Theory Junkie: Accountability Structure

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I’m a sucker for theories and I love talking about them.

In today’s episode of the Theory Junkie, we explore the Accountability Structure and CSR.

We were introduced to this model during a guest lecture by Michael Hoevel from Glasshouse Partnership.

An old model of relationships between pillars of society in the capitalist world, this paradigm has seen significant developments over the years. While its continuous alteration keeps it relevant, its universal application has come under scrutiny in today’s ever so rapidly changing world.

Classic

The classic interpretation of this model establishes the relationships between the Public Sector, the Private Sector and the Citizens (depicted as Civil Society).

Businesses pay taxes to the government in exchange for regulation, access to the market and protection. The government grants the people representation of their aspirations and public goods such as healthcare and education in exchange for being elected into power. Businesses receive money from society in exchange for products and services they deliver. And in the middle of it all is the Media – standing guard as the fourth pillar of authority, revealing and punishing the untruthful. This is in essence, how our world works. These relationship, whether fair or not, represent how we have come to establish modern civilisation. Of course coffee companies don’t always pay taxes, supermarket chains don’t always deliver beef when they say they do, governments don’t always live up to the expectations of people, and most certainly of all, the media doesn’t always hold true to its role as a guardian of it all. Such is life.

But, as these complex relationships mature, mutations and amalgamations emerge:

Advanced

Instead of having NASA fly space shuttles into orbit, we now have SpaceX, Instead of hoping for salvation to come from the heavens and land in the puddle that we use to wash our clothes in, we now have bankers with Nobel Peace prizes. Instead of relying on the government to safeguard our environment, we have created organisations like Greenpeace and WWF. And instead of hoping that the media will bring justice to the corrupt, some would argue, we now have social media, WikiLeaks and Anonymous.

So where does Corporate Social Responsibility come into these “newborn” categories of NGOs, Public-Private Partnerships and Social Entrepreneurship?

That’s for the communication professionals to decide. CSR is what we say it is. Is advancing space exploration through government contracts not socially responsible? Is lifting millions from poverty through banking not Nobel Peace prize worthy? Is our planet not worth saving? Is the Internet not the ultimate sentinel of human knowledge?

The Accountability Structure does not provide the answer. It simply establishes the framework within which these questions can exist.

How we mould these questions, is what CSR is all about.

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Visit to Britain’s Ministry of Defence Part II

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Welcome back to the curious story of the MOD’s Comms department!

Continued from Part I.

As we finally got to talking Communication, we were introduced to the MOD’s social media strategy, which turned out to be quite extensive with a maintained presence on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, and Blogs. Here, we were reminded of the importance of content – something that has already been said to us during classes. The MOD has a specialised branch that deals with photography and when you give a photographer a full-time job to take pictures of military life, you apparently create an endless source of branded content that fuels your Facebook Timeline and Flickr accounts. And when that fuel supplies national pride and army recruits, you know that your Comms department is doing its job well. Definitely something to think about for any organisation trying to establish effective communications.

As time went by, I realised that these people were too humble to admit how good they truly were. I started noticing patterns in their communication strategy that they wouldn’t necessarily say were there – behind their social media activity, I saw a clear effort for Brand Management, Content Creation and Content Curation. Of course, they also talked about engagement and how great content is the one supreme prerequisite for that, but they never clearly articulated that they indeed try to segment their target audience when exercising “Personnel Support” (a form of internal communications in the army). Of course, they mentioned Public Relations and Crisis Management, but they never named celebrity endorsement when they talked to us about Prince William’s pictures behind the controls of an RAF helicopter. The list of things the MOD was involved in – stated or not – went on and on in my notepad – Recruitment Marketing, Traditional Media, Reputation Management, Merchandising, Employee Blogs, Viral Videos, even Crossmedia – these people were real professionals, and the Communication nerd in me was getting overly excited at how dedicated and good they were. They had thought everything through – use Twitter to inform, Facebook to engage, Pinterest and Storify to integrate, blogs to enrich, YouTube and traditional media to reach – it was all just too good to be true.

And then…

I raised my hand and tried to congratulate them by veiling my excitement with a question about intent and direction in their communication efforts and strategic thinking.

In an anti-climax fashion, I was met with a lengthy answer about the MOD’s dealings with the media and an example of that by their PR chief.

I guess he forgot that we were PR students ourselves, but then again… Once a PR, always a PR.

Visit to Britain’s Ministry of Defence Part I

A majestic reminder from imperial times, this building instills nothing but respect.

For my first post, I would like to go back to the first semester of my Master’s course at Westminster.

Our course leader Pam Williams organised for our entire class to visit Britain’s Ministry of Defence, and in particular, their Comms department. We gathered at 10 o’clock on a sunny October morning at a spot next to the giant building of the MOD, untainted by its gargantuan shadow where we could enjoy the last days of sun before the dreadful British winter descended on London. And before you think of “Winter is coming” jokes, let me tell you this – winter in London matches that of Westeros pretty well, minus the frozen zombies.

As our class gathered in the sun, I grew curious of the building and impatient to get in. That is when I took the picture above. I thought to myself “I need to capture this building. It symbolises everything that my vivid mind imagined about Britain’s military might throughout the centuries as I read the history books in school.” I’m glad I took that picture – it will always remind me of my stay in London, and why I cherish it so much.

Anyway, half an hour passed before we finally got to getting in. The accreditation was quick, but nothing could prepare us for the weapon screening – we entered a sound-proof chamber in groups of 5 while the others were waiting on both ends watching us getting anxious inside while some invisible device was clearly scanning us. I will never forget that strange feeling of claustrophobia coupled with unspoken intimidation and inexplicable panic as our hosts closed the chamber and we started asking ourselves what we’re supposed to do now.

Thankfully, when we finally sat down in the conference room, the MOD’s communication team made every effort to make us feel at home. We were greeted by 3 members – the media chief, the social media officer and a representative of the military assigned to the team.

First, they introduced us to some administrative developments at the institution which I personally found quite interesting – they talked about convergence and digitalisation of government services, and in particular the idea of bringing every branch of government under one digital umbrella – gov.uk. This site already exists, but apparently the process of turning it into one huge integrated platform that combines all government services, is an ongoing process. The UK is a very innovative and modern country, and I was not surprised to learn that they are taking the concept of “digital government” very serious.

Read Part II here.

Welcome to Anton’s Blog!

This is how I look... on a good day.

This is how I look… on a good day.

Welcome to my blog.

My name is Anton Zhelev. I’m a perpetual student and intern, albeit not by choice. I was born in the year of the Chernobyl disaster, although I don’t have any deformities. I hail from the EU’s poorest country, and yet I am not here to exploit your social welfare system. I have had a receding hairline before I turned 25, but a friend of mine once told me that I’m starting to look like Lenin, so I guess that makes it okay.

I am not religious, even though I have been baptised. I don’t believe in conspiracies, although conformity drives me nuts. I am both skeptical and optimistic, but I don’t think that’s what truly makes one a realist.

I am the curious type, always asking questions and looking for patterns. Logic is my creed and science is my religion, just as communication is my passion, and coffee – my eternal companion.

I graduated with a BA in International Communication Management from INHolland University, Amsterdam in 2009, and as of April 2013, I’m on track to graduate with an MA in Public Relations from University of Westminster, London. I have dedicated my life to all things Communication, and thankfully, I have never regretted it.

In the years not spent in writing essays and reports at 4 AM, I have mostly tried to get a full-time job, and stay in the field – at all costs. This has led to some very interesting projects, ranging from an advertising campaign for a small construction company in suburban Amsterdam to a collaboration with the University of Oxford on an EU-funded study into media and democracy in Eastern Europe. Among the nerdier things I cherish the most, are also an internship at the European Parliament and a BA dissertation on the subject of political rebranding.

Alas, the life of a Bulgarian in the midst of the worst crisis the old continent has seen since World War II, is not only fancy comms projects or pondering the meaning of life. Although the latter is pretty well known to be 42, the former can be quite hard to get into.

So please enjoy as I take you on a slightly cynical journey through the mind of a news junkie discussing communication, PR, politics, science, tech, and life.