When is PR not PR – when blogs are involved

Neville Hobson is optimistic about the new Marriott CEO blog which is said to be a personal rather than a corporate blog.  It will be an interesting one to monitor – but why does the posting have to criticise PR, when that is exactly what this blog exemplifies – good public relations. 

If Bill Marriott succeeds in effective dialogue with customers and others who inhabit the blog, isn’t he engaging in two-way communications – the “ideal” of public relations? 

Although a busy CEO can contribute thoughts to a blog (even if transcribed rather than typed directly), is it reasonable that he can respond to all comments on his thoughts?  As much as it might be desirable, a blog related to any organisation needs some management if it is to go beyond a basic diary of one-way comms from the big cheese.

Provided such responses are clearly identified and the CEO also takes time to comment where possible, and particularly on critical issues, isn’t professional PR support valuable for such blogs to be effective?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

8 thoughts on “When is PR not PR – when blogs are involved”

  1. He will have advisors making sure he doesn’t say the wrong thing on his blog won’t he? I’m guessing that a CEO on the loose in blogosphere has the capability to do more harm than good. Worse case scenario – if he’s not a that switched on then he could be a loose cannon, yes?

  2. From our discussions elsewhere regarding CEOs and internal comms – we shouldn’t forget there are many excellent communicators at the top of companies. They may need the advise from PRs in some regards, but excellent CEOs are able to identify good topics and set public agendas themselves.

    Yes, some may not be natural communicators, but “good guys” who need PRs assistance.

    But those who have the ability to say the wrong thing will be doing so in boardrooms and meetings with important contacts. So I like the idea that rather than employing PRs and others to go round speaking on their behalf, the new open communications will expose these idiots and we could get better CEOs.

  3. So, PR help for the ones who lack the communication skills and exposure for those who shouldn’t be in the job. I agree absolutely.

    I think its crazy how senior people get into positions through the political process. How can a guy heading up a transport devision for example, do a good job when he’s no background in the industry at all? Here, I would imagine, a good PR practitioner is worth their salt?

  4. I hope so too, but there are still a few alive and kicking. One guy I spoke to was affronted that I asked him about his background. I was writing a piece about where bosses come from and how they rise through the ranks. “What you mean is how am I in this position when i’ve no background in the industry, yes?” was his retort. It appears that some them know only to well how they are perceived.

  5. That’s very funny. We had a CEO when I worked for National Breakdown (which was a vehicle recovery organisation then) who was previously a senior manager in a major bank. More than the knowledge of the specific industry (which other managers really understood, so he could learn from them), there were major cultural issues. Although if everyone is open, you can always learn something from anyone’s background. So the smart response here would have been for him to draw out what skills and knowledge from is background he had applied.

    The new boss at Ford in the US came from the Boeing and people are interested in the fresh perspective he is bringing rather than being too close to the motor industry wood to see the trees. We shall see how that works out.

  6. In my experience, good PR understands the culture and ethos of a company as well as appreciating the perspective of audiences such as employees, media, bloggers, politicians, etc. As such, we are open and responsive to direct questions and criticisms rather than defensive. Of course, we may not be able to spill all the beans, but should leave others feeling valued and informed as much as possible.

    In contrast, HR professionals are trained in processes and procedures. They always seek to reflect the corporate perspective and that includes putting management first. Rules are rules tends to be the starting point. This does lead to inflexibility in answering direct questions – what is the policy, is there a set answer…?

    Poor PR people take that command and control perspective as well – writing bland or boring copy, spinning rather than informing, one-way rather than two-way conversations.

    It takes confidence and a willingness to challenge the norm – that’s what I believe makes the really outstanding PR practitioner.

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