Thursday, May 8, 2008

PR = Propaganda Retailers?!

I attended Web Wednesday Social Mixer last night, an event founded by Napoleon Biggs the MD of Palava Digital. I was in the company of some of the finest Asian digerati as well as Thomas Crompton (the ex International Herald Tribune and New York Times journalist) and Oiwan Lam (Editor of Global Voices - a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School).

The focus of the session was how the Internet has become a battle ground for the Beijing Olympics, both within and outside China. Both speakers track this stream of information on a daily basis and have the journalistic experience to give a measured insight into recent developments.

I found the event enlightening, especially when we looked more closely at the anti-CNN and anti-Carrefour sentiments from China's citizens, and the use of propaganda by the China government to rally it citizens to 'support' the Olympics. For those of you who are a little hazy on the details, you can experience a brief glimpse of the engagement here (anti-CNN website) and here (anti-Carrefour movement).

However, I was left with one question un-answered in my mind.

We, as PR professionals, represent corporate organisations attempting to harness the internet to educate and inform consumers. The issue is that social media is 'un-regulated' (as it should be) and is seen as too much of a risk to embrace. Social media is considered a weapon for the consumers to use, at will, to generate mass attention for a particular cause or issue. Any activity conducted by a corporate is frowned upon and seen as propaganda. How, therefore, can we as PR professionals 'tame' social media to be of benefit to the companies we represent and use it as a tool to inform and educate consumers without being misconstrued for dealers in propaganda?

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