Happy Customers Make for Happy PR

Throughout all my analyses on synthesizing charitable motives with public relations practices, it has become increasingly apparent how the bottom line in any industry never drastically changes: organizations thrive off making their audiences happy. Whether that’s by asserting that the customer is always right, or by simply creating honorable messaging with a feel-good narrative, a brand can almost never go wrong by putting the needs and wants of its clientele first.

Public relations is about forming relationships between organizations and publics. The first step involves conducting research about your audiences, but people don’t like to be thought of as specimen to be examined. Learning about what your audiences want and like is sometimes best found through meeting them on their level. Focus groups and surveys framed with messaging familiar to the targeted demographic can prove to be considerably insightful. Once understanding of the clientele is established, determining on what actions your organization can make to establish strong relationships with them is appropriate.

Building rapport with customers is essential to promoting a successful brand. If your audiences like what you have to say, then customer retention, loyalty and growth can only improve. At the end of the day, people like to feel welcomed, respected, comfortable, understood, recognized, valued and listened to. Shaping an organization’s public relations tactics to be framed in this manner is nearly guaranteed to make a customer happy.

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With freeform public channels and blogs across the web, it’s easy to come across messaging from media curators that shames organizations for having poor ethics or corporate social responsibility. Brands are being held accountable for their actions by publics now more than ever. It seems better to adhere to what publics are truly looking for in a trustworthy brand than to risk backlash for a public elations campaign made in poor taste.

Regardless of the brand or product, organizations need to make their audiences feel good to some extent to retain brand loyalty and public support. Companies that are known for their customer service and treatment are more likely to retain their audiences, and have consumers recommend their business to others. All in all, a business can prioritize their profits and bottom line by prioritizing the needs and wants of their customers. Thus public relations practitioners should be mindful of how their campaigns might come across to publics. It isn’t just about targeting audiences in ways that frame the messages effectively, it’s about ensuring that what is put out ultimately gives the consumer a positive impression of your brand. Inspiring a customer can feel good about his or herself associates good feelings with your organization. Public relations professionals should never underestimate the power of contagious and positive messages.

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Redefining Women’s Roles

Our culture spreads ideas about sex and gender through our media that are predominantly inaccurate, but unfortunately perpetuate our realities and thus shape affect our experiences. In attempt to appeal to the dominant culture, a patriarchal society that historically and institutionally favors men, organizations have long exploited the image of women in their messaging. Advertisements that objectify and degrade women are not difficult to find, just try scrolling through the Internet or passing by magazines at the store.

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A common example of this is when companies compare an idealized woman’s body to the product they are selling. Degrade a woman’s worth to her beauty, and associate that to the level of a car or cheeseburger in order to please a male audience. Carl’s Jr. is an infamous example of this, where the company has openly prided itself in using this tactic.

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In response to criticisms about using nearly-naked models to sell hamburgers in commercials, Carl’s Jr. said, “We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones don’t sell burgers” (Young, 2014). The fast-food chain has received so much backlash for its practices that nonprofits, such as Beauty Redefined and Miss Representation, have initiated campaigns against it. Regardless of the profits a company may be making, if charities and nonprofits are boycotting one’s advertisements, it strongly indicates that a company needs an ethical and brand-image rework. No company should want to be known as the one that women and nonprofits resent.

For decades now, people have spoken out against these media representations due to the social implications they have on our culture. These images get out of hand too often, and ultimately promote sexism, misogyny and rape culture.

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With the rise of fourth wave feminism piggybacking on the power of our digital communications age, organizations can no longer create these messages without facing backlash. As people become more educated about the issues and effects of sexist media, many turn away from companies that participate in it. Individuals have the opportunities and forums to speak out against what they think are morally wrong practices, and few hold back these days.

It’s essential in the public relations sphere to keep audiences happy, and socially moral responsibilities ultimately trump an organization’s desire to appeal to the male gaze. Marketing, advertising and public relations employees are responsible for the messages they put forth. Public relations practitioners should hold themselves and their organizations accountable for the representations they perpetuate in the media. Good public relations seeks to ethically appeal to as many audiences as possible in order to establish a credible and honorable brand image. In our day and age where gender equity and respect is prioritized, organizations can no longer afford using questionable tactics such as these.

References

Young, F. (2014, September 17). Carl’s Jr. faces criticism for ads apparently objectifying women. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://universe.byu.edu/2014/09/17/carls-jr-facing-criticism-for-ads-again/

Misrepresenting Minorities

Institutionalized racism has pervaded all levels of society, and are at times most clearly depicted in our media. Popular media is framed towards the preferences of the dominant audiences, which in America particularly include those who generally identify as white, male and middle class. Ethnocentric and racial superiority tendencies within our culture frame our media to showcase what the dominating populations want to see: other people similar to their demographics. Consequentially, minorities have been historically excluded from popular media.

While white actors and spokespeople are prioritized across the board for spotlighted roles, when a role of a person of color is needed to be filled, oftentimes that position is tokenized or white-washed. Tokenizing, in the context of racial issues, can be defined as the practice of including a minority person as a representation of their social group. Doing so is usually with the intent of claiming that minorities are included, but it ultimately trivializes minorities’ experiences to that which could be superficially acquired, rather than respectfully integrated. We might see this in television shows, for example, where the cast is all white but there is the “one black friend” included, in attempt to suggest that the other cast members aren’t racist. People of color might feel used simply for their identities if treated in a tokenizing manner.

In addition, white-washing is another practice used too often that harms minority communities. White-washing is when people of color are showcased to look and behave more similarly to white people and their culture. A hard-hitting example is the feature movie recreation of the show, “Avatar: The Last Airbender.” The original television series was set in an Asian community with all Asian characters. However, producers working on the movie version were criticized for only casting white people. Thousands of fans subsequently boycotted the movie, which ultimately failed in the box office (Press, 2010). The movie’s critics say that the white-washed cast is just another example of an institutionalized trend in media of demeaning people of color.

Organizations that have been caught misrepresenting minority groups have faced serious criticisms that are difficult to bounce back from. A case in point is the 2016 Oscar nominations with an all-white ballot, which sparked harsh criticisms from audiences for its lack of diversity. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite went viral, with which individuals expressed online their frustrations against the major awards show (Buckley, 2016). While it wouldn’t be appropriate to tokenize a person of color in the ballots just to include them, it remains unnerving that across the board white people are seen as the most skilled and deserving of such honors. As the date of the Oscars continues to approach, it seems predictable that the criticisms will only further taint the credibility of the award show’s brand.

Not being conscientious of racial representation in your media can be very detrimental to not only minority groups, but also your brand. In our digital age where independent bloggers and media curators have significant voice and outreach to our publics, it seems evident that offending marginalized communities is no longer tolerated. Public relations practitioners need to be aware and prepared to actively prevent and deal with these situations, as the call from publics for racial equity is only bound to become louder. Anything that is considered offensive will be called out. No brand should afford the risk of viral backlash for topics as sensitive as racial diversity. Being inclusive of all identities is not simply just making audiences feel more comfortable, but it establishes healthier dialogues and social initiatives within our media and popular culture.

References

Buckley, C. (2016, January 15). Another Oscar Year, Another All-White Ballot. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/16/movies/oscar-ballot-is-all-white-for-another-year.html
Press, T. A. (2010, May 25). Last Airbender movie blasted for ‘whitewashing’ – Arts & Entertainment – CBC News. Retrieved February 19, 2016, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/last-airbender-movie-blasted-for-whitewashing-1.918316

Activism Needs Mainstream Media

Activisms will always be a part of human civilization. At the same time, entertainment is just as prominent throughout society, and generally gains more of the public spotlight. Latent audiences tend to want media that pleases them, rather than that which challenges or upsets them. Consequentially, social justice movements have historically been diminished in the public sphere because they address issues that many would rather not hear. However, it is crucial that publics are aware of the problems at hand. Exposure, education and productive dialogue about what ails our culture are necessary to improving how our society functions. This also ultimately affects every individual, and thus matters enough to be properly addressed in the mainstream media.

From a public relations perspective, there are fruitful opportunities in framing activist agendas with entertaining packaging. By promoting important messages through more digestible ways for audiences, activist movements can more effectively engage publics. A groundbreaking example of this is the February 2016 annual Super Bowl 50.

Beyonce performed her new new single, “Formation,” a song projecting support for African American civil rights, with visual references to the Black Panthers, Malcolm X and the Black Lives Matter Movement. It was a political statement heard across the world, and evidently the most radical Beyonce has ever accomplished in her 20-year career. In addition, Beyonce’s husband, Jay-Z, promised a $1.5 million donation to the Black Lives Matter movement the previous Friday (Elgot, 2016). Beyonce and Jay-Z are arguably the most influential American entertainment celebrities of our time, and the Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event of the year. Combine these powerful figures and the Black Lives Matter movement is positioned with significant attention and credibility like it hasn’t seen before.

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In addition to Beyonce’s political performance, Coldplay’s set featured LGBTQ pride themes. For the show, Levi’s stadium was lined with marriage-equality inspired rainbow waves that spelled out: “Believe In Love.” This is particularly relevant because just last year, in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal. However, with backlash against the decision still remaining by some populations, it was unanticipated that the Super Bowl would feature a pro-gay rights halftime performance.

The gay rights and Black Lives Matter movements have never before had spotlights as prominent like the Super Bowl provides. Some have found it inconceivable for the Super Bowl to express pro-gay and civil rights messages during the halftime show, but the decision has been groundbreaking for both entertainment and social justice campaigns. Countless viewers have sung praises for this revolutionary show, and many hope that media attention of this scale will continue to focus on issues that matter. Ultimately, the alliances between activist movements and mass media entertainment are mutually beneficial for both parties.

 

References

Elgot, J. (2016, February 08). Beyoncé unleashes Black Panthers homage at Super Bowl 50. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/feb/08/beyonce-black-panthers-homage-black-lives-matter-super-bowl-50

On Sensationalism, Entertainment and Politics

It is no secret that major media outlets frame stories to be more attractive or captivating to their audiences. In extension, journalists have been criticized for incorporating sensationalism to influence public responses for generations. According to Oxford Dictionaries, sensationalism is defined as the “presentation of stories in a way that is intended to provoke public interest or excitement, at the expense of accuracy.” Even today, traces of sensationalism can be found in our mass media. There is a line to be drawn between the news and our entertainment, but tuning into major political channels proves that this distinction has become increasingly blurred. While “putting spin” on political news can attract more viewers, it’s impediment that media curators are mindful of the impact their messages can have on audiences.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump exudes this issue in his public speeches. Trump is primarily an entertainer, considering his extensive background in television shows “Miss America” and “The Apprentice.” He’s translated persuasive skills learned from the entertainment industry into his strategies to gain voters. By making exaggerated and even offensive statements, Trump provokes viewers to profit off any reaction they may have towards him. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Even if people disagree with him, he’s making headlines, and that enough propels his campaign.

At the same time, while considerable populations oppose Trump, his words do not go without consequences. His hateful rhetoric towards marginalized groups have hurt our diverse communities in America, and in some cases have even provoked physical harm on individuals. While Trump has countless examples of politically incorrect and insensitive statements, a major one is his proposed ban on Muslims from immigrating to America.

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In December 2015, Trump called on the United States to bar Muslims from the country in light of San Bernardino terrorist attacks, which escalated Islamophobic rhetoric across the country (NY Times, 2015). By correlating all Muslims as contributors to the radical terrorist group, ISIS, Trump promoted a dangerous message that was unfortunately accepted by too many.

Stories of American Muslims living in fear daily due to threats made by Trump and his supporters have surfaced across the internet. One mother was quoted to describe the current social climate as “a dangerous place right now” (Independent Journal, 2016). The Huffington Post reports that, “Trump has taken the first tiny dangerous steps towards unleashing forces that could trigger large-scale violence against the Muslim community.” Xenophobia and racism doesn’t just affect marginalized communities emotionally, some Trump supporters have been convicted for committing acts of violence against others as inspired by Trump’s speeches. This past November, a Black protester was beaten up by Trump fans, and Trump condoned it by saying of the victim, “Maybe he should have been roughed up” (Think Progress, 2015).

Trump has the unwavering right to express his opinions freely. However, as someone with significant power, he should consider being more considerate of the harmful influence his words have on people. Whether or not he would truly enact his proposals if elected in office, the sensationalist way he presents his ideas provokes detrimental reactions across the board. While they may inspire his fans, that impact has a ripple effect that ultimately harms our communities, especially those that are typically marginalized. It’s incredibly important as we continue our conversations in the political sphere that we remain exciting through engaging publics in the voting process, but not in ways that further divide our country.

References

Healy, P., & Barbaro, M. (2015, December 07). Donald Trump Calls for Barring Muslims From Entering U.S. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/12/07/donald-trump-calls-for-banning-muslims-from-entering-u-s/?_r=0
Ahmed, A. (2015, December 09). Countdown to Kristallnacht. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/akbar-ahmed/donald-trump-kristallnacht-islamophobia_b_8762076.html
Lapotin, K. (2015, December 20). A Muslim Girl Was Scared By Donald Trump’s Words. Here’s How Army Vets Responded… Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://www.ijreview.com/2015/12/497601-a-muslim-girl-was-scared-by-donald-trumps-words-heres-how-army-vets-responded/
Shen, A. (2015, November 22). Donald Trump: My Fans Were Right To Beat Up Black Protester. Retrieved February 05, 2016, from http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/11/22/3724879/donald-trump-black-lives-matter-protester-beating/