Political Muse

A couple of weeks ago at the Philosophy society we discussed ‘The Prince’ by Niccolo Machiavelli which is really an instruction manual for a leader. The whole the book seems to be littered with hypothetical imperatives in which Machiavelli believed a leader should act. In this way he seemed to imitate Immanuel Kant but the focus on morality was less severe. Obviously these circumstances are subjective to the philosopher’s own ideas and time period in which the book was written. As the only PR student at the society I could see a lot of crossovers in which philosophy, dubbed as the “broad church”, also infiltrates aspects of PR.

In particular, conversation swerved onto the recent American presidentially elections and Barack Hussein Obama’s win. This then diverted to politics in my own country, Britain and the image of Gordon Brown. A couple in the group believed that Margret Thatcher was making a positive comeback even though when she was Prime Minister people seemed to hate her ideas. I could see how Tony Blair’s popularity fell in office but now he would most likely be preferred over Gordon Brown. It seems that a leader has his character judged rather than the ideas he stands for. When the next political elections transpire in this country the newspapers are likely to have headlines such as Brown vs Cameron and imitate the elections as some sort of battle. Political parties only really receive focus during local elections but even so the leaders of particular parties are still taken into account.

It is no wonder then that Public Relations serves such an important role. If it is possible to observe an audience and find their ideal leader and character traits then a political leader could be shaped to this ideal. In a strange way this is similar to Plato’s theory of the forms. A leader is given a form which coincides with a higher form in the audience’s minds. The idea of a colloquially spoken Margret Thatcher would have maybe dissuaded people to vote for her. The connotations of received pronunciations may have made her victory more possible. I say “more possible” since there was a lot more at stake which got her into power. Needless to say Public Relations always serves an important role in politics. With this come questions of unelected members becoming a large influence behind those who are in power.

So are the characters of political leaders genuine? David Cameron has the horrible ‘Cameron Cam’ which seems to be a failed attempt to communicate with my generation. The first videos released seemed to be a comedy sketch rather than a serious keynote speech. What I am certain of is that the PR behind Gordon Brown must be useless. If any leader needed assistance with image then it is him. Although perhaps the raw nature of Gordon Brown will be preferred over the suspiciously pleasing David Cameron? In all likelihood the next parliament will be a conservative one but part of me thinks that Nick Clegg deserves a chance.

Think this

So I was having a conversation with a guy at the bar last night. If I’m honest I had quite a lot to drink at this point but then British history is built upon alcohol and other questionable substances.

The guy I spoke to, called Alec, is taking an illustration degree and decided to focus on political comics for his assignment. Unfortunately the only two political structures he was familiar with was Fascism and Nihilism. Even though I don’t know much politics he asked me a few questions and he even requested for my email address encase he had more during the week.

We got into conversation about how influences effect the decisions we make. The technical term of the stance he took would be hard determinism. However, he went a step further. He started talking about how even the existential occurrences of nature could affect our very essence. With this I had to disagree and refer to how it is definitely the empirical nature of events which shape us. Existential happenings are beyond our reach which we can only explain through theories and evidence. The existence of evidence then makes our views of existential events plausible, it is the empirical which can only be labelled as the truth. Anything beyond this has to be taken as a value of faith, including any scientific theories which are purely logical in thought and currently lack physical evidence.

Anyway, this discussion relates very well with how Public Relations operates. In PR’s simplest form the communication of a particular message is the focus. However this message has to be taken from a value of faith. There are very few messages where PR can attain the benefit of empirical evidence to prove a certain point. The only industry which comes to my mind where PR could provide evidence is in regards to health and safety. The harmful effects of tobacco can be communicated referring back to scientific discoveries. This is unlike the messages from an organisation wishing to promote a certain product. Fair enough, a certain shampoo could have evidence to show benefits over competitors but the effort is futile in some ways since the effects are judged personally.

Let’s go back to determinism. A good PR campaign seems to be built around the structure of soft determinism. A message is communicated to your audience in the hope that you will influence them into some sort of action. Personally I’m not even sure if I can find an example of hard determinism. That theory seems to outstretch the power which PR has, besides, I’m sure the ethical line would be over stepped if it were possible to absolutely control the actions of individuals. Besides, Philosophy usually asks “Are we being controlled”. Lectures in PR have told us that most PR campaigns purely focus upon the ability to shout a message out to the various publics. I can’t help but think that if somehow soft determinism was considered then a PR message would be that little bit more powerful.

The trick is to think of a PR campaign which can influence individuals to make an action of some sort based on a message.

To refer back to the man I spoke to last night. He believed that PR professionals were liars, or at least they twisted a message for a specific goal. This is a common misunderstanding which many have with the industry but soft determinism would remove this immoral accusation.

Since soft determinism recognises that individuals have their own freewill it removes any elements of control from PR. A person should and has the ability to act in any manner they like but the messages from PR cannot be to blame for the individual’s actions. We all have the ability to make decisions from what we empirically observe from the world around us. Even though I know smoking is harmful I still do it. Let’s remove the fact nicotine is a highly addictive drug and instead focus on that first decision. The first time I smoked a cigarette I was fully aware of possible consequences but my own freedom dismissed the messages being communicated to me. A lack of wisdom on my part but completely separate from any health conscious PR campaign. The PR campaign is shouting at me, “Think This!”, but instead I thought “That”. It is true that different people have degrees of susceptibility to messages.

So now I apologise profusely to anybody who works within the advertising industry. There is a problem with advertising, there is no meat behind the message, no justifications. In an advertisement’s simplest form it is comic and occasionally there is a specific message. I would imagine most people to agree that word of mouth is the best method of promotion. Behind that message there is trust, justification and testimony. Only conversations can obtain these values which is why PR has more worth and deserves to have more money spent into it. Really it is a question of imitation, a television commercial is only one way communication and the same applies to posters or billboards. PR allows for conversation, this is how the industry works and why it is flourishing in this current age.

We live in a digital world. This very article of mine allows for two way communication with ability to post comments. It may be asymmetric in nature but this detaches it as any fascist overall message which adds to its moral worth.

Ultimately both industries require to influence the opinion of the masses. The Catholic Church didn’t help when they coined the word “Propaganda”, further degraded by Joseph Goebbels. Negative connotations are rife when talking of influence. This is just the point with soft determinism, we are all influenced by something. Nobody lives inside a bubble, we have thousands of messages penetrating our minds every day. We all still make decisions and most of them could be influenced by things we have empirically observed.         

So why does the PR industry have dishonesty attached to it? Perhaps the advertising industry should be questioned since their messages are absolute. Although these questions may have already started. I’m sure it is more than just the economic problems causing the advertising industry to crumble. No doubt advertising still has a place in the world but times change and so do industries.


The news has recently been inundated with reports from the new social networking website on the block, Twitter. George Orwell spoke of how it is always better to write a simple sentence in the media. Perhaps this is why Twitter has taken off so well with the public?


Twitter Whale

Twitter is quite simply a ludicrously easy social networking device to use. Due to this simplicity the scale of use for this social networking tool is huge. As the Twitter website explains, the focus is on a particular question “What are you doing?” The most basic function of Twitter is to answer this question. Obviously this question implies a focus around daily routines, the less understanding around Twitter may joke with statuses such as “Eating a ham sandwich” or “Reading a book”. Fair enough, a lot of Twitter does include people writing such phrases, I am included in this.

The secret behind Twitter is to use the tool for your own advantage. It is no secret that there is a degree of selfishness in all social networking website. The only reason I am on Facebook is to stay in the loop with my friends. An individual must always gain something from signing up. Twitter is the blatantly obvious when it comes to personal gain since it is possible to share your articles, artwork or music immediately with a large network of people. Even if a person has a low amount of followers it is possible to use ‘#’ tags to shout certain tweets to a large audience. For instance the #bloggeries gives your posted article links increased coverage. Yesterday for Charles Darwin’s 200th Birthday the #darwin tag was used to list all birthday message to him. It is a simple but convenient method to get more exposure for your tweets and join in with a likewise audience.

Getting more followers?

First you can add me @michaelwhite1!

This is a common question for anybody who takes Twitter seriously. Nobody likes to be left alone with a handful of followers but neither do we want an horrendous amount of spam coming through our Twitter feed. I should add that I’m not an expert when it comes to getting more followers. Currently I have 286 people following my tweets but I’ll list some tips to help you boost those numbers.

1.      If somebody follows you, follow them in return.

I view this to be more polite than anything else. Fellow twitters’ will see that you follow back and be more inclined to follow you in return. Always following back may not always ring true but some on Twitter view it to be only etiquette to return follows.

2.      Do not keep adding vast amounts of people

For the more logical readers it then may seem sensible to add thousands of people and hope they all follow you back. Unfortunately this method doesn’t work, this is a method spammers use on Twitter and can result in a bad reputation. If you add many people then make sure they have similar interest. A great deal of my followers come from secular networking website which I am a part of. This resulted in a greater follow back.

3.      Advertise yourself

Place your Twitter URL everywhere. Place it in the signature lines of your email, provide it on any websites you own, include it on other social networking website. If you are lucky enough to already have a range of people reading your blog or following your other social networking activities then you may get a big boost of Twitter followers.  

4.      Post unique or interesting links

On Twitter there is something called ‘RT’, ‘Return Tweet’. If you post an interesting or funny link then there is a chance other Twitters’ will include the same link in their status with your @username. This gives your profile greater exposure and consequently may increase followers. Alternatively keeping your profile focused on a specific subject area will make it easier to obtain a particular audience.

5.      Get involved!

If you just post your own tweets and never get active with the Twitter community then people won’t follow you or possibly remove you from their list. You should be interested with what other people have to say. Twitter is a SOCIAL networking website, need I say more?

6.      Do not auto Direct Message (DM) people

If there is one thing about Twitter I cannot stand it is when public relations professionals, marketing geniuses or ‘so-called’ entrepreneurs have set up an automatic DM to greet you once you have followed. It is such an obvious marketing strategy and consequently fills my inbox with huge amounts of utter rubbish. Mark my words, send me a automatic DM and I will kill you with a spoon.

7.      Or… you could be sneaky

On Facebook there are several groups focused on Twitter which may help you gain more followers. You will also find many other groups like these on other social networking sites such as Bebo or Myspace. These groups usually follow the ‘follow me, follow you’ ode. A website which materialised last week, which I curiously joined was TweeterGetter. Provide your Twitter username and password and apparently you get more followers. Although I haven’t seen any real effect from this application yet.

So what about Public Relations?

It is in my view that anybody who doesn’t use social networking devices for modern PR won’t be around for much longer. PR is all about communicating a message and the internet provides the perfect platform for this. The trick is to create a large awareness but not appear to be spamming the life out of people. The point I raised over companies mass following users and creating automatic direct messages could badly affect your campaign. Unfortunately I have had no experience with online Public Relations yet but as a long-term user of web technologies I still think my advice holds an awful lot of value.

Character of ePR

With all my controversial articles I issue a sort of disclaimer at the beginning. This usually begins with a submission to experience and perhaps necessary knowledge. In this case though I can introduce this article as a member of generation Y, along with a deep passion caused by an inadvertently misspent childhood.

As this is an introductory blog post I’ll provide some geeky details about myself. Like most young boys I had a fascination with computer games. This later grew with a desire to programme such software and so I leant the ‘lighter’ programming language gml which is a bit like Delphi. I quickly became involved with internet languages such as html, css, php, perl and mysql. I have helped develop a few websites over the years, a small portion of which were successful. Then I caught the writer’s flu, became obsessed with journalism and now my pr course compliments my passions.

I love gadgets, social media and one medium in particular, the internet. I won’t delve into the history of the internet, I’m sure you all know enough about that. My focus will be upon personalities on the internet. This will, no doubt, come with mild cynicism. I suppose that is what happens when studying media and public relations!

There is a cliché remark which separates older and current generation. It is simply,

“In my day we had more fun, we met each other and occasionally spoke on the telephone.”

The internet is one of the reasons why there is a small rift between the generations. The majority of teenagers will sit on social networking websites and chat their time away. What I have noticed over the years is how internet communication can give an individual multiple personalities.

The personality on one social networking website may differ to the next or at least make it appear so. A basic analogy of this would be to focus upon specialised websites. I’m a member of the popular music scrobbling website LastFm. As my preferred genre of music is metal (which comes in its odd variants) somebody could pass swift judgement upon me as a dedicate metal head. This is coupled by my subscription to Linux Questions. On this forum I appear to be a rebellious figure against cooperate gain and a firm supporter of opensource applications. Even though social networking sites such as Bebo, Myspace or Facebook provide a lengthier character profile essentially I am still not being me. I may chat with friends normally but there is usually consideration before I ever type or upload anything.

I have a wider concern over my virtual personality. I could present myself as a stereotypical brand on any social networking website with only a few adjustments. The internet might be best described then as the world’s largest theatre. In truth, the most accurate portrayal of myself can probably be found on twitter. Even then I have a realisation that everything I type will be catalogued and people will base my particular whitish brand upon that.

Quite simply and possibly controversially, the only way somebody can base a true understanding of you is by meeting in person and sharing a history. I’m quite certain that the issues discussed so far are not my own guilty vices surfacing. People have the ability to become their ideal character on the internet.

So how does public relations fit into all of this? One of my primary concerns with public relations shifting onto the internet is to do with elements of dishonesty. It is all too simple to make something sound or appear much better than it actually is. With the possibility for graphics, media and sexy programming you could present information or events in a seductive manner. If this is the case how close to the ethical boundaries are we? It is quite clear that public relations will gradually become more internet based but is this healthy for the industry in the long run?

All these questions are not intended to be hypothetical, I’d love to hear your comments. I might be wrong to be so concerned over how public relations is or might change. Perhaps presenting information in a colourful manner is the whole purpose of the industry.


Last Tuesday I was asked by my course leader at the University of Gloucestershire to show new students around the campus. The students had arrived to be interviewed for the PR course and it occurred to me that exactly this time last year I was having my interview for the very same course. Five we meant to have come but only four turned up. Unfortunately we had a heavy snow storm during the night and so a couple of families admitted to being unsure about making the journey.

Interestingly the four who had made it were all girls which fulfilled the stereotype that PR is a female dominated industry. We had such a discussion in class about a month ago without any real conclusion. However, from what I have seen, the majority of professionals do seem to be females. Perhaps this is because women have all the right emotional parts of the brain to deal with effective communication? Anyway, I’m not entirely certain. What I am sure about was the prospective students I showed around the university, with another student called Amelia, were charming. We had some interesting discussions about the course and I can see them all fitting in. The only question I was unable to answer was about the clubs in town, I hate clubs.

Due to how the interviews panned out I ended up guiding two of the prospective students back to reception. On the way I sneakily and sleekly inquired how they thought their interview went. Both of the girls seemed to be happy with the whole ordeal.