Saturday, April 29, 2017

The law governing Public Relations and elections

On the face of it, there would seem to be few laws that have been passed to specifically govern the activities of the public relations practitioner.

The fact is that there are many affective laws and some of them are very pertinent during election times.

If someone were to approach a PR practitioner asking for help in running their election campaign, the long arm of the law wraps itself round the practitioner. There is no escape!

The Representation of the Peoples Acts, the Electoral Registration Acts and associated regulation govern what can be be done and what has to be accounted for down to the last stamp.

The law goes further than that. If a PR practitioner attempts to support a candidate or political party in an election, even without the knowledge or consent of the candidates, the law has an interest in this too.

Even working to get people on the electoral register is nailed down by the law and bucking the law can lead to some really serious consequences.

There is a significant sub-set of public relations practitioners who are political agents and they have a considerable history going as far back as 1882. Many political agents have specific qualifications to do the job (I did several decades ago).

Of course misrepresentation is another area of law that affects the PR profession. a false statement of fact or law which induces the someone to enter a contract (agree to buy or do something or agree not to buy or do something), where a statement made during the course of negotiation or conversations (yes, this does apply to social media) is classed as a representation.  Misrepresentation may be available where the statement turns out to be untrue.  There are three types of misrepresentation:
  • innocent misrepresentation 
  • negligent misrepresentation
  • fraudulent misrepresentation
On all three counts, a person purporting to be a public relations practitioner, whether or not a member of an organisation such as the CIPR, cannot claim to be innocence a a defence. There is a duty of care (as well as professionalism) - see 'tort' below.

Many practitioners may not aware of the nature of contracts and yet enter into them daily. 

In the UK a contract that is an agreement giving rise to obligations which are enforced or recognised by law.  In common law, there are 3 basic essentials to the creation of a contract: (i) agreement; (ii) contractual intention; and (iii) consideration (what is the bargain? Is it money in exchange for something or some other value exchange).

Using marketing speak is not exempt. The claim of a 'world leading product' implies there is verifiable research behind the claim. In these cases there is an element of tort. Tort is the part of law for most harms that are not either criminal or based on a contract. Tort law helps people to make claims for compensation (repayment) when someone hurts them or hurts their property.

A lot of harm perpetrated in social media falls into the realm of Tort. In many cases bots fall fowl of tort law but there does not seem to be much case law yet.The legals issues that cover copyright, passing off and trademarks are big for PR practice too. Is your app legal? 

As we have seen, there is a lot of law that affects the PR sector and although it is struggling to keep up with The Transformative Technologies, there is plenty to be going on with.

In the meantime, there are things the practitioner can do to learn about the law that affects PR practice. Being a member and using the facilities of organisations like the CIPR is helpful. Universities provide modules for students and your own lawyer will be of help too.

There is a case for research into present UK and global legal constraints on the practice of PR (this post is about UK law but there are similar constraints worldwide). In addition, there is a need for greater clarity as to the the constraints that already exist.

It is an opportunity for a post graduate student wanting to make a name (and career) for herself.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Barbarians at the gates of the Liberal Democracy Empire

Portrait of Locke in 1697 by Godfrey Kneller
For some time, I have wrestled with the thought that we are living in a political era different to one we knew in the 20th century. As I shall show, there are those before me.

The eighteenth-century philosopher John Locke (1632 - 1704) provided a framework for much of our thinking about identity and the self. He gave philosophers such as David Hume, Rousseau, and Kant, the basis for the idea of Liberal Democracy.  These and his wider range of interests is now brought into close focus in the new era of life changing transformative technologies and a post-Liberal Democratic Hegemony.

The nature of the Transformative Technologies now goes to the very essence of our understanding of wealth. Wealth is now measured in the accessible possession and manipulation capability of Big Data and its translation into intangibles such as knowledge capable of being implanted into the minds of men. The nature of Augmented Reality is such that the idea does not seem to be prosperous and thus can step by step pass from machine to man and seep deeper into our culture - what can be described as a post-knowledge economy. 

Thus, the nature of wealth is not always to be seen in transit to tangible advantage but as access to Big Data transfigurations from the evolution of content in 'The Cloud'.

The ability of technologies to augment the self is now evident in capabilities such as Artificial Intelligence in many of its applications (not least in assisting the medical profession in diagnosis and treatment of ailments such as cancer). AI is seen to be 'better' in many tasks. At the same time, the idea of many truths and liberal interpretation is challenged, even undermined, by unbreakable encryption including technologies accessible to most people in the form of Blockchain.

A Mckinsey view is here and offers some real world numbers of this changing economic world.

The population, in everyday use of mobile phones at al, are aware of the big changes now and in train. They touch them every day. Every day people deploy the cloud and touch new and emerging transformative technologies but they don't see its recognition among governing elites. Poor access to wifi is a simple example of the 'them and us' rupture. "Why can't they fix it?"

Meanwhile, evidence of the collapse of Liberal Democracy is seen in a number of ways:

There is the misplaced power of the State which is evident in day to day performance of the Executive.

One can draw the inference that the Government Executive (DVLA) is too powerful and/or independent of the elected Parliament and, thereby is perceived to be out of control or undermining the electorate and wider community.

The high levels of support for Marine Le Pen also show the frontal attack on the liberal, pluralistic model of society.

It is electors who are marking out the boundaries of a new and emerging 'Western Democracy'. Gone are the days of Left v Right. Many long-established political parties are not loosing support and votes, they have become irrelevant. There is vox pop evidence and opinion o support such a view which emerged in the 2017 election

The change has been a long time in the making but the pace of change is accelerating.  The present release valve for most nations is in the ballot box. The need for the basic of democracy, the universal (voting) franchise, is critical.

We are seeing the barbarians at the gate of the Liberal Democracy Empire.

Reason and tolerance, life and liberty is now cast into a post-industrial, post-knowledge capital era. The capability to develop and access unlimited accumulation of property without causing waste through spoilage is re-cast. 

My, most recent experience is a clue. I had my driving licence withdrawn by the  Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) base on, as it turned out a misdiagnosis of epilepsy.  On informing the Agency of the misdiagnosis and with evidence of two of the Nation's leading Neurologists, the wheels of the agency ground exceeding slow but not exceeding fine. It took the Agency a further six months to restore the licence. I raised this apparently systemic fault with y local Member of Parliament who duly wrote to the Agency for an explanation. The result was two letters from DVLA one to my MP and one to me. The letter from the Agency, an Executive arm of government, to a Member of Parliment was a template and platitudinous and noted that the Agency was undergoing some reforms. The letter to me was courteous and outlined the many approaches I had made to the Agency and offered an explicit apology and noted the upcoming reforms. The two letters could have been about two different cases. In its way, the Agency had deceived the Member of Parliament as to the extent of its failings. Having cited my case to a number of people, I have heard of many similar cases.

Donald Trump described his perspective as: 'Drain the Swamp' to describe his plan to fix problems in the US Federal Government and in doing so touched a nerve in the US electorate.  It was an argument similar to the one provided by Bian Binley (MP) when he noted "(The European) Commission has conceded that the bureaucratic costs of business compliance with European legislation could be equivalent of 5.5 per cent of EU GDP – equivalent to the size of the entire Dutch economy." Such evidence also touched a nerve among the British electorate.  We see similar evidence in other areas of public life, no less than the French Presidential Election results.

This so-called Brexit phenomenon is a reaction to Liberal Democracy as a large proportion of voters see it. 

Dr Robin Niblett at Chatham House invites us to consider that, the liberal international order has always depended on the idea of progress. Since 1945, Western policymakers have believed that open markets, democracy and individual human rights would gradually spread across the entire globe. Today, such hopes seem naïve.

In Asia, the rise of China threatens to challenge US military and economic hegemony. In the Middle East, the United States and its European allies have failed to guide the region toward a more liberal and peaceful future in the wake of the Arab Spring. And Russia’s geopolitical influence has reached heights unseen since the Cold War, as it attempts to roll back liberal advances around its periphery.

But the more important threats to the order are internal. For the past half-century, the European Union has seemed to represent the advance guard of a new liberalism in which nations pool sovereignty and cooperate ever more closely with one another. Today, as it reels from one crisis to the next, the EU has stopped expanding, he says.

Already it takes us back to Locke

In The Retreat of Western Liberalism, Edward Luce talks of the weakening of western hegemony and the crisis of liberal democracy―of which Donald Trump and his European counterparts are not the cause, but a symptom. Luce argues that we are on a menacing trajectory brought about by ignorance of what it took to build the West, arrogance towards society’s economic losers, and complacency about our system’s durability―attitudes that have been emerging since the fall of the Berlin Wall (in my view - long before and a reason for the failure of Nazi and communist forms of government). We cannot move forward, suggests Luce, without a clear diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Unless the West can rekindle an economy that produces gains for the majority of its people, its political liberties may be doomed. "The West’s faith in history teaches us to take democracy for granted. Reality tells us something troublingly different", says Luce.

In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra looks further back to the eighteenth century before leading us to the present.

He shows that as the world became modern, those who were unable to enjoy its promises--of freedom, stability, and prosperity--were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world--or were left, or pushed, behind--reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: with an intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected, suggests Mishra, that the militants of the nineteenth century arose--angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally.

These authors are delving deep into the nature of modern civilisation. There is change in the air.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The PR department that needs an Artificial Intelligence chip

Will your PR department have its own AI chips? will it need them just to keep up?

My thinking is brought about by an article by Cade Metz  in Wired magazine today.

He writes about an AI chip for everything and identifies companies already developing such capability.

Google recently built its own AI chip, called the TPU, which is widely deployed inside the massive data centres that underpin the company’s online empire. There, thousands, of TPU’s helps with everything from identifying commands spoken into Android smartphones to choosing results on the Google search engine.

But this is just the start of a much bigger wave, says Metz.

“As CNBC revealed last week, several of the original engineers behind the Google TPU are now working to build similar chips at a stealth startup called Groq, and the big-name commercial chip makers, including Intel, IBM, and Qualcomm, are pushing in the same direction.|” Facebook too is working on an AI chip.

These new chips are very efficient and use much less power than the traditional CPU.

Now, as companies like Google and Facebook push neural networks onto phones and VR headsets—so they can eliminate the delay that comes when shuttling images to distant data centers—they need AI chips that can run on personal devices, too. “There is a lot of headroom there for even more specialised chips that are even more efficient.”

In other words, the market for AI chips is potentially enormous. That’s why so many companies are jumping into the mix.

Let's go back a bit and think about “ push neural networks onto phones and VR headsets.”  This will make AI chips more ubiquitous than mobile phones. Such chips in such volumes would be (relatively) cheap.

This would offer the prospect of Artificial Intelligence chips in everyday items such as clothes, personal items like glasses, headsets, wand-like pens and so on.

AI in all forms of communication will demand an AI response in corporate governance (as well as government and the law).

Those people who have to manage public relations (not the marketing/publicity sort), and thus the governance aspects of the job, will need some very serious AI tools to gain access to the means of relationship management mediated by the now ubiquitous AI chip.

Yes, your PR department is going to need its own AI chips.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

What is 'The Media' - A job for the universities

"Much power is media generated. Historically, only certain groups could produce and publish content through media platforms due to the lack of technology. Now, anyone can produce and share content, especially within our own social networks, however small or large that may be. Verčič warns that the public relations industry must think about media relations differently—not just the paid, earned, shared, owned model—but everything generating communications today. “Mediatization” is everything. So said Dr. Dejan Verčič , Professor and Head of Centre for Marketing and Public Relations at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The game changers are staggering.

The announcement by Facebook this week that it wants to get to a point where its system can read the brain five times faster than an individual can type on a smartphone is awesome. It offers new forms of communication. It will, says Facebook, also enable other new technologies such as artificial intelligence-powered augmented reality to offer alternative insights into the authors' thoughts.

Meanwhile, Facebook is also focused on is turning the camera into a mainstream augmented reality platform.

But then, in the corner of your office is a 'virtual assistant'. These devices access a lot of information some of which is provided by the Marketing and Public Relations industies. Virtual Assistants are very chatty and are getting better at it too. Further-more, they morph into your mobile phone to give you the same service on the move. They have become in-house companions for housebound senior citizens too.

These developments and many more reflect a growing number of media channels that are now available for the PR industry to use in affecting and influencing relationships.

The problem is that such media pops up in many forms. 

The car is now the equivalent of the Daily News of yesteryear. It provides information about the car and journey, directions to take, nearest McDonalds and a vast array of entertainment. It is a platform for news and opinion as well as augmented reality adding to the driver and passenger experience.

We still have 'print media', radio and TV, the web and social media and we have the many new media. 

This means there are serious challenges for practitioners when it comes to media selection.

Lots of people are currently touting their ability to communicate one on one through social media.  Sentiment analysis and emotion tracking are also now possible. It is marketing nirvana.

But is it?

How can one identify the environment (e.g. housebound home, car, mobile phone on the bus) and its influence on the moment? What about the nature of opinion changing social media bots and trolls and their impact of the AI programmes that seem to offer such wonderful insights?

Communication that changes the nature of genes in the human body so it can receive and act on mobile phone communication is not as far-fetched as it would seem.

What are the questions we need to ask if we are going to be equipped with knowledge and capability to use the media that is needed in relationship change?

We now have to turn to the universities to offer a solution. They are beyond the capability of the individual practitioner or PR agency.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Internet of Everything is it IoEPR?

A recent Cisco study placed the value of the Internet of things as a $19 trillion opportunity. It struck me that the PR industry should be investing some of its thinking about the future into IoE too.

IoE will affect all aspects of business and, like all other sectors,  the PR profession has to find out the key things it will need to consider in this transition.

This paper examines The Internet of everything from a PR perspective and identifies where, in the short term, it will offer significant advantages to the PR sector.

We will discover that, with a new and developing set of professional skills and tools, practitioners will find new opportunities and the downside of underemployment will be avoided as a result.

We will also note that without developing such skills, there will be a chance for a significant deleterious effect.

What is the Internet of Everything?

IoE expands on the concept of the “Internet of Things” because it connects physical devices and everything else by getting them all on the network. It moves beyond being a buzzword and technology trend by connecting devices to one another and the Internet and offers higher computing power. This connection goes beyond basic Machine to Machine (M2M) communications, and it is the interconnection of devices that leads to automation and advanced “smart” applications.


IoE works to connect more things onto the network, stretching out the edges of the network and expanding the roster of what can be connected. IoE has a major play in all industries, from retail to telecommunications to banking and Public Relations.

There is a view that IoE will also include intangibles such as values, cultures and art and artistic interpretation (i.e.semi sentient considerations e.g. is switching a light on in daylight a 'bad' thing"). Also, it will encompass descriptions of features and benefits of products and services implied by the words and actions of the client and her many cultural constituencies.

By 2018, 20 percent of the business content will be authored by machines.
Technologies ( with the ability to proactively assemble and deliver information through automated composition engines fostering a movement from human-to-machine-generated business content. Data-based and analytical information is already being turned into natural language writing using these emerging tools (Here are some examples:,,

Such automation should be a feature of Public Relations development. PR consultancies can and should be offering these services now.

Business content, such as shareholder reports, legal documents, market reports, press releases, articles and white papers, are all candidates for automated writing tools.

These outputs can include code to make it even more attractive to IoT devices.

For the past 100 years or so, financial reporting has been paper based. Only in the last 25-30 years have reports been created electronically in a word processor and then printed or saved to an electronic format such as PDF or HTML.

But the information contained in PDF and HTML is not easily scraped by computers. Digital financial reporting, by contrast, makes much of this information readable by computers, vastly expanding the potential for automating creation and analysis of financial reports.

Such help from machines can reduce the time and, therefore, the costs of creating and consuming reports and information and improve its quality.

With machine readability computers can read the reported and "understand" it and help make sure mathematical computations are correct and intact throughout the report. They can compare reported information to mandated disclosure rules and make sure the report's creator complied with them. This is somewhat similar to how manually created disclosure checklists are used as memory joggers.

No "magic" is involved here. For example, standard syntax can make a mobile phone ring or lock or unlock devices.

Progress towards IoE will also mean that a salesperson's mobile will also provide details travel, meetings, and conversations. Such data will be matched to travel, phone conversations, perhaps even mood measurements and, of course, sales closures.

Why should PR be involved?

In short - money.

If PR is at the centre of much of this development, it stands to make a lot of money through implementation and use.

Also, much of this evolution will disenfranchise the practitioner.  Part of what is on offer will make practitioners redundant.

Much of PR that is not automated will be very mundane.

Being part of the new forms of PR will be very interesting, if not exciting!

When will it happen?

You can get an impression of the range of sensors already available from Intel ( I like the ADIS16448 Accelerometer which I could put on my Ski's to prove I was jumping more than 5 metres.

Imagine the world in which everything is connected and packed with sensors.

50+ billion connected devices, loaded with a dozen or more sensors, will create a trillion-sensor ecosystem.

These devices will create what one might call a state of neo-perfect knowledge, where we'll be able to know what we want, where we want when we want.

Combined with the power of data mining and machine learning, the value that you can create and the capabilities you will have as an individual and as a business will be extraordinary.

Here are a few basic examples to get you thinking:

Retail: Beyond knowing what you purchased, stores will monitor your eye gaze, knowing what you glanced at… what you picked up and considered, and put back on the shelf. Dynamic pricing will entice you to pick it up again.

City Traffic: Cars looking for parking cause 40% of traffic in city centres. Parking sensors will tell your car where to find an open spot.

Lighting: Streetlights and house lights will only turn on when you're nearby.

Vineyards/Farming: Today IoE enables winemakers to monitor the exact condition (temperature, humidity, sun) of every vine and recommends optimal harvest times. IoE can follow details of fermentation and even assure perfect handling through distribution and sale to the consumer at the wine store.

Dynamic pricing: In the future, everything has dynamic pricing where supply and demand drivers pricing. Uber already knows when demand is high, or when I'm stuck miles from my house and can charge more as a result.

Transportation: Self-driving cars and IoE will make ALL traffic a thing of the past.

Healthcare: You will be the CEO of your own health. Wearables will be tracking your vitals constantly, allowing you and others to make better health decisions.

Banking/Insurance: Research shows that if you exercise and eat healthily, you're more likely to repay your loan. Imagine a variable interest rate (or lower insurance rate) depending on exercise patterns and eating habits?

Forests: With connected sensors placed on trees, you can make urban forests healthier and better able to withstand -- and even take advantage of -- the effects of climate change.

Office Furniture: Software and sensors embedded in office furniture are being used to improve office productivity, ergonomics and employee health.

Invisibles: Forget wearables, the next big thing is sensor-based technology that you can't see, whether they are in jewellery, attached to the skin like a bandage, or perhaps even embedded under the skin or inside the body. By 2017, 30% of wearables will be "unobtrusive to the naked eye," according to market researcher Gartner.

The Internet of Everything has a long way to go and we need to use our imaginations to see the opportunities.