Monday, July 22, 2013

Reflections and Goodbye for Now

Thank you all for reading my weekly blogs. I have learned a lot about leadership and media in strategic communications these past nine weeks. However, I will not be writing in my blog for the next few weeks. I am hoping to continue with my blog, but I probably will not be posting on a weekly basis. I would like to take a look back at some of the things that my readers and I have learned from my blogs. I started out talking about the diffusion of innovation theory and why it is so important. I learned that the diffusion of innovation theory is a technique used to get people to buy specific products. I learned what early adopters and laggards are and why they are important. Also, the Word-of Mouth Marketing is still the best way to get people to buy products. Social media sites have made WOMM spread more rapidly than ever before. Social media is a great way to advertise products and push sales. I have learned the best ways to become an effective leader in the workplace. Communication can make or break a company’s reputation. Having an open-door policy allows organizations to be efficient and to be better prepared for emergency situations. I learned that vision is the key element of leadership. Without a vision and without the ability to communicate to other about your vision, change cannot take place within the organization. A leader is someone who can look beyond today and tomorrow and see a company in the future. A manager is someone who runs the organization and makes sure that the job gets done. There is a huge difference between leaders and managers. I have also learned about product placement and the best ways to handle a crisis situation. Last but not least, I learned ways to evaluate communication campaigns. I hope that you, the readers, have learned a lot from my blogs. Even though I will not be posting my blogs on a weekly basis, I hope you will still visit my site from time to time to reflect on what we have learned. Thank you. =)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ways to Evaluate Communication Campaigns

In this week’s blog, I will be discussing how to evaluate and measure strategic communication campaigns. The study of strategic communications is still a relatively new field; therefore, there is no steadfast means of evaluating a communication strategy. There are a few techniques that companies have implemented to try and measure and evaluate strategic communication campaigns. The formative method of evaluation examines the strengths and weaknesses of the material within a campaign before or during the campaign’s implementation. This method asks such questions as: who is the best messenger and what message works best with the target audience. The process method measures effort and output of a campaign. Implementation of the campaign and how well the involved activities worked are examined. How much material was put out there and how far reaching was these campaigns are some of the questions asked by this method. The outcome method measures the effects of a campaign. It examines changes in the target group resulting from the campaign. Also, it measures change to policy. It asks if any change to social norms, beliefs, or attitudes has occurred as a direct result of the campaign. The impact method measures change at the community level. It asks if any wide spread fundamental changes to society have occurred as a result of the campaign. This approach seeks to find long term change to broad behaviors within society such as violence or cancer causing habits. There are other methods of evaluating communication such as the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) method, which I will explain in more detail soon. Strategic communication leaders have a hard time measuring and evaluating a company’s communication strategy. There is a lack of sustainable methods which tends to be part of the problem with measure strategic communication outcomes. (Zarfass, 2005) If companies do not have the sufficient resources and tools, then how will they be able to effectively measure their progress in strategic communication campaigns? Ansgar Zarfass states, “ultimate goals, objectivities, and accomplishments of the company or organization as a whole have been achieved cannot be proved. (2005)” If we cannot prove the achievement of a company, then it would be quite difficult for strategic communication professionals to measure strategic communication campaigns. However, as I have mentioned before, there are some methods that have been successful. There is still no standardized universal method as of today.

Some corporations have used the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) to measure and evaluate business communication strategies. However, the BSC can be restricted by improper application and its format is not presented in great enough detail for some corporate communications. The BSC can be a very versatile tool for evaluating communications; however, if not efficiently applied its versatility can be its draw back. Some corporations that have been using the BSC have narrowed the scope of its application to only one level of their company. Such is the case with the Scorecard used by Fleisher/Mahaffy (1997) which is focused mainly on the company’s operational assets. In contrast, the consultant group of Hering/Schuppener/Sommerhalder uses their scorecard to pay special attention to corporate strategy while failing to direct any concern toward their operational level. (Zarfass, 2005) Companies that have implemented the BSC have seen positive results, such as decrease in cost and an overall improvement in the communication within their company. In order for this tool to work to its full potential, the company must incorporate it into all aspects of the organization. The companies have to look at several different facets such as finance, customer satisfaction, internal business and corporate growth. Specific goals need to be set and coincide with both the business and communication departments. Technicians need to make sure they respond to customer calls in a timely manner. This increases the chances of customer satisfaction and repeat sales. All employees need to concentrate on increase sales and productivity. If an employee is in engaging non-productive task such as texting or game play; this task should be dismissed. It is essential that corporate and communication departments have the same communication goals. This helps with the measuring and evaluation process of strategic communications. Zarfass states this about using scorecards, “setting methods like this into practice strengthens the role of the communications function because it displays how communication contributes to the company’s profitability and helps to optimize relevant processes. (2005)” However, there are three potential problems with the use of scorecards.

·         The increasing use of scorecards can lead to the misuse of them.

·         The improper design of a scorecard causes it not to link with the overall business strategy.

·         The tendency to stick with perceived tried and true methods that are familiar rather than newer more creative methods that could provide a competitive edge.

The use of the Balanced Scorecard is a promising new approach to evaluating strategic communications. Like any new process it has its potential issues and room for improvement, but overall it gives companies a concise means of measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of their communication structure.     

                                                An Adapted Approach

The reason for communication campaigns is to change behavior and attitudes. Also, communication campaigns are used to push the public or decision makers into action. Most of the time the Adapted Approach is used to change or create new laws and policies. Activities, output, outcomes, and impact are all important in evaluating communication campaigns. An example of this is the following chart:

Media Coverage
Behavior Change
Policy Changes

The most effective way to measure communication campaigns is to measure outcomes. One of the questions that need to be asked is the following: Did communication activities result in any opinion attitude, and/or behavior change amongst targeted audience? If the outcome is yes there is a change in behavior and attitude, then one can assume that the communication campaign worked well. Some of the ways to evaluate and measure campaigns are: 1.Web Analytics; 2. Short Poll; 3. Focus Groups; 4. In-Depth Interviews; 5. Panel Studies; 6. Surveys; 7. Control Group Studies; 8. Tracking Mechanisms; and 9. Chronological Monitoring. (Owl RE, 2008)
In conclusion, even though there is not a standardized way of evaluating strategic communication campaigns, the techniques mentioned above have been proven to be useful.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Crisis Communication: When Disaster Strikes

What would you do if someone posted a YouTube video making fun of your organization? Would you know what to do? Does your organization have a strategy plan in place to repair your organization’s reputation when a crisis situation arises? These are some of the questions that public relations (PR) and communication personnel should ask themselves when dealing with a crisis situation. An organization’s crisis management team needs to have a before, during, and after plan in order to repair damages done by a crisis situation. Each team member needs to know what their specific roles are, and they need to train and rehearse their roles with their team frequently. A specific person needs to be assigned as the spokesperson for the organization. This person needs to already have an idea of what he or she will say when a crisis hits the organization. The organization should already develop a bunch of hypothetical scenarios that the organization could face. Natural disasters such as tornados, bad publicity, internal and external problems should be among the top potential threats that could happen to any organization.
It would be beneficial for the crisis management team to write up a list of potential questions and answers for the spokesperson to rehearse to prepare him or her for interviews from the public and media. Once a crisis does occur, the plan should be implemented immediately, without hesitation. The team should know the exact cause of the crisis situation. Employees and internal publics should be notified first. The organization must address the crisis straight on and demonstrate concern for the victims, if any, and the public. Also, the organization and the PR team must explain what the organization plans to do to solve the problem. Organizations should already have a strong, stable relationship with the community and the media. If the company is at fault, the company should own up to their mistake and apologize. The company will look more trustworthy, and the public will be able to forgive the company. If the company does not apologize, the company will look less trustworthy to the public. The facts need to be presented to the public from the very beginning to the end, because rumors can cause more damage to be done to the company. Someone from the PR team should be on call 24 hours a day during the most extreme part of the crisis. Information that is given to the public and shareholders should be accurate, consistent, and done so in a timely manner. The crisis management team should be able to handle the crisis leaving the organization to function as normal as possible. Time for updating information should be done so constantly and consistently. The organization and crisis management team should learn from the crisis situation. The PR team should review the cause of the crisis, how they responded to the situation, and the results of the situation. The review process will allow the crisis management team to know what to do the next time a crisis occurs. They will need to update their crisis communication plan, because they will know from the previous crisis on what needs improvement. Seeger suggests the followings ten best crisis communication practices: process approaches and policy development; pre-event planning; partnership with the public; listen to the public’s concern and understand the audience; be open and honest; collaborate and coordinate with credible sources; meet the needs of the media and remain accessible; communicate with compassion, concern, and empathy; accept uncertainty; and use messages that are of self-worth. (2006) If a company’s crisis management team follows Seeger’s ten principles, the organization should be able to rebuild their reputation. However, there are a few strategies that organizations should never do when dealing with a crisis. Some of the strategies that companies should avoid are the following: never deny, lie, or hide the situation; never ignore the crisis; do not let the lawyers dictate the decisions, because that could do more harm than good; and never try to avoid the public or media’s questions. If the spokesperson for your organization does not know an answer to a question, he or she should say that he or she cannot address that particular question at this time. Communication and PR departments should never volunteer information freely or off the record. There is no such thing as being “off the record” during a crisis situation. The spokesperson should never try to “wing” their speech or answers. There needs to be a plan of what the speaker will say concerning the crisis. The spokesperson should stay calm at all times when speaking to the public and media about the crisis. There have been some good and bad examples of crisis communication from organizations. Some of the more successful organizational tragedies include the following: Tylenol’s tampering bottles, Texaco’s racial discrimination case, and Dominos’ YouTube crisis. Some of the bad PR examples include the following company disasters: BP’s oil spill, Exxon’s Valdez crisis, and KFC’s salmonella case. Tylenol, Dominos, and Texaco all apologized at the incidents and communicated to the public about how they would fix the problems. These companies were able to repair and rebuild their reputation by utilizing some of Seeger’s principles. They were all open and honest and showed concern for the public and victims. They communicated effectively and stayed in contact with the media with what was going on with their crisis situation. They told the media what they planned to do to fix the problem, and they implemented their plan. However, BP, Exxon, and KFC all did not take responsibility for their crisis situations. BP and Exxon did not take their crisis situation seriously. They both thought the damages from the oil spills would be minimal. Both companies showed a lack of concern for the victims, the aquatic animals, and the environment in general. Also, they tried to shift blame to others instead of admitting that they were at fault. KFC continues to deny that they had anything to do with their crisis situation. KFC flat out refuses to accept any responsibility for the Australian girl who suffered brain damage from eating a chicken Twister wrap that was contaminated with Salmonella. Companies and organizations need to plan, rehearse, and prepare for the worst case scenarios in order to protect and rebuild their reputation when a crisis strikes them. Companies should not be so prideful to think it cannot happen to them, because it can and eventually will happen.
Best practices in crisis communication

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Did You See the Ad?

What is product placement? Can you recall sitting on your nice, comfy couch watching a movie and all of a sudden your favorite actor or actress drinks a Coke or Pepsi product? Well, that is product placement. It is when advertisers promote products in movies, television shows, books, or video games without the viewer’s acknowledging that the product placement is there. Cowly & Barron states that product placement is the following, “unobtrusively inserting branded products in entertainment programs such that the viewers are unlikely to be aware of the persuasive intent. (2008)” Personally, I never thought much of the products in movies or TV shows until now when I learned about it in my Master’s program. I wonder if this will have an impact on me and my shopping habits from now on. Cowly and Barron suggests the following about people who are aware of product placements, “When people with high levels of program liking see a prominent product placement, they may interpret the placement to be an attempt to influence the viewer, which could interrupt the viewing experience. (2008)” Cowly and Barron have a good point. I think now that I know what product placement is, I know the power of influence that it can have on me. I can stop that influence by knowing why the product ads are in my favorite TV shows or movies. Let’s discuss a few examples of product placement. Do you remember the 1992 movie Wayne’s World? In the movie, Wayne actually pokes fun of product placement when he is asked to promote sponsors like Pizza Hut, Pepsi, and Doritos.  Wayne states, “I will not bow to any sponsors.” However, Mike Myers, the actor playing Wayne, is bowing down to sponsors. Even Garth was wearing Reebok clothes. The movie may have been poking fun of product placement; however, the ads were still viewed by many people. Most likely, the sales for Pizza Hut, Pepsi, Doritos, and Reebok went up after people watched the movie. What about a more recent example like an Apple MacBook in the Twilight films? Do you remember the scene where Bella is sitting, typing away on her laptop? How many teens and young adults probably bought an Apple product just because they saw Bella Swan using an Apple product? After that movie, the sales most likely went up for Apple too. How does product placement work? Cowly and Barron states the following happens during the first and second exposure of product placement, “the first exposure to a product placement allows the consumer to have a more positive brand attitude without realizing they saw the product placement. The second exposure to a product placement allows for consumers to have a memory of the brand. (2008)” Say you went to the theater and watched the movie Twilight twice; now you have a memory of an Apple laptop in your head. What if you are shopping for a new laptop a few months later? Chances are you are going to buy an Apple product because now you have that memory of Bella using her Apple MacBook. Cowly and Barron suggests that when a movie plot and the product placement are connected together in the movie, the consumer is likely to connect those feelings of the plot with the product ad. (2008) For example, in the 1996 movie Happy Gilmore, Adam Sandler’s character has to endorse Subway commercials in order to get his grandmother’s house back. Viewers then make a connection between Subway and the warm, cozy feeling that they get when they watch Happy Gilmore get the money to buy his grandma’s house back. Therefore, those viewers are going to think a Subway sandwich will make them warm and cozy thus increasing sales revenue. Prominence plays a big part in the persuasion process of product placements. Size of the product or logo, duration on the screen, strength of a placement, the centrality of the product or logo to the plot, and the number of times that the product is mentioned all have an impact on the viewers. (Cowley & Barron, 2008) The more a product is on the screen and the more direct the product is on the screen; the more likely it is that the product placement will persuade the viewers to buy the product. However, this can backfire because, “if the placement product is seen as more than a prop used to create a setting than this could be upsetting to higher in program liking viewers. (Cowley & Barron, 2008)” So really it just depends on if the viewer’s know exactly what product placement is while they are watching their favorite movies or TV shows. The more knowledge a viewer has about product placements and how they are used to persuade viewers, the less likely the product placement will work on the viewer. However, there is still a place for product placement in the marketing world, because it has an advantage over traditional commercial ads due to its hidden motive of persuasion. (Cowley & Barron, 2008) When a commercial for Coca Cola comes on, you know right away they are trying to get you to buy and drink their products; however, if you see a random Coca Cola can sitting on a table during a movie, you probably will not give it a second thought. However, the next time you stop at a gas station for a drink, you are more likely to buy a Coca Cola. Another effective product placement is the following example: when a viewer associates a brand and an experience with a character’s very essence. For example, when viewers see James Bond drinking a Smirnoff martini, they assume the drink will make them dashing and daring like James Bond. (Huffington Post) However, we all know that a drink does not really make a person act bold. Having said that, there are people out there that will try to imitate certain celebrities on TV to the point that they will wear the same brands, buy the same drinks, etc. to feel like they are a part of the celebrity’s life. If you would like to read more about product placement, please check out these references:

Cowley, E., & Barron, C. (2008). WHEN PRODUCT PLACEMENT GOES WRONG. Journal Of Advertising, 37(1), 89-
98. doi:10.2753/JOA0091-3367370107