3 cases of Community Relationship Management

Community Relationship Management is a rather niche segment of Public Relations, nevertheless it requires deep understanging of target audiences, long-term planning and consistent implementation. At the same time it is a constant challenge to fit communal issues into general corporate development planning. Usually deadlines are too narrow, negative stereotypes prevail in major audiences and budgets reserved are too tight.

Nevertheless PR is a field for a neverending creativity, therefore these are 3 cases from different personal practice and points o view to consider.

Building trust in the oil mining industry

2004 07 Minijos nafta ekskursijos
Tourists became frequent guests on oil extraction platforms, 2004

The bigest oil mining company in Lithuania “Minijos nafta” had a long-term strategic challenge – keep opening new wells in the licenced area. Although the licence for oil extraction was in place, nevertheless numerous drilling platforms were desperately needed in order to provide new output for the receeding oil extraction figures in the functioning wells.

As usual, the most difficult part was PAV (lith. Poveikio aplinkai vertinimas) or EIA (engl: Environmental impact assessment) procedure. It requires to assess potential threats, provide necessary safety measures etc. But the most difficult part was mutual understanding and agreement with local communities.

“Minijos nafta” drills oil in the seaside region, where a considerable part of local businesses are related to recreational purposes (local tourism, fishing, summer vacations etc.). Therefore it was a rather frequent issue that local community, it’s opinion leaders sometime were heavily confronting “Minijos nafta” plans to open a new drilling platform.

In the meantime (2004) the seaside recreational field was very dull. Therefore we’ve maneged to organize daily route from Palanga (main holiday location) to visit several functioning drilling platforms. It was a big success – positive media coverage, major communal leaders visiting sites in person, checking all the safety prerequisite and ensuring no potential harm for the environment. In the end all major opponents got an equasion to solve – compare minor negative factors (some noise, some traffic) and lurking benefits (investments, workplaces, finnacial support for local initiatives).

Balancing interests: local community vs. joint business venture

2010 11 spaudos konferencija VRAAD
A public press conference was a novelty in the Department’s communication, 2010

In 2010 the Department of Environment Protection in Vilnius region had a long-term conflict to solve. Conflicting parties were local community of Vilnius city Lazdynai district and joint venture (related to “Icor” group) to build an incineration plant.

The conflict dated back several years and it was basically a political decision, whom should the Department support. At the moment it was rather clear, that Vilnius does need such type of the industry, because solid waste volume was too big and the open air storage facilities cost too much to expand not to mention international obligations to cut volume of dumped waste.

At the same time founding partners of the joint venture had a really bad track record, which was related to the Vilnius central heating company and tails of corruption. Not to mention an ongoing “war on oligarchs” led by the Presidential palace and pointing at the same businessmen.

Formal decision was presented at the press conference, where major media channels provided national coverage. It became a perfect venue to present both negative decision and describe “to do list for the joint venture” in order to receive formal permission in the future. Such a position availed the Department not to become associated as one of the conflicting parties and remain (as institution) impartial, keep construtive dialogue with both parties of the conflict.

Enabling collaboration – community portal

2012 05 KuriameRespubliką www
A communication platform was specified without knowing who and what will publicise there, 2012

In 2012 a huge national project “Kuriame Respubliką” was started with the help of EU funding in order to raise civil initiatives from local communities. The majority of participants were youth from regional districts, even rural schools.

The project team had a challenge to choose a communication platform in order to connect geographically spread participants (tens of different teams). In the meantime social networks were only gathering momentum, therefore it was not possible to use them as a starting communication point.

The project itself was devoted to the selection of best practices and multiplication of them into other districts, therefore the platform had to collect all data (textual, visual etc.) and make it easy for the project teams to share and collaborate on new initiatives.

It was challenging to specify all the requirements for the platform and its users, when nobody knew who were to be users and what type of projects are to be started. Nevertheless the system built became a perfect library of civic initiatives and provides perfect best practice scenarios for all willing to use them. Although the growth of social networks made the platform less useful for communication purposes, nevertheless it was flexible enough to integrate its content and create a win-win situation.

Privacy online: basics & Lithuanian lesson for Google

I will start with a background statement. Privacy still remains one of the core democratic values. And invasion into someone’s private life is a threat to the way we like to live. European point of view is well laid in these two Conventions:

Full stop. Anybody wishing to discuss, should start with these widely accepted and trusted documents (I deliberately do not discuss less important legal acts).

General European requirements for GMSV service

CPHRFF Article 8 sets the basic principe: “Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. In case for Google Maps Street View service, we see clear interference into family life and private home area.

Therefore all “data subjects” will have rights defined in CPIAPP Article 8, i.e. they shall be enabled:

  1. to establish the existence of an automated personal data file, its main purposes, as well as the identity and habitual residence or principal place of business of the controller of the file;
  2. to obtain at reasonable intervals and without excessive delay or expense confirmation of whether personal data relating to him are stored in the automated data file as well as communication to him of such data in an intelligible form;
  3. to obtain, as the case may be, rectification or erasure of such data if these have been processed contrary to the provisions of domestic law giving effect to the basic principles set out in Articles 5 and 6 of this convention;
  4. to have a remedy if a request for confirmation or, as the case may be, communication, rectification or erasure as referred to in paragraphs b and c of this article is not complied with.

Moreover, Google will have to provide information, that it will take measures to assure quality of data (CPIAPP Article 5) by assuring, that automatic processing will be:

  1. obtained and processed fairly and lawfully;
  2. stored for specified and legitimate purposes and not used in a way incompatible with those purposes;
  3. adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are stored;
  4. accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date;
  5. preserved in a form which permits identification of the data subjects for no longer than is required for the purpose for which those data are stored.

 Opt-in rule in the European Union

The most difficult legal principle to tackle for Google is set in the Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (LT translation).

Article 7, which defines criteria for making automated data processing legitimate, allows it only if:

  1. the data subject has unambiguously given his consent; or
  2. processing is necessary for the performance of a contract to which the data subject is party or in order to take steps at the request of the data subject prior to entering into a contract; or
  3. processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation to which the controller is subject; or
  4. processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject; or
  5. processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the controller or in a third party to whom the data are disclosed; or
  6. processing is necessary for the purposes of the legitimate interests pursued by the controller or by the third party or parties to whom the data are disclosed, except where such interests are overridden by the interests for fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject which require protection under Article 1 (1).

That means, that GMSV should receive a permission from ALL (!) involved data subjects or prove, that GMSV is, in essence, a public interest.

Such a rule is a completely different situation, than Google is used to in US, where opt-out rule (i.e. everybody might be involved, but has a right to withdraw from the system) is used.

Lithuanian authorities deny request made by GMSV

On May 18th, 2012 the State Data Inspectorate of the Republic of Lithuania made a public statement (LT version), where publicly declared (unofficial translation made by me):

[..] The Inspectorate holds, that such processing of images threatens a human right to private life, because during collection process personal data would have been processed at the same time (e.g. persons in streets, cars, etc.)

The Inspectorate refused to issue a permission for “Google” to carry on Google Maps Street View project and process personal data, therefore processing of personal data for that project in Lithuania would be qualified as illegal processing of personal data.

At the same time the Inspectorate will contact Google directly and encourage to respect a human right to private life and obey requirements set out in the laws of the Republic of Lithuania. [..]

Although final conclusions may be made only after carefull investigation on the Google request, but decision made by the local authority seems valid according to local regulation, which is harmonised to the European principles.

Related issues: human rights and social networking services, search engines

The dispute is not so distant from two Recommendations, which were developed in the Council of Europe Committee of experts on new media (where I was honoured to represent Lithuania).

On April 4th, 2012, the Committee of Ministers adopted slightly changed versions we finalised in September 2011:

Both these document provide insights for further discussion, where should the limits on the invasion to the privacy should be set in online environment.

Illegal content in P2P networks: first cases in Lithuania

Today I’ve made a short presentation in the MRU conference “Social Technologies 2010: Challenges, Opportunities, Solutions“. Original PPT is available to download from my account at slideshare.com.

Meanwhile, short overview. We have already quite a few cases in Lithuania, where various P2P issues are tried in legal sense. For example, it started with dc.meganet.lt take-down in October 2008, later on November 2009 in we had “106” investigation and soon afterwards “Microsoft” vs. “linkomanija.net”. Not to talk about lower profile cases such as “tracker.lt“.

Various issues are just shortly mentioned in the presentation, all of them will be described and discussed in detail later on, when one of the academic journals publishes yet to be written article.

Strasbourg: the beginning of …?

As today the first meeting of New media experts committee starts in the Council of Europe. According to the decisions by 1st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers Responsible for Media and New Communication Services, the mandate for the expert group is provided for two  yers period.

The Committe is instructed to work in three areas: a) examine, whereas the understanding of what are media remains valid in the new environment; b) explore the challenges to individual’s rights to freedom of expression and information, privacy and other fundamental rights, as well as to their dignity and security on the Internet, develop appropriate guidance, benchmarks and tools to protect users’ rights.

From my personal viewpoint, the solution of the underlying problem is rather simple. At first we have to agree on the principles we should use for the media in general. The factual implementation and regulatory decisions we make is only the technical step afterwards keeping in line with those general principles and technologies neutrality as the main guiding line.

The first impressions from the first round table are rather different. From one side we have a lot of experts and private participants with valuable views. On the other side it is rather too general and as now it is unclear, how should we proceed these two years onwards.