The tetchy chamberlain, part II

David Brain, president and CEO of Edelman Europe, has just posted a copy of a snail mail letter (PDF) from Colin Farrington, director general of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.

David’s entitled his post ‘The Tetchy Emperor Part II’, but I think it would be more accurate to call it ‘The Tetchy Chamberlain, Part II’ as Colin is an administrator, not a leader.

As David says most of it is sixth form level debating stuff, but one bit that leapt out for me was:

“Finally, and more seriously, I am concerned about the degree of transparency (the connection between individual employers, practitioners and clients) that appears to be lacking in some ‘blogs’ and on some websites. This is an important (and I suspect quite tricky in detail) issue for public relations practitioners so I have asked our Professional Practices Committee to agree guidelines for members on this. They will no doubt be consulting on them shortly.”

This is something that I have been thinking about a lot. I am in the middle of trying to write a guide on blogging to go on the PR Guides section of the CIPR website. One of the issues that means it is taking longer than I expected is the whole issue of transparency.

CIPR wiki to agree social media media guidelines

My idea, which I’ve just outlined in a letter to Colin Farrington, is that the Professional Practices Committee does not agree guidelines and consult on them. Instead CIPR should create a wiki which interested members can edit until we come up with guidelines which can be endorsed by by the Professional Practices Committee.

The accepted ‘norm’ in the blogosphere is probably that transparency is paramount and that ghost-written blogs are unacceptable. I’m not so sure I agree with this and believe there can be circumstances where ghosting is acceptable.

What puzzles me is Colin’s statement that “transparency…. appears to be lacking in some ‘blogs’.” In fact blogs are usually far MORE transparent than most traditional public relations. The majority of trade and professional magazines would have virtually no content if it wasn’t for ghost-written material produced by public relations professionals. How many articles by-lined to company spokespeople do you think are really written by them?

On blogs, comments and reputation

As Colin does actually read and comment on blogs himself I hope he can explain his statement on either David’s or my blog.

On the subject of comments I agree with Colin that “there are many, including some from people who should be able to do much better given their expertise, which seem to be pointless and/or unlikely to have anything but a negative effect on reputation.” My emphasis. :-)

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About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com Simon Collister

    Holy cow, Stuart.

    1. I have just read Colin's comments on Elizabeth Albrycht's blog. I was trying my hardest to take a purely professional view on Colin's blog opinions, but having read his comments here I can only conclude that he is not a nice person. While you could certainly argue that his points are valid, he puts them across in such an unpleasent way he utterly undermines himself.

    2. Colin's comments re. transparency were also directed at my former employer shortly after his initial salvo against blogging in July. In an email to my employer he questioned the transparency of blogs such as mine, suggesting my blog was non-transparent because I didn't reference my employer.

    I can't remember Colin's full argument as it was sent via a private email to my MD and although it concerned me, I was not copied in. I did see hard copies when my MD spoke to me about the original posts I made and I seem to recall that the gist was: I am making statements about PR and the PR industry in a personal capacity, but it wouldn't take a genius with Google to connect my statements with my then employer. I think he implied this was professionally dubious – perhaps using the legal logic of the La Petite Anglaise case – and potentially damaging to my employer and its clients.

    Luckily both myself and my boss agreed that as I wasn't posting anything damaging, inflammatory or libellous then it was all ok.

    But a nice summons to the MD's office all the same!

  • http://simoncollister.typepad.com/simonsays/2006/09/colin_farringto.html Simonsays

    Colin Farrington anti-social media update

    David Brain has posted a copy of Colin Farrington’s reply to his original letter aired on the Edelman CEO’s Sixtysecondview vlog. I will leave David and others to air their views on Colin’s robust response! Stuart Bruce also covers the

  • http://www.accmanpro.com Dennis Howlett

    On what grounds is ghosting acceptable? I fundamentally disagree with that because there is no authenticity in the 'voice' if it's ghosted. And think about the potential harm – especially if review processes aren't properly followed.

    As to: "The majority of trade and professional magazines would have virtually no content if it wasn't for ghost-written material produced by public relations professionals."

    Come on Stuart – that's a sweeping statement. And if it was even vaguely true then do you think readers are so stupid as to not see through it. I've seen enough examples to know this is grade A shilling – exactly what PR wants through its comnmand and control approach. Where's the 'new' in that?

  • http://www.simonwakeman.com/2006/09/27/cipr-and-a-positive-way-forward-for-social-media/ Simon Wakeman

    CIPR and a positive way forward for social media?

    So David Brain has had an unexpected opportunity to chat face to face with Colin Farrington, CIPR director-general. And the conversation has thrown up a challenge – what does the UK social media community want CIPR to do to promote these new communica…

  • http://blog.basturea.com Constantin Basturea

    Stuart, if you want to start working on a draft for the guidelines (without waiting for CIPR to set up a wiki), please feel free to use the New PR Wiki [*].

    I can start a separate page/group for this project and I'll set up an edit password, which you can share with other CIPR members interested in participating.

    [*] http://www.thenewpr.com