John Hagel discusses the difference between stories versus a narrative in his research. The central contrast of the two according to Hagel pertains to the role of the audience in the content. If the contextual ideas for a company focus on what its audience is doing, it is considered a narrative. However, if the context focuses solely on the company, it is considered a story.
In my eyes, successful storytelling is an art form. When reflecting on this talent, it’s crucial to analyze hindrances facing a storyteller. Many public relations practitioners fall into the trap of exaggerating a corporation’s narrative for financial gain. This is ineffective in conveying a corporation’s true financial narrative.
We can look at the Federal Drug Administration’s (FDA) actions against the makers of the cancer drug Photofrin as an example of overreaching to increase product fascination. “According to the FDA, patient and physician videos on the (drug’s) web page presented Photofrin as helping patients live symptom free, or even providing a cure. However, the studies on the efficiency of the drug did not support these claims.” (Stewart, Daxton. Social Media and the Law. 2013)
Hagel states, “A powerful narrative can differentiate – it can help a company to stand out from the crowd in a powerful and sustainable way. Narratives are by definition a long-term, sustaining call to action” (Hagel, John. The Untapped Potential of Corporate Narratives). While come PR professionals and investor relations departments struggle with conveying corporate financial narratives, other excel through effective and luring storytelling.
When contemplating whether or not something is ethical, you must first decide if it is truthful. Oftentimes, if someone is not honest in their communication, their actions will be unethical. It has become commonplace for a music artist to have ghostwriters or for a PR professional to write a quote for the CEO of their organization. Throughout my career, I’ve been tasked with creating quotes for CEOS or department heads to include in content that is disseminated to the media.
“There has been considerable debate on PR professionals’ blogs about whether undisclosed ghost blogging is ethical” (Gallicano, Brett, & Hopp, 2013). It goes on to state, “In a recent survey of public relations professionals, most respondents expressed approval of undisclosed ghost blogging, provided that the stated author provides the content ideas and gives content approval” (Gallicano et al., 2013).
While it shows good moral value to credit a ghostwriter on a song, informing the media that a quote the CEO included in a press release was written by a PR professional is not. However, if the company or individual is writing in the same voice and being honest, it should not be unethical.
The public knows that the CEO of an organization does not have the time to delegate exactly what will be on the organization’s social media. Companies hire various teams for this purpose and train the new employees to know the company’s mission, goals and message. They should be able to relay this information in an honest manner that is not unethical.
Since a “front group” by definition is a public relations technique that is used “to influence public opinion and public policy on behalf of undisclosed special interests”, it does not have a respectable moral code at its core. “Such special interests are usually large organizations or industries whose business practices and motives are often ethically questionable and conflicting with public interest” (http://ethicsinpr.wikispaces.com/Front+groups). This presents a different scenario. There’s already a lack of trust in this type of group, so even well-intentioned actions may seem unethical.
Circumstances that could make me view a person ghostwriting a speech or song as being unethical would have to include dishonesty. If the PR professional was questioned about content and where it originated, being as transparent as possible is key. In most cases, the media will find out the truth through research. It’s better if the story comes from the organization or PR professional.
In order to engineer or influence a specific way of thinking in any group, one must feed the concept of doubt. “John W. Hill set his staff to identifying the most vocal and visible skeptics of the emerging science of smoking and disease. These scientists (many of whom turned out to be smokers themselves) would be central to the development of an industry scientific program in step with larger public relations goals” (Brandt. Inventing Conflicts of Interest: A History of Tobacco Industry Tactics. P). Through my studies in grad school, I’ve learned that throughout history, PR was utilized to alter perceptions, actions and events. Through research, it is easy to conceptualize one central aspect of public relations influence: doubt.
Despite warnings of health risks in the 1950s, tobacco industry executives did not want to relinquish their product. Therefore, they gathered every scientist they could find to place doubt in the minds of the public about scientific facts. The purpose was not to directly debate the health risks reported with smoking, but instead to prompt debate which would increase doubt.
In politics, if a candidate desired to decrease their opponent’s credibility, they offer alternative theories to increase doubt. The concept of doubt can even impact the mental state of an individual, altering their emotions and actions uncontrollably. Licensed Clinical Social Work Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. stated, “One of the driving forces of (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is chronic doubt. Doors, windows, locks and other things must be checked repeatedly because of the fear that something has been overlooked despite repeated efforts” (Schwartz, Allan. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Plagued by Doubt. 2008. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/blogs/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-plagued-by-doubt/).
Although facts can sometimes raise doubts when skewed, being direct with consumers can also have an alternate impact and suppress them. The Shenango company was taking substantial monetary hits during a downturn of the economy in 1974. After Interpace took over the company, they ran an ad that stated, “We had problems last year. You know it. We know it. From here on, we’re not going to make fancy promises. We’re just going to deliver” (Vincent. It Takes More Than A Little Parsley). While consumers had doubts about the state of the economy and how it would impact their finances, the company’s matter-of-fact statement accepted the doubts and encouraged consumers to push through them. “Interpace recognized that appealing to a new start for clients could also be an appropriate moment” (Vincent. It Takes More Than A Little Parsley).
When one dives into the concept of persuasion, they often think of an alluring message. However, to successfully draw a person to a concept, having a crowd to carry the message may be vital. We view commercials daily that attempt to sway us toward a certain product or service even if we don’t necessarily need what the company is offering. A young child may visit a candy store and reach for a flavor of candy they’ve never tried. The child doesn’t essentially need the candy or know if the product will be pleasing to them, but if various ads associating the candy with happy children cloud this child’s view, they become perceptible to the message.
According to Wilford Trotter, “The human being is more sensitive to the voice of the herd than to any other influence. It can inhibit or stimulate his thought and conduct. It is the source if his moral codes, of the sanctions of his ethics and philosophy. It can endow him with energy, courage, and endurance, and can as easily take these away” (Ewen, Stuart. PR: A Social History of Spin. 1996). Public relations in the early 1900’s focused on inputting a certain message into the minds of the majority so that the message could be disseminated to the rest of the public as fact with minimal drawback.
Gustave Le Bon said, “Crowds have always undergone the influence of illusions. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim” (Ewen, Stuart. PR: A Social History of Spin. 1996). Le Bon tells readers that the more imaginative a message is, the more it will draw the masses.
However, is the concept of persuasion by a crowd dependent on how persuasive the crowd’s message is or how perceptible an individual is to coercion? In today’s society, the method of crowd persuasion can still be seen through peer pressure. Brett Laursen, PhD, a fellow of the American Psychological Association and professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University stated, “There are some children who are susceptible to influence from anyone – that is to say that whatever comes down the pike they're likely to follow. But, it's also the case that some people are more influential and so, if you hang around with people who tend to be particularly influential, you will look susceptible even though you're not particularly susceptible. It just happens to be that you're hanging around with others who are highly influential” (Laursen, Brett. Speaking of Psychology: The good and bad of peer pressure. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/research/action/speaking-of-psychology/peer-pressure.aspx).
The most fascinating aspect about persuasion is that the success of a convincing message is dependent on how susceptible a person is to the ideals of the message based upon their background and beliefs. The message can then be carried to the masses. Hypotheses and perceptions become fact when an influencer can convince enough people to follow their way of thinking.
To build an effective communication strategy or team in the social media realm, one must complete a lot of the steps that companies have taken in the past to create a successful PR campaign. First, it would be necessary to analyze your company’s current situation. As Ronald Smith, “Without an early and clear statement of the situation to be addressed, you will not be able to conduct efficient research or define the goal of you communication program later in the planning process” (Smith, Ronald. Strategic Planning for Public Relations. 2013).
A company’s first decision must be which social media platforms can accurately and effectively illustrate its particular message. Since the message of a fitness company and a real estate consulting firm may be vastly different, one social media platform may work well for one company that does not for the other. A fitness company would jump at the chance to utilize YouTube to showcase the workout routines from a new exercise DVD, but a real estate consulting firm may find LinkedIn or Facebook more valuable to them in order to mingle with business leaders and chambers of commerce. You must analyze the unique situation your company is facing.
The next step would be to identify obstacles that you can turn into opportunities. “Pepsi faced an accusation in 1993 that medical syringes had been found in cans of the company’s products. Pepsi fought back by issuing video news releases showing how its production process made it impossible to contaminate the product before it left the plant” (Smith, Ronald. Strategic Planning for Public Relations. 2013). With social media, there are various ways that you can turn a negative into a positive. If a company’s challenge is that they lack effective customer service, there are several social listening tools that can keep companies engaged by an associate entering targeted key words that can be picked up across multiple platforms or by setting automatic posts to go out even when a social media employee is not present.
According to Jeremy Lipschultz, “PR stakeholders are no longer impressed with simply including social media within a campaign. Increasingly, clients want a return on investment for dollars spent on advertising, public relation and marketing efforts” (Lipschultz, Jeremy. Social Media Communication. 2015). In my previous position at the Birmingham Business Alliance (Birmingham Chamber of Commerce), one of the pitches that we mentioned to prospective investors included social media publicity for their businesses. This included, highlighting them if they were sponsors through our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram pages when appropriate. Oftentimes, large investors to the economic development organization wanted to see the result of their investment, rather it be through analytics from our social media engagement tools like Hootsuite or something showing that their investment is helping the city of Birmingham grow. If the city grew, we were successful as an economic development company and the investor could utilize the positive growth to recruit more employees to their company.
In short, a successful social media campaign would include a situational analysis of your company, identification of challenges that can transform into opportunities in the digital world, and an outline of how ROI from the social media campaign can be accurately measured.
Reasons that you should choose “Choices”
Each day, I produce a quote of the day. When I wake up in the morning, I analyze what thoughts/encouragement I could utilize myself in order to make the day as productive as possible. From those thoughts, my quotes for the day just simply come to me. The book “Choices” gives a herring account of twin sisters that are desperate to escape a domestic abuse situation – only to be thrust into a twisted world of crime, greed and murder. In order to overcome these aspects, the girls must take risks, maneuver through twists, adapt to a new environment, learn lessons in trust and survive an adventure like no other.
When you think about it, these are aspects that we have to wade through each day. Every day that you wake up is a new adventure, where you must overcome twists, take some type of risks, learn new things and adapt to the changing world around you. In other words, don’t simply read my first novel, “Choices,” just to be entertained. Read “Choices” to see a reflection of who you are.
Criticism towards a company is inevitable, but there are ways to turn that feedback into a learning experience for organization growth. It is the company’s duty to correct the content and provide the necessary clarification to its audience before it’s too late to do so. Even managing customer complaints on a company’s platform is vital.
In my previous position as a Social Media Specialist at Regions Bank, taking ownership of a customer complaint on social media was the best piece of advice provided by hiring managers. The customer had gone through numerous other avenues to contact the bank including the phone, email and in-person visits. Their frustrations lead them to social media, but as a company, the associate must combat this frustration through a certain tone and preparation.
“By taking care of a complaint, you prove to the customer that you care enough to address the issue, and in return you start to rebuild the customer’s confidence, thereby potentially regaining his or her business” (Hyken, Shep. Love Your Customers, Hug Your Haters. 2016. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/shephyken/2016/02/20/love-your-customers-hug-your-haters/#5c7030e51976). Maintaining a positive reputation in a business requires harmful or inaccurate content placed by the company or a customer to be addressed and reconciled.
With screenshot and save capabilities available today, it’s very hard to complete erase a digital idea. This is another reason that a company be fast to delete, revise and correct any misinformation to the public.
Every effective social media campaign begins with one thing – dialogue. “Theologian Martin Buber is considered by most to be the father of the modern concept of dialogue. Buber suggested that dialogue involves an effort to recognize the value of the other—to see him/her as an end and not merely as a means to achieving a desired goal. Buber suggested that individuals should view others not as objects— the “I You,” but as equals—the “I Thou.” Buber’s work is based on reciprocity, mutuality, involvement, and openness” (Kent, Michael and Taylor, Maureen. Toward a dialogic theory of public relations. 2001).
When analyzing companies in today’s society that effectively personify the quote above through digital and social media, organizations that focus heavily on consumer feedback come to mind. The premise of the model is to have open communication with your public and use the information received from them to enhance your company or a certain product. In today’s technological world, innovations in communication have led many users and stakeholders to social media channels. Founded in 1993, Match.com does an efficient job of highlighting the stories and thoughts of their clients to sell their brand through digital and social media to its stakeholders, public and consumers.
“A theoretical shift—from public relations reflecting an emphasis on managing communication to an emphasis on communication as a tool for negotiating relationships has been taking place for some time” (Toward a dialogic theory of public relations. Kent, Michael and Taylor, Maureen. 2001). The central focus of Match.com’s marketing is not to manage or manipulate a message about online dating to the world, but to create a platform for discussion about voids others have experienced in the dating world and showcase how Match can fill those voids, oftentimes through social media. The company creates a relatable element through intercept interviews with average citizens on the street, which draws prospective customers.
Take this FB post for example from the company. Who hasn’t experienced someone rejecting them for a date? Match.com builds that connection through an experience that many can relate to and succeeds in analytical engagement due to this strategy. The post garnered a whopping 161 likes, with more than 101 comments.
During a 2015 Match.com commercial that is featured on the company’s social media, the host asks two women why they are apprehensive about online dating. One of the women tells the host that she likes meeting people in person. This dialogue achieves two important goals in successful marketing: overcoming the objections for a sale and creating dialogue around the company. This is what keeps Match.com succeeding in the digital world.
Match.com is also aware of its target audience. Each of the posts feature singles or people that have met via match from a certain age group. While the demographics vary, each of the people featured had one goal in common, which was to find love. The company understands this goal and creates different scenarios to show customers achieving that goal. It knows the audience it is striving to reach.
The company utilizes each social media channel available to its advantage. Dating and showcasing enthusiastic people meeting due to the Match.com organization is a visual action. This means that social media channels that are visualize play well for the company. Therefore, much of its content is geared toward Youtube, Instagram and Facebook. There would not be much need for an exorbitant amount of posts on LinkedIn because of the company type and the dating organization understands the difference between there channels.
“As companies look to maximize returns from their social strategies, they can both encourage would-be customers to engage in more social interactions and inspire more influencers to express enthusiasm for their products” (Bughin, Jacques. Getting a Sharper Picture of Social Media’s Influence. 2015. McKinsey Quarterly). By highlighting influencers who can attest to meeting a partner online through Match.com on its social media platforms, the company is helping garner a positive reputation throughout the world of digital and traditional media.
Kent, Michael and Taylor, Maureen. Toward a dialogic theory of public relations. 2001
An influencer is someone who impacts your brand in a positive way by acting as an advertising engine with message dissemination to audiences that may be unreachable to their business otherwise. Detractors are individuals that methodically campaign for business failure oftentimes through drastic, pervasive messaging on social media. These individuals or entities place a negative spin on your services or products to detract from any positive aspects of your business.
Certain companies have implemented digital ambassador programs that strategically create positive messages about an organization and send those messages to select influencers to share on their platforms. This is a great way to take advantage of those who advocate for your company through social media.
1. The more followers, the better
This is a dire misconception, triggered by a prevalence of reality shows and misleading social media fame. In actuality, most business leaders are lucky if just 10 percent of their audience is continuously engaging with their content. Video models on Instagram are more likely to accrue comments and likes than a clothing or art business. Keep in mind, if an account even manages to acquire 2,000 likes on a given post, it just equals 2 percent engagement if the account has 100,000 followers. In short, statistically, the more followers you have the less percent of engagement your social accounts will amass. If you really want to know what your ratio of followers is compared to how many likes you acquire, you can divide the number of likes you receive on a post by the number of followers on your account and get the percentage.
2. More posts don’t necessarily lead to greater noticeability
Most major brands post on their Instagram accounts one to three times per day. Typically, these posts are created days in advance through a social media editorial calendar.
3. All content is not created equal
There have been rumors of an Instagram algorithm that catapults certain posts or content from those you follow down to the bottom of your news feed depending on how popular the post is at that time. For this reason, people who are affiliated with certain groups such as art or music ventured out on a new marketing avenue – starting Instagram groups where the members partner to share, comment and like each other’s posts in a strategic manner. However, it’s best to utilize social media as a springboard to your website and invest in effective SEO optimization on your site to really draw an audience. You an tease the content through social media.