CFM PR

PR Industry Must Embrace Integrity to Boost Reputation

A new Gallup poll shows the reputation of the PR and advertising industry just above drug companies and below oil and gas companies. It will take a strong dose of integrity for communicators to elevate public trust in what they do.

A new Gallup poll shows the reputation of the PR and advertising industry just above drug companies and below oil and gas companies. It will take a strong dose of integrity for communicators to elevate public trust in what they do.

A new Gallup poll reveals the reputation of the public relations and advertising industry is just a nudge above the reputations of drug companies, healthcare organizations and the federal government. It ranks lower than the oil and gas industry and lawyers.

PR professionals are seen by many as flacks, spin doctors and fixers, not as trusted communicators, honest brokers and problem-solvers. TV portrayals of PR professionals feed the negative stereotype of the industry. The performance of recent presidential press secretaries hasn’t helped.

PR Week addresses the reputation issue in a recent blog that quoted Kim Sample, president of the PR Council. "It should be our moment in the sun, but we don’t grab it. We believe PR can solve the world’s biggest problems, and we need to talk about that more. The council has to take some responsibility and work to set the record straight on the good the industry does."

Talking about the good work PR professionals perform in support of critical social causes won’t be enough to overcome perceptions that some – and certainly too much – PR fudges the truth.

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It would help if the PR industry talked more about its Code of Ethics and policed its own ranks when there are cases of misconduct such as intentional inaccuracy, misleading claims and faithless public responsibility. It also would help if the PR industry demanded authenticity and verification as steps to greater public trust.

The Code, maintained by the Public Relations Society of America, says in part: “We serve the public interest by acting as responsible advocates for those we represent. We provide a voice in the marketplace of ideas, facts and viewpoints to aid informed public debate. We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.” Action, of course, speaks louder than words. 

The perception of PR and advertising isn’t all bad. The poll shows 34 percent of respondents hold a negative view of the industry compared to 33 percent with a positive view and 32 percent with a neutral view. The problem isn’t just the -1 percent net negative perception. The problem is a general lack of trust for an industry that is evolving into one of the major sources of information for the public.

Current data suggests there are now six PR professionals for every journalist. Spoon-fed public releases and manicured public statements have become staples in news coverage for reporters who lack the time, resources and editorial support to dig into stories independently. 

As news operations continue to shrink, this dynamic will increase, not decrease. That puts even greater responsibility on the PR industry to act in the greater public interest, which can include standing up to clients who push to trim the truth or whitewash the facts.

Persistent attacks about – and by – “fake news” have contributed to growing public suspicion and sent more people scurrying to their comfort bubbles to get “information.” PR and advertising professionals must be mindful of this trend and avoid exacerbating polarization as they target audiences with messaging. Legitimate PR and advertising firms also must distinguish themselves from real “fake news” sources.

Integrity in communications and advocacy is the key to regaining public trust. Without integrity, the PR and advertising industry will continue to wallow on the bottom of the industrial reputation ranks.

Integrity requires more than doing your own job. It also requires calling out bad actors. The public will notice when the PR profession points the finger at dissembling, disinformation and fact-denial. PR pros need to get out of their own comfort zones and look at the larger picture of their profession and look at their responsibility to the public.

Where the PR and advertising industry rank on an annual poll is irrelevant to where the industry ranks in the minds of the general, news-consuming public. It’s never too early to make a positive impression.

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Gary Conkling is principal and co-founder of CFM Strategic Communications, and he leads the firm's PR practice, specializing in crisis communications. He is a former journalist, who later worked on Capitol Hill and represented a major Oregon company. But most importantly, he’s a die-hard Ducks fan. You can reach Gary at garyc@cfmpdx.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @GaryConkling.

 

Technology Will Push Market Researchers into New Depths

Just as the venerable Sears & Roebuck catalog is fading away, consumers will have new options to search for what they want. That, in turn, will create new challenges for market researchers to understand emerging trends such as voice search and to evaluate immersive consumer experiences made possible by virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

Just as the venerable Sears & Roebuck catalog is fading away, consumers will have new options to search for what they want. That, in turn, will create new challenges for market researchers to understand emerging trends such as voice search and to evaluate immersive consumer experiences made possible by virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

You don’t typically associate artificial intelligence, blockchains and search engine optimization with research. But you should, based on predictions for market research trends in 2019.

Focus Pointe Global shared five market research trends it perceives in 2019.

  1. Artificial intelligence combined with automation makes it possible to learn from all customers, not just a select sample. AI advocates say this will enable brands to have a deeper, more authentic understanding of their customers – and potentially gain a competitive advantage.

  2.  Online searches for content, special offers, reviews and pricing is an important tool for consumers – and a critical channel for brands. Google Home and Amazon Echo are extending consumer reach with voice search. Not far behind is visual search in platforms such as Pinterest, Bing and Google Lens. These new avenues will require website optimization and close attention to see how, or if, voice and visual searches differ from online searches the “old-fashioned” way on computers and tablets.

  3.  Researchers won’t have to ask consumers to describe their daily lives, they will be able to capture them on video in their daily lives. Brand managers can see for themselves how consumers engage with a product display or interact with a sales representative. This video evidence can be combined with geo-location technology to trace quite literally the consumer journey. This trend on steroids would extend to virtual reality that allow consumers to experience products.

  4.  All these techniques that can be quite intimate with consumers also must contend with existing and more stringent future privacy protection regulations. The European Union has adopted privacy protections and California has adopted legislation embracing similar protections. Other states are likely to follow, maybe even as soon as this year when most state legislatures convene.

  5.  New avenues for research will require closer partnerships between brand managers and market researchers. The expanding possibilities will demand hand-in-hand working relationships as research techniques become more fully embedded into the consumer purchasing process. Partnerships also will be necessary to interpret accurately and fairly increasing amounts of emotional intelligence about products and the people who buy them.

Writing for Forbes, small business contributor Lilach Bullock offered her predictions for market research trends in 2019. She agrees voice search is on the rise, predicting 50 percent of all searches will be via voice by 2020.

Bullock notes 35.6 Americans use a voice-activated device at least once a month and one in six Americans own a smart speaker – all of which point to new optimization strategies based on how consumers ask questions and search engines respond.

Other trends pointed out by Bullock include steps to speed up searches. Mobile-first indexing and faster-loading websites will be essential to improve the consumer experience, which market researchers will be tasked to monitor. Blockchain technology to create secure, trustworthy transactions also can be used to verify a consumer or brand is who they say they are. Bullock indicates security will become a new imperative alongside privacy.

“It might not be clear what the future will bring exactly,” Bullock concludes, “but it’s clear that emerging and older technologies are starting to have a huge impact on search engine optimization – if it’s not already happening, then at the very least it’s bound to happen soon.”

 

Pinterest Idea Boards Offer Distinctive Platform for Thought Leadership

Yes, Pinterest boards are filled with recipes, travel destinations and cool photographs, but they also can be used for thought leadership such as curating the insights and bright ideas from a major conference or extended event.

Yes, Pinterest boards are filled with recipes, travel destinations and cool photographs, but they also can be used for thought leadership such as curating the insights and bright ideas from a major conference or extended event.

Have you ever attended a conference, speech or major event and wished you could share the nuggets of wisdom you gained? Pinterest has an idea for you.

Actually, Pinterest has an idea board for you.

Sporting events or unfolding election results lend themselves to a series of tweets. A single aha moment from a speech can form a solid foundation for a blog post. A funny episode or clever display makes for a popular Facebook or Instagram post. But Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blogs aren’t as accommodating to a group of insights.

Jessica Lawlor, writing for ragan.com, points out that most Pinterest users aren’t there to interact with friends and families. They are looking for ideas and tips. Recipes, travel destinations and cool photographs are common, but any kind of content with a long shelf life works well.

Pinterest can provide a visual scrapbook for ideas gathered at a conference or extended event. The idea board can serve as a handy reference tool both for the person pinning as well as for their followers and event sponsors. The idea board, with a wide range of interesting notes in the form of pins, can become a useful tactic in demonstrating thought leadership.

Since note-taking is a modern-day lost art, curating the high points and breath-through moments from events or conferences can be a real value. Pinterest’s board concept is a perfect platform for this kind of content.

In fact, Pinterest has improved its suitability for this kind of content with what it calls group boards, which allow others to add their pins, enriching the overall value of the content and enticing more followers. You also can pin media coverage of the event. Group boards work best with engagement, so it is smart to promote the group board, starting with other conference or event attendees and extending to your associates with an interest in the subject matter.

Another value of Pinterest is its visual orientation. With photos, videos and graphs, Pinterest is great for showing what you mean, which can transform dry conference presentations into lively, visually appealing content.

Pinterest is measurably different than other leading social media platforms, but some of the same rules apply. Original, relevant content counts. Keywords matter. Engagement, through repining and following, is king. Your Pinterest boards need to fit into a thoughtful strategy and connect with your website.

With that in mind, idea boards can be a distinctive way for you to exercise your thought leadership, even for the menial task of taking notes to capture someone else’s bright ideas.

 

UO Project Plumbs Low Trust in Media and How to Restore It

Two University of Oregon journalism professors conducted four workshops to ask how the news media could earn back public trust that has been steadily declining. They found people want facts separated from opinions, less focus on breaking news and a commitment to news coverage about what’s working and what isn’t.

Two University of Oregon journalism professors conducted four workshops to ask how the news media could earn back public trust that has been steadily declining. They found people want facts separated from opinions, less focus on breaking news and a commitment to news coverage about what’s working and what isn’t.

Trust in US news media is slipping, prompting a pair of University of Oregon journalism professors to set out to find why and how trust could be restored. Their research produced insights such as, “Journalism is a relationship, not a product.”

Launched in July 2017 and called the 32 Percent Project in reference to low new media trust levels record by a Gallup survey, the researchers conducted four workshops (three of them in public libraries) in various parts of the country, engaging more than 50 people in extended conversations about trust and the news media. They quickly moved from asking whether people trusted news media to how news media could earn their trust.

Researchers Lisa Heyamoto and Todd Milbourn gleaned, “People demand that the news earn their trust with authenticity, transparency and real diversity. They want news that is consistently presented and focused on what’s working as well as what isn’t. They hunger for news that reflects a sense of community.”

“Only some of the public’s beliefs about media and information fit easily with journalistic concepts of objectivity, neutrality and the like. Rather than demanding that journalists remain at a cool remove, many participants in these conversations said they want news that digs into the complex realities of their communities with both a critical eye and a shared sense of mission.,” explained Regina Lawrence and Andrew DeVigal with the Agora Journalism Center that funded the research project.

Heyamoto and Milbourn noted participants questioned the integrity of an advertising-based media model and disparaged constant streamers about “Breaking News.”

An analysis of comments and viewpoints distilled into six key findings that would enable the news media to earn back the trust it has lost and continues to lose.

An analysis of comments and viewpoints distilled into six key findings that would enable the news media to earn back the trust it has lost and continues to lose.

The report centers on six key findings, which Heyamoto and Milbourn cast as “conditions of trust” – Authenticity, transparency, consistency, positivity, diversity and shared mission. Here are some excerpts from the report:

Authenticity: “One of the most consistent themes – one that spanned geography, education level and political affiliation – was the idea that news organizations could build trust if they were more comfortable not just sharing what they know, but [also] explaining what they don’t.”

“I’ll trust a news organization when they use at least three sources to verify and when they admit they may not know the entire story yet.”

Transparency: “Participants in each workshop expressed frustration that journalistic stories seem to contain a blend of fact, analysis and even opinion. Time and again, they said they wanted a much clearer separation, as well as obvious and straightforward labeling to help them distinguish between fact and opinion.”

"I’ll trust a news organization when [journalists] open the studios for a tour and [we] see how you get the news.”

Consistency. “In an age when many people’s news feeds are a chaotic mix of information and entertainment, several participants in Boston said they appreciate news organizations that deploy a standardized, consistent article format. While they enjoy a diversity of content, they said it’s important to know what to expect from an organization when clicking on a particular article. “

Several participants expressed a desire for news organizations to clearly and consistently separate breaking news from other content.

Positivity. “Participants spoke of positivity not just in terms of news content, but in terms of style and presentation. Participants in Pico Rivera (California), Oxford (Mississippi) and Vienna (Illinois), described what they viewed as ‘shouting matches’ on cable news, lamenting what they perceived to be sensationalism and conflict prioritization. As one participant in Pico Rivera put it: ‘You’ve got the three on the right and these three on the left screaming at each other. You can’t even watch that anymore.’”

“Trump called them ‘fake media’ and when it comes down to my community, you all look the same to me. When there is something good going in my neighborhood, I don’t see it. Never. But if somebody shoots somebody, oh, first page.” 

Diversity: “Participants were clear in every community: they said they will not trust a news organization that doesn’t pay sincere and holistic attention to diversity. Across all four communities, participants said they did not see themselves or their lives reflected in the news they consumed,  and expressed an emphatic desire for that to change.”

“I’ll trust a news organization when they are intersectional. They are fair. They don’t promote stereotypes. They show and represent people who look like me. They prioritize mental health.” 

Shared mission. “News organizations have historically functioned as both mirror and mouthpiece of a community. Yet participants in each workshop said they felt that relationship had frayed. They said they did not feel the news organizations they encountered were working for them, or with them. They said they wanted to know that journalists were part of the community, were invested in its success and were genuinely interested in maintaining relationships with their neighbors.” 

"I’ll trust a news organization when I know it truly cares about the community it serves.”

“Building trust is critical for the future of journalism and democracy,” Milbourn says. “But you can’t effectively build trust until you understand what drives and disrupts it. That’s what this project is all about — developing a deeper understanding of those dynamics.”

Take a Break and Consume Some Hopeful News

If you are discouraged by the continuous torrent of bad news, check out stories written from the perspective of solutions journalism. They can be informative and inspirational, restoring some semblance of hope that serious social problems are being addressed and conquered.

If you are discouraged by the continuous torrent of bad news, check out stories written from the perspective of solutions journalism. They can be informative and inspirational, restoring some semblance of hope that serious social problems are being addressed and conquered.

What people believe is largely determined by the information they consume.

People are bombarded with a wide range of information on TV, the internet and grocery checkout aisles. They also receive information from friends, coworkers and the clergy.

The blizzard of information we experience seems oddly inconsistent with proclamations we now live in a post-truth era, increasingly influenced by fake news – and claims of fake news. In the past, we had differing points of view; now we face a fundamental disagreement on basic facts – from the size of a crowd to signs of perilous climate change.

This state of affairs has led many in the news media to reflect on their performance. Have media outlets surrendered objectivity to reinforcing partisan perspectives? Are ratings and clicks driving news agendas? Will shrunken news staffs focus on “breaking news” at the expense of more time-consuming trend stories and investigative reports?

Allison Frost, a senior producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, has asked an even more probing question – is there a role for journalists to point out solutions to serious and often chronic problems? In her piece posted on Medium and titled, “I practice solutions journalism,” Frost says the answer is yes.

I practice solutions journalism because: Our job as journalists is to cover what’s happening in the world, and we are largely only covering the things that are falling apart, broken, murderous, horrific,” Frost writes. “Those things are true, they are. But there are other things that are also true.”

Those ‘other things’ include covering “the people who are envisioning and contributing to solving problems.” “We’re socially and biologically programmed to attend to problems, but we need to attend to the responses to those problems in order to solve these problems – as community, as a state, a country, a planet,” according to Frost.

The news media, Frost believes, can help by telling the stories of problem-solvers. “If we don’t cover what’s possible, the alternatives and responses to the daily conflict, death and destruction, who will?”

Stories about problem-solvers and solutions can at once be informative and inspirational. They can be an antidote to alienation and frustration. They can be a respite from an unremitting series of stories about mass shootings, public corruption and persistent poverty. “I do not kid myself,” Frost admits, “that the problems will all go away and there will be no more problems or conflicts to cover.”

As pessimism feeds on itself, so does hope. Solutions journalism is one way the news media can break out of its cycle of bad news and publish stories that fuel some optimism.

Frost included in her post a link to the Solutions Story Tracker™, which features almost 3,400 solutions journalism stories reporting on responses to social problems. They were produced by more than 600 separate news outlets from 135 countries. The database continues to grow. If you despair from all that bad news, check out the Story Tracker and realize there are people trying to make things better.

Don’t Miss the Opportunity to Market to Hispanics in Spanish

Don’t let ugly immigration policy rhetoric distract you from marketing to the growing bloc of US Hispanics who speak Spanish, use the internet and reward brands that respect their culture.

Don’t let ugly immigration policy rhetoric distract you from marketing to the growing bloc of US Hispanics who speak Spanish, use the internet and reward brands that respect their culture.

Debates over immigration policy have raised awareness of Hispanic people in the United States, but not provided much of a back story about Spanish influences in America and Spanish as a language and cultural marker.

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MotionPoint, which specializes in multilingual website development, has produced an infographic with some startling data points such as there are 40.5 million Spanish-speaking people living in the United States, the second largest language group behind English speakers.

The Spanish language is freighted with cultural meaning for Hispanics, whether they are recent immigrants or have lived in the United States for more than a generation. It shouldn’t be surprising because Hispanic people have left a significant and proud footprint in the discovery and development of the New World and of America.

The larger message MotionPoint makes through its infographic – it is a serious mistake and missed opportunity to overlook Spanish and Spanish speakers. Here is some of the evidence:

  • The growth of Hispanic internet users has grown from 65 percent to 84 percent from 2009 to 2015.
  • The growth of Spanish-dominant internet users in that same period has risen from 36 percent to 74 percent.
  • Eighty-three percent of US Hispanics use a mobile device for product research while in-store, which explains why Amazon.com now features a Spanish language option on its e-commerce site.
  • The combined purchasing power of US Hispanics in 2016 totaled $1.4 trillion, roughly 10 percent of total US consumer purchasing power.
  • Ninety-five percent of US Hispanics believe future generations should speak Spanish as well as English.
  • More than 400 million people view Spanish as their native tongue, making it the world’s second-most spoken language behind Mandarin Chinese. (English is third, Hindi fourth and Arabic fifth)

Connecting with Spanish speakers is more complex than using Google Translate. MotionPoint points to the need for cultural fluency, which requires a certain amount of respect for Hispanic cultural and contributions. Marketers might do well to travel to Spain where influences on America are just about everywhere, from architecture to food to religious faith or to Latin American countries to see their sense of family and their willingness to undertake hard labor to improve their economic lot in life.

The debate over immigration can be raw, mixing together fears of terrorism, gangs and drugs with the aspirations of people trying to escape poverty and oppression. One way to cut through rhetoric is, with MotionPoint’s assistance, to see the broader economic opportunity, to see Hispanics as a sizable, growing bloc of consumers with families to feed and clothe and smart phones to research products and buy them online.

You will be glad you did because Hispanics are becoming a larger segment of the US population, predicted to rise to 30 percent or more by 2060.

[Information for this blog also came from an article written by Robby Brumberg for ragan.com.]