Damage Control: Lies Never Prosper

How can public relations practitioners regain consumers’ trust when a brand has used deceptive advertising? To discover the answer I read an academic journal article for my public relations class. I selected the following article:

Twomey, K. L., Knight, J. G, & McNeill, L. S. (2011). Damage control: Limiting the fall-out from deceptive advertising. Journal of Advertising Research, 51(2), 394-403. doi:10.2501/jar-51-2-394-403

GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company pleaded guilty at the Auckland, New Zealand District Court for using misleading advertising in 2007. The Ribena blackcurrant fruit drink produced by GSK was advertised as having four times the vitamin C of oranges. It, in fact, contained less than one-third of the claimed amount.

GSK faced 15 representative charges from the Commerce Commissions for stating deceiving facts on the Ribena product. GSK responded by removing the false message from all packaging, as well as producing a 60-second television apology.

This article uses the GSK incident to research how effective advertising companies’ apologies are at regaining consumers’ trust and if it is possible at all.

The research method used in this study was face-to-face interviews. Seven chief grocery buyers of supermarkets and 207 in-store shoppers (160 in Auckland and 47 in Dunedin) were interviewed in New Zealand.

An equal number of females and males who were older than 17 participated in the interviews during various hours of the day over a two-week period. This ensured a diverse representation of the New Zealand population. Respondents were given open-ended questions to encourage sincere answers and opinions.

The results led to multiple conclusions:

Communicate to the chief grocery buyers before the general public in a time of crisis. It is the buyers who need to be convinced a brand has apologized because they are the ones who dictate which products make it to the shelf and which ones don’t.

Apologize authentically to the general public and chief buyers. When a company makes excuses and attempts to justify its reasons for deception, sincerity is lost. Little or none of the apology will be accepted once this occurs.

Mistrust extends beyond product and can damage an entire brand’s name. The reputation of a product is directly linked to its brand. Dishonesty and misleading facts will not improve sales and brand image but instead will only hurt them.

To avoid damage control, honest and ethical business practices must be enforced in the first place.

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Diversity: Reaching Hispanic Minorities

Culture is a set of beliefs, practices and traditions that have been learned all throughout childhood and young adulthood. Culture has the ability to make individuals feel like they are a part of something larger and create a sense familiarity. This is why public relations practitioners should take advantage of understanding other cultures’ beliefs, practices and traditions. It will allow for better communication to diverse audiences.

According to the 2006 United States Census, 14.8 percent of the United States total population is Hispanic.  The data also show that the Hispanic growth rate of 24.3 percent was more than triple the growth of the total population. This information indicates that the Hispanic population is continually growing, and communicating efficiently to them is ever more important.

In a study done by Contact a Family, tools are listed to help communicate to minorities within the community.

1. Learn about the community

2. Talk to local leaders

3. Read local newsletters, leaflets, posters, and websites

4. Attend local events and meetings

Being a part of the community even in these small ways will result in direct experience on the manners in which communication is regularly done. Are the newsletters written in Spanish, English or both? Do local leaders present themselves in a causal or formal tone? Aligning communication with the way that is currently being done will ensure that the audience will understand and be familiar with the format the message is in.

Within the Hispanic group of people there is even more diversity. In an article by Danny Selnick, he states, Hispanic people “come to the United States from all corners of the Americas, and there are cultural and language differences that need to be addressed.” We need to be aware that the Hispanic population is not only Mexicans or people from Brazil. The Hispanic populations is diverse inside itself and should be addressed accordingly.

Translation is a barrier that also must be dealt with when communicating between cultures. As we all learned in our foreign language classes of our younger years, putting a sentence in a Spanish translator generator on Google never works. Selnick argues not only do these translations not make sense but they lose the “culturally rich” essence of the Spanish language.

An example of a poor advertising translation happened when Parker Pen marketed a ballpoint pen in Mexico. The ads were supposed to read, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” However, the company mistakenly thought the Spanish word embarazar meant “embarrass.” Instead, the ads said, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant!”

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International Public Relations: Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide

“Working to improve the lives of the world’s underprivileged through responsible, effective public relations.”

                                    – Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide Global Media and Public Relations

The versatility in specializations within the public relations field is one of the main reasons I was drawn to this line of work. While researching my choices I stumbled upon the quote above. Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide is exactly the type of work I desire to be apart of:

  • Raising public awareness of global problems
  • Making positive changes in policy
  • Reaching audiences in the billions
  • Improving the live’s of the world’s poor
  • Integrating global communications strategies into efective development programs
  • World travel
  • 30-year reputation

Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide would be an ideal place and career choice for myself. It cannot be ignored that there are global problems that will not resolve themselves. It is through global communications and encouragement that a change can start to be made.

Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide demonstrate that communication is the solution. This is demonstrated well in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health case study, where $50 billion was raised worldwide:

  • High-income governments pledging 13.7 billion
  • Middle-income governments committing $5.1 billion,
  • Non-governmental organizations: $5.4 billion
  • The United Nations and other multilateral organizations: $0.6 billion
  • Global partnerships: $3.3 billion
  • Foundations: $2.2 billion
  • Private sector: $1.1 billion
  • Health-care professional groups and academic institutions: $31 million

I cannot help but be inspired by the work being done by Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide. Originally I believed that I wanted to branch into international public relations for the soul purpose of having the chance to travel the world, experience new cultures and possibly even learn a new language. Put in perspective to the work that Hoffman & Hoffman Worldwide is producing, a career designed to help and create change rather than just travel, is what actually draws me to this branch of public relations.

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A Public Relations Professional In The Making

The last few terms, as a student at the University of Oregon, I have gingerly been slipping my toe into the world of public relations. It is about time I kicked the door off its hinges and fully immersed myself in all things public relations.

With one year left, my graduation date is set for spring of 2013. The classes are becoming ever more time consuming, just as the hours of the day seem to have fewer and fewer minutes within them. As a student attending the School of Journalism and Communication, aiming for a double major in public relations and advertising with a minor in communication studies, I need to develop a concrete online presence now.

It is a digital world that surrounds us today. It is taught time and time again in both public relations and advertising that an online presence can be used as a tool to develop connections and display skills that could otherwise be overlooked.

The Public Relations Blog, from the point of view of a UO senior, is my simple attempt to break down the door and get involved in the public relations industry. By receiving feedback, reading professional/peer blogs, and practicing ways of communicating through various types of media, I will transition from a public relations student to a public relations professional.

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