All posts by raluca

The Relations with Mass Media


In the relations with Mass Media (as well as with the public) the institutions of Public Administration haven’t got rid yet of the “estate secret” syndrome. We have a law of public information – well written in my opinion – there are specialized departments of Public Relations, which were set up exactly due to this law, but Public Relations do not effectively function.

 I will not discuss about here the professionalism (which includes, of course, objectivity, ethics and responsibility towards society) of Mass Media in Romania – maybe in another paper – but about the fact that the relations between public (directly and by mass media) and Public Administration are not how they should be mainly because of the attitudes from Public Administration.

Journalists are perceived as “enemies”, they are dreaded, people stay away from them (maybe they are right sometimes, but it’s still irrelevant) – but nobody thinks of seeing the circumstances of being in the newspaper as an opportunity with many sides.

Official statements to the press – an important part of the relations with mass media – are made tepid, edited and distributed “by ear” and at each institution in a different way – not an earthly about creativity or an open-minded language. Joseph Pulitzer gives a simple receipt for an efficient communication. The message to the public should be:

  • short – so that the public reads it;
  • clear – so that the public appreciates it;
  • picturesque – to remind it but more than anything
  • precise – so that the public is guided by its light.

Having to do with the media is a torture for some people, especially for those inexperienced and those who have a lot to lose; what should be perceived as an opportunity is seen as a harmful try. Showing up on a national / local channel of the radio or TV could seem a threat for your personality, your job, your things and your own feeling of controlling.

I don’t think there should be intimidation towards technology. Journalism and media continue to depend crucially on what they always depended on: not machines but human beings who are ready to speak, normal people – especially if they are capable of speaking with the media, with ability and in their favour.

Any journalist, who contacts you, no matter how, wants a story, an article and he is determined to get one. You can’t control this. But you have a kind of control or you can influence him with your way of telling the story.

From my point of view there are two kinds of news: the ones you want to see published and the ones you would prefer not to see published. But journalism doesn’t make this kind of distinction; it is only interested in the VALUE of the news.

As individuals, journalists are different, as the other people are: some are non-moral, others – scrupulous, stupid or very intelligent, rude or sensitive, careless or careful, narrow-minded or open-minded, with a rigorous perception of reality or with a foggy one.

One of the most irritating things that may happen to a journalist is when the contact person doesn’t bother to give him all the information and then complain that the reportage is not exact or is not adequate. It is always better to offer something than not to offer anything. Better you will understand the professional needs of the journalist, his personal identity and the constraints he must work with, better the results will be.

The easiest manner of interacting with the media is by treating journalists the same way you would like to be treated. In order to do this, you should imagine you are journalists. If you think journalism is an interesting and professional job, which is worth doing, then you will have no problem.

Obviously the target is building a good reputation in front of the public, but the starting point should be building a good reputation in front of the media. There should be gained the respect for the speed and efficiency of the approach, the integrity of information, the honesty in answering to questions, the access you allow to facilities and the personal and, more than anything, for the equal “vigor” with which you announce good and bad news.

Journalists are people. They are moved and motivated by the same things as we are. They answer in a positive manner if they are treated the same; they like to be treated with consideration and they don’t expect less.

Many organizations find themselves in trouble for trying to concentrate on those things they consider important and interesting. Do they forget about – or they don’t even take into consideration – what could be interesting for a journalist? What is he interested in? What is the public for which he writes interested in?

Trying to create good news when the organization wants it is a poor attempt. A wiser attitude would be making Public Relations a continuous, permanent strategic part of management. In other words, the organization should make real efforts to build relationships with the key audiences (including with the agents like the media and the analysts) that encourage them to speak what they know about the organization’s actions and to see it as an authority and a source of useful information. Thus not only that respect is gained but any bad news will seem better when you will obviously try harder to help than to hide.

 By Raluca Filip

The Public Relations specialist


The Public Relations specialist should be able to answer the following questions:

  • How much can each public category influence the organization’s efforts of achieving its specific aims?
  • Which is the public’s interest in the relationship with the organization?
  • What common values share the public and the organization?
  • Which the leaders of opinion and the factors that influence the public’s decision?
  • Which is the social and demographic profile of the public?
  • Which is the public’s opinion about the organization?
  • Which is the public’s opinion about the specific problems of the organization, which are debated at a certain moment?

From my own experience in this field of activity (which is short, but very concentrated) I noticed some aspects, concerning the relations with the public, that bothered me:

  • The citizen who enters an institution of Public Administration is received and questioned first by the guard / police officer / guard officer;
  • There are no indicators showing the way to the Department of Public Administration or at least to the Information Office (or even to the Registrar’s Office, if the institution doesn’t have the first two ones);
  • Supposing that the citizen “thirsty for adventure” succeeds in finding and entering the office, nobody will pay any attention to him once there (there are cases in which the employees don’t even take their eyes from the papers). He must speak loudly, cough, become anxious and start making gestures;
  • After he succeeds in drawing attention towards him, he is given to understand that he bothers with such a behaviour;
  • While he is indirectly shown that he is a disturbing element, the citizen is “scanned”, classified and labeled according to clothes, shoes, haircut, manicure, wrinkles, accessories, annexes etc.;
  • The citizen manages to tell the reason why he is that institution / office and what he wants in fact; somebody will “explain” to him with an “I’m better than you” attitude that his “problem” cannot find a solution in that office;
  • The customer – citizen will have to follow again the steps mentioned above, at least a couple of times, until his “problem” is solved;
  • Because of so much time wasted, when he finally gets to the right office, he finds there a big queue – or even worse – he doesn’t find anybody because it is closed!;
  • Consequently  “the adventurer” comes back the next day directly at the right office, where he finds out that the time table is not respected;
  • He waits and asks for details; an employee tells him that there is only “one day of relations with the public”, which is not written in the time table, and it was yesterday!;
  • One week later the citizen, calm and resigned, stays at the well-known queue and when he gets to pay his taxes to the state, the computer network blocks…

I have to admit that I exaggerated a little bit, in many Romanian institutions of Public Administration it is better than this – and nobody would be that patient as to stand these “stages”, although he might be that unlucky. But I made this description to draw attention to the dangers we may face in case CHANGE doesn’t come into force. And Public Relations are a good starting point. And what follows…

By Raluca Filip

The Value of Services in Public Relations


 Although experts in Public Relations make products like events or official statements to the press, what they do, in fact, is to offer services. The value of the product comes from the time spent on its development, from the importance of the information and the manner of presenting it. The time spent on organizing the event is usually longer than the event itself. The variable – and the value – are given by the creativity, intelligence and involvement that the expert brought to the project (either those mentioned above, or booklets and web-sites). Writing or drawing a booklet or a web-site could cost less than producing them but its success stays in how efficiently it can see, shape and deliver the message.

 The difficulty of the services’ value stays in the fact that they have little to do with the physical action. The intellectual abilities and creativity of an individual or an organization / institution may allow him take a responsibility he didn’t have before and do a better thing than the experts may who have been working in that field of activity for years. Actually, what measurement does is to strengthen the status quo, when the development of new approaches would me more important.

The first rule of selling skills is to establish the need for a product or a service. It is difficult to sell something to someone who doesn’t need it. This is another barrier in evaluating services in Public Relations. Even nowadays some managers don’t use Public Relations so much and even if they do it they are not willing to pay too much for them. The idea is that perception of a circumstance is as valid as the facts of the circumstance, in terms of value.

 On the relative scale of values, in what business services are concerned, Public Relations are under counciling, legal advice, publicity and marketing. Why? It might have to do with the old thinking about relations perceived as a part of the field of the organization’s survival and success and the perceived quality of the services’ providers.

The second way of evaluating services in Public Relations is by comparing them with similar services. Nevertheless any estimation is uncertain because if the programme has a different aim from Public Relations programmes that were carried out before, this one’s cost will be different. Then, even if the programmes were identical, the conditions of the business environment and general environment could make it more expensive to implement. For example, it is easier to deliver information about sexual education of students from a liberal university than to deliver the same information for students in a conservatory university.

  By Raluca Filip

Public Relations and the Legal Departments


When the organizations are threatened or even have to do with crises, there is often a tendency to head towards a legal adviser. The jurists’ worries are usually about the duties and the risk, and in the past the natural instinct was to block communication with the already legendary expression “no comment”. They show that what is said may turn against the organization and very often stress that you shouldn’t say a certain thing.

Nevertheless there is a raised acknowledgement of the fact that responsibility requires an answer and that public interest should be served by bringing information. “No comment” implies that there is something to hide and many stakeholders will perceive it as obstructive or insensitive.

Public Relations professionals are aware that expression and actions, demonstrations of sensibility, care and responsibility emphasize reputation. They value open attitudes and they want to maintain dialogue. They are also aware of the need to answer quickly to given situations – while the legal process usually takes time.

The recent tendency for the Public Relations professionals and legal advisers is to work together in difficult situations. The touchstone is nevertheless the clear understanding of the roles and the acknowledgement of each specialist’s contribution, consolidated by an open and frequent dialogue.

By Raluca Filip

Public Relations and the Departments of Human Resources


 There are potential areas of cooperation and conflict between these fields:

  • Structural reorganization. The Department of Human Resources has an evident role regarding the contracts and duties, when fusion, dismissing, acquisitions and reorganizations are made. The communication aspects of these matters, including how to communicate with the employees and the external stakeholders, should normally imply the Public Relations survey.
  • Internal communication. The control of the communication with the employees and the division between what is by right communicated by Human Resources and Public Relations are areas for possible debates.
  • Relations with community. This may imply the communication with the employees who are in the local community and also with the potential employees and again it requires a careful distribution of the responsibility for communication.

It is important that each field should mutually recognize the survey and the contribution they have. I also think that in the departments of Human Resources there should be at least one person with knowledge (not necessarily a specialist, because I am aware of the costs it implies) of Public Relations. It is vital to have a constant, honest and on both own will dialogue in order to serve in the best way the interests of the organization.

 By Raluca Filip

Differences between Public Relations and other Fields of Activity



Marketing is the field that in the majority of the cases is mingled with Public Relations, but it means the process of management responsible for the identification, anticipation and satisfaction of the consumers’ demand in a profitable way.

Publicity presents the message of selling in the most persuasive possible way, in a favourable perspective for the product or service, at the lowest possible cost.

Public Relations aim not at raising the sells but at raising understanding. Of course, sometimes these notions are related but Public Relations do not claim a direct causal relation.

Any discussion about Public Relations and their role in organizations, inevitably requires the question: “What is an organization?” – the answer to this question helps discovering the main nature of communication also as a consequence of the strategic impact that Public Relations may have. The organization is a set of components (or subsystems) that have an impact on one another and together interact with the environment of the organization. So the welfare of an organization depends on establishing and maintaining the relations with itself and with the environment. It must adjust and adapt to the inner and outer changes.

Public Relations professionals use the same techniques as the ones available for the ones building strategies (e.g. PEST, SWOT analysis etc.) for “environment scanning”. They also gather information about the stakeholders of the organization.

For a better understanding of Public Relations I suggest an amusing comparison. Therefore if a boy tells a girl he wants to be with how tough and strong he is  (and smart, of course), this means PROPAGANDA;

If he tells the girl how beautiful and smart she is, this means PUBLICITY;

If the boy asks a friend to tell the girl how tough, strong and smart he is, this means PUBLIC RELATIONS!!!

 By Raluca Filip

Informal Attitudes towards Change

The participants in an informal situation are not entirely aware of what happens. That is why, if you don’t pay attention, you may have serious problems.

In Latin America, the institution of family developed so much, in size, stability and influence, that it seems incredible for the North Americans, for example. Their government, on the other hand, does not have such an important place in the scheme of things as in the case of North Americans. The law in Latin America is technically reinforced, “quite as it should be”, but it is mediated by the family relations.

So the Latin Americans interpret law in a strict way and it is only in front of the Court where they try to influence the system – North Americans take the liberty to interpret law in a certain way but they become tough and technical once the law machine starts.

What circle do Romanians join? No one and all, which it means they DON’T join any of them. What I want to say in fact is that every institution of Public Administration in Romania has a different attitude towards change (as people who work there and the ones who lead it have), and it depends on it how Public Relations are regarded and their role in organizational culture and implicitly in improving the relationship with the other countries.

It is obvious that in time all the organizations tend to become self-oriented, concentrated to work more for themselves than for the public and their customers. In the private field, to a certain extent, competition or the threat of new competitors entering the market can stop this tendency. But in the public field usually there is few competition or there isn’t at all. The election mechanism is an out of order instrument and very often useless for keeping public organizations at the top and careful of the citizens’ wishes. The majority of the local authorities need to test themselves constantly. There are outer evaluations – from the center and audit – but they are based on formulae and general things.

A responsible local organization is the one that listens and learns by itself. An active policy for communication must be a part of the programme of Public Relations. Listening to the public one may hear complaints and critics as well as positive suggestions about allocating resources and ways of improving the services. An open and wide communication with the public is also a discipline: the institution must speak the same language as the public and express worries in such ways as to remove discrepancies between the organization and citizens.

 But this should be done once with the removal of communication in excessively formal terms. Local authorities are “political” bodies that swim in a sea of attitudes and ideologies. The way people think about political personalities and parties and the way their position about important problems that have to do with the distribution of resources is reflected on long term are all influenced by signs and signals coming from the institutions of Local Public Administration. Communication is a part of the democratic body that is local government.

Communication is not spontaneous, though. It is not a part of a natural order. On the contrary, left alone, the staff and elected members might “sink” in silence or use the well- known narrow channels of conversation – the political party and the professional network. Constant effort is necessary to communicate with the society. That is why this process must be energetically led, on the basis of the maximum understanding – between the parties – of the lines and melody that make the song.

 There are seven major sins related to Public Relations (Joseph F. Awad, 1985):

  1. Functional myopia – the failure in appreciating the whole aim of the important contribution that Public Relations can bring to a good management;
  2. The tap’s philosophy – we will head towards Public Relations whenever we need it…;
  3. Placing the vehicle before the horse – who needs research?;
  4. Local anesthesia – let’s deal with this at a local level!;
  5. The good news neurasthenia – we believe in the entire and complete public information as long as it is positive and it is favourably reflected on us…;
  6. The tic of sudden communication – why do you accuse us of lack of communication? – the information was mentioned in our last annual report!;

The illusion of the shadow – the philosophy of not being remarked. This absurdity is based on the belief that the organization may become invisible whenever it wants.

By Raluca Filip

Formal Attitudes towards Change


Formal systems are characterized by a great deal of “stability”, which is a feature that satisfies a deep need in all societies and individuals.

Except for some special circumstances, the formal changes slowly, almost imperceptibly. It also resists to an outer forced change. Usually Americans and Western Europeans are the ones believing that the formal systems of other peoples are immoral, insane, useless, backward (for example, in some areas of the Arabic world it is insane to clean running water – people there refuse to receive help for cleaning water and installing pumps).

First, we must understand and accept the formal systems of other peoples, in order to be able to work efficiently within them. Other examples: Americans used to hire Japanese builders according to technical qualifications – a natural error, the Japanese workers were upset because social hierarchy was not taken into account. The solution – allowing workers to choose their own leaders among the ones that had an adequate status. It didn’t matter they were old, didn’t speak English and didn’t know anything about engineering. BUT they could immediately choose young engineers as advisers. In the same way, the Taos Indians didn’t like white people, but after many tries they accepted the advice of a young agriculturer. Nevertheless when spring came the Indians got upset. The young man wanted to implement an early ploughing programme but he didn’t know Taos Indians believed that Mother Earth was pregnant in spring. And in order to protect the surface they didn’t drive the cars to town, took out the horses’ horseshoes and refused to wear they themselves hard shoes!

Very often, however, the conflict between different formal systems in various cultures may have a tragic ending. During the Spanish conquest of the New World, the Spanish people fought to kill and the Aztecs to take prisoners. Consequently, the Aztecs had to lose, having to do with an enemy that was killing in the battle. Because this was a formal system, the Aztecs couldn’t change it in due time to save themselves and their society.

The formal offers a wide perspective, whose margins the individuals-actors can fill with details for themselves. If they stay between these limits, life goes on calmly. If not, they are in trouble.

By Raluca Filip

Instinct, not just a cliche


Evil people, sneaky people , envious people can teach you something new every day. No, not how to be like them – although this answer would be perfectly logical.

How to avoid them, how to listen to your instinct which triggers the anti-aerial alarm in their proximity, how to wipe off the bullshit in which they premeditatedly got you involved in and how to move forward. It doesn’t sound glorious at all, does it? Unfortunately, life isn’t glorious; it’s just life, regardless of money, power, position and appearances.

So what’s the topic of this post? Coaching insight: developing and following your instinct.

In case you never have experienced irrational “alarms”, “feelings”, anticipations and other abilities that you don’t write in your CV, it means you’re either too young (no offence) or too rational – both of which are quite rare situations. Just try relying a few times on your hunches – in matters that are not of very high concern, for starters.

Try making a statistic of the feeling (interesting paradox, right?) and see how well you can read into situations, people and decisions. Be honest with yourself. People tend to overestimate their abilities.

If you reach the conclusion that you can’t really trust your instinct, it’s not a tragedy, that’s how most of us are.

But if you have been checking your instinct over time and it has proven its worth so far, listen to it. Put aside logical deductions, civilized assumptions, and thoughts like “I don’t have any rational argument”, “no such thing can happen”, “maybe I’m exaggerating anyway”, “I should act mature, I can’t justify decisions based on…nothing substantial.”

As long as it’s good and confirmed, listen to it, your instinct. Every time. Every time. Every time.

You will regret if you don’t do it. Every time. Every time. Every time.

By Raluca Filip

Interest from all sides

 

You represent an organization. You activate in a domain but also in a context.

 You have to be interested by everything that can influence you. Because others, for certain, are interested in you (as an organization, regardless of you being multinational, NGO, public institution, LTD). Therefore, start with a map of stakeholders – like the one below, for example.

 Stakeholders_Centrul_Medical_X

By Raluca Filip