Author Archives: danielaoana

About danielaoana

Hey, I'm a second year PR student in Southampton. I tweet, I'm linked in, I scrobble and now I blog.

My article about Tumblr was selected as one of the best of this year on Behind the Spin.

You can see the editorial here and my article here.


 

 


Negotiations. A conclusion.

*This blog post is part of a three piece series on conflict, assertiveness and negotiation, for one of my university course. Comments are greatly appreciated, thank you.*

If we were to look back at the last two posts we could end this series of articles by concluding it with a little something extra: negociation.

First of all, we looked at conflict, a difference in opinion between two or more participants that hasn’t been resolved, and saw how it could be beneficial. We also explored the four approaches to handling conflict and saw how in the corect way of resolving issues you must be polite, respectful, get your point across, be an active listener, but, also, be assertive without seeming agressive.

But how do you actually collaborate to end a conflict? By negociating.

Negociation refers to the dialogue between two or more participants in order to reach an agreement or understanding in regards to a proposed situation. Negotiation can be seen as the compromising approach to a conflict unless other factors can influence this process. For instance, at a job offer negotiation, the two parties start by discussing the salary but end up compensating or finding alternative solutions to the amount of money each of the party had in mind.

When involved in a negotiontion each party will have a reservation point from which they want to start negotiating. In between the two reservation points lies a bargaining range. Somewhere within this bargaining range is the solution to the issue at hand. In the best case scenario, the two parties will meet at the middle, but as this is real life, it’s more likely that this isn’t how it goes down.

So, BATNA (Best alternative to a negociated agreement) = is the course of action taken when negociations fail. It is the most advantageous option to the desired outcome. But BATNAs can be influenced. By bringing additional information and perks, you can trip the scales in your advantage. For instance, when selling a car, by adding perks such as spare tyres or mentioning any recent total inspections could raise the value of the car. Therefore, make sure when you go in a negotiation you know not only what you can bring extra but try and anticipate the other party’s BATNA.

In conclusion to the series of posts I hope that by now you know what conflict is and the attitude you should have when entering negociations so that a succesful outcome is reached.


Conflict is good! Mediate your own.

*This blog post is part of a three piece series on conflict, assertiveness and negotiation, for one of my university course. Comments are greatly appreciated, thank you.*

I’m fairly certain that this is not what you’d expect to hear, but I’ve always believed that an argument can be a good thing in a relationship, be it personal or professional. And, to my surprise it was exactly what I learnt in my first year at university too. Handled and mediated correctly, an conflict can lead to resolving issues and creating a stronger relationship.

Conflict occurs when two or more contradictory opinions haven’t been mediated, agreed on or compromised upon. A few reasons why conflict is not a good thing to have around the office would be because it messes with the workflow, communication around the work space, employee morale and harms relationships. But how about all the good things conflict could bring? Such as creative problem solving, enhancing communication skills or challenging people to broaden their horizons and see things through different perspectives.

There are a few ways to approach conflict resolution and identifying the attitudes that come with them could help you turn the conflict around into a creative problem solving exercise.

  1. The competing approach means individuals care more about personal gain rather than relationships.
  2. The collaborative approach refers to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.
  3. The compromising approach means reaching an agreement, by giving up some of the demands each.
  4. The avoiding approach means just ignoring the problem, hoping it will disappear on its on.
  5. The accommodating approach refers to making a sacrifice in order to escape from an argument.

Having someone to mediate a conflict would be the most appropriate, as they could call time-outs and make sure that both parties are being heard and their inputs are considered. However, that’s not always possible, especially in the workplace. You don’t want run to your boss and tell him, you don’t get along with X and Y, as this would bring several questions into focus – Are you a team player? Can’t handle your own responsible? and so on.

So, you need to “mediate” your own conflicts.

Which is not easy to do because of your involvement, but the first thing you have to consider is where is the other person coming from? Is it just a mean attack or are they actually trying to help you and the company. Maybe someone is drawing your attention on a certain behavior. Is it something that does not fit with the corporate culture, or just a personal attack? Knowing the difference could save you a lot of trouble.

Listen to what the other person has to say and again try to understand where they are coming from. Active listening is always the most appropriate in the case of a conflict and don’t forget to get your point across but try not to force someone to accept it. Rather than that, make sure it’s been heard and understood in a polite and respectful manner.

And the final thing is, as much as possible, don’t get overly defensive or sarcastic. Yes, it is an argument, but boundaries are needed. It will be hard, trying not to be defensive, however, try taking  a step back and re-evaluating what is being said and remember an argument it is just a necessary step to lay issues on the table and find solutions to it.

If you want more on mediation and conflict, I can recommend a really good TV series out there, called Fairly Legal, that follows a mediator and shows how creative problem solving and collaboration leads to great outcomes. They have a funny little quiz here, if you want to try it – Could you be a mediator?

In the end, I believe that conflicts can actually give you a chance to evolve, get better at your job or communicating with your co-workers. Do you agree or disagree?


Learning to be assertive

*This blog post is part of a three piece series on conflict, assertiveness and negotiation, for one of my university course. Comments are greatly appreciated, thank you.*

Being assertive in the workplace is like walking on a string. You want to keep you balance between becoming too aggressive and too soft, both of which can bring your downfall. And this can happen not only in the workplace, but also in university where you may have to take a stand for your work in front of a lecturer or in your personal life where you have to protect your interests.

Another place where assertiveness is highly required is when negotiating a job offer as you have to keep your ground and keep your best interest at heart.


But how easy is it when you’re talking to someone in a higher position or a more authoritative position than you to stand your ground? 

It is hard!

But what you have to remember at all times is be polite and respectful. No tantrums or outbursts of anger because you’re not getting what you want and be open to discussion. Most of all, when it comes to a negotiation, be prepared. Know what to expect and be ready with responses.

Take a look at the bigger picture and always think about the consequences of your actions - is this something worth fighting for  and are you in any position to pick a fight or are you just doing it for the sake of argument?

Can you stand up for yourself without actually being perceived as an aggressive person?

No one wants to be perceived as aggressive, especially in the workplace. If you get a reputation as an aggressive person, who would want to work with you? But you don’t want to be a door mat either. So, choose your battles and plan ahead.

I’ve recently read this article on differences in the workplace and how one woman was perceived as aggressive just for stating the obvious. She worked flex hours (7.30 to 3.30 instead of 8.15 to 4.15) and was forced to stay late for meetings because her co-workers worked normal hours. When she suggested the meetings start on time and that she needed to get home she was seen as aggressive.

Choosing options such as flex-time or working from home in certain days may be seen as arrogance or smugness, but they’re just a different option to the regular work time. Problem is the difference between perception and reality – working from home may just seem as a day off to the people who would be in the office all day, even if you’re as productive or more than they are.

I agree with the attitude of the young woman in the article, she wasn’t aggressive (even though she was perceived as such), but I probably wouldn’t have done the same. Knowing it to be a temporary problem, having to stay longer only for a week or two, I would have reverted to the regular schedule for that time. I would have still said something about meeting starting late, but given that now my schedule would have been the same as theirs I believe it wouldn’t have been met with such reticence.

Learning to be assertive

For instance, I find it harder to be in a position of responsibility at times, as I don’t want to be perceived as that person that bosses people around. I know people who can do it very well without feeling as though they are being patronizing and aggressive, but for me it doesn’t come naturally so I have to work twice as much on it.

Whenever I’m left in charge I try suggesting options to people rather than telling them what to do, I keep a friendly attitude and I’m always polite and reassuring. I use phrases such as “It would be helpful”,”If you could” and I always say “thank you” and “please” as this goes a long way with my colleagues.

Do you find it hard to be assertive? Or do you know any other tips and tricks for standing you ground? Let me know.


#MTPSolent

Every year here at Solent, our CIPR representative organises a little liaison event between students and PR professionals called Meet the Professionals. This year I’d like to think it was very successful. Not just because we had our own hashtag which you can see in the title (although it was very helpful) or the fact that it was organised by the lovely Claire Hodson, our own course mate, but also because of the number of people that turned up and especially left satisfied.

The event kicked off with two guest lectures, the first one was given by Bill Reed, Managing Director at St. Cross Group. He talked about the importance of opinion leaders and their influence as well as how to manage communication with this stakeholder group. I couldn’t help but think about one of our most recent course discoveries, and might I add a heavily used tool this academic year, the VMM (Valid metrics matrix). The way in which Mr. Reed explained his topic linked in perfectly with what we had been introduced in our PR Strategy unit.

This lecture was shortly followed by David Clare’s presentation (Programme Executive at 33 Digital) on social and digital media and the many uses these have in the PR world. I found this very helpful not only because I am writing my dissertation about luxury brands and their use of social media, but also on a personal level. He encouraged us to try as many social networks as possible and to experiment with our profiles while keeping in mind how we can make them work for us.

After the two lectures we went on to the “speed dating” part of the night where, in small groups, we were able to discuss with the professionals, ask them questions and find out more about what it is they do. Just like last year, I found this part of the evening to be extremely interesting as we had the opportunity to learn new things about the industry from active practitioners.

I noticed that, while I was at the first table the answer to the question “What exactly do you want to do after uni?” was a total mistery but as I was going from table to table asking questions and interacting with the PRos I found myself forming an opinion about the field I wanted to work in. And I observed the same thing happening with my fellow students. By the end of the night I had a pretty good idea about I believed would suit me and where I could use my skills better in the PR world.

All in all, I can say I enjoyed this evening of networking and even gained something more from it, not just contacts, but also an idea of what I’d like to do in the future. I can only hope that my fellow course mates felt the same way and that the professionals enjoyed it as much as we have.


Pinterest vs Tumblr

When it comes to social media and networking there is always a new kid on the block. In the last few weeks the website that was on everyone’s lips was Pinterest. Even though it was launched in 2010, it’s only now that everyone has started raving about it. Early adopters were praising it, new users were amazed while others were asking around for invites.

Now, I like trying new things, especially when it comes to social media so I went for it. I got myself an invite and started surfing around Pinterest. Basically, it’s an photo sharing website that enables users to create photo collections or ‘boards’ by pinning different media in them. Pinterest makes it easy for users to share this media by ‘repining’ and encourages users to follow the activity of others that have the same interests.

Basically, I just saw a much more simplified Tumblr that gave the impression of exclusivity. As I was browsing through boards and pins the one thing I noticed is that the age of users is a tad higher than those on Tumblr and because it is a bit more specialised and looks clearer and more professional it could be easier for companies to use. One of the important things I believe it’s missing is the ability to customise the look which companies might have a problem with as they want to maintain a cohesive image.

Now, I am an advocate for using social media as a tool for businesses and I have my favorites, such as Twitter and Tumblr. I believe these two microblogging tools are really useful for most companies, and they have the most potential for getting engagement, but I still see Pinterest as a lesser Tumblr.

The other day I read a blog post about Pinterest being a new form of social advertising but I saw no new features that differentiate this website from Tumblr. Tumblr users can also post just through the click of one button and redirect their followers with one click on the picture, but they also have the option of not doing it. Also, I still believe Tumblr offers more options such as the newly added highlighted posts and has a more organised dashboard.

What do you think about Pinterest? Do you love it/hate it?  Let me know, especially if you’re a Tumblr user.


Be a PR volunteer!

In my years at university I had the chance to learn about PR. From media relations to PR strategy and planning campaigns I even dipped my toe into advertising and publishing in my first year, but the most experience I’ve gotten was in “the real life”.

Now, my PR work placement was great, but I didn’t just rely on that. It was only a few weeks and I didn’t get the chance to go through everything. Being at university should be about gaining experience and learning about one’s chosen course from as many perspectives as possible so I tried more things.

If I were to give an advice to a PR fresher it would be “Go for as many internships, freelancing opportunities and work placements as possible.”. Especially if you could go out of your comfort zone. You could discover you may like corporate communications after a few weeks in house when you never even thought it possible. And if you don’t it’s better you found out while you’re still at uni.

I have done “a few gigs on the side”, not just in PR but advertising and marketing too, but looking back I wish I had done even more. Some of them I did as a volunteer and it was great – I learned so much and gained experience working towards an objective I believed in.

I believe it’s much more likely that you will come up with a great idea working on something you love. So, try and get involved with an idea you believe in and who knows? It could be your ticket into “big league” PR. You can’t lose with volunteering or freelancing. Not only will it improve your skills but it also looks great on your CV and it gives you something to talk about in your next interview.


ROManian PR. In English.

However creative your adverts are sometimes they’re just not enough. Everyone may remember the jokes and their punch lines, but are they buying your product? Sometimes innovative and fun just doesn’t cut it. That’s where PR comes in. You want to show your product around, you have advertising, but if you want to change people’s attitudes and behaviours you have to go with PR.

This is what a Romanian brand did. They manage to create a debate out of nothing and outlined a bigger problem. For some time now, most young people are leaving the country for better opportunities, hoping for the “American dream” so to say. They decided to address the issue in an original way, by linking it with their chocolate brand, which until then had been advertised as being Romanian to the core.

Here is a video on the campaign. It’s in English, so no worries.

They had a huge response, even my friends sent me the adverts as they were being launched and there was talk about this move of Americanising our Romanian chocolate everywhere. They got people talking about them, and genuinely creating a demand for their Romanian-flagged product again.

Personally, I love this campaign. I like how it attacked the problem head on while still maintaining a fun aspect to it and the ability to go viral.

From what I gathered working there, the Romanian PR industry, even though still developing, is on the right track. Brands are starting to realise more and more there is a need for PR professionals rather than just advertisers and they’re finding that they can get creative with their tactics.

I actually got the chance to work in the PR department of a Romanian publishing house, Polirom having as my mentor a very bright and creative PR professional. She won a PR award for excellence with her creative 2009 campaign “Ask me about Firmin” and I learnt a lot from her.

I believe that it’s a good moment for our PR industry and it’s this creativity that will make an impact on an international plan. But then again I could just be biased because of my nationality so what do you think about ROM’s campaign? Do you like it as much as I do or do you believe it was just a bad PR stunt?


Behind the Spin

I wanted to let you know I contributed to Behind the Spin, an online magazine for young PR students and professionals. I wrote an article about Tumblr. If you want to have a read, you can find it here.


Unlimited Edition with an Unlimited Supply

The music business is going through a lot of changes that’s for sure. Over the labels’ usual problems of having to deal with a decline in sales, the “digital shift” in music consumption (on which I am writing a dissertation) and a on-going crusade against piracy, this week rumours of EMI’s split between Sony and Universal have been confirmed plus on a slightly different note we have John Lewis, a chain of department stores killing a Smiths song.

First things first, EMI’s meltdown.

Until now, the music market was mainly controlled and divided by ‘The Big Four’ – Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI. A study conducted in 2010 by Nielsen Soundscan has shown that these record labels controlled more than the majority of the market with Universal being the lead in total album sales and a close second Sony.

Now, Sony is bidding for EMI’s publishing business while Universal is hoping for a rise in recorded music. The company will be split in two and years and years of history will be going in a different course.

I actually chose to do a presentation on EMI’s brand management in my second year Corporate Identity Course. I chose them because of their history and I admired and how they managed to maintain cohesive image throughout all their ventures and history from the Gramophone Company to His Master’s Voice and all the way to EMI today. But I guess when music becomes just business, less art, these things are bound to happen.

Slowly the music industry is headed towards monopoly isn’t it? Maybe at one point it will just be a Sony-Warner-Universal label and all the independents.

But getting back on track (never mind the fact that the music business is going crazy), let’s talk about the John Lewis advert.

Actually let’s talk about music as art and how it fits in this act of branding. Using music in adverts is not in any way recent and I’m pretty sure it’s how most clothing brands get noticed, by using music their target audience listens, the only thing is they usually use pop music which I don’t have much affection for or I happen to agree to their choice. But this time, I’m against it. So, yes it is subjective. For me this song was art instead of business. I believe they ruined a perfectly beautiful Smiths song. And all the covers I loved that were made after it.

As a PR student I understand how using music in adverts may be beneficial to both retailers and songwriters (especially in this time of declining music sales), but  as a fan I just thought some bands were never going to sell their music to advertisers. And of course there are some that don’t do it, but it just wasn’t this one. And my question here is, am I the only Smiths fan that feels a little bit betrayed?


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