Public opinion is a powerful force in today’s society. In an era where culture is driven by media and fueled by the internet, public opinion can be both an asset and a liability for organizations. Reputation is everything in today’s business world. People are increasingly sensitive, and the trust and confidence of the consumer can have a direct and profound effect on a company’s bottom line. It can take years to build trust and credibility with the public. Unfortunately, it takes just one negative event to destroy that trust completely, and it is not always possible to build it back up. Brands have scandals all the time. It the job of the public relations team to manage brand reputation and shift public opinion in a positive direction to reinstate the company’s image. One of the main roles of public relations professionals is to handle emergencies.
For example, look at what happened to Samsung last year. Shortly after the release of their Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, there were reports of the device exploding due to its battery overheating. This situation put the credibility of the world’s biggest smartphone maker on the line. To this day, people are making jokes about Samsung products exploding or catching on fire.
Samsung used to be seen as a leading brand in the smartphone market whose phones rivaled Apple’s iPhone. However, after this incident, people’s attitudes about the company have changed, and its products are now perceived by some people as being dangerous. This one misstep changed people’s attitudes, which changed their opinion of the company as a whole. Furthermore, this influenced their actions as people began to question whether to buy Samsung’s products.
Samsung was forced to do major damage control. They took action by issuing press releases and offering replacement phones to try to salvage the situation. They had to assure the public that their devices were safe to preserve their public image. Throughout the following months of the initial incident, Samsung posted several press releases with updates on how they were still working to fix the situation. Through these actions, they were trying to continue to change people’s attitudes and influence public opinion to bring back their credibility and positive reputation. Even though this incident happened last September, the company is still working on changing public opinion about their products.
As it is the responsibility of public relations professionals to communicate with various publics, they have enormous power to influence public opinion. Attitudes lead to opinions, and opinions lead to actions. Through the power of persuasion, public relations professionals can motivate attitude changes and therefore change public opinion.