Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Perceptions of Senior Public Relations Practitioners in Namibia on the Use of Social Media as a Public Relations Tool

This post is on my dissertation presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of MSc in Strategic Public Relations and Communication Management, University of Stirling in 2010. 

The study attempted to establish the perceptions of senior public relations practitioners on social media as a public relations tool and the use of social media by organisations in Namibia. The primary intention of the research was to investigate the use of social media in Namibia and the intention was motivated by the assumption that social media was not widely used as a public relations tool in Namibia and also because there was limited or no research on the use of social media by Namibian organisations and what exactly they used it for.  

For the full dissertation, click here.  

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

BP, The Oil And Gas Industry And Its Reputation

There is no doubt that the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has affected the reputation of oil giant, BP. But to what extend?

Will the damage to its reputation lead to a poor balance sheet? Will it lead to bankruptcy, taking into account the lawsuits, fines, compensation and the cost of the oil clean-up operation which so far has cost close to £2.7 billion (U$4 billion)? The potential spill liabilities is estimated to reach £25.25 billion (U$37billion). Will it lead to a takeover? I don’t think so.

Firstly, there aren’t many oil companies, meaning there’s not much choice for consumer really. Secondly, I don’t know if the majority of consumers really care about which brand they use when filling up their cars with petrol. Thirdly, BP is an established company which suffered several problems (although not to this magnitude) a few years back, such as the Texas City oil refinery explosion in 2005 in which 15 people were killed. Fourthly, BP is a global company and there’s no doubt it will survive this terrible crisis.

This sort of crisis doesn’t only affect the company involved, but the oil industry as a whole which has long suffered a bad reputation due these kind of crises (environmental damage) and the high price of oil and gas which keeps increasing every year.

According to the Reputation Institute’s Global Pulse U.S. Study of 2008 which looks at corporate reputation rankings, oil and gas companies had the lowest corporate reputation rankings among U.S companies.

According to the Oil Spill Intelligence Report, there have been an estimated 4100 oil spills (involving more than 10 000 gallons) around the world. The Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound’s Bligh Reef in Alaska in 1989 is considered as one of the biggest oil spills and biggest environmental disasters in the world, having spilled an estimated 10.8 million gallons (40.9 million litres) of crude oil.

Such crises are inevitable and bitterly expected, just as is expected of faulty car parts in the motoring industry....Human error and technological error!

When such crises occurs, it is not only the affected company that should look at finding solutions to avoid them occuring in future, but the respective industry as a whole.

Although the affected company will suffer the most in terms of its corporate image and reputation, the crisis puts a terrible mark on the industry as a whole. Thus, it is important that BP gets the support of all other oil and gas companies in its efforts to seal the leak and clean up the Gulf.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

My Twitter Experience

By Toivo Mvula

I’ve been a twitterer since early 2009, but I only really started using it actively when I came to the UK (Scotland) for my postgraduate studies.

Joining and using Twitter is compulsory for the Digital Media module for the MSc Strategic Public Relations and Communication Management course at the University of Stirling.

We were not only required to share our blog posts (another compulsory requirement of the module) with our Twitter followers, but also to learn more about how Twitter works, how best to use it, and its benefits to public relations and communications practitioners.
My followers include entertainers, social media experts, PR associations, politicians, friends, magazines, newspapers and other news media.

For those who don’t know what Twitter is, it is a micro-blogging and social networking site that allows its users to send and read messages known as tweets. You can read more about Twitter on Wikipedia.

I think the reason why I started using Twitter more and more each and every day was because of the UK elections. I have a great interest in politics (having been a journalist) and since I missed out on Barack Obama’s use of Twitter and other social networking sites during the 2008 U.S Presidential Election, I wanted to experience what it was like and how political parties were using social media to campaign.

Although the UK political parties’ campaigns on Twitter received very little coverage, I think they were still very active, despite their low following.
The media coverage was more about the topics/debates that were ‘trending’ on Twitter and this is what encouraged me to tweet more and more, because I joined the debates, especially the ones relating to the UK elections.

My Twitter statistics are as follows: Following 502 people and organisations; 230 followers; 172 tweets and counting.
I will definitely continue to use Twitter more in the future, because I intend to continue blogging and share my blog posts with my followers and also engage in the discussions that are trending anywhere around the world.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Using Google Analytics

By Toivo Mvula

I have been using Google Analytics (GA) to track the number of followers to my blog.
I have to admit that using it was quite fun and it put a smile on my face everytime I studied the statistics.

Knowing that people were actually reading my blog posts or just checking it out was quite exciting.

It may probably not be an excellent tool, but it certainly does a good job.

Google Analytics collects statistics of visitors visiting a specific website. According to Wikipedia, GA is the most widely used website statistics service with 57 percent of the 10 000 most popular websites currently using it.

Back to my blog statistics, GA indicates that I’ve had 243 visitors since I started blogging in late February, but my visitor count (on my blog) indicates 356 visitors. This is probably because I only started using GA more than a week after I set up my blog.
I’ve had 627 page views since I started blogging.

The average time that visitors spent on the blog was five minutes, which is a clear indication that they read the information on my blog.
The visitors were from 12 different countries, namely the United Kingdom, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda, United States of America, Bahrain, Canada, Russia and Romania among others.
Most of them (81, 4 %) used referral sites to visit the blog. About 16.5 visited the site directly and 2 percent used search engines.

Web analytic tools are very useful not only for measuring website traffic, but also for determining your return on investment (ROI) after the launch of a PR or communication campaign, and also for doing business and market research.

However, some bloggers whose only objective is too make money claim to have millions of visits a month to attract advertisers, but fail to indicate how long the visitors stayed on the site.
Another disadvantage of web analaytic tools is that they don’t indicate whether visitors read or absorbed the information on the website.

But it is still a very useful tool and I will definitely use it in future.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Should You List Your Social Media Skills, Like Using Facebook, On Your CV?

By Toivo Mvula

Several social media experts have commented on the importance of public relations practitioners in mastering social media skills.
Others have stated that there is a social media talent vacuum in the communications field, namely advertising, public relations and marketing.

A study by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) also found that masterial social media was one of the top three issues for public relations practitioners for the next two years.

Many tertiary education institutions offering PR courses heed the call and are now offering social media related modules as part of their courses and established practitioners are applying for short social media course to jump onto the social media bandwagon.


With many employees fired from their work for using Facebook and other social media websites during working hours, is it a good idea for public relations practitioners applying for a job to indicate on their CV that they are knowledgeable in the use of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.?

Mashable reported that 8 percent of US companies dismissed someone for their behaviour on social media sites.

The problem is, not all employers understand the importance and increasing use of social media in public relations, nor do all organisations use or intend to use social media for their communication.
Most employers, if not all, block access to Facebook during working hours and only allow access before work and during lunch hours.

Potential employers might also perceive you as a gossip and, rightly so, see you as a threat to corporate secrets, because social media is a corporate reputation disaster if used incorrectly.

Listing your social media skill may seem like a risk to some, but it is important to do research on the organisation you are applying to, like finding out if they use social media; how they use it and understanding their social media policy.

Even if you don’t list your social media skills on your CV, you can still point it out during the interview and explain to the interviewing panel about the benefits of using social media and how a social media policy can erase their fears of reputation management.

Image by San Francisco Sentinal

Monday, 19 April 2010

Are Mobile Technologies Effective in PR campaigns

By Toivo Mvula

The use of mobile technologies in PR campaigns has remained stagnant, partly because the mobile phone is a personal tool and organisations have not yet found an acceptable way of communicating with mobile phone users without being seen as invading their personal space.

The use of mobile technologies in PR campaigns is largely limited to incorporating the internet, because using text messaging (SMS or Short Message Service) is seen as rather intrusive.

Other types of mobile technologies are laptops, notebooks and the media tablets such as the new iPad and WePad.
All these can be used to browse the internet, check your e-mail, access your Facebook and Twitter accounts and other social networking sites, watch YouTube and other video sharing sites.

The mobile phone is the seventh mass media after print, recordings, cinema, radio, television and the internet.

With more than four billion mobile phone users across the globe, the potential of using mobile phones in PR campaigns is huge.
Other advantages of mobile phones is that they are always switched on and users carry them 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Public relations practitioners can use mobile phones in PR campaigns the same way they use internet. The only difference is that everything should be customised to mobile phone specificiations to allow for easy acess and use.
This can be done by:

- purchasing a .mobi domain name to create a mobile website;
- developing Apps for mobile phones;
- launching a mobile website blog; using text messaging (SMS);
- RSS feeds;
- conducting surveys;
- have 24/7 contact to the media; and
- accessing social media to monitor public opinion and respond accordingly.

What is really important is that PR practitioners recognise the potential of mobile phones and other technologies and incorporate them into their traditonal PR campaign strategies to achieve the maximum outcome.
For more information, you can read a PR Week article on the use of mobile technologies in the PR industry.