the pace accelerated by a global marketplace.  How will Korean chaebols cope within this market reality?  And if the giants fall, where are the new companies coming from?  Is Korea Inc. prepared?  Should Korea be encouraging more entrepreneurship? 

I look forward to seeing new Korean heavyweight companies emerge.