Before being granted the fellowship from the Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, I have known Edelman for quite a few years, not only because of its prestigious leading position in the public relations industry, but also from the frequent exchanges and collaborations with Edelman Hong Kong.
The Edelman Hong Kong office has very generously been providing our students with internship and scholarship opportunities. Over the years, my colleague and I have invited senior leadership, for example, Mr. Alan VanderMolen, Mr. Damien Coory, and Mr. Andrew Kirk to our program guest lecturing to our students. They not only provided their precious experiences in public relations, but also unselfishly gave their views and insights on our curriculum development. We have been utterly appreciative for the enormous support from Edelman. This time, the experience via the Plank Center Educator Fellowship certainly reinforced my previous positive impression on Edelman’s commitment to education.
I started the fellowship with Edelman Chicago on August 11. When I was discussing with Edelman in May on the areas of interests for my visit, I emphasized on digital practices in CSR and employee engagement.
As requested, the first week was very much focused on Edelman’s digital practices. During this week, I had meetings with senior leaders discussing their roles and duties in the digital practices, crisis communication, and employee communication. In addition, I also had opportunities to shadow on some meetings, helping me to better understand the provision of 360-degree, well-rounded services and consultancy to clients. These learning experiences help me in the following aspects:
1. How the advanced digital programs facilitate clients’ understanding and engagement with publics. For example, I was able to gain insight into new tools for social listening, used for getting a view on what is being said and discussed about the clients.
2. Wide range of digital practices: I am truly grateful for the tremendous efforts by some senior staff in showcasing their different digital practices for serving clients, from engagement, research insights and analyses, paid media and creative production. The seamless professional services provide full support to different client tasks.
3. Immersing in the clients’ business while standing at a distance for objective consultancy: In talking with various teams, I felt each team really has got involved in-depth in clients’ communication efforts. Some members told me that they have served the client for more than 7 or 8 years and the whole team has become part of the client’s organization. However, Edelman maintains its objective role as a professional consultancy. Because of the deep understanding of the client organization and the industry, the team is able to provide effective suggestions for clients’ communication strategy development.
4. A reformed, organic, comprehensive client-centered serving structure: In providing a full scope of services to clients, Edelman, in recent years, has developed a client-centered, well rounded integrated team, including account service, media, digital, strategy, planning, etc. The idea behind such reform is to partner with clients, from research, planning, strategy, execution and production, to ensure effective outcomes. This partnership enables Edelman to provide constructive, genuine, and effective support and consultancy. A mutually beneficial relationship between the client and Edelman can also be cultivated.
In addition to learning from the digital team, I enjoyed the meetings with the senior leaders in Crisis & Risk Management and Edelman Berland. In discussing crises, I appreciated the opportunity to get the insights in some recent crisis cases and analyzing crises. In addition, we also touched on the ever changing digital communication environment that has made corporate reputation more vulnerable, and brought more risks. The monitoring of the perceptions on brand and reputation is now real-time and any comments and discussions from the corporations in the digital world need to be more careful as the outcome can shape corporation reputation instantly.
The meetings with senior leaders from Edelman Berland and the Strategy team impressed me greatly. Besides being an educator, I am also a scholar. When talking with the EVP and the SVP of the strategy team, I could relate very well to what was being shared. At school, whenever I am supervising students’ campaign proposals, I always emphasize on the importance of research insights and how they drive the development of a successful and effective campaign. In meeting the strategy team, from the discussions and the case sharing, I felt really happy to see the value of research in developing campaign proposals.
Another meeting with the Executive Vice President of Edelman Berland was really fruitful. She discussed with me about the Trust Barometer study, how the research insights support client business consultancy, different research methods used for developing client business proposals, etc. What Edelman Berland has done again showed the importance of research for getting insights from the publics, from the influencers, the media, the consumers, and other organizations and how insights can turn into effective strategies in helping clients to achieve targets.
During this first week of my stay, what Edelman has showed to me about their advanced practices can be summarized by the following three values shared with me by one senior vice president of the company: Protect, Promote, and Respond. And these three values certainly demonstrate what public relations can do for achieving organizational effectiveness.
Additional photos of Flora’s Fellowship: