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Nothing works better than the truth November 22, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Career Focus.
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One of our founding fathers of the public relations industry once said, “Perception is reality”. Harold Burson was of course referring to one cornerstone all communications professionals should embody: manage the perception of your client to its stakeholders.

Another founding father of our industry and former Burson-Marsteller man, Robert Leaf, also has shared his insight into perception, reality and PR: “Public relations is about perception management. You might run a great company, your product or service might genuinely provide great benefits. But if the customer does not perceive it that way it remains on the shelves.” It’s Public Relations 101 stuff; a cornerstone of the industry that we all have to be reminded of time to time – even the founding fathers.

But the picture on the other side of the coin is a blurry one.  We cannot assume that all companies’ products, services and business practices can justifiably be described using one of the countless superlatives the English language affords us. All is well when the cool scoop of perceived reality, with hundreds-and-thousands sprinkled on top, and dished out by the spin-doctors, reflects the truth – even with the hundreds-and-thousands.



‘PR isn’t rocket science, but it is’ September 11, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Media Talk, PR in the PRC.
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Newly appointed Chinese Health Minister, Chen Zhu, whilst concluding his media debut last week received a rare round of applause from the assembled journalists. Lauded as being part of a new generation of media-savvy Chinese leaders, the minister has received praise that includes his avoidance of using ‘no comment’. Instead, questions were met with a warm smile and a gentle persona.

For a journalist looking for a story, not necessarily a negative one, there is nothing more frustrating than hearing a ‘no comment’. For PR folks, it is equally disappointing when opportune moments present themselves for key messages to be delivered – only for them to be wasted. ‘Was not available for comment’ changes a story with the potential to be positive into one that leaves the negative image of a tall well-dressed faceless man, when confronted by a reporter armed with a voice recorder, swiftly making a bee-line for the revolving-door.

No Comment

In fact, the voice recorder should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat. I would bet that the faceless man’s external relations department knows this too. They will know, as PR professionals and experts in communications, that ‘no comment’ for the reader is akin to guilty as charged; the reader being led into believing there is something being hidden – when in fact, there isn’t. Even if there is, it’s up to the PR people to make sure that’s not the message in the newspapers the following day. (more…)

One World, One Dream, One Weather Rocket August 9, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Media Talk, PR in the PRC.
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 Last night 10,000 ‘ordinary’ people gathered in Tiananmen Square to celebrate the one-year countdown to the Beijing Olympic Games. That’s according to government mouthpiece, Xinhua news agency. However if you listen to the BBC you will learn it wasn’t exactly a ‘Party in the Park’ atmosphere for the whole family to enjoy – all 10,000 are far from ordinary and were exclusively handpicked by the Chinese government; the average Zhou not even enjoying a distant glimpse of the fireworks through the thick blanket of smog.

However, the real event that took place yesterday and one that really split the media, was not the singing and dancing at Tiananmen, but the current visit by International Olympic Committee President, Jacques Rogge, who is in town to ‘plant trees’ (it’s a green Olympics after all), meet Olympic volunteers, and amongst other activities – answer questions from the media. (more…)

Cover-ups Don’t Fly August 4, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Crisis Communications, Media Talk, PR in the UK.
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‘The world’s favourite airline’ is experiencing a turbulent week.

First it was announced that BA is now the worst performing of all Europe’s major airlines, then a few days later it was hit with a £270 million fine for price fixing with Virgin. And today – just when they thought the nosedive was over and a spin had been averted – the Times (London) reports that BA attempted to conceal how many bags it was losing after discovering that it had come bottom of an industry league table. BA obviously doesn’t like to spin in the air – or with the media on the ground it seems.

BA, keeping its customers in the dark

Embarrassed by the findings, BA contacted the air passenger watchdog, the Association of European Airlines (AEA), and ordered it not to release the results of its quarterly survey of baggage delays and punctuality. In other words: stop the usual practice of issuing a press release to announce survey results. But that wasn’t enough for BA. They also wanted the figures to be placed on an obscure part of the AEA website, where they would be difficult to find. The AEA were outraged and neither of these requests got off the ground. (more…)

‘Wild, Wild East’ Draws PR Card July 31, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Crisis Communications, Media Talk, PR in the PRC.

On Sunday the New York Times, beaten by a similar Washington Post article on July 14, reported that Ogilvy Public Relations has been enlisted to help the Chinese government spin positive messages to American and Chinese consumers following a tumultuous six months where cardboard filled baozi (steamed dumplings) to toxic-toothpaste have made more of an impression on their ears than in their mouths.

 With a heightened sense of economic realpolitik, consumers on both sides of the Pacific aren’t of course the only group the Chinese government wishes to influence: Every US product quality enforcement agency and their EU counterparts have been hot on the heels of the Chinese – so much so, it seems less adversarial responses have been replaced by a more open, communicative approach. The Washington Post reported that Edelman Public Relations and Capitol Hill lobbying groups are also assisting the Chinese government produce articulate, positive responses when dealing with the relentless product-quality scandals hitting China this year. (more…)

Hu’s better suited to handling a flood crisis? July 26, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Crisis Communications, Media Talk, PR in the PRC, PR in the UK.
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As I waded through my regular news portals covering the latest flood reports from the UK – and China – it was interesting to see how the respective leaders from both countries are getting their feet wet and supporting the relief efforts. Even more interesting is their attire.

First there is Gordon Brown – whether it’s riding the storm in PMQ’s;

 Serving aces past 13 year-old secondary school students;


 Or indeed visiting flooded homes in Gloucestershire;


the customary tailored dark suit, white shirt and polished black shoes seems to be the only way for Gordon to step outside onto Downing Street’s July puddles  (to give him some credit, a pink tie was once bravely worn as opposed to his favoured blue). A search on Google images reveals just two occasions when he was clad in anything else: a picture with his wife, Sarah, and their newly born daughter; and a visit to British troops serving in Iraq – I assume too hot even for his all-purpose-all-weather suit in the midday desert heat. A white shirt, top-button open, was his attire on both those occasions by the way. (more…)

Thumbs Down to Beijing’s Western Media July 20, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Media Talk, PR in the PRC.
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The Times (London) writes: “Web censorship is failing, says Chinese official”. Understood. I’ll now flap my wings and fly to Neverland. Are we really supposed to believe the vice-minister at the Chinese State Information Office even alluded to a failed Government policy to censor the Internet? Granted, he did say that “blocking bad news” is becoming more difficult given the wide use of new information technologies (i.e. the Internet). But he made the comments in reference to blocking information in a crisis situation (highlighted by the recent brick kiln scandal) – making reference to so some key crisis management skills that should be utilised in the future: communicate early, frequently and actively engage the media. His comments are actually quite encouraging. We ask our clients to think of one positive story from the Western media here in Beijing – needless to say, they are few and far between. It was an obvious headline for the Times’ Beijing correspondent – but the fact is, the vice-minister never said that.

For a more balanced take you can check out what I wrote, as seen below. Cheers.  


Brick Kiln Scandal Puts Heat on Chinese Government Crisis Management July 17, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Crisis Communications, Media Talk, PR in the PRC.
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Yesterday, an interesting article appeared above the fold on the second page of China’s English language newspaper – the China Daily – regarding urges made by the vice-minister of the State Council Information Office for local governments to be more open and transparent. According to the vice-minister, attempts to block media coverage of negative incidents was “too naïve” and that “blocking bad news” was becoming more difficult, given the wide use of new information technologies and also the central government’s commitment to information transparency.

The reason why a senior official came out with this is of course due to the headline-grabbing brick kiln slave scandal; children were abducted and sold to brickyards in several counties in Shanxi (a province west of Beijing) then forced to labour 14 hours a day without sufficient food. (more…)

Melcrum’s Communicators’ Network July 13, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Career Focus.
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It’s spreading like wild fire through the inboxes of PR folks world-wide so I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t your first introduction to Melcrum’s excellent Communicators’ Network. If you have read my previous posts you will know my views on social networks: young professionals are often  throwing caution into the wind when using sites like Facebook – you will be googled. The great thing about the Communicators’ Network is that it is exactly what it says it is:-

Looking forward to seeing you there 🙂 Cheers.


PR professionals need more than a Great Firewall to protect their online brand July 11, 2007

Posted by dixonpaul in Career Focus, Social Media.
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In my last post I argued that young PR professionals need to embrace social media as part of their personal branding.  Social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook are leading the revolution – it’s a no-brainer that professional communicators need to get a firm grip with what’s happening online, and be an active part of it.


But things aren’t that simple: what happens when a potential employer, impressed by your CV and LinkedIn profile, then clicks on Facebook only to discover that picture? He might not put the phone down, but he will want to delve into the pockets of your life (possibly the ones after a few too many shandies) that you didn’t want him to know about. Heck, you had already forgotten about them and moved on.