5 Mar 2013

Old stereotypes die hard

Reaction to column by Pekka Mervola, newspaper Keski-Suomalainen, about too many and unnecessary communication officers that just polish organizational images (Turhaa töhinää viestinnässä)
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It must be disappointing that the number of journalists is under pressure, while the number of communication experts within organizations is rising (and where I come from faster than yet here).
But that is no reason to present such stereotypes of a profession that already 10 years ago was different than depicted by Pekka Mervola, as I also know of own practice.

I do not doubt that disappointing tales about professionals can still be found. But then, almost every day when I watch the work of journalists I am sometimes positively surprised but often disappointed that one isn’t much more critical and that there is so little investigative journalism.

He is welcome at our team where we teach students that an image is not something polished the way the organization wants it to be, but an image is owned by publics and valuable information on the organization’s legitimacy. Reputation needs to be earned and can’t be polished.

It must also be irritating to Pekka Mervola that communication experts do not spend all their time facilitating journalist reporting, actually the percentage of time is decreasing. Nowadays we have many other tasks.  Communication is an interface/bridging function that monitors consumer trends and issues relevant for the organization, and helps it to function better in cooperation with customers and other stakeholders. We also support change management.

Communication experts of organizations and journalists can both be considered attention workers, and can also both contribute to involving publics in decision making. Yes, we both have great ideals! Of course, both may also have opportunistic reasons and this may explain why you so cheaply utter these old-fashioned stereotypes, because you think either your palls may like it or it will deliver you more readers.

Actually, Pekka, we have much more in common and that may be a frightening thought to you…

Of course, I realize that it will be so easy to do away with my reaction, as it isn’t translated in Finnish, and yet that would be using even more stereotypes, now against foreigners. Of course, our communication staff department will be disappointed that I didn’t ask for translation. But maybe you have a heart and will visit us for an exchange of opinions and we can tell more about our different and modern views on communicative organizations. You are warmly invited.   ;-)

You may have to read this twice to appreciate the humour between the lines.
Prof. Marita Vos, University of Jyväskylä