Tag: Communication (page 1 of 2)

Why falsehood is so colourless and truth so multicolour?

It is paradoxical that the world being so variegated is full of extremities. I have heard several times saying “There is no one truth. There are many forms of truth or “This is the only truth and we all should believe it”. Worse still, however, is that the person saying this indeed hardly distinguishes truth from falsehood, since seeing only black or white in a really colourful world often prevents one from getting to the heart of the matter. Today falsehood may even seem very similar to truth. Nevertheless, everything is much simpler than it may seem. Truth exists and it may be easily supported by facts, evidenced by the respective statements and tangible arguments. Proving falsehood is considerably more complicated, since falsehood may be justified only by an even greater lie. And popular common sense says that you cannot hide an eel in a sack.

Let us now get down to the fundamental terms of good and bad. A human being is inherently prone to spread good things and create new meaningful things. The theory of hierarchy of needs published by the American psychologist Abraham H. Maslow already in 1943 states that the highest step of human needs is striving for morals, creation, acceptance of facts and certainly no prejudice. Only self-actualization and creation allow a person to feel happy. After all, we instinctively engage in doing good and creation without further considerations, since this is inherent in us. Nevertheless, there will always be such people who are not willing to create and do the good; thus, they seek to involve the people surrounding them in their own colourless space. They enjoy doing wicked actions, in particular, causing special harm and despising the people surrounding them.

Both creators and destroyers are inherently social and communicate with each other; thus, they understand that major works and accomplishments require support from others. Creators may easily receive assistance, it is enough to tell one’s goals to like-minded people and they quickly contribute.  This is a way more difficult for destroyers: one must convince that the evil and falsehood spread by them is “truth”. Thus, they must invent the “truth” and try to justify it. This is why such people too often justify themselves and pretend to be the victims. And we are inherently emphatic beings always sympathizing the disadvantaged people. Having listened to such falsehood spread by such “victim” for a long time, the person often does not realize that he got lost in the mist of false information. Such lie-based information should be referred to as the mist that lulls us and illuminates our eyes. This is referred to as black technologies in the field of public relations, propaganda in policy and simply slander at domestic level.

The psyche of the human being is rather fragile; thus, it is easy to induce it if the person himself allows this. The more of negative false information is stuffed into one’s head, the greater the mist in which the person gets and each time it is getting harder and harder to get out of it.  The mist is spreading and thickening until finally the person becomes a fanatic of some trashy conspiracy theory. As a rule, destroyers apply a very simple formula. They take a naked truth and dress it with a warm sweater in a midsummer, since the popular common sense says fair heat breaks no bones and it would be a sin not to believe it. In order words, destroyers force us to doubt about the truth by telling lies of the values that are important to us. Let’s say that they explain that doubts constitute the basis of democracy, that allegedly there any many opinions and several truths exist. The lower the education and the narrower the viewpoint of the person, the easier to deceive and convince him and bring the mist into one’s eyes. Such people do not see anything outside the walls of their home, live in their bubble and do not let anyone in. And, contrary to fake falsehood, the truth which is a relative of ethics is tactful and does not want to be an unwelcome guest. Falsehood must convince that namely it is the truth at any price. And this is not difficult if the person has never heard and seen the real truth. In principle, falsehood is destroying; thus, breaking a fence and visiting a person without an invitation does not mean anything contrary to the truth which creates things.

How the person should leave this vicious world of fences and see the truth? How the thick mist could be dispersed and how to see the truth? People should simply broaden own horizons, constantly take interest in different spheres, develop, check the facts, statistics, obtain information from several different reliable sources. The author of real information as opposed to information created for propaganda purposes never hides under unknown pseudonyms and never avoids answering unpleasant questions; he refers to several different well-known and reliable sources. He does not provide spoon-fed information, but leaves no room for doubt and forces to consider.

Finally, it should be recognised that we live in an ill, but quickly recovering society. Creators healers have medicine and are aware how to properly use it. If earlier a patient was sure that only black or white exists, today he already may see blue, red, yellow and even green colours. And there are so many shades! In order to improve and follow the examples of Scandinavian and Western countries, we should consistently spread the truth and under no circumstances not to deceive each other. This is the main function of multipliers. On the other hand, this is the fundamental rule of ethics which has already been followed for many years. The more lies we tell to the surrounding people, the thicker mist we create and narrow our activities as multipliers. The more truth is communicated, the greater opportunities we have, since the truth is always more appreciated than falsehood.

We should realize that there are no many truths. Instead, there are many shades of one truth as the world of the good is heterogeneous and multicoloured. Meanwhile, there is only one falsehood which is colourless, wearisome and dull. It is important to understand that we have to choose not between truth and falsehood, but between many shades of truth and always spread the truth by ourselves. The world of truth allows us to dispute, argue and discuss. Let’s learn to live a more colourful live.

Refugee crisis communication or refugee communication crisis?

“Refugees from Syria invade Europe”, “How to solve the refugee problem?”, “Is Lithuania ready to accept war refugees?” – every day similar headlines appear all over Lithuanian, European, and international press. Probably many people have already started to ask themselves: “Is there nothing else to talk about?”. Indeed, we cannot complain that this topic does not receive enough coverage. On the other hand, what do we truly know about it?

Essentially, the main and the oldest function of the media is to provide as many people as possible with objective information. While one might question objectivity in Lithuania, one cannot argue that there is not enough information. A considerably more important question is why we, having access to so much information, still know nothing? It’s very simple, actually. The amount of information is not directly proportional to its quality. Times have changed and the media is no longer content with merely providing information. First of all, it needs our attention as readers, so, although it is unfortunate, sometimes we are exposed to exceedingly superficial communication – captivating headlines, hot news, emotionally charged issues without solutions, etc. Properly delivered objective content as the main goal of the media stays far away for now. On the other hand, apparently, many Lithuanians would rather read about crime than look into new viable business opportunities. But this is a different matter. Today we have what we have. Barring a few pleasant exceptions when Lithuanian reporters travelled to dangerous areas and started reporting objective (positive as well as negative) information directly from refugee camps, we have a lot of noise, shrugging, and scaremongering. The media has achieved its goal – it presented the facts that are beneficial to it (that is, the ones attracting the most attention) and made everybody think and ask: “What will happen now?”

The answer to this question is expected not from news portals, newspapers or television broadcasts, but from directly responsible state authorities: refugee centres, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Interior, embassies, the European Union (EU) itself, etc. What do we hear from them? Absolutely nothing. We have many institutions working with this phenomenon which provide no information or only very limited, sometimes delayed, information. Essentially, there is a problem of improper performance of communication specialists or a lack of such specialists altogether. An inability to deal with crises. Communication of crises – this is what should be taught in our universities; communication specialists in particular should be in high demand in public sector bodies. On the other hand, one cannot say that there is a lack of such specialists. They exist, but they are successfully operating in the private sector.

Those who work in corporate communication are perfectly aware that their job is to always know everything and to be one, or better still, several steps ahead. The main task of a communication specialist is planning. Predicting communication actions if everything goes according to plan. Anticipating “what if?” situations as well. That is, having at least a couple of “B” or even “C” crisis plan options. As to the refugee situation, it was not all that difficult to predict people’s reactions and questions that will arise, right? Is it really so hard to just tell who the refugees are, what they are escaping from, why we have to help them, where we will accommodate them, how they will be integrated, etc.? These are simple questions that can be answered by any employee of the Refugees Reception Centre. Because for them, working with asylum seekers is a routine job. In addition, there are multiple channels for answering those questions: from social networks and blogs to particularly interested media, who will gladly listen and publish the information. After all, when a journalist asks a question, we do not talk about what he or she is not asking, and often really important things are not discussed because nowadays journalists have a different goal – sensation. Sometimes at any cost. The public forms an opinion which it is given, so what people will think wholly depends on responsible authorities.

We cannot say that our public authorities are completely silent. They do speak, but so little and so rarely that their messages are simply lost in an endless flow of information. In addition, they start talking too late, when the issue becomes particularly difficult and when a solution is suddenly needed. Then, when asked, they communicate very grudgingly. In other words, communication is not planed in advance, but carried out here and now, when the situation so requires. Most authorities don’t even have social network accounts, not to mention outdated spread of information via bought articles that no one reads. On the other hand, this problem exists not only in Lithuania, but also in other states and even in the European Union (EU), a huge institution with a generous budget, itself. Have your ever heard an account of the EU opinion on refugees that would comprehensively explain the situation in Europe? Probably not.

However, there are positive examples in our country and they are easy to find. One of the best examples is the Lithuanian police. Officers gladly participate in television and radio programmes, actively communicate in the social network “Facebook”, show daily police work in the long-running programme “Farai” (”Cops”), etc. Unsurprisingly, trust in police has been growing for the last several years. Why cannot other public bodies, for instance, the aforementioned Refugees Reception Centre, follow this example? Why, for instance, there is no information group online, where today most of us find all relevant information, that would provide explanations as to how many, where and what refugees will arrive and what stages of integration will be implemented, a group that would tell successful and less successful stories of refugees that are already here, present new arrivals, etc. For the public to understand that refugees may bring more benefits than problems to our country, all we need is imagination and people who would do this. Certainly, one can always blame the budget, but the aforementioned positive example of “To Defend. To Protect. To Help.” has a limited budget as well. If we want, we can always find excuses. Unsolved problems as well. Today we can be happy that within 25 years of independence we have made enough progress that information exists and, despite its gaps, is delivered to the public. There are still countries in the world that cannot boast even comparatively free media, where strict censorship is still in effect, and where there is a lot of propaganda, etc. Let’s be glad that the situation is steadily improving and let’s not forget that communication may be slightly improved every day. Very little is required: talking and sharing knowledge.


About the Ailing Media and Trade in Trust

When talking about problems in media, it would be logical to start with what is absolutely clear and obvious – media is business. And this is completely natural and perfectly understandable in countries with deep democratic roots, such as Scandinavia, Western European countries and the USA, where the media is understood as one form of business and is treated respectively. The operating model is very simple here – there is a media tool, which has its reader audience, thus this tool can easily be sold to advertisers, who expect to reach their customers in such a way. In such a way a marketable media tool allows its owners to profit from it. The main problem aspect comes to light when certain created content contributes to deceiving or misleading customers. We are often faced with a situation when honest operations of media representatives (for example, a reader reads an article on results of research conducted by a journalist presenting an objective view of a certain phenomenon, from which one can draw their own conclusions) is absolutely distorted. How wide-spread is this practice in Lithuanian media?

I can state that currently, the media of our country is going through a transition period. During the Soviet times we did not have any normal press – people were well aware of the fact that what they read in newspapers or saw on TV did not portray the reality. Once Lithuania regained its independence, the media gained the majority of trust from the readers, because it became free (meaning uncontrolled), thus it automatically was perceived as a reliable means of information. In fact, in the very beginning, this was the case; however, as time went by, the harder it was to maintain such a status. Media tools had the possibility to choose whether or not to continue to sell advertising or to trade the readers’ confidence. Having chosen the latter way, confidence is sold just like the majority of us sell our knowledge or intellect; I could easily compare such practice with prostitution. This was the way followed by the majority of the Lithuanian media, which traded the confidence that was granted to it. Meanwhile, the remaining part thereof decided to make a much more complex decision requiring more intelligence and, instead of making use of its readers, it chose to sell the size of its audience rather than trading trust. Due to such situations prevailing in the Lithuanian media, I am very excited to see that public confidence in media has been decreasing in our country each year. This means that the population is healing and has started to understand the various operating principles of the media. In this way, media consumers show their power, which allows for the pushing of despicably operating media tools aside.

Paradoxically enough, given the fact that public institutions purchase articles in our country, the existent practice could even be claimed to have been legitimized. Even though the law states that no institution or political party can have its media tools, they are allowed to purchase information, which is essentially the same thing. Various institutions purchase articles instead of trying to improve their PR skills and search for other more creative ways. Their publicized information is of little interest to people and almost nobody reads it. That way, the money of the country is wasted, people are being deceived by not providing them with objective information and finally the ability of these institutions to communicate is totally ruined. After all, why try to connect with journalists if it is much easier to simply buy it all. Thus, we could talk about the distinction of this harmful cooperation only once such institutional activities are restricted. However, up until now approaching this issue has been a scary thing – supposedly this means going against the ideas of the free word and press.

In the presence of the existing situation, social media plays an especially important role. Today, each of us can have our own media tool, as basically this is free of charge now – creating a Facebook profile, blog or enacting another media tool has become as easy as pie, which only proves the fact that nowadays it is much more important to build confidence. If you are able to gather an audience which has confidence in you and always provide that audience with high-quality information, having one’s own media tool is absolutely easy. I often ask my students who do they trust more – a blog or Respublika? I personally am much more inclined to trust blogs, because here a very clear criterion prevails – either I have confidence in a person writing it or not. A possibility of choice here is very simple – if he deceives me at least once, I will lose my confidence in him and will no longer read his blogs. Meanwhile, it is very difficult or absolutely impossible to find out what is behind bought articles appearing in various media tools. Thus it is essentially like a veil of smoke, which makes it difficult to see, which information serves whose interests.

Some 10–15 years ago it was hard to even think about any role of social media. Back then, you could easily hit the wall when disseminating certain information – if some media tool was terrorizing or extorting you, you practically had no chance to defend yourself. It is difficult to describe how disgusting this feeling is, when the public trusts some media tool, but in fact the latter is making dirty money. Today, in the presence of social media, we have a lot more possibilities to tell and show everybody who is who. Information in social media is much more wide-spread, thus the possibility to be heard is also much more likely.

Generally speaking, all this is not needed in those countries where media tools operating in such methods are not that well-established. Countries with deep democratic roots are well-aware of the fact that following such a short-sighted path, readers will soon lose their confidence, which will sooner or later negatively affect the activities thereof. We still have to try very hard to take over such an approach. People in Lithuania are quick to notice why some media tools are attacking the European Union, presidency or something else – certain interests manifest in all such cases. However, I am glad to be able to say that slowly but surely we have also been moving in the right direction. Let’s say, during the presidential election of 2009, where the usual practice of purchasing promotional articles was entrenched, the election headquarters of Dalia Grybauskaitė had strictly and clearly said that they had refrained from engaging in such activities. And, despite the fact that attacks were started against Dalia Grybauskaitė and certain opinions were formed with respect to her, this had no effect on her election results. The public was able to sort out the right information, search for it in properly operating media tools, and participate in meetings with the candidate for presidents and to perfectly decipher who is who.

I always thought that a separate body, which could properly monitor this process, was needed. However, I am continually becoming more convinced that the consciousness of people is coming naturally. Of course, there will always be people who will blindly trust even that information which was purchased or clearly labelled. Even when viewing clear advertisements, for example, of food supplements, they trust everything that is said, thus it is almost impossible to convince such people that the best food supplement is their way of life. Let alone hidden advertising… Thus we should not have any illusions that suddenly everyone will start distinguishing purchased information. However, I have faith that deceivers themselves will vanish first of all. Still, I see two sides to this problem – if readers lost confidence in a certain media tool, they would no longer purchase the product provided by it, however, if they buy it, this means that they trust it. Thus, here a great responsibility also lies on each somewhat more critical reader.

Overall then, it is necessary to emphasize that the practice of purchasing hidden advertising so prevalent in our national media is a huge evil, which, besides all other things, is also difficult to grasp. I am sure that if certain media tools disappeared, our life would become much brighter. But the efforts of each of us, the readers, to show concern and properly decipher are necessary for that.

INTERVIEW: Role of PR Specialist in the 21st Century, or the Primer of Honest Communication

This sunny spring day we offer you to read an interview with Andrius Kasparavicius, a member of the Council of the Lithuanian Public Relations Specialists’ Association, manager of Komunikacija ir Konsultantai Agency and a lecturer. The interview focuses on the role of a PR specialist in an organisation and on honest communication.

Public relations and advertising, marketing and communication. Their limits, fusion or drastic separation are often discussed. Where is the dividing line between them in your view?

I don’t believe in marketing as a means of communication. There is no such question of where public relations end and marketing starts for good public relations specialists. The entire 20th century was based on marketing and advertising. In this view, it was the golden age. Why? Because having had experienced the deficit of goods for years we stepped into an open market and oversupply. Statistical data show that a typical citizen of the Western world sees around 500 advertisements a day and that a commercial is trusted by 14 per cent of people only. The advertisement as such in the market saturated with goods and services has lost its position. As a means of communication it died and we have to admit the fact. Times change and today the open knowledge society which appreciates communication, discussions, opinions, and substance lives the age which may be called the golden age for public relations. In principle, this subject has been discussed on a global scale and the limits or dividing lines have been clearly drawn in the bestseller The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. I don’t believe in the idea of integrated communication. Communication, social networks and mass media are the tools of public relations. Full stop.

Let’s talk about the role of a PR specialist in a company or organisation. What is it like in the 21st century?

I liked the idea expressed in the World Public Relations Forum (WPRF 2014) that a communication specialist is the voice of conscience in an organisation. It is evident that a PR specialist does not determine business-related processes, such as the expansion of a company, the field of commerce or similar fields which are supervised by managers. Nevertheless, a PR specialist should take part in all these processes, i.e. to point those processes in the direction which would allow talking of them in the future with no difficulty. When these processes in a represented organisation are right and transparent in terms of morality, the enterprise will have no troubles or obstacles in communicating them.

Another important role is that of a “window cleaner” showing the organisation the external world. Organisations very often get stuck or see themselves as very important: they start thinking that one or another strategic decision will change nothing. This is the moment companies are faced with crises. Our task is to show what people talk, what other organisations do, what the prevailing views in individual communities on one or another issue important to the organisation are.

Everything sounds simple but how to explain that to managers? A marketing unit remains to be the division to get the most attention and finances in an enterprise.

There is no single piece of advice here. There is only one way which is no news for a public relations specialist: everything takes time. First, a situation will change only when a manager understands what we do. Managers have to be taught, they have to understand the power public relations have, what communication means and how to implement it. Invite them to different PR initiatives, organise training for managers. We, specialists, often gather together, communicate and discuss in various forums, solve problematic situations on the specialist level and our managers don’t even know about that. We have to admit that so far the marketing specialists have put much more effort. The way of communication will open only when everything is based on trust and when the manager needs no explanation what you do in the company. I take a dim view of the attempt to delineate the efficiency of public relations since very often public relations in an organisation are seen as the tools of marketing: they are assessed in the number of articles, accessibility, the amount of publications and other figures. But how should the efficiency of communication and discussions be assessed? We do not measure a good marriage by means of the number of children or the size of a house…

Let’s go back to the subject of honest communication. How to remain honest in communication with communities when the interests of several groups interfere? I am aware that you have considerable experience in this field.

This question is fundamental but actually relevant. How to remain a just, honest man when everyone around you is cheating? You have to understand that you don’t necessarily have to do what everyone else does. What should be done in Klaipeda, Kaunas, Vilnius, where the interests of communities and even the arguments of communication are different but the company, nonetheless, has decided to invest there? What should be done in a smaller region where mass media terrorises you and, actually, runs up a protection racket. What should be done when a fictitious article is brought and you are suggested to pay for it not to be published? It is very hard not to say ‘no’. On the other hand, if you are able to do that and show disregard for what is happening in the short term, everything will eventually turn out for the best. Public relations include not only relations with mass media but also communication with the public, with public institutions, communication in social networks, etc. First, everyone will say you are like all the rest, you will apply the “earthmover” principle, but when you don’t do anything of that, people will start trusting you. You can look them directly in the eyes and invite them to hold a dialogue – it will make everything much more easier. A company has to understand that social responsibility does not mean bribing people, e.g. ‘we will build a road for you’ or ‘take the money and keep silent’. Communication, explanation of the planned activities, of the effect on the public, the opportunity to observe the process, and education dispel any doubts. People protest against what they do not understand. And, certainly, yes. Such process takes longer. Another simple recipe – to talk in right place at the right time, i.e. when you are heard, not when people gather to yell and turn into an uncontrolled crowd which, in principle, is incapable of telling why and against whom it fights.

Dossier: Andrius Kasparavičius is the manager of Komunikacija ir Konsultantai (or simply KOKO), a public relations agency, and a lecturer at Vilnius University. As he put it himself, he has been working in the public relations sphere since 1997, thus there would be only one line in his CV as he has worked all those years in one place. However, it could take as many as five pages to describe in detail everything he has done in the agency because his work encompasses many different spheres and businesses. What prompted him to choose this field? Andrius’ mother Laima Kasparavičienė, a veteran in public relations, offered him to set up their own business. Andrius admits that as a graduate in economics he was attracted by the idea to have his own company. No one knows, whether he would have become a PR specialist if somebody had offered him to become a baker. But today this is the field Andrius is deeply ‘stuck in’ and has no intentions to withdraw from it.

The interview drafted by Birutė Norvaišienė and Toma Lipskytė, members of Lithuanian Public Relations Specialists’ Association and published in Association’s webpage: <http://www.lrvs.lt/a-kasparavicius-rsv-specialisto-vaidmuo-xxi-amziuje-arba-saziningos-komunikacijos-pradziamokslis/>

Use of social media at work – helps or harms? (Part 2)

Statistics show that about 30 per cent of people in large organizations would like to communicate about their professional activities in various channels. And this does not necessarily happens in social media, but through direct communication as well. For example, it is easy to notice people who love to talk about their work or, on the contrary, avoid such topics in various parties. Some of them feel great being able to tell about what they do, thus becoming the centre of attention, while others stay away from that, thinking that this is not the best time for such talks. This is exactly what happens when communicating in social networks where the same statistics applies, thus in such a case employers should try to make the best use of it rather than prohibiting employees from communicating. The existing prohibitions only show gaps in internal communication – after all, employees become a very important voice of an organization, they can participate in various discussions relevant to the organization, etc. Large organizations are well aware of this fact, as they strive to create their social communication policy and encourage employees to blog, comment on issues related to their professional activities, etc. Of course, those policies clearly list what cannot be done, because various organizations can have confidential information, the disclosure of which is prohibited. However, what have social networks to do with it? If people were to publish secret documents there, their behaviour would be unacceptable. However, if they use this method for communicating with various experts, peers, expressing their opinions, etc., they are doing very useful work.

One of my previously mentioned studies revealed that the use of social networks does not decrease, but is instead increasing the operational productivity. Even though people are said to have spent an hour on Facebook and have done nothing, this does not mean that if we were to take away this time for communication from him that it would actually be used for scrupulous work – he may spend an hour just sitting and staring at a computer screen thinking about some personal business or engage in different activities absolutely unrelated to work. Of course it wouldn’t be right viewing the situation as only black-and-white. If a person becomes dependent on various communication forms while at work, for example, such a situation can often be observed in various bureaucratic institutions where employees spend hours and hours with the phone in their hands, then it is worth considering some more serious problems, though even in such a case a thought should be given to why that is happening. Maybe those 2-3 hours spent by an employee on the phone show that he does not have enough tasks, or maybe it is difficult for him to adapt in this work altogether, etc. In any case the problem here lies not in the phone or social network, but rather in the absence of tasks, failure to set goals, poor internal communication, etc.

Therefore, I personally strongly disagree with the existing communication ban in the workplace. I am sure that each employee has to feel well in their work, therefore, instead of prohibiting them from something, it is enough to simply explain which behaviour is acceptable at work and which is not. And then it will be possible to simply enjoy social and well communicating personalities.

Use of social media at work – helps or harms? (Part 1)

Today, one of the most relevant topics of discussion is the use of social media at work. Not that long ago our Ministry of Foreign Affairs prohibited its employees from using Facebook at work. This prohibition is only one of many, as I believe such measures are undertaken in other institutions as well, only people do not talk about that out loud. However, each such resonant event quickly sparks debates on whether this is good or bad.

Different studies, a cornucopia of which I’ve observed, attempt to answer this question. Interestingly enough they justify the idea that the use of social media at work is necessary, meanwhile I have not yet come across those studies, which would clearly prove that this should not be done. All these discussions raise one general question on whether one can engage in outside activities while working, i.e. can people go for a smoke, talk on the phone, chat on Facebook, etc. while at work? In my opinion, first of all the fact is how and why working people are faced with such a need in general. No one would be surprised by me saying that people are social beings who need to communicate – and here you have the answer. However, here two approaches that can be distinguished – the first case states that people can communicate only after work, as this is when they become social beings. Working people are believed to be only robots performing functions assigned to them. Another approach expresses the view that a person is a social being by nature, thus he should remain such at work as well. It is believed that this why he feels free, while when doing what one wants, the desire to create emerges. I am convinced that creativity is the most important basis for any activities. If a person becomes a robot, he loses many essential human qualities necessary in all activities. Of course, the fact of what kind of job we are talking about should be considered, because if we have in mind working with machines, people basically work as robots there. If during their work, which requires full attention, they were to start using Facebook, various injuries would be inevitable. Moreover, there are organizations, the presence of which on the internet is a bad thing altogether, for example, the State Security Department, employees of which most probably use local area networks. However, if we are talking about service, communication-related activities, which are clearly different from working with machines, such a prohibition is essentially absurd.

Prohibiting a person from doing what he wants can completely quell any creative origin possessed by him. After all, Facebook is only one of many measures allowing people to communicate, thus if an employee is prohibited from using it, he will quickly find another way to access communication with who he wants to be engaged with. Maybe he will no longer use Facebook, but will start talking more on the phone, take longer smoking breaks, coffee breaks and look for other opportunities to communicate with others. I am deeply convinced that such decisions made in organisations clearly show the obvious lack of understanding of these obvious things.

To Be Continued

Effectiveness of public relations: the actual result is first of all based on intuition (Part 2)

I believe that cooperating parties should talk about the effectiveness of public relations only if they are well educated in this field, i.e. a customer has to first of all know what he wants from public relations – media coverage, advice, creative solutions for the implementation of a certain idea or something else. If a specific goal has been set and a customer feels that it has been met, this means that there is something to pay money for. For example, if after a communication advice many things become clearer to a customer, if the aim is to change someone’s opinion and it changes, if we receive more positive or negative feedback – this is the result that we’ve achieved. Thus it is very important that in ideal case a clear goal in the relationship between an agency and a customer would be set. During the first conversation cooperating parties would have to define what they seek for, and this would not have to necessarily be very precise. For example, this could be the start of a dialogue between a company and community, initiation of a discussion, clarification of certain problem issues, etc. Therefore I believe that no universal option exists, and effectiveness does not have to necessarily be measured in specific figures – after all, we are not going to count how many positive reviews the community posted, because most usually it does not do that at all – instead, it calls, talks in a face-to-face meeting, etc.

I perceive public relations as the range of services, which on one hand get somewhat close to marketing, for example, when working with trade organizations, but the greatest part of these activities still is consulting, where money is essentially paid for chatting. Thinking that way I almost never felt sure, because I could nowhere find a view matching my opinion. And only now, having paid a visit to one large foreign international company I heard that, when reducing the number of people in the company, it was decided to see which functions in the PR department were not that necessary. And, you know, it was really pleasant to see that reporting function was crossed out the first. The Head of the Communications Department claimed that she saw no point in receiving reports drawn up by their employees, because it would be total nonsense if she was to decide on the performance results based solely on the reports. She said she was well aware of the functions each employee was performing and how they did what they did, and she stated that “if they do that well and I get what I want, this means that communications is done properly. And if I don’t get what I expected to, I decide about that from the fact that the function has not been properly performed rather than from reports”.

Thus, in my opinion, the effectiveness of public relations has in fact little to do with formal things. Methods for measuring effectiveness coming from marketing have become common in public relations as well, thus many customers find it difficult to pull away from them. Still I believe that PR is difficult to reconcile with what many call the result, as the actual result is first of all based on intuition – PR is either effective or not.

Effectiveness of public relations (Part 1)

One of the most commonly examined subjects in the area of public relations is the effectiveness of these activities. When working with customers I am constantly confronted with the question “So what is the result of your activities?” In fact, so many books have been written on this subject that everybody is well aware of the main methods for measuring effectiveness, which even students are taught. However, my view of this issue has always been different from that of others, even though I could not find the answer, which I follow myself, in the entire flow of information. And only recently I heard it while visiting one client in Scandinavia – “PR is either effective or not”.

Thus, in my view, in an ideal case there can be no objective measurements, as the existent ones most usually are only subjective calculations, comparisons of articles, etc. I believe that all of them come from marketing, while PR specialists simply adapt to them. Common methods for measuring effectiveness are the idea of advertising creators, who use the approach that everything can be measured, evaluated, calculated, circulated, number of impressions can be gathered, frequency and time on TV can be traced, etc.; however, all this is just a formality – advertising representatives rarely speak about whether someone actually saw the advertisement or not, whether or not it had some kind of effect. Of course, these things can more or less be calculated in marketing and advertising and that is common. The problem arises when attempts are made to apply those same evaluation criteria to public relations.

After all, what is true public relations? It is talk, communication, writing, reading, and mutual discussion. And what can be the result of a discussion between two people? Sometimes there is no result at all, sometimes the result is obvious, say, when after discussions two people change their opinion, they decide on something, get frustrated or, to the contrary, are fascinated with something. This is exactly the result achieved in public relations. Even though it may not obviously manifest itself – neither in articles, reportages, nor anywhere else – but someone’s opinion may change after certain actions, which would be the most certain result. I liked the idea of one person that calculating the effectiveness of public relations based on the number of articles appearing in media is the same as measuring the effectiveness of friendship based on the number of friends. After all, friendship is not required to create some product – people are friends because they feel good being together, it is useful for both of them in moral terms. So it is absolutely unnecessary to do that in public relations, although often required.

I am deeply convinced that public relations is a sensitive area, thus very similar to friendship. They are based on emotions, relations, things that cannot be felt but only anticipated, thus formal evaluation thereof is complex and essentially pointless. When do we say that a conversation was successful? When we feel good after it, are satisfied, relaxed or solve some problem, etc. Thus thinking about PR we should first of all talk about the level of satisfaction, i.e. if a customer sees actions being developed as beneficial, both sides feel perfect in their cooperation, this means that we will continue working and will not separate. However, if the benefit is not felt and a PR specialist does not manage to prove it to the customer, then we are likely to go separate ways. Of course all this sounds good in theory, as in practice you have to account to your customer on what was done, how much was said and communicated, otherwise, people won’t understand what they were billed for. Thus in the end we have to draw up reports required by a client, because some find formally presented things necessary and allowing to decide on the result.
To Be Continued

PR ideas and complete rejection thereof – why in Lithuania?

I have already talked about why PR is necessary in Lithuania for the promotion of tolerance. With the majority of our society finding it hard to accept various manifestations of diversity, “piar” activities in themselves are much more difficult to develop. So how is work performed in such an environment and what problems we as communication specialists face?

First of all it is worth mentioning that when we live in an environment where it is impossible to hear many opinions or only one of them can be heard (as it was in the Soviet Union, in which we used to live), thus it is not even worth talking about PR. In such a case, a propaganda society, where everything is based on one approach, is dominating. Currently, when the Lithuanian mentality is developing from the Soviet thinking towards normal and right society, i.e. open society determined to accept a different perspective as well, “piar” services are becoming more diverse. In such an environment we can find for our activities much more colours, words and sounds, actions and attractions and whatever one may think of, while such activities in a closed society would be much more difficult. However, manifestations of intolerance still very prevalent in our society make the actual possibilities of PR activities more difficult.

When wiling to tell to the public something new, give them new ideas that are good, well-used in other countries and develop a discussion on that, we are often faced with a problem, which can be identified as a “total rejection”. People are not ready to listen to what’s new, because this fact alone sounds like something scary, bad, incomprehensible, thus, no normal discussion is possible here. It could start only once a person acquires certain education, reads some number of books, gets to know and sees the wider world. A discussion is simply not possible with a person who is not ready for it. The truth is that usually the discussion cannot evolve when people who are educated, have seen a lot and are open to the world try to engage in it with those who are reserved, poorly educated and have little comprehension of the world. This can also be observed between countries, when so-called high-trust societies cannot find a common language with low-trust societies. This is the reason why Lithuania is often struggling when communicating with the Scandinavian countries or Russia – each of them is talking from the stance of their societies, where tolerance is perceived quite differently.

And different attitudes form very easily. Let’s say, if a kid who acts in school somewhat differently than usual is constantly mocked, he is likely to be scared to stand out from his peers in the future and will have a complex for his entire life. Same goes for the society – if it is constantly instilled with an idea that only customary and traditional things are good, any deviations from these standards will be rejected. Thus, in such a case PR activities become very complicated, because you have to choose to either develop it as it is acceptable to that society, or you will immediately face a counter reaction. In Lithuania we are constantly observing this: Chevron coming to Lithuania, nuclear power plant, sexual minorities and many different ideas that are new in principle are quickly rejected. What’s worst is that it is very easy to slip a thought to a society viewing things from such a perspective that all this must be resisted. We won’t name out loud those slipping such a thought, but it probably goes without saying that we have some unfriendly-minded neighbours, who, living in such environment themselves, are well-aware of principles of the intolerant society. It is enough to threaten these people with atom, Chernobyl, Fukushima, show a picture of burning water running from a tap, and they stop thinking, close up and start resisting it all. It is enough to show a family consisting of two women instead of a father and a mother, and a person blocks up, all this is terrifying him, seems unusual and he starts to immediately protest, there is no room for discussion and no PR evolves in such a case. However, besides all this the same person can absolutely calmly pass a garbage dump, calmly react to the fact that his neighbours drink, and lose control of himself when his child does not have anything to eat – these are the views that aren’t that uncommon, thus resistance to them is very sluggish.

I still am trying to look at the bright side of this matter seeing that Lithuania is gradually moving towards a tolerant society. I hope that in the future with people looking into the world from a broader perspective and becoming more open to discussion, not only will the work of representatives of my profession be more interesting, but also it will be easier for them to contribute to spreading the ideas useful to society. And this is really motivating!

Why is PR necessary in Lithuania for the promotion of tolerance?

I have heard one accurate thought that the real PR is a profession of a democratic and open society. The more the society is democratic, the more efficient, open, professional, etc., can public relations be. Otherwise, the more the society is autocratic, the more communication tends to turn towards propaganda. Thus it would be fair to say that movement from autocracy towards democracy is also the movement from propaganda to PR. What is the situation in Lithuania?

Unfortunately I have to admit that our society still isn’t tolerant. On the contrary, there are many inexplicable manifestations when domestic violence is tolerated, however a vast majority opposes sexual minorities, black people, etc. Thus it is obvious that a majority of people have distorted values. And this is not surprising: the truth is that when a person is locked no matter where – in prison, in a country, in depths of a countryside or somewhere else – he automatically develops a rejection reaction to everything that seems unusual to his environment. Because of those 50 years of occupation all this is so strongly rooted in the Lithuanian society that even when engaged in the PR practice this problem is encountered very often.

I constantly get to see intolerance to any different opinion. In such a case a person has his own conviction, which very rarely is based on something objective. However, this conviction cannot practically be changed, as a person perceives any alternative as a bad one. This means that the more open the society is, the more our work as communication specialists is valuable, useful, and the easier it can be developed. While when working in an intolerant environment it is really hard to provide our services to such society. And in general even though tolerance is widely discussed in Lithuania, in reality a person accepting the world as diverse as it really is and living among like-minded people can often be unpleasantly surprised seeing that the majority of the society is absolutely intolerant and, seemingly, perceives same things contrarily. Various manifestations of such intolerance look very painful and tasteless, thus one starts thinking that it might be worth engaging in public relations for promoting tolerance itself in Lithuania.

Last time such a thought crossed my mind during the European Basketball Championship, when I accidentally took a glance at Facebook, where I did not expect to see and hear that much. The page was bursting with comments about black French and explanations that the European champions already are the champions of Africa, and all other nonsense. Taking a step deeper this can be seen in almost all areas: domestic violence, hatred to people of different nationalities, blacks, gays – all these are birds of a feather emerged since ancient times. After all, witches were burnt on fires in the past just like eggs or other items are thrown at gays nowadays. The reason for that is a foreign body, something that looks unusual, emerged in the society. And where did the democracy go? The fact is that the previously existent societies cannot be called democratic, as some king, duke, etc. ruled back then. And no PR existed there – just propaganda dominated back then: catholic, royal, Soviet, etc., when holding a different opinion meant bane. Thus, a question arises how should our society of today be called? Unfortunately, what we are currently observing and are faced with can be named as manifestations of underdeveloped “old-school” society.

I believe that we, Lithuanians, were very close to European values, but later on, in Soviet times, took a large step back. And now we are in “in transition” state trying to pump out of ourselves all that nonsense that we had been instilled for all those 50 years of Soviet occupation, and trying to break free from all of eastern culture. Yes, the good news is that we are moving towards a tolerant society. Meanwhile, while we are on the move, we have to talk and engage in discussions about that as much as possible.