Managing relationships in public relations

For my upcoming J452 presentation I have been researching how organizations can retain members. The answer to this is through relationship management. My presentation will focus more on the tactics aspect, but I found other information regarding components of healthy relationships in public relations that I found interesting and thought I’d share on my blog.

According to Hon and Grunig’s Guidelines for Measuring Relationships in Public Relations, we manage relationships by focusing on four components.

The first component of a healthy relationship is control mutuality, which is the degree to which parties agree on who has the rightful power to influence one another. There is usually some sort of imbalance of power in most relationships, but each party should at least have some power over the other.

The second component of a healthy relationship is trust. Trust is based on integrity (the belief an organization is fair and just), dependability (the belief an organization will do what it says it will do), and competence (the belief an organization has the ability to do what it says it will do).

The third component of a healthy relationship is satisfaction, which occurs when each party is happy with each other because the benefits of the relationship outweigh the costs.

The fourth component of a healthy relationship is commitment, which occurs when each party thinks the relationship is worth the energy it requires to maintain.

The art of the public apology

As millions of Americans sat down to watch the Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011, Christina Aguilera took the stage to sing the National Anthem. Two verses into the song, she botched the lyrics.

If there is one moment in your life that you don’t want to mess up the words to the country’s most famous song, that would be it. Much to her humiliation, I’m sure, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and the news were immediately flooded with mentions of her mistake.


There was nothing Christina could do except finish the song and later make a public apology, which given the circumstances was the best way to go about handling the situation. She could have run off stage from embarrassment, but she stuck it out and finished the song beautifully, and I think gained admiration from a lot of people for doing that.

Christina later issued a public apology that said, “I got so caught up in the moment of the song that I lost my place. I can only hope that everyone could feel my love for this country and that the true spirit of its anthem still came through.”

This whole incident got me thinking about public apologies, which is an important aspect of crisis management. Crisis management is crucial to practicing public relations,  so I’m going to blog about some advice I found through researching tips on public apologies.

Tips for the perfect apology:

  • Don’t make excuses.
  • Accept responsibility for your actions and don’t blame others for your mistakes.
  • Show true sincerity.
  • Be honest.
  • Convey that you understand what you did was wrong.
  • Communicate that you understand the upset feelings of the affected parties and you recognize how much they were hurt.
  • Ask for forgiveness rather than demand it.
  • Don’t ramble.
  • Tell your audience how you intend to fix your mistakes (if possible).
  • Don’t make it obvious if you are reading from a script (like Chris Brown).
  • Don’t make distasteful jokes in your apology.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Promise it won’t happen again.
  • Don’t expect your audience to forgive you right away. Accept that some might never forgive you.

To err is human, and no one is perfect. Making mistakes is a part of human nature, so it is our duty as a public to accept sincere apologies and make them when we mess up.

Speaking out against tobacco marketing directed at youth

Every year $500 million is spent on marketing cigarettes in the state of New York alone. The “Tobacco Marketing Works” Campaign, put on by Community Partnerships for a Tobacco Free New York, launched this week and is aimed at educating New Yorkers about the strong effects of tobacco marketing. This campaign’s research found that youths are more influenced by in-store tobacco marketing than by peer pressure when it comes to smoking. Research also revealed that in-store marketing and tobacco product displays are two times more likely two influence youth than adults. Additionally, it was found that more signs and products are displayed in stores that are near schools where youth frequent more.

Other organizations, such as Truth, are trying to stop tobacco advertising, especially to children. Its efforts include many television advertisements (View the Shards O’ Glass video at their website).

I think an especially effective tactic to influence young attitudes toward tobacco use would be to use popular celebrities that serve as opinion leaders and reject tobacco. Celebrities are often seen smoking and looking cool in doing so, and I think these images are very influential to youth.

Christina Aguilera (singer)

Brad Pitt (actor)

Adriana Lima (Victoria’s Secret model)

Robert Pattinson (Main actor in Twilight)

Finally some good PR for the video gaming industry

A new study performed by researchers at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life shows that playing video games with a parent improves positive behavior, aggression, family connection and mental health among young girls. Boys and girls ages 11-16 were studied in this research, but boys didn’t show any change when gaming with parents.

The findings of this study differ from many other studies on the effects of video games on youth, which for the majority suggest that violent video games cause increased aggression and hostility in youth.

While boys mostly played Call of Duty, Wii Sports and Halo, girls played Mario Kart, Mario Brothers, Wii Sports, Guitar Hero and Rockband in this study. The games boys played (such as Call of Duty) are generally more violent than the ones girls played in this study. This could create possible doubts in the research since the variables weren’t consistent across genders. The type of video game being played could have significant effects on how youth respond to gaming with parents. For that reason, I think this study should have analyzed young boys and girls who played the same video games and then decided if the results were the same.

If this research gains publicity, this could be great PR for the video gaming industry that has typically received bad PR for the common belief that video games generally hurt youth. If I were a PR practitioner for the video gaming industry, I would promote this study on Facebook fan pages for various video games as well as on Twitter and use the hashtags “#callofduty,” “#cod,” and “#blackops.” which get a lot of traffic. I would also try to get an article published in a magazine that many parents with video gaming kids read, such as Consumer Reports. Reading about this study in that magazine may make it more credible to them and convince them that video games aren’t so bad for their kids.

Greenhill Humane Society’s Facebook page

Greenhill Humane Society is a private, nonprofit animal shelter located in Eugene, Ore. The organization promotes itself through various channels, but for now I will focus on its Facebook page, which is managed effectively.

Its information section is very thorough in that it addresses the organization’s location, operating hours, mission, vision, programs offered and even where its funding comes from. It provides contact information and a link to its main website.

The organization has an event tab, which they update often so the public knows how to support them in other ways besides just donating money. An emphasis on event participation is a good strategy to use on Facebook because a lot of Facebook users are young and don’t have much money to donate, but they are perfectly happy to participate in events and community service.

Greenhill’s website includes many photos and videos, which may be its biggest strength in my opinion. Viewers want to see pictures and videos of the cute animals that Greenhill has to offer, and that more than anything would get someone to come into the shelter.

Greenhill’s Facebook wall is absolutely packed with status updates. As I look at it right now, I see that just in the past 24 hours Greenhill has posted four status updates and also added a new photo album. Greenhill is constantly using Facebook status updates to notify its followers about the “pet of the week,” new animals that have come into the shelter, its successes (numbers of animals it has adopted that day or testimony of a happy family that just adopted a pet) and to remind them of its operating hours, events and its mission.

Greenhill does a great job at managing its Facebook page, keeping its followers up to date and maintaining an active presence on the social media site.

Americans losing trust in government and businesses

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer discovered that Americans have one of the world’s lowest levels of trust in their government and businesses as well as NGOs and media. The U.S. went from being ranked as one of the four most trusting countries (in respect to their average score among businesses, government, media and NGOs) in 2008 to being one of the four least trusting countries this year.

Upon hearing these results, I couldn’t help but think about the recent lawsuit against Taco Bell. An Alabama firm is suing Taco Bell for false advertising on grounds that the meat they use in their products is not real meat but is marketed by the corporation as “seasoned ground beef.” The law firm argues that the “meat” mixture does not meet USDA requirements to be labeled as beef and is actually a mixture of mostly “water, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodrextrin, anti-dusting agent and modified corn starch” (1).  Yikes!

Taco Bell should issue a press release that addresses these allegations. If the allegations are true, the company should confess that and apologize to its consumers. It should make a plan to ensure that its beef meets USDA requirements and advertise this plan to the public. If the allegations are not true, Taco Bell should defend itself by providing statistics and facts about the ingredients of its beef. The goal for either response would be to achieve transparency.

(1) Bulldog Reporter

JCPenney demonstrates exemplary corporate social responsibility

According to various surveys, customers believe that businesses need to make more of an effort to donate to charitable causes within their communities. A company that has really taken this to heart is JCPenney. In 2010 alone, the company donated nearly $6.7 million to local after-school programs for children in more than 1,100 communities in the U.S. where JCPenney has a store. The company raised this money through four JCPenney After-School “Round Up” campaigns that year in which customers were offered the option of rounding up their purchase cost to the nearest dollar and donating the change to this cause.

JCPenney has continuously been working with various charitable organizations such as 4-H, The Y and The Boys & Girls Club to provide healthy environments for young students to study and learn outside of classroom hours. After-school programs such as these help parents that have to work late and cannot afford to put their children in supervised settings during the times they are working and their children are not in school. JCPenney’s next “Round Up” event will take place April 13-26.

JCPenney’s efforts provide an excellent example of corporate social responsibility. More corporations, especially ones of JCPenney’s stature, would be wise to consider similar campaigns that would benefit local communities. Such efforts would improve the  company’s image among its publics.

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