Rethinking the RACE model for a social media world – BEGIN CHARBONNEAU

Food for thought.

Article written by Begin and Charbonneau in Journal of Professional Communication.



The four-step PR concept created by John Marston – RACE


This acronym defines a particular process of Public relations.


– This phase is mostly about finding what is the problem/situation. It describes the problems faced by the organisations it looks at what is involved and how specific it is to the directions of the organisations goals. In this phase PRP can look at maximizing the most positive outcomes.


– This phase is mostly about program planning and what is going to be done about it. The main focus in this phase is to determine the best course of action to address to the problem.


– The communication phase is all about determining how the public will be told; it utilized all of the appropriate media to ensure that the message can be delivered successfully to there target audience. If they are successful it will have positive affects on the organisation and its public.


– In this…

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What are Electronic Public Relations, ePR, Digital PR?

ePR, sometimes called Online PR or Digital PR, is quite recent compared to traditional PR with its decades of history. It is mostly the strategically planned use of internet-based and new media tools and technologies to build and to maintain a dialogue (Two-way communication) between an organization and its publics. ePR also offers a major contribution to manage online crisis, when social media and online reputation are impacted.

Marketers are wrongly trying to tell the world that they have the expertise of online content management with inbound marketing and content marketing, but only PR can pretend that.

Read more.

Revisiting a powerful corporate asset: Credibility

Here is why a corporation should invest in building credibility

We often hear about corporate trust, corporate reputation or leadership but rarely about source and corporate credibility. Experts frequently try to convince corporate professionals and spokespersons to follow rules and tips, or a 10-step process to improve their credibility. Or even worst, how many times did you hear that a spokesperson needs only expertise and charisma to be credible?

It is actually a wrong understanding of this fundamental skill and powerful intangible asset that is credibility. Based on a research realized in the early 2000 (now under review by its author), it is impossible to build and maintain credibility through a 10-step miracle process sold by charlatans, credibility lives and dies within an open system (Prud’homme, 2004).

Credibility as an open system

Contrarily to a close system, an open system lives through constant interactions between its internal and external elements, this is what Ludwig von Bertalanffy called negentropy in 1968 through his General System Theory. He defined an open system “as a system in exchange of matter with its environment, presenting import and export, building-up and breaking-down of its material components” (von Bertalanffy in A detail important to remember is that

A central topic of systems theory is self-regulating systems, i.e. systems self-correcting through feedback (Wikipedia).

In the following figure, it is possible to see the typical spokesperson’s credibility system with a general view as well as the five elements and the different interactions between them.


These five elements, individually or all together, could have major impacts on a spokesperson’s credibility, whether it is a communication dramatic situation, e.g. a crisis, powerful stakeholders attacking the corporation’s reputation, messages not adapted to a situation, bad communication strategy associated to a wrong public targeting tactic, all that might lead to a disaster in terms of losing credibility, especially in a crisis situation, during which everything is accelerated, as we all know.

Once practitioners and leaders understand credibility as an open system, they can start to appreciate the system’s elements and the interactions between them as well as the factors that structure and build corporate spokesperson’s credibility.

Credibility factors

In the same study (Prud’homme, 2004), it has been found that ten credibility factors/components influence the population to judge a spokesperson credible or not, because at all times a spokesperson is credible only in people’s mind, his/her audience.

As you can see in the following table, the top-10 factors are common sense. But what was new in this research is how to integrate these factors to a credibility system and how to build and maintain (and even regain) credibility.


As it is possible to see in the right column of the table, a spokesperson can control almost all of them, except charisma. Some scholars say that some leaders are able to develop charisma, it is true indeed, but it is harder to develop charisma than exercising control on the other factors.

The intimate relationship between a spokesperson and his/her credibility

Credibility is not only related to influence and persuasion, but also to the act of informing, communicating, having a dialog with an audience, receiving feedback. That is to create and maintain a relationship of trust and sharing between a spokesperson or a corporation and their publics and stakeholders.

We must understand that credibility exists only in function of a reflection or a perception, it does not exist by itself, it starts in the mind of every member of an audience. A spokesperson is not credible because he/she thinks that he/she is credible, it is only how the audience perceives his/her credibility.

Members of an audience must have confidence in him/her and must have the feeling of being respected. (Prud’homme, 2004)

Credibility does not equal effectiveness. A credible spokesperson sincerely wishes to establish and maintain a relationship of trust and mutual understanding with his/her publics rather than being effective. I mentioned “dialog” because credibility is a two-way symmetrical communication (Grunig and Hunt, 1984). A credible spokesperson always demonstrates a great flexibility and a mindset of openness along with a constant authenticity.

To be credible, a spokesperson should know his strengths and weaknesses, because above all, he/she is a human being in a complex and uncertain environment (Prud’homme, 2004).

Finally, we must understand that credibility is built, managed and can be strengthened, but never won (Prud’homme, 2004) and that anyone should avoid at all costs to perform miracle recipes such as: “10 steps to become an effective spokesperson” coming from public speaking best-seller handbooks.

Credibility is lived day by day. It is a lifestyle one chooses to live or not. Credibility reinforcement is an arduous and long-term approach that positively contributes to build trust and reputation as well as a sharing and constructive dialog between a spokesperson and the population.

Credibility before trust and leadership

A fact that so many practitioners and leaders forget is the primacy that credibility has over trust and leadership. It should be easy to figure that if there is no credibility, there is no trust, no leadership. Therefore, trust and leadership should be considered as credibility’s crucial elements.

It is especially true in crisis management. How a spokesperson and a corporation could be trustworthy and recognized as a leader, two major considerations in crisis management, if there are not credible?

Why a corporation should invest to build credibility?

Managers who do not believe that they should seriously prepare for possible crisis to arise are not able to answer this question and they probably already stopped reading this blog anyways.

Credibility brings not only an impressive return on investment (ROI) to corporations in terms of two-way symmetrical communication and a powerful and long-term relationship with all stakeholders, but it can also save corporations from a disaster originated through a crisis or even solve it. It also contributes to reduce uncertainty.

The only constraint when a corporation decides to work on its credibility is the time, and in business, time is cash. People do not realize how long it could be to build a credibility sound enough to help them to get out of a crisis situation or to build a relationship with stakeholders. We often say that it takes years to build credibility and it takes hours to lose, and it is so true. On the long run though, it is worth to invest time as well as above-the-line, below-the-line and through-the-line capital.

Why your publics and your stakeholders should listen to you when you try communicating about a crisis or an issue if they do not believe you at first?


Stephane Prud’homme, MA, i.e.MBA, PhD Candidate  |
All Rights Reserved – 2015

Keywords: Credibility, source credibility, corporate credibility, spokesperson, trust, reputation, crisis, crisis management, uncertainty, return on investment, ROI, two-way symmetrical communication, management, leadership.

Le côté sombre des RP en Chine

On croyait jusqu’à tout récemment que la censure chinoise était la seule entrave à la communication bi-directionnelle symétrique et un véritable dialogue entre les entreprises et leurs parties prenantes dans la plus grande deuxième économie du monde. 

Mais voilà que les “Black PR” se sont malheureusement invitées dans la encore jeune industrie des relations publiques en Chine. Les “Black PR” sont le côté sombre des relations publiques, le côté sombre de la force, où la corruption, les pots-de-vin,  les mensonges, les stratégies et tactiques non-éthiques règent. De manière concrète, toutes actions pour démolir les concurrents ou protéger son image de manière malhonnète. 

Black PR firms provide client companies with both post deletion services to help them escape negative news stories, and some also provide placement for soft ads and hit pieces attacking competitors. The top black PR firms can offer these services even for stories posted to China’s most popular news portals. – Février 2013

Quelques cas ont été rendus publics en Chine, des accusations au criminel ont même été initiées. Ce qui n’a tristement rien changé. Des journalistes qui ont dénoncé ces pratiques ont même vu leurs articles effacés du site internet de leur journal. Le célèbre cas du magazine Caixin qui dénonçait l’effacement de posts en échange d’argent noir pouvant atteindre jusqu’à 1500 $ /post a été rapidement effacé. L’article intégral du magazine Caixon a été heureusement sauvegardé sur le site internet du New York Times en chinois. 

D’autres exemples indiquent que l’effacement de posts ou d’articles étaient exigés aux administrateurs de sites internet avec de faux papiers et étampes du gouvernement. Comme tous les cas de corruption et d’actions non-éthiques, il y a toujours des clients, et on parle de gros noms comme China Mobile, Pizza Hut, des politiciens, des chefs de police.

La corruption et les pots-de-vin avec des hauts fonctionnaires pouvait même contribuer à ajouter des mots-clés dans la liste des mots-clés censurés par les moteurs de recherche, tel que Baidu, le Google chinois. Donc, votre post ne plaît pas à certains, on bloque un mot dans votre post et le tour est joué, votre post est bloqué ou effacé. 

Les agences de “Black PR” n’offrent pas juste de bloquer ou d’effacer des posts, mais aussi d’initier des rumeurs et même des crises.

La population chinoise assiste à la naissance d’au moins une crise par semaine, et tout part très souvent des réseaux sociaux. Quand une rumeur bien structurée et crédible naît sur Weibo, le Twitter chinois, il peut y avoir des dizaines de millions de personnes qui lisent le post, la rumeur devient vite une crise nationale, une catastrophe pour la réputation de l’entreprise. Et la gestion de crise n’en est qu’à ses débuts en Chine, les gestionnaires ne savent trop comment réagir et les compagnies voient vite leurs revenus s’effondrer lors d’une crise dans l’Empire du Milieu. 

Un nombre impressionnant de grandes multinationales ont amèrement goûté à la gestion de crise en Chine : McDonald’s, WalMart, Pizza Hut, Coca-Cola, PFK, RioTinto, GlaxoSmithKline, Lamborghini, Starbucks, Carrefour, pour ne nommer qu’elles. Ces grands joueurs s’en sortent toujours puisqu’ils investissent des millions de $ en publicité pour travailler sur leur réputation pendant et après la crise. Mais imaginez l’impact pour les entreprises de plus petite taille…

C’est en créant de toutes pièces ces rumeurs et crises que les firmes de “Black PR” font de l’argent. Le dernier cas rapporté dans les médias est cette agence qui possèdent 312 comptes Weibo (Twitter chinois) et des centaines de comptes dans d’autres réseaux sociaux, avec tous ses comptes la firme rejoint 220 millions de personnes. 

Évidement, toutes ces actions sont illégales en Chine, mais elles sont malheureusement difficiles à déceler. Gardons espoir, l’industrie chinoise des relations publiques évolue de plus en plus de manière éthique en respectant les standards internationaux de stratégie et tactiques. 


Sources : 
TechInAsia : Effacement de posts et le cas Caixin
echInAsia : Les firmes de Black PR