Insight #7: Laws of Public Opinion

Public opinion is a concept that can be interpreted in so many ways. To think critically, you can use newspaper columnist Joseph Kraft’s definition “the unkown god to which moderns burn incense” (Seitel). To simplify it, think of it as defining public and opinion separately. In chapter four of Seitel’s book, The Practice of Public Relations, he defines public first as “public signifies a group of people who share a common interest in a specific subject”. This would include employees, community members, stockholders- they’re all their own group concerned about a common issue. When defining opinion, Seitel states that “an opinion is the expression of an attitude on a particular topic” (Seitel). The result of this is attitude->opinion->action: a strong attitude becomes an opinion; a strong opinion becomes an action. Public opinion is really when there are various individuals opinions on a specific issue that affects a group of people.

Hadley Cantril, a well respected social psychologist, developed the “Laws of Public Opinion”. Public opinion can be difficult to influence on someone, but Cantril’s six step method is a great guideline that measures it. Influencing public opinion seems almost identical to winning over your audience in a persuasive speech. You must first identify and understand the opinions you desire to change or modify. Secondly, remain very clear on who the target audience is. Third, there must be a precise focus on what the “laws” are that govern public opinion.

Let’s examine how Cantril’s “Laws of Public Opinion” would play out in regards to Tiger Woods marital indiscretions? The first point states opinion is highly sensitive to important events. “Opinion doesn’t become stabilized until the implications of events are seen in some perspective” (Seitel). This directly relates to the immediate news coverage of Tiger Woods’ marital indiscretions because so many fans, and a couple endorsements, were on the fence about what to initially think- that is until all information was revealed and stamped with approval. The second point states opinion is generally determined more by events than by words– unless the words are interpreted as an event. Most of Tiger Woods’ endorsements dropped him as soon as news coverage broke, which is perceived negatively on his behalf. This also relates to the third point: people become more sensitive to the sufficiency of the leadership during critical times. Basically, if the public opinion was overall good for Tiger Woods after this scandal, his poor choices deem tolerable. If not, then the public opinion of him lacks confidence so will sway the other way. This is tricky to measure in regards to Tiger Woods because immediately after the news of his many affairs, he lost a lot of respect, a lot of money (endorsements), and almost his entire family. Now that time has passed, he has become more and more “tolerated” in public opinion since it now focuses on what he does: playing golf.

The fourth point Cantril noted was that once self-interest is present, opinions become slow to change. In relation to what I was just talking about, initially everyone was all for Tiger losing his endorsements, and potentially his family; he took them both for granted by the actions he took and should pay for them. However, over time that lack of support started to change into actual support- the public opinion figured he already paid enough by losing his wife and endorsements, but that shouldn’t keep taking away from the fact that he is ultimately the best golf player there is. In continuation, the fifth point states that people have more opinions and are able to form them much easier on goals, as opposed to the methods to take to reach those goals. There are many individuals within the public that still will never forget what Woods did, and will hold it against him. They disregard the fact that he is a great golf player, potentially the best, but instead will continue to see all the negative words they read about him. It wasn’t just the cheating, but also negative qualities about his personality that came to light: controlling, disingenuous, careless, etc. However, it’s easier for them to focus on never supporting or watching him again, than realizing if they go buy a golf hat he wears from a company that endorses him, they’re technically doing so.

The sixth and final point to Hadly Cantril’s “Laws of Public Opinion” states that if people in a democracy are provided with educational opportunities and ready access to information, public opinion shows a headstrong common sense (Seitel). In the end, people aren’t really against Tiger Woods anymore because what he did doesn’t affect them. He cheated on his wife, but still gives them the game they want to watch. Even though he’ll never be as well-liked as before the scandal was revealed,  it’s a total turn around from how the public opinion was at the start.

Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. Print.

“Top 10 Most Hated People in Sports.” Real Clear Sports. N.p., 17 May 2013. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://www.realclearsports.com/lists/most_hated_people_in_sports/intro.html?state=stop&gt;.

Image displayed is credited to The Huffington Post.

Lab #7: Consumer Generated Media

    H&M is a fashion clothing store that prides itself on great quality for a low price. With their European style and multiple celebrity endorsements- currently being Queen B herself, Beyonce- they’ve attracted the attention of many. I view H&M as a sister store to Forever 21, just better quality with sustainability. H&M has gone global, is worn by some of the top celebrities, and has a wide variety of customers that always come back- so what could they possibly have to improve on?

Just because a company has gone global, doesn’t mean they’ve reached perfection. Is any company perfect? (Let’s not all jump to answer at once.) As I was looking through H&M’s Facebook page, I did see numerous positive comments posted by customers that “like” their Facebook page. They post pictures of new clothing items, reminders about upcoming sales, and give outfit suggestions to spice up your look- all of which seem to be a big hit with their clientele. However, I did come across a few complaints. One customer expressed the idea of expanding their size range, and another complained about a new dress they posted under $20 that wasn’t in her local H&M store. These seem typical, right? They can’t possibly make every size or have every single item they make in every single store. That’s something that customers do need to understand. However, with the internet allowing us to be online shoppers, we could assume that we should be able to do so if we don’t have a local H&M store.

 H&M Screen Shot

    Not the case. This past week, H&M posted a recent ad on their Facebook page about great “Memorial Day Fashion Finds”, starting at just $5. Included in that post, they supplied their customers with a link that directs you to a store-locator to make shopping as easy as possible for you. One customer shared her opinion about their lack of success with online shopping: they don’t have USA online shopping. She then briefly went on to point out that by lack of this, they are losing a lot of money. Another customer soon replied and agreed. Nicely enough, H&M noticed these two complaints quickly and replied: “We will have online shopping later this summer. Subscribing to our newsletter will update you on when the official date will be so you don’t want to miss out”, and also supplied a direct link to the newsletter (H&M).

Now, it’s rare that companies reach out and respond to your complaints- especially with the insane amount they receive on their social media pages- so it was great that H&M did. This is a great way that they can aim to keep customers. If these two people are customers without online shopping, it’s a sure thing that they’ll remain customers now that their complaint will soon be put to rest. However, there are probably many more complaints floating around there, that are number 912 on the list of 2,000 comments. How can they possibly keep track of them all?

In this response, it might have been beneficial to include some sort of online feedback or complaint forum as opposed to customers having to rely on the companies “slight” chance of noticing their comment. They also didn’t show much care that the customers were so upset. Yes, they ultimately fixed the problem by supplying them with information on when they will have online shopping, but with lack of interest that their customers were upset. It was almost like a generated message you get on the phone. I realize it’s Facebook, so you simply can’t get a feel for if someone is showing emotion, but it is social media. I would have included something along the lines of, “We’re so sorry (insert customers names) for the inconvenience this has been! We are happy to inform you that you will have access to online shopping by the end of the summer! To stay informed, sign up for our newsletter that will update you on the dates, along with deals and promotions! Our best, H&M.” This seems a bit over the top, but customers will feel much more appreciated and heard.

In our class text, Seitel talks about “magic words”. Since we have become so prone to voice mail, email, and generated voice recordings, it is nice when you do hear these “magic words”: We’ll take care of that for you, Consider it done, etc. Elaborating on them is key in my opinion- tell the customer what they need to hear, but also make sure it’s truthful. You’d hate to say “consider it done” if in actuality, it isn’t. I thought H&M handled this complaint well, but could have improved by showing more care and concern. After all, without customers they’d be out of business.

First image displayed is credited to About.com.

Screen shot displayed is credited to H&M’s Facebook page.

Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. Print.

Insight #6: Employee Relations

employee relations clip art

If you ever find yourself interviewing a CEO- or any person within an organization with high authority- and you ask them what the organization’s top five goals are, effective employee relations better be one of them. Better yet, for any future interviews any of you readers find yourself in, do some research on that company’s employee relations; if you dislike what you find, I highly suggest you move on to a different company. Employee relations is critical, for both the employer and the employee; it is the communication between any management and all employees. Some concerns of these discussions include workplace decisions, conflicts, and their solutions. Without this, there can’t be successful communication within an organization.

Each person is different, so the first step to being a good manager- and employee- is to understand that. For example, some people work best when they feel as if their manager is one of them, a base-level employee. They might function best under the six criteria Milton Moskowitz described as continually successful, specifically visibility and proximity of upper management employees. Having visibility and proximity of upper management is when there are minimal rank distinctions. By doing so, the company is eliminating the hierarchical separation between management and employees. However, it was specifically said that some people work best that way, not all.

Nobody likes when authority holders abuse the power they hold; but, for me, having distinctions between myself and management isn’t a bad thing. Personally, I work best- and respect its reasoning- when I know the task I need to accomplish, any specifics it might have, etc. Management has a huge role in that scenario. I respect my management and co-workers, but having the distinction of the two is necessary. If my boss gave me a task to do and my co-worker asked for help at the same time, I’m going to complete the task my boss gave me first. Upon it’s completion, I would offer my services to my co-worker. If my work environment insinuated that my boss is on the same level as my co-worker, my task completion might change- in which that could jeopardize my work and appear to higher authority that I don’t prioritize properly. Maybe that’s over-thinking it- and don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy a work environment where everyone gets along and is on the same page.. very much- but being that laid back seems too good to be true.

If an organization was trying to acquire me as an employee, showcasing the five principles of trusted communication might aid at achieving that: respect, honest feedback, recognition, voice, and encouragement. Studies have shown that incorporating these five principles into your management style is quite successful. This is the type of organization I would want to work for. To produce my best work, I need to feel appreciated. Maintaining a job or two since I was sixteen is seen in my eyes as a privilege, not a right. One has to earn a job, in most cases- unless someone knows someone and gets the job by that instead of their credentials; but essentially, they’ll have to prove they’re worthy after that. I am fortunate enough to have never been fired, always the one to walk away. The two jobs I left were because I felt there was no respect of the employees- you were just another body. If I don’t feel respected, I feel my work isn’t respected. If I feel my work isn’t respected, it will suffer, in which case that doesn’t benefit anyone. Respecting anyone- from a co-worker, to an employee, to the CEO- is an important quality for any company to have.

Honest feedback is hard for people to do, but it has to be done for an efficient workplace. I’m human, so I’m going to make mistakes. If my boss doesn’t correct me when they’re noticed, I won’t learn. Dun-da-da, we learn from our mistakes! If my mistakes aren’t pointed out to me- respectfully, of course- then I’ll continue to make them and my work will never be sufficient. The worst part, I don’t know any better because they weren’t addressed.

Recognition and encouragement go hand in hand. I don’t need praise after completing every task at my job, but the occasional “thank-you” or “good job on that report!” is always nice to hear. Without receiving any recognition, I second guess my work and value as an employee. It is important for me to know that the work I am doing is good, as well as being completed in a timely manner so that I continue to do so. If I feel encouraged, it will only improve my work ethic and results. I need to feel as though I’m a contributor to the organizations goals, because lets face it- why else would I be there?

First image displayed is credited to utmb Health’s website.

Second image displayed is credited to ShopitPress Blog.

Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. Print.

Connection #4: Get the Balance You Need

“America runs on Dunkin”- simple, yet very catchy. Carlyle Group is one of the world’s largest and most successful investment firms, and is responsible for this everlasting campaign they originated for Dunkin Donuts in 2005. Founded in 1987, they still stand as a well respected, global alternative asset manager. “More than 1,500 investors from seventy-four countries rely on Carlyle to achieve premium returns on their invested capital.

Their investors range from public and private pension funds to wealthy individuals and families to sovereign wealth funds, unions, and corporations” (Carlyle.com). Carlyle’s main interest is in building brands, so it’s no surprise that they left their mark on Dunkin Donuts under their ownership- along with two other private equity giants- from December of 2005 through August 2012. So what’s their latest campaign? For all you nutritionists out there, it could possibly be staring you right in the face, or be sitting in your cabinets.

The nutritional energy bar, Balance, has just been “re-vamped” for the first time since it was acquired by NBTY, which is owned by the Carlyle Group. They came to an agreement to take over Balance this past November in hopes of creating a new, long running campaign such as the one they did for Dunkin Donuts. Balance’s new campaign reads: Have you found your Balance? Notice I put the B in bold and underlined it to signify the fact that it’s capital. It not only states the name of the nutritional bar in such a witty way, but capitalizing the B makes the brand name much more prominent.

NBTY and Carlyle’s interest in Balance Bar came from their desire to be an active part in the nutrition business. By taking on this new campaign and giving the brand name life again, they hope for it to enhance their portfolio. As far as other creative aspects for this campaign, NBTY handles them all internally. Stuart Elliott, writer for The New York Times, shared some insight on what else they’ll be incorporating into their campaign in a recent article: Balance Bar’s New Owner Starts a Brand Campaign. According to Elliott, the effort is extensive, including a commercial, magazine advertisements, coupon inserts in newspapers, content on the Balance Bar website, online banner ads, ads in stores, a public relations initiative, sampling programs and a presence in social media like Facebook and Twitter (Elliott). Even if NBTY and Carlyle were only doing a fraction of this extensive list, they would still be ahead of the game in comparison to the brand’s past. In 2012, only $91,000 was spent on marketing for Balance Bar, decreasing almost entirely to just $2,000 in the year 2010, and spent a surprising amount of nothing in the year 2008. Could NBTY and Carlyle really fail against those records?

Erin Lifeso, senior director of marketing for Balance Bar, has been working with the brand since early 2010. Lifeso describes numerous thinking strategies that went into the plan of developing the brand’s new campaign. She stated that before, they simply didn’t have the budget; without that, you can’t get people to taste it, love it, or remind them about that so they go buy it. With a budget of $5 million from now through September, they can do that. As far as the image, the seesaw symbolizes the “teeter-totter world” we all live in. Everyone has a hectic life with numerous tasks to do throughout the day; Balance Bar is intended “to keep you in balance” (Elliott). It’s a target idea that everyone can relate it, especially the target audience of consumers 25 to 54 years old.

Everything that NBTY and Carlyle are doing to better the brand’s name are examples of the research they conducted, the plan they made, and the evaluation of its effectiveness for the campaign. What stuck out to me the most was their focus on nutrition, since that’s what the brand is all about. All of the efforts made to promoting that were part of “preparing the proposal”. This method is described by Seitel in our class text, The Practice of Public Relations. Preparing the proposal is the second step to activating the public relations campaign that is broken down into many key points. I want to highlight the key messages: how do we want them to feel about us, what do we want to tell them, etc.  “Have you found your Balance”, does just that. If you try this bar, not only will you get the nutrition you need, but the balance to keep you going.

Elliot, Stuart. “Balance Bar’s New Owner Starts a Brand Campaign.” New York Times [New York, NY] 20 May 2013, n. pag. Web. 26 May. 2013. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/20/business/media/campaign-seeks-to-strike-the-right-balance.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0&gt;.

“Corporate Overview.” The Carlyle Group. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2013. <http://www.carlyle.com/about-carlyle&gt;.

Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. Print.

Lab #6: Web-Based Primer

For Dr. McArthur’s Integrated Strategic Communications class, I was to create a video on Censorship Laws of the Internet. The purpose was to include the main idea of the law, the definition of the law, how it became enacted, and key tips for a communications professional to remember.

Insight #5: Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate social responsibility: how companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society. In turn, they are responsible for the behavior of its members and may be accountable for their misdeeds (Seitel). In simpler terms, one could say social responsibility is when a company is committed to benefiting their consumers, their employees, and the world they live in through the efforts of their business. Non-profit organizations can easily be identified as being socially responsible, almost always; but what about the “for-profit” companies? Do they make a point to demonstrate corporate social responsibility and permeate it in everything they do?

Upon my research for this question, I was at a loss for examples; so, I took my empty brain to Google. The first company that popped up was obvious- and I admit- I was embarrassed that I couldn’t think of it on my own, being that I am a consumer of their products. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Burt’s Bees. Burt’s Bees is an “Earth Friendly, Natural Personal Care Company” (burtsbees.com). They strive to maximize the well-being of their consumers and the world around them through their 100% natural, Earth-friendly personal care products. Through the efforts Burt’s Bees makes to ensure that everything they produce- from their infamous care products to what they’re packaged in- is 100% natural and toxin free, they clearly demonstrate the leadership marketers need to simultaneously achieve two objectives: goodwill and building a sustainable, impressive business.

So how does Burt’s Bees demonstrate social responsibility? Do you have all day? There are countless examples that showcase their commitment to being a socially responsible corporation. As I stated earlier, they strive to ensure that all of their products are 100% natural. As of right now, half are 99% natural while the other half are already the full 100%. However, Burt’s Bees is a very humble company; they constantly voice that everything is a learning process- even for them. This company is committed to continue learning how to make every single last product 100% natural for the greater good, which is a valued perspective of theirs. With that, they claim full responsibility on their website under the tab titled, Social & Environmental Reporting, for any and all efforts they make. Burt’s Bees aims to benefit their stakeholders by the choices they make as a business. According to Bob Liodice, who authored an article on companies with high social responsibility, “Since the brand’s start at a crafts fair selling $200 worth of honey, the company has since expanded to candles, lip balm and now more than 150 products. In 2009, revenue topped $250 million” (Liodice).

burts

One of the most refreshing things about Burt’s Bees that shows they are socially responsible is their transparency perspective. On every product label is a list of the all natural ingredients that were used to make it. They feel it’s the only way they can grow as a business, to ensure that the consumers have the knowledge of their products. By doing so, they are not only educating the consumers, but the industry as well. Additionally, they supply their website viewers with yearly statement reports of their efforts, spanning every two years. How much more transparent can you get? Their goal is for every action they take, be for and benefit the greater good: their consumers, their products, their employees, their families, and the world in which all of the above live in.

A pledge that the company made- that I hold near and dear to my heart- is their vow to never test their products or ingredients on animals, even though they’re pure and natural. Burt’s Bees has a goal for the greater good, and it affects all living beings of the world. The company is very adamant about free trade and working conditions in the sourcing of their products; they stay committed to holding very high standards in regards to that. Additionally, they strive for the most safe and efficient packaging that they contain their products in. Their packaging has the lowest possible impact on the environment, and had high levels of post consumer recycled material. By doing so, they are catering to the sensitivity of the environment.

burtsss

The most prominent action they are taking to increase their social responsibility is The Greater Good Foundation , formalized in 2007. This foundation is a non-profit, charitable organization that strives to help other non-profits. The entire foundation is ran by volunteer employees and funded by their own website sales- 10% of them. Through Burt’s Bees passion for lending a hand, The Greater Good Foundation aimed to empower others that resonated with their mission, especially innovative grass roots organizations that work to eliminate the causes of social and environmental problems. Their entire focus is the well being of our world and all that’s in it. By these actions they take, they not only do so, but also prove to be one of the top ten socially responsible corporations.

If you would like to learn more about the efforts that Burt’s Bees is making, or information on how to volunteer, please visit their website here.

Seitel, Fraser. The Practice of Public Relations. 11th edition. New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc., 2010. Print.

Liodice, Bob. “10 Companies With Social Responsibility at the Core.” Ad Age. N.p., 19 Apr 2010. Web. 24 May 2013. <http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/10-companies-social-responsibility-core/143323/&gt;.

Lab #5: Revising the Media Release

In Dr. McArthur’s COMM 306 course, I was asked to write a press release for an upcoming event in the Charlotte community. I chose a comedy event called Stand Up for Dogs and Cats, hosted by The Comedy Zone of Charlotte. I received helpful editing notes from Dr. McArthur and a few classmates. (To see the first draft, click here.) From these notes, I learned a lot; not only about how to make my press release better, but how to improve my voice as a writer as well.

At the start of this assignment, I researched different press releases and studied the ones I found most effective. They contained all ten items that make a good press release, as supplied by Dr. McArthur. I had my focus, which is the first step; without a focus, there is no press release. The two things challenging for me were making it localized and developing a good lede, or attention getter. The attention getter seems so easy, but it’s just as easy to completely butcher it. You want to avoid it long and complicated. It should just do its job; grab the readers attention!

That was one part I didn’t do quite well. Fellow classmates and bloggers Carter, Ashley, and Chris gave me suggestions to make it shorter and more to the point. There was just too many words. In addition, Dr. McArthur gave me suggestions on how to organize it better which is so important. I learned that I could have a great lede, but it’s all in the way I organize it.

Another part that I feel I learned a little more about was the target audience. A helpful reminder that Dr. McArthur informed the class on is to remember it’s a media release; the initial target audience you need to “talk” to is the media. Then comes the secondary target audience. For example, my press release is about a comedy show fundraiser; I needed to first and foremost appeal to the media, then aim for all the animal lovers/activists. As I hope you can tell from my first draft, I was a little hazy on that. Going through Dr. McArthur’s notes, it was much more clear in where I made my errors. Mostly, they were just two or three words within a sentence that separated it apart from the media; it’s that simple to miss! I am definitely trying to re-read all of my edits more closely now.

The main thing I learned over this assignment was actually conducting a press release. I have never done one before, so it is an entirely new writing experience for me. I feel it has opened up a whole new realm of writing for me, as well as appreciation. I will admit, I will probably become more critical when reading press releases from now on, since I now have the knowledge of what makes on successful.

Below, you will find a revised copy of my media press release. Enjoy!