Category Archives: international

Sponsored journalism – always dishonest and lacking in integrity?

In Sweden, and I guess elsewhere as well, there’s an ongoing discussion about sponsored journalism and that it’s dishonest to the readers. But is it? Can it even be that it is more honest?

We all know it – good journalism cost. It’s that simple, and more and more we’re getting used to “free” journalism, so it’s harder for the traditional outlets to finance their business. I put free between brackets because there is no such thing as free, sooner or later someone must pay. But I’m more discussing integrity here. Because there is a sense that sponsored journalism lacks integrity and only exist as a kind of infotainment. This time around it was a piece on the Swedish radio about one major Swedish newspaper that had started a co-operation with an auction house and thanks to that was able to offer high-quality articles on the art market. The sponsored journalists did not hide under which circumstances the articles have been produced. In other words it was clear that the content is produced in collaboration with this auction house. The radio journalists approached the subject under the assumption that sponsored journalism is dishonest and lacking integrity, and that “their” type of journalism is so much better. But “their” journalism is state sponsored through taxes, so how free is that? It is perceived so because we don’t see the direct relationship between the funds and the result, but is not only a perception? Can’t it be that sponsored content is much more honest and show higher integrity because the sender is (or at least should be) clearly identified and I as a reader know this? If I know that an article on pain management is written by pharma company producing a certain pain remedy I take that into account when I read the text. When I read a text by a journalist specialised in pharma I can’t be sure of the sources, and as a PR with a fair few years of competence in working with the press under my belt, I know for a fact that “sponsored” content i.e. successful pitch, is not unusual.

Can it be that openly sponsored journalism has higher integrity than we give it credit for? What say you?

Languages are a funny thing

Thing? Possibly the wrong noun, but I hope my trusted readers get what I mean.

In my life, where I at any given day interact in three languages and work in an environment where I hear 25, having some insights into the denomination of languages are something I take for granted. But when will one learn never to take anything for granted?

Today I applied for a job at a company that describes itself the following way:

Kronos is the global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Tens of thousands of organizations in more than 100 countries — including more than half of the Fortune 1000® — use Kronos to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity. Learn more about Kronos’  industry-specific time and attendance, scheduling, absence management, HR and payroll, hiring, and labor analytics applications at www.kronos.com

Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works™.

Kronos is a privately held company and was founded in 1977. Headquartered in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Kronos employs more than 3,500 people worldwide.

So it is fair to say this company claims to have a certain international outlook. Well, at least this is what you think because in the ad, for an International Communication Manager, one of the requirements were: Fluency in a language other than English is a benefit (European or Chinese)

European?

Or is their take on the debate on a federal Europe?

Affirmative action for Women in the EU – No, thank you!

The other day I attended an event in Brussels. In a networking town like this, and Washington DC, that is nothing unusual. It was an industry event, so people representing their companies working with public affairs and in IT and Internet in general. So relatively ”new” industries. That isn’t anything exceptional either. No what was so exceptional was that of the maybe 50 people present four (4) were women. Of which one woman was married to one of the guys attending the event.

Yes, you read correct – out of 50 people, 3 were women working in the industry. And this is a fairly normal room in this town.

I find the figures remarkable and the situation so wrong I can’t begin to explain. And probably shouldn’t because, to quote President Reagan “You can’t print what I think.” But I still don’t want legislation remedying this.

Why don’t I want legislation to deal with this unbalance? First of all, affirmative action is discrimination, it departs from the principle that equal rights are always right. Affirmative actions leads to polarization, collectivization, and identity politics. Should increasingly educated women, all over the world, which on our own merits, sometimes against all odds, made it through tough educations be discarded in a future where men find it increasingly difficult to keep up? Because, one must see that affirmative action goes both ways.

These irrelevant criteria – gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, the list is endless, which helps individuals to advance their careers, will also be the defining criteria should this individual fall. Individual skills won’t matter, these criteria will still define the individual and spill over on the group as such, i.e. a woman gets on in her career to through affirmative action, if she fails ALL women become incompetent. Affirmative action also suppose that individuals are exchangeable which clearly we are not. So, in my case, as long as we have a woman on our team, we’re fine. Does that even begin to sound right to you?

Finally, there is the minor detail about property and private ownership, a privately owned company, indeed any company shouldn’t be required to hire any one else than the person they believe can do the job.

Still, 3 professional women in a room of 50 professionals seems, well – unbalanced.

Affirmative action for women – why should we need it?

The various Board Diversity initiatives intrigue me. As someone whom promote regulation austerity I wonder – do we need it? And if so, why does it seem impossible for the ones fitting into to the W2M norm by birth to change and implement change? And why are we as women seemingly incapable of achieving this change? Is it really true that we are sifted out in the election process simply based on our gender?

And if this legislation come through, what will the consequences for the boards that doesn’t implement this be? Will the sitting management be thrown in jail? Or will they in their turn retaliate by simply taking the company off the stock exchange. 100 companies were privatised this way in Norway when these measures were introduced.

The autumn promises to be interesting…

And one more thing – in my latest post I asked the question if diversity in the board room just meant more of the same but with a skirt. Turn out I was right: Shattering myths and glass ceilings: launch of database of ‘Global Board Ready Women’

Equality in the boardroom – more of the same only with a skirt?

It might not have escaped you than one of the latest crazes from the regulation happy European Union concerns how many women should sit on corporate boards. 40% by the year 2020. So even if I am not part of the W2M norm, and still hope to one day sit on a [corporate] board I am a little bit uneasy about this type of regulation. One of the reasons for my unease is that when Norway introduced the same measures 2003 many boards reported that they lost experience. Still, if we don’t think change comes quick enough regulation might be the way forward.

Anyway, I wonder – will more women on board really change things? And if so, what will it change? Will more to choose from and hopefully a better gender balance automatically mean better corporates? Loss of expertise might not be the best way forward. The reason why I ask is that it seems to me that corporate “cross-over” is limited to say the least. And for me it is this cross-over that is the real way to draw on different competencies and thus developing the corporate(s). What do I mean? Well, once you start in one type of company you stick that type. Once in one industry it is rare to change.

So is more of the same the real corporate and business diversification?

 

“I thought you understood that”

How much understanding do we take for granted in our everyday communications? And/or transmitting information to an audience? I had reason to ask myself that today when I took the tram and it was wrongly marked. It seemed like the driver took it for granted that we all knew where we actually where going and that neither the directions, nor the stops needed to be showed or called correctly. It’s not too much asked to know your destination. But there are first time travellers and tourists too.

When I managed to verify that I was indeed going in the correct direction, I settled down to read a book on languages and culture “Through the Language Glass” of Guy Deutscher, and the combination made me think. How much do we take for granted that our audience understand when communicating with them?

I remember the first time I worked abroad, in Dublin, Ireland and the problems I faced then when it came to communicating. Situations very often caused by me not communicating in a way understood by the other party. Now, I have a thing with not wanting to sound arrogant nor demeaning when addressing someone. In every language I speak or to whatever size the audience. I was working as a software translator/localiser and I had never worked in a multi-lingual/cultural environment or abroad before. Often when I asked for a document to be processed it never happened. Until, I started to provide instructions which I found incredibly demeaning – they went something along these lines: “Here is a document that I’d like you to have a look at. You don’t need to put more than 20 – 30 minutes into it. Can you do that by tomorrow?”

I had been used to the opposite i.e. when I came with a document I got that answer, that the person in question could spend X amount of time and process it by so and so date.

Hence, I when I gave the same information, which by all means could be of interest for the person in question, I felt like I treated them like idiots. This is something I try to steer clear of as much as possible, and something I strongly feel we as communicators should avoid. But how do we avoid this? How can we best put forward a message without demeaning the audience? I mean today, I wouldn’t at all have minded knowing the direction of the tram or the stops. It certainly wouldn’t have made me feel demeaned in any way or form. But we can’t count on that our audiences always are in this friendly and receiving state of mind.

Am I complicating a simple situation of transmitting a piece of information, i.e. doing our jobs (at least part of it) or are these questions we should be asking ourselves in everything we do?

How much understanding do we take for granted in our everyday communications? And/or transmitting any information to an audience? I had reason to ask myself that today when I took the tram and it was wrongly marked. It seemed like the driver took it for granted that we all knew where we actually where going and that neither the directions, nor the stops needed to be showed or called correctly.

Am I complicating a simple situation of transmitting a piece of information, i.e. doing our jobs (at least part of it) or are these questions we should be asking ourselves in everything we do?

Can you brand a Parliament?

As someone lucky enough having grown up in a country with an old parliament and now working for a younger one – I must admit I have never question their presence. Naïve, I admit, as democracy needs to be protected and strengthened on a daily basis. Still, for me a parliament, well I more or less take it for granted – it’s just something we have and always have had.

But as we are drawing closer to the 2014 EU Parliament elections, I ask myself can you raise the number of voters by branding the EU Parliament? The relatively poor turnout in the European elections is a problem as it ultimately is a question about legitimacy for the parliament and its decisions. But should you at all brand a parliament? Can you brand a parliament? Is it maybe the elections that should be branded? And can you separate the two?

The reason for why I started muse on the subject is the because I participated in an event organised by the Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left in the European Parliament where the issues of raising the number of voters and how to communicate on the European Parliament were discussed. One speaker made me jump when he described how they had gone about in the Czech Republic, where had they used pictures of dead chickens wrapped in plastics to show what the Parliament had achieved in consumer protection. When I queried what on earth the thinking behind was he couldn’t answer, but explained they were part of a bigger campaign devised by Sholtz and Friends on the theme “European Elections – it’s your choice!” and the aim was to raise the interest for the elections to the European Parliament and hopefully get a higher electorate participation in the 2009 elections.

As you can see, the chickens were one of 13 outdoor advertising proposals. And all I can say is, well… the brief seemed OK, but did they at all do some studies before the launch? Apparently in the Czech Republic the chicken with the text was the favoured choice, as it was thought to be. However, in France the preferred choice was the unlabelled chicken because the French chicken consumer assumed that if the chicken is unmarked they reckon it is the “green” choice. BTW, if you have the time, look at the viral films. Although, I am fairly convinced they didn’t go viral at all. Now, I don’t question for a second the difficulty you stand in front of when addressing as culturally diverse audiences as the in EU27. I am intentionally speaking about culturally different because I am not so sure that the demographics are that different.

The result of this campaign was the European Parliament feeling more was needed and have since hired three agency consortia to further raise the EP:s image or as it is said in eurolingo “promote understanding and awareness of the European Union’s parliamentary institution.” All according to Holmes report. While this is a four year contract, so not geared only towards the elections as such, the 2014 election will come in the middle of this four year period I should be surprised if they were not a part of the brief. But is more information about the European Parliament what we need? Won’t we suffer from EP inertia and a general voting fatigue? Today a normal voter can vote in communal, regional, national and European elections. Already there are worrying signs that absenteeism is raising, in the recent local elections in Belgium figures as high as 25% was reported. And that is in a country where voting is compulsory. I don’t think it’s because the issues doesn’t engage, but that the actual event of voting is no longer interesting.

So I return to my initial questions – Can you and should you brand a Parliament? Or is it a wrongly phrased question – it is the elections that should be branded? I have no answers myself, but I feel it is a question that should be asked and debated.