Tag: influencing public opinion

Influencing Public Opinion

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.  images.jpgReputation 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.

Screen Shot 2017-03-16 at 6.29.53 PM.pngFor 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.

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Public Relations Basics

We should probably start at the beginning.  What exactly is public relations?  The term “public relations” encompasses a lot of different activities, so it is hard to find one perfect definition; many different definitions have been used over the years.  However, the Public Relations Society of America, or PRSA, defines it as: “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”  This is different from the functions of urlmarketing and advertising.  While marketing and advertising promote a product or service, public relations promotes an entire organization.  It involves using communications to manage relationships, convey information, and solve organizational problems.

A big component of public relations is managing and influencing public opinion.  This can happen in many forms; it can be opinion about a specific event or product, or it can be an opinion about the organization as a whole.  Let’s look at an example.  On February 22, 2017, Apple released a press release about the progress of its new project, Apple Park.  Press releases are a common way for organizations to communicate information with the public.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 9.07.34 PMIn the press release, Apple announced that construction is underway on Apple Park, the company’s new 175-acre campus in Cupertino, California.  It will be ready for employees to begin occupying in April.  The press release also supplied details about the project’s progress and what the final Apple Park facility will look like.

The message is a crucial part of the public relations process.  Framing key messages in a way that is clear and motivating is essential to accomplishing the organization’s communication goals.  In addition, by issuing this press release, Apple kept their publics informed on what the company is doing.  One of the goals of communication is to inform or educate a particular public.  Public relations activities provide many different functions.  One of these is to maintain the company’s image through public image strategy.  This press release showed the Apple Park project in a positive light, which reflected positively on the Apple company as a whole.  Not only would this press release get the general public exited about this new project, but it also would be reassuring to Apple’s various other stakeholders who have interest in the project.  It shows that the project is a success and allows Apple to maintain its perception of being an innovative company.