Sunday, 13 February 2011

Is the PR industry exploiting university graduates and students?

As the UK perseveres in its recovery from the recession, unemployment remains at an all time high. Each year university graduates are finding it increasing difficult to find a job as they desperately seek to get their foot on the first rung of the career ladder. Shockingly, last week the BBC aired a documentary presenting evidence to suggest that many companies may be exploiting this desperation.

The documentary accused top fashion PR agency Modus Publicity of employing up to 20 UNPAID interns at a time for long periods. It is easy to see why firms choose to employ unpaid interns, with universities producing stacks of talented young people, all of whom are extremely eager to work and willing to do anything. Equally, recession hit employers are striving to protect margins at a time of sluggish revenue. Workers who cost little – often noting – become a very tempting proposition.

But what does this mean for PR graduates? As a PR student, soon to be a graduate, I believe it ethically wrong to employ anyone who is adding real value to one’s business without paying them properly. Furthermore, the only graduates who will be able to work for long periods of time without any pay will be those from wealthy backgrounds. As a result, the PR industry will become even more homogenous than it already is.

 There is certainly nothing wrong with offering work experience. It is a great way for people like myself to gain a comprehensive insight into the world they seek to work in, and also offers employers the chance to uncover bright new talent. However, the methods put into practice by Modus are nothing short of exploitation. Although Modus are the only agency to have been brandished thus far, a PR Week investigation conducted last autumn found that this practice is far from unique.

The CIPR charter states that only students placed with an employer as part of their course or those doing voluntary work for charity are exempt from the need to pay. However, industry sources acknowledge that many agencies ignore this ruling.

What do you think of Modus Publicity’s actions? Do you believe graduates desperation for employment is being exploited? Should interns be paid at least minimum wage if they are an asset to their company? Let me know your thoughts.
Sunday, 6 February 2011

How Sky survived sexism clash

Despite furore over axed presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys comments about female referee Sian Massey Sky Sports have escaped with their reputation largely unscathed.

A reputation survey conducted by OnePoll in conjunction with PR Week has reported that 64% of respondents said their opinion of the channel had not changed. A substantial 78% said that they did not believe Sky Sports as a channel was sexist. So what actions did Sky take to emerge with their reputation in tact?

By acting quickly they were able to employ a string of tactics which kept the sexism debated firmly targeted on Gray and Keys. Statements from Sky Sports ‘higher ups’ condemned the comments as “inexcusable” and “outdated”. Disciplinary action was swift, as was another statement saying

“Those views are inexcusable, entirely inconsistent with our ethos as a business and employer, and will rightly offend many of our customers, our people, and the wider public. They are inexcusable from anyone at Sky, regardless of their role or seniority. We have dealt with this matter by taking immediate disciplinary action.”

Over the following days Sky discovered video evidence of previous sexist behaviour from Andy Gray and promptly released it to the public. Subsequently, Gray was sacked and Keys resigned.

Sky reacted quickly to this particular crisis and successfully distanced themselves from the debate with a string of powerful statements. The later release of video evidence portrayed their willingness to co-operate and prove they were on the side of the public. It was almost as if they were helping to fight for ‘justice’.  The sacking of Gray and Keys was their final escape act. But was it best practice to go that far?

Gray and Keys had been the face of Sky Sports for over 20 years and had so far boasted a first-rate relationship with their viewers. Of the 3000 respondents in OnePoll’s survey only 26% believed they should have been sacked, with 71% agreeing that football is ‘institutionally sexist’ and should be accepted that way.

Do you believe Sky dealt effectively with the issue? Will the sacking of Gray and Keys come back to haunt them?

About Me

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Tom Westgate
I am 21 and currently in my second year of a Public Relations and Communications degree at Southampton Solent University and it is awesome. I love hanging out with my friends and I enjoy playing football and rugby and I go surfing with my friends every year! I know when I'm older I definitely want to work in a big city, preferably somewhere hot and on the coast! But before I think about getting a job I want to go travelling. I just want to make the most of my life and see the world! In's allll goood!
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