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«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»

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Historical development of public relations As one respondent suggests, the public relations profession is too young – only 15-17 years old – and this time period is too small to analyze from the historical point of view (A.

Belyakov, personal communication, March 10, 2009). Although the profession is very young, it is not the age of the profession but the lack of attention to it that has resulted in scarce research on the topic.

According to the respondents, the main factors that influenced public relations in Ukraine are the political landscape, economic development, the media, and the Soviet legacy. It is interesting that the practitioners have different opinions about what factor has played the primary role in the development of public relations. Although most practitioners view economic and business growth as the main factor, some respondents think the political situation was more pivotal in creating the need for some type of public relations activities. It is interesting to observe such disagreement in the opinions of experienced practitioners.

Current state of public relations Transitional public relations is an appropriate framework for this discussion. Ławniczak (2005) emphasizes that public relations practitioners in transitional countries not only help with the transition but they also facilitate changes in society as well as assist the general public in dealing with the negative consequences of such changes. The term “transitional public relations” suits very well the current situation in Ukraine and precisely describes the transformational processes and challenges facing Ukrainian people and public relations practitioners in particular.

However, based on the interview responses, it seems Ukrainian PR specialists are hardly playing a proactive role in these conditions. Although they certainly participate in one way or another in the transition of the country, they are not the people who plan and manage this transition. Based on the available literature about Ukraine, it is clear that many changes as well as programs for their implementation have been mainly imposed on the Ukrainian people instead of involving them in communication and the decision making process. In addition, at the time of many economic and political changes, public relations specialists had little or no access to such programs, no authority to use different approaches and lack knowledge and practical experience necessary to make transitional efforts more effective.

As we can, see public relations in Ukraine as in some other transitional countries still has a long way to go to fulfill the role of transitional public relations. In Ukraine, the profession still does not have proper status and respect; it is often associated with dirty political games and dissemination of false information. The lack of well established professional and ethical 132 standards coupled with weak public relations education, a fragmented professional community, and non-transparent media relations greatly hinder the development of the practice. However, transitional processes in Ukraine create great opportunities for the public relations field to become an influential force in the country by using its expertise for effective transformation and adaptation to changes.

Emerging trends The understanding of the importance and need to practice PR in a professional, ethical way is growing. The current economic crisis means shrinking budgets and less work available for PR agencies, requiring PR specialists to find ways to be more effective and useful for organizations in order to prove their own effectiveness. Hard economic conditions influenced by the global economic recession also make some media representatives realize the need for fair and objective news coverage and more transparent relations with news sources. Some Ukrainian media are beginning to recognize that their long-term success depends on their readers’ trust and respect that cannot be bought but must be earned through professional and ethical work. Other trends such as specialization, growing interest in new media technologies, and increasing understanding of the public relations role and value in an organization, show the profession is developing and moving closer to sophisticated public relations practice.

Development of public relations education is another important trend in the Ukrainian PR field. The state of PR education is one of the hot topics of public relations discussion in the country. PR education is usually strongly criticized for weak and impractical educational programs, lack of a systematic approach to the discipline, as well as of educators experienced in public relations. Public relations educators and professionals are starting to address these challenges by further developing public relations curricula and professional training programs, initiating communication with the Ministry of Education to establish single educational standards for the discipline, and promoting international standards of public relations.

The current state of public relations is characterized by such challenges as negative perceptions by the general public, lack of understanding of public relations’ role in organizations and businesses, lack of consolidated public relations community, and weak public relations education. Public relations professionals will need to exert considerable effort into overcoming these challenges and improving public relations practice in Ukraine, a nation already experiencing many positive developments in the field.





Limitations and Future Research The results from twelve interviews cannot be generalized to the entire Ukrainian PR field.

Moreover, the sample of the participants included PR practitioners working primarily in Kiev with only one specialist from a different city. There is an obvious need to expand the study sample. The analysis of findings shows that respondents had different opinions on some topics and significantly different understanding of some concepts and practices. The scope of this study did not allow for further research of these differences. One important limitation is the researchers’ inability to be physically present in Ukraine at the time of research.

A useful direction for research is further investigation of how the concept “public relations” and “public relations practice” is defined and understood among PR specialists, business representatives, governmental officials, and the general public in Ukraine.

133

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References

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In October 2009, the Federal Trade Commission approved guidelines that address the practice of blogging about products and services. The revised “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising” set out to delineate blogger endorsement, which is speech that is considered sponsored based on the context of the relationship between the blogger and the marketer or public relations practitioner. To determine endorsement, one must examine the compensation provided (including free products), the length of the relationship, the previous receipt and likelihood of future receipt of products or services, and the value of the products or services. Statements about a product or service by a blogger who has readers of a particular demographic group that are in a marketer’s target audience and has an ongoing relationship with that marketer are likely to be considered endorsements. When an endorsement has been made, the blogger must disclose the relationship with the marketer. The FTC guidelines were followed by a move by the Direct Marketing Association in January 2010 to revise its ethics guidelines, requiring those who use testimonials or endorsements in social media to “clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connections between the endorser and marketer, which the consumer would not expect” (Davis, 2010).

These guidelines have ethical implications for the practice of blogging as well as how marketers and public relations practitioners interact with bloggers. Public relations practitioners now have a roadmap that helps them counsel clients and advise bloggers. The guidelines also educate bloggers on the importance of transparency and disclosure for maintaining positive relationships with readers.



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