Tag: public relations

Consumer Relations

customers-want-630x200.jpegThe job of public relations professionals is to manage the relationship between the organization and their publics.  One of the largest and most influential publics is consumers.  Dealing with consumers is a front-line responsibility of public relations.

There are many objectives that go along with consumer relations.  All of them surround the overall objective of increasing sales.  It is the job of public relations professionals to not only keep current customers happy, but also attract new customers so the company can grow.  In addition, they must work to market new products and deal with customer complaints.

Handling customer complaints is a large part of consumer relations.  Because of the increased use of technology and the internet, customers can complain on social media, blogs, message boards, and product review sites.  This is called consumer-generated media.  When customers post on these platforms, there is always the chance of the complaint going viral, especially when social media is used.

Airlines especially struggle with receiving complaints from customers, specifically on Twitter.  United Airlines is facing lots of angry customers recently as a video was posted on 106374_1280x720Twitter showing a man on an overbooked flight being forcibly removed from his seat and dragged through the aisle.  This incident quickly went viral, and people were outraged to see what they considered to be unacceptable behavior.  Some people claimed they would not fly with United again.  While the incident itself might not have been a huge deal originally, the story spread quickly on social media.  United Airlines has apologized and issued a statement, but people are still upset.  The company now has to work to build back its trust with consumers and recover its image.

Having positive consumer relations is critical to a business’s success.  However, it is not always an easy task.  Whenever there is a customer complaint, the company should deal with it quickly, thoroughly, and efficiently.  Any business can benefit from good consumer relations, whether it is a large corporation or a small mom-and-pop shop.   It is necessary for a business to cultivate good customer relations in order to attract and keep a loyal base of customers.

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Public Relations in the Government

Public relations takes on an interesting role in the government.  It is similar to public relations in the private industry because they essentially perform the same functions.  The practice of public relations is broadly represented throughout government as they use persuasion through effective communication.  Government agencies and appointees interact with the press on a daily basis to share information with their publics and manage their relationships with them.  They use the media to communicate and make announcements just like in the private industry.  The government and their commercial counterparts use the same skills and techniques to accomplish the same goal; to create a favorable public image in the media.

However, there is also a big difference between public relations in the government and in the private industry.  It is technically illegal for political appointees to use publicity and public relations to promote their policies.  However, this does not stop them from performing public relations activities.  Instead of calling them public relations professionals, they are called public affairs experts, information officers, press secretaries, communication specialists, or something similar.  Even though they have different names, they do the same things that public relations professionals do in the private industry.

www.usnewsThe White House Press Secretary is a great example of public relations in government.  The current White House Press Secretary is Sean Spicer.  While he is not technically called a public relations professional, his job requires all the skills and techniques that public relations professionals use.  His job is to communicate the policies and practices of the administration, specifically the president, to the public.  Pretty much every day, he holds a press briefing where he talks to the media and the public.  His job is to manage the relationship between the president and the public.  This is just like what public relations professionals do when working at a company.

Sean spicer has received some criticism for his performance as the White House Press Secretary.  Back in January, he was actually rebuked by the Public Relations Society of America after making statements about President Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd size.  The PRSA accused him of encouraging and perpetuating alternative facts, which they felt PRSA_logoreflected poorly on all communications professionals.  They felt he was deliberately misrepresenting information and stated that honest, ethical professionals never spin, mislead, or alter facts.

The White House Press Secretary has one of the most high-profile public relations jobs in the world.  Dealing with the media and hundreds of reporters is no easy task.  It is a very difficult role, and it is almost impossible to do it satisfactory.  Nevertheless, the White House Press Secretary has immense power to influence the public.

Public relations has a huge presence in government just like it does in the private sector.  Although it does not go by the same name, it is just as important.  Through communication, elected officials and government agencies work to maintain their relationships with their publics just like public relations professionals do at corporations.

Online Publicity

An important part of public relations is publicity.  Publicity in its simplest form is the means of conveying information to the general public through the media.  Online publicity then is any publicity that happens on the internet.  The internet has greatly changed public relations as it has transformed the way that people communicate with one another.  It is a great way for companies to interact with the public in a positive way.

online-news-distribution.jpgOnline publicity has become a huge part of public relations.  News sources can write about the company in online news articles, or people can write about the company on a personal blog.  Through a website, companies can communicate information about themselves to anyone outside of the company.  In today’s society, public relations professionals must be familiar with the internet and able to effectively use it in order to be successful.

One type of organization that uses the internet and social media particularly well is movie production studios.  They often use social media to raise awareness for their films.  Through their social media accounts, they typically will first post a poster for the movie, then a teaser trailer, and then a full trailer.  These releases are spread out over several months.  All of this is done to drum up positive buzz for the film because people will start talking about it on social media.  On top of that, there are typically blogs and various news sites that will post about each of these releases.  This gives the movie free publicity and lets more people know about it.  By doing this, the movie studios are getting the public excited about the new film.

C7qh7w5VUAMUaW0.jpgMarvel did this recently with its Spiderman: Homecoming movie that is coming out in July.  A teaser trailer was released back in December of 2016.  That generated a lot of buzz for the movie, and lots of online articles were written about it.  Then, on March 24, three new posters were released for the movie on the film’s official Twitter account.  Again, this got people talking about the movie and more blogs and online news sources wrote about in.  Finally, on March 28, Marvel released the first official trailer for the movie.  Even more articles and blogs were written about the release of the trailer, which again created more buzz for the film.

This is a very highly anticipated movie, so by releasing information about the movie in this way, they can increase the number of people positively talking about the film.  I am sure not all reviews were good as it is impossible to satisfy everyone, but for the most part, it helped build excitement for the movie in the hope that people will go see it when it is released in July.

It is very worthwhile for companies to put effort into obtaining online publicity.  In today’s society, so much of people’s lives is online.  Therefore, the internet is a great way to reach out to and communicate with the public.  Companies should take any chance they can get to communicate with the public in a positive way.  In addition, successful creative publicity campaigns can lead to countless new customers, sales, leads, and social followings.  It would be a waste not to take advantage of the online platform as a way to get publicity and spread brand awareness.

Public Relations and the Law

Because one of the tasks of public relations professionals is to handle crises, it is not uncommon for them to deal with legal issues.  When this is the case, the organization will often get a lawyer involved as well.  This means the public relations professional and the lawyer must work together to chart a course that will both manage the legal risk and protect the organization’s reputation.

However, public relations professionals and lawyers are often at odds with the type of advice that they give.  Because a lawyer’s first concern is protecting their client from legal risks, they will want to prevent their client from speaking out so that there is not added information that can be used against them.  On the other hand, the public relations professional’s first concern is to protect their client’s reputation, so they will want to say something to try to fix the situation.  They both have the same goal of protecting their client, but they have different ways of doing so.  As both opinions are valid, they must both be considered by organizations when deciding what actions to take.

urlLet’s take a look at an example with the ride-sharing company Uber.  Uber has been dealing with a growing crisis in recent weeks as story after story has added to the scandal surrounding the company.  It started back in January when the #DeleteUber movement was sparked on Twitter about the company’s ties to Donald Trump.  The company lost 200,000 customers in a single weekend.  From then on, several negative stories have come out against the company, such as making claims of employee sexual harassment and drug use, getting sued by Google for stealing intellectual property, and lying about their role in a recent accident with a self-driving car.  What used to be the world’s most valuable start up is now dealing with crisis after crisis, and it is still not clear how they are going to get through it.

img1365.jpgSpecifically in the claims of Uber stealing Google’s intellectual property, they would definitely have lawyers present to advise them on what actions to take.  Google’s self-driving company, Waymo, claimed that a team of ex-Google engineers stole their design for the lidar laser sensor that allows self-driving cars to map the environment around them.  In response to this accusation, not only did Uber issue a public statement, which is the job of the public relations department, but they also hired a team of lawyers to help them fight the lawsuit.  It is very likely that the lawyers want Uber to remain silent on the issue until their day in court comes, so the company only issued a short statement saying they take the allegation seriously and will review the matter carefully.  It is a fine line to walk between saying too much and not saying enough.

Lawyers and public relations professionals must work together to serve the client.  Before any action is taken, public relations professionals should run it by lawyers to ensure they are not subjecting their client into any more legal risk than is necessary.  If lawyers and public relations professionals can respect each other and work together, they can provide the best outcome for their client.

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.

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.