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It’s a New Game in Baltimore – Blog Journal – Week 9 – Louis Lee

"I believe that we will be judged by what we provide to the weakest and most vulnerable, that is the test, that is my test."

Based on readings from Media Relations, Chapter 8, Government and Politics

Ah, Politics and Government, two sides of the same coin. At least…that’s what my preconception of this topic was before I actually went through this admittedly fascinating chapter while feeling the effects of wrestling-induced sleep deprivation.

On the first few sentences of the “Defining media relations in government and politics” section Stanton makes it clear that “Politics and Government are not the same.” Which honestly wasn’t much of a surprise.

As I read on it seemed to me that Stanton saw Politics and Government as “the way one performs and elevates oneself to a position of authority” and “the logistics of actually running the entity (or entities) one has power over” owing to his definition of ‘Politics’ as “the public life and affairs of government, the activities concerned with the exercise of authority and power, and the capacity to manage and maintain the affairs of a state”, while ‘Government’ refers to “actions of governing, devising and controlling policy and legislation, and the action of managing and maintaining the affairs of the state”, but perhaps that’s just a gross simplification/misunderstanding of his ideas.

In any case, Stanton goes on further to frame the definitions of Politics and Government in the context of his book (concerning Media Relations, of course) as “campaign strategies to get elected” and the “strategies of those already elected to government to stay in power”, respectively.

With that in mind, I’ll state my understanding of the two sections of the chapter: Government and Politics

Now as Stanton goes, it is the job of the government to disseminate news and messages that correspond with health, tourism and security, the model of which he refers to as the “public information model” as per James Grunig and engage its citizens directly to establish a relationship, while building an image and identity through media relations.

A recurring point in this chapter was the importance of building  relationships with the media and affiliated parties, made more significant with the emergence of media advisers/media relations counselors that are paid professionally to form campaigns for the politician who hired them, reducing the “personal” aspect of relationship building.

The relationship-building result of these advisers (using tried and true methods and experience) is often two-pronged, as it sends a message that resonates well with stakeholders as well as the media, and also building reputational capital for future elections. Of interest is the advice to not waste time attempting to build relationships with media who are openly hostile to a government’s policies.

Moving on to politics, I must say that I was mildly surprised that Stanton posits that politically aware voters are more inclined to support a party based on its image rather than its policies…huh, guess the Bread and Circuses strategy applies even now.

Stanton goes on to explain that despite the similarities (political campaigns crafted along the same lines as marketing campaigns) marketing =/= politics. The former is economic (it wants to sell a product or service) while the latter is a sociological discipline, he claims. There is simply too much constant change in values and tangible factors outside of financial matters that influence stakeholders that cannot always be foreseen through conventional marketing efforts. This, however, has not stopped the recent “commodifying” of politics, with political campaigns being done through the same media tools and channels as those of marketing such as advertising. Though this is treated as “unfair and unscrupulous” by the electorate as they are never quite sure when these tools are being applied.

The malleable nature of politics has also done away with the old process of candidates and politicians in their rise to representative office through the steady climb from rank and file member of a political party through experience and successful political campaigns. Instead, candidates can come directly from non-political backgrounds with little in the way of relevent skills or theory and instead relying on hired political public relations experts or personal merit to garner support (which they usually do from immediate family and friends, though little else). Stanton also dismisses the notion that “intuition” is an important factor in the development of a political campaign and reveals how the gossip in the public sphere can be potentially useful sources of information for campaigners.

What caught my eye about this chapter is a certain paragraph on its final pages that discussed political communication campaigns, the “redemption of tokens” as he puts it, referring to the standard practice in advertising or political persuasion to imply positive position, but without specifying the way in which the promised benefits will materialise.

Stanton’s description of how this technique is usually applied with print media through advertising space with a “caption promising a wide range of benefits for  stakeholders (no matter how superficial the persuasion seems, as they deem to elect a candidate on the implication and redemption of tokens based on ill-defined reputational capital) instantly brought to mind the image of one Tommy Carcetti from the Wire (a TV show about the social machine of the American city of Baltimore I watched a few months back) who put up an admirable Kennedy-esque public face and announced his rhetoric with enough skill to have courtrooms eating out of the his hand, but he never quite had the intention of living up to his promises if it meant he secured the seat of authority. The recurrence of the words “political actor” throughout the chapter to indicate a person, group or organisation with a large influence on a political situation certainly didn’t help matters in being reminded of this character.

So let’s end this week’s edition of the blog entry with a demonstration of Carcetti’s honed political tongue from the man himself.

References:

Grunig, J. E., & Hunt, T. (1984). Managing Public Relations. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Kavanagh, D. (1996). New campaign communications: consequences for political parties. Harvard International Journal of Press and Politics, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 60-76

Stanton, R. (2007). Media Relations, Oxford University Press Melbourne.

Mayor Carcetti of the Wire shows us how it’s done.

Week 14: Asian Public Relations

I was rather disappointed by the chapter from Chia and Synnott’s book on the topic of focusing on Asian PR. As a Singaporean, I do not find the portrayal of Asian countries to be very accurate or fair. While I recognise that in any thesis on such a hugely varying (sociologically and geopolitically) region is somewhat vulnerable to over specification if too much attention is paid to detail. Nonetheless, any thesis trying to draw a huge bracket over the whole of Asia loses a whole lot of meaning by way of the hugely diverse populace of Asia. This would still be acceptable, if not for the fact that the chapter tries to construe a consistent PR perspective on the whole of Asia, and along the way assumes that the entirety of the United States is more singular in nature than China, Japan, or South Korea… or any other Asian nation. Continue reading ‘Week 14: Asian Public Relations’



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