Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Chapter 7 – Social Psychology and the Quest for the Public Mind

We must become a cult, write our philosophy of life in flaming headlines, and sell our cause in the market…we must strive to cajole the majority into imagining itself on our side. Only with the majority with us, whoever we are, we can live. It is numbers, not values that count – quantity not quality.” (Le Bon 144)

This is a strong, dramatic quote said by Le Bon in Ewen’s book. Le Bon is bold by using the word cult… but I am sort of obsessed with the idea of brand loyalty. I have decided to find the brands I believe are most cult-ish in my mind…I am avoiding Apple because I am bored of them (#SorryNotSorry).

After sifting through this list, I want to apply what Le Bon has said to some advertising strategies that are present today.

  • One major theme these days is global responsibility. For some, it really just grabs their hearts and tugs each time they are reminded us this. This is why I think people love IKEA. I know that IKEA is very cheap, but the time it takestumblr_kw2q3zf5qd1qac6sbo1_400

to assemble their furniture cancels this out. My brother who is very environmentally friendly drives 2 hours to go furniture shopping at IKEA…and then drives the furniture to me in Rochester. This is a cult.

  • Another major theme in brand loyalty is humor. Humor roots back to operant conditioning. Taking an unconditioned stimuli (Dos Equis beer) and pairing it with a neutral stimuli (humor) to create an association through repeated pairings. You laugh when you see humor = good feelings. You see a few funny Dos Equis advertisements with “The Most Interesting Man in the World” = good feelings. Eventually, you get good feelings whenever you hear Dos Equis.
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  • Lastly, lifestyle marketing is big these days. Catering to their specific target markets are cult brands like Lulu Lemon. Lulu Lemon offers this lifestyle marketing through its hired store representatives that look, dress, and talk about the ideal lifestyle Lulu wants to target. These women are real life advertisements walking around the store, and could not be more interactive if they tried. Since Lulu is associated with specific activities such as yoga and running, they can specifically characterize the women shopping in their stores & what they are looking for. Lulu Lemon has narrowed down their targets to women who wish to feel superior, which becomes obvious by the exclusivity of the brand: it is not sold in an overabundant amount of places, and is expensive. yoga-18

Chapter 6 – House of Truth

In April 1917, one week after President Woodrow Wilson announced war on Germany, he established a campaign from the CPI, the United States Committee on Public Information. The CPI would be a propaganda effort for the U.S. at the time of war. They were to reflect popular public opinion and deliver it throughout the country.

Prior to April, the government planned to collect the predicted positive public opinion and plant it everywhere through propaganda. Instead, they began to discover hidden pockets of distrust the public had for Wilson, worries people had in the immigrant loyalty, and the possibility of secrecy. Wilson then found a past student and Progressive, Arthur Bullard. Bullard advised Wilson to create a publicity bureau, that would be in charge of reminding the public how important it was to support the men back at home. He then suggested that the government hire trained writers to feed Army stories at home to the public. Bullard claimed,

In order to make a democracy to fight wholeheartedly, it is necessary to make them understand the situation.”

President Wilson then asked Walter Lippman to create a timeline of events and suggestions for the publicity bureau and propaganda schedule. He then hired George Creel as Civilian Director for the bureau, a Progressive publicist who truly knew liberal public opinion and would be able to predict and shut down any opposition to the war. Hun_or_Home^_Buy_More_Liberty_Bonds.%22_-_NARA_-_512664The CPI then went on to create their own newspaper, the Official Bulletin, to be sent out to political officials, other newspapers, and large corporations who would then further distribute the information. The CPI took on a Pictorial Publicity division to further artistic efforts for the U.S. propaganda.

Persuasion was at an all-time high when along with the CPI’s own propaganda, D.W. Griffith released his film, Birth of a Nation. This film took on a whole new level of propaganda aside from the facts and news, it was entertainment. This propelled the CPI’s new film division towards propaganda efforts.

The CPI was not only a huge publicity agent, but a new way of thinking – utilizing symbols in any way possible. This was a new way to influence public opinion. Opportunities for publicists were growing.

Although the CPI dismantled at the end of the war, I see the creation of the CPI as a successful crisis management strategy by President Wilson and his advisees. Through the help of Bullard, Lippman, and Creel, President Wilson was able to forsee possible crises, plan, avoid, and influence. This was very important at a time when lives are at stake, with families at home waiting for their loved ones. Although the CPI used persuasion to further avoid crisis – or opposition of the war – in the end it was for the best I believe. Gaining support at home is important to give the country hope in their fight. Bullard’s idea to create the bureau was historical, and Lippman’s strategy was clearly effective. The rise in media forms for propaganda during the war was also vital to its success- the cartoons, the movies, etc.

Crisis management today, although based around corporations and not the government, is still very important. With social media allowing public opinion to spread like wildfire, companies must be able to act faster than ever. Strategy is vital, and some companies still do not have what it takes ….

After Carnival Cruise’s ship gets lost at sea, can they fix their image in the public eye? Or did they make too many PR mistakes? images

A messy finish: Lance Armstrong’s PR lessons.

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Chapter 5 – “Educate the Public!”

Unlike most big businesses in the early 1900’s, AT&T was concerned with their image in the public eye. eyeAT&T was a privately owned, soon-to-be nationwide monopoly of the telephone as 1900 came around. During a time of predominantly anti-corporation and anti-monopoly, AT&T needed to gain trust in the public before the government could put any stops or regulations on the formation of the monopoly.

President of AT&T at the time, Frederick P. Fish believed that working with the Publicity Bureau would help the business’s corporate plan. James T Ellsworth took on the AT&T account, an experienced journalist. Ellsworth wrote what appeared to be “impartial” feature stories on AT&T to build trust amongst the public eye. He then networked and created good relationships amongst editors and publishers in the country in areas that pose possible threats for AT&T’s expansion. These areas often had smaller, independent telephone companies that may not be prone to partnering with AT&T. When Ellsworth spotted problems in various cities, he targeted the cities with advertisements, in order to help both the company, and build relationships with the newspapers there. This was a quick success.

Unknown  Unfortunately, the success did not stabilize. It was time for one of the first companies in the U.S. to engulf their own public relations officer, not to contract their work externally. AT&T created an Information Department, with Ellsworth as its head. Theodore Newton Vail, the newest president of AT&T implemented this change, as he was a unique executive. He saw public relations as a vital part of the success in a business. Vail was also concerned with turning short-term profit into long-term success. Most importantly, Vail was insistent on education the public of the correct information on the company. He believed that if the public trusted AT&T, they would feel more sympathetic for this business, which would help them if the government tried to impede regulations on monopolies.

To create trust amongst the middle-class consumers, Vail would align AT&T’s interests with the publics by doing three things:             1. Establishing long-distance rates that were no longer just for corporate use, but for individual household use             2. In a male-dominated society, they would incorporate women as best they could by having only women be their telephone operators             3. Promising good work conditions, and wages comparable to similar industries, as well as benefits for the sick and disabled.

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”-Mahatma Gandhi

AT&T’s major obstacle would be to present itself as a sympathetic corporate personality. This would then hopefully allow for AT&T to propose to the public the idea of a nationwide monopoly – and influence acceptance upon the matter. As the Information Department grew, not only did they do publicity for the company, they provided extremely important “intelligence summaries” every week. These were presented to executives to summarize trends in public opinion and profiles of potential opposers of the future monopoly proposal. AT&T was performing crisis management, and PR strategy. AT&T began holding public debates on various political topics. AT&T was making history with their scripted local forums.

AT&T…One System, One Policy, Universal Service” –Vail

As Ewen compares Vail and Tarde’s similar beliefs, he reminds us that this was a different public now, “…individual consumers bound together not by the tendrils of kinship and community, but by modern instruments of communication.”

As AT&T avoided catchy slogans, and worked more towards corporate social responsibility and image, some companies do the same today. A great example is General Mills. This major food company concentrates on three things: health, communities, and the environment. General Mills has been well renown for their global social responsibility and philanthropic efforts in developing nations. Another one of their successes is that each year over the past decade, they have reduced their waste significantly. General Mills also thrives in their treatment of workers and their families. For their full social responsibility pamphlet click here.http://www.generalmills.com/~/media/Files/CSR/csr_2012.ashx

As the climate and economy have been unstable, it has become increasingly important that companies take responsibility in how they treat their communities and environment. This is a great time for companies to put a halt to their influential advertising, and to educate the public on what they do BEHIND the scenes.

Forbe’s list of 100 Best Corporate Citizens. 

Chapter 4 – Controlling Chaos

The power of big business in the early 1900’s brought upon a new job opportunity in America: the corporate public relations agent. Ivy Lee, a newspaper reporter, became one of the first ever – and quite important – corporate public relations agents. Both the factor of private wealth and the danger of the crowd motivated him towards the field. 220px-ivy_leeLee understood that how the public was in charge of what businesses succeeded. He decided he would become a liaison for corporations and the public. He would first mend the relationship between the two, and then use this to influence the latter of the groups in the future.

Lee’s work with major New York newspapers helped him understand the process progressivism took, and how he could do the same with a positive outlook on big businesses. Lee opened up his first practice with a partner, George Parker. Together they promised,

“Accuracy, Authenticity, and Interest.”

The two promised their work was open and not secret. However, this did not help their case just yet. Public Relations was still not seen as a part of the management structure, therefore they were only called upon in times of immediate corporate crisis. One of Lee’s most well-known projects was a great example of that: the Rockefeller family. In 1914, Lee began work for the infamous family. Previous stories on John Rockefeller and Standard Oil had poisoned the name, but the family did not take matters of public image seriously until the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. As rumors, and eventually evidence began to surface of the fourteen-person massacre in a Colorado mine, Rockefeller Jr. hired Lee to “secure publicity for their views.”

Lee instrumented a series of circulars called, “Facts Concerning the Strike in Colorado for Industrial Freedom.” These circulars were sent out every few days over the course of four months. They exaggerated facts on union organizer salaries to create awareness and sway views amongst the middle-class. They were to project blame onto union organizers and away from the actual culprits. Lee thrived on the idea that fact was the easiest way to sway opinion, even if it was shaped up. Lee, in this sense, was both a genius and a hypocrite.

Unfortunately for Lee, because the massacre involved a trial, he had to testify in court. It was discovered that the facts were not all true, or at least from an accurate source. Lee believed that if facts could be assembled and then delivered to the public in a suitable manner, they become the truth.

“…the truth is something that can be merchandised to the public.” (Ewen 80)

ethics

Today, this is without a doubt an unethical in the public relations practice. 10 years ago, a reporter known for his humor at The New Republic,  Stephen Glass, was caught for fabricating a plethora of his stories over a three-year period at the paper. Not only did Glass fabricate quotations or fake sources, but he even created entire events that never actually occurred for his news stories. As his stories went out, it began as private skepticism, and angered sources, but as feelings rose, Glass’s credibility was questioned by his previously loyal colleagues. It was eventually proven that he had not been truthful in many of his stories. Glass’s attempt to be entertaining was unethical in this day and age. Not only was Glass’s career over, and reputation ruined, but his actions shed a negative light on all of journalism. Although one individual did this, the public questions their trust in the media after an event like this. Others that committed similar journalism crimes can be found here. 

A list of the Society of Professional Journalism’s Ethics.

Helpful to anyone interested in PR ^

Stephen Glass Interview 

“Shattered Glass” the movie on Stephen Glass 

Chapter 3 – Truth Happens: An Age of Publicity Begins

As the 19th century drew to a close after the Civil War, America was in chaos. People lacked self-identity, or American-identity for that matter. After the war, America was in the midst of monopoly – and the middle class was dying from this. These Americans became obsessed with finding, or re-finding, their social and economic stability as things turned chaotic…

“This was a search for order.”

Amidst the rising debt of the majority and the replacement of machinery for people among private enterprises, life was dwindling. To add to the American chaos were the growing immigrants. Immigrants were often willing to provide much cheaper labor than the previously middle-class Americans. Not only did this increase economic problems for Americans, this caused national confusion: “What is an American? What is the American way of life? What is Americas’ future?”

In response to the above, beginning in the 1870’s, a group called the “Progressive Publicists” arose. This was a group of powerful journalists – including Edward Bellamy, Henry George, and Henry Demarest Lloyd – suggested the chance of order in the future. The angry and confused Americans looked up to these publicists, following their stories. Ewen explains how this group – along with the public – at the time considered publicity as a picking apart society and its “toxic” contradictions and enlightening them, as well as bringing them to order.

By the first decade of the twentieth century, these writers became widespread in mass-circulation magazines…helping concerned Americans everywhere. Their form of journalism was dubbed, “muckraking” by Teddy Rosevelt. Government officials and big monopolies did not like these journalists and their opposition to their actions. They knew these men were influencers of public opinion. muckrakerProgressive journalism, or muckraking, was used to shed light on the secrets of the institutional corruption, the greed, and the lack of concern for the majority of American’s future. These journalists displayed the true power of mass media.

            Today, there are many public influencers that have gone against the Government’s beliefs. Recently, Occupy Wall Street occurred in NYC. This was a major sit-in in which people protested many of the actions taken by the government within the financial realm. wall streetAs our government has bailed out many major financial institutions, and controversially treated major executives from these companies in favorable ways, some of the public has not agreed to this. Major opponents organized Occupy Wall Street to make a statement against these large forces, what they called the “1%”. They blamed the 1% for America’s economic situation, individuals’ poverty, and unemployment. This event shaped opinions in the public, swayed views, and gained followers. This event also helped some companies gain trust as the event bashed competitors with their influence. This was a very controversial event, in terms of varying beliefs, public interest, and even security reasons. Although controversial, like the muckrakers, it created stir, and and made news everywhere. The event was spread through many forms of media, one of the most effective: word of mouth. Although the sit-in has ended, the leaders of the group continue with follow-up via the internet and other forms of media. This is key in making a statement as I have mentioned before. Public relations is no one-stop-shop, it is constant communication. communicate

Chapter 2 – Dealing in Reality: Protocols of Persuasion

To further his research and understanding of the rise of public relations in the United States, Ewen decided to teach a course on the topic in 1993. Ewen assumed the class he would teach at Hunter College in New York City would survey the ideas, events, and people who had contributed to the age of public relations. He would eventually find out that the course would become much more than that.

As the course title was announced, “The CULT(ure) of Publicity”, Ewen immediately created stir. In mid-September, Ewen received news that Lynn Palazzi, a reporter for New York Newsday wanted to include his course in a story on the city’s most interesting college courses. Ewen decided this was a huge opportunity for his class. Following what Edward Bernays taught him: “…mounting events that are calculated to stand out as “newsworthy,” yet, at the same time, which do not appear to be staged” Ewen formulated a plan with his class. After much discussion and planning, the class decided upon the following:

  1. Students would each bring in articles (mainly from Newsday), and explain how each news article was shaped by the handiwork of a PR professional. This would supply subject matter to the reporter Palazzi.
  2. Students would overwhelmingly raise their hands to indicate they wanted to participate in the discussion. If they raised their right hand – they actually had something to say. If they raised their left hand – they were just creating a sense of enthusiasm.
  3. All students would come to class wearing black – in order to create mystery and “bohemian intellectual tone” to the class.
  • All the students vowed to act unaware of the stranger – Palazzi – in the room as well.
  • Palazzi was told to act as a student before entering the class, so that the class would not notice the “special guest.”

The class prevailed, and completely shocked reporter Palazzi – though she held it in until the end of class. Weeks later, a charming article was written about the class. The package the class had presented to Palazzi indicated that they had mastered, the “Way of Spin.” These public relations practices the class took upon are prevalent in present-day American society. For example, the students raising their hands with silent signals is comparable to the “applause” sign used today on live television. The visual effects of every student wearing black is similar to the way in which politicians present amongst dramatic backdrops. Ewen explains how the class learned, planned, and excelled in terms of “impression management.”

“Public relations is the science of creating circumstances.” –Edward Bernays

With the amount of resources we have today, creating impressions in the public eye should be even easier. Making a statement, no matter how much importance the original event has, is the job of a public relations agent. Ewen’s class project reminds me of a project my public relations class recently took part in…

On Thursday, February 7th 2013, us Rochesterians became aware of an incoming snowstorm named, “Nemo.” (Now, “Nemo” itself was a way in which a person – or in this case the Weather Channel – created stir within a rather bland event. By deciding to name the snowstorm, the public was given the ability to universally discuss the snowstorm with ease, a possible Twitter hashtag (#Nemo), the reference to the Disney fish, and the mounting new stories about actually naming a snowstorm.) Image

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Back to my class – along with the help of our professor, we decided to host our class via the internet the next day, Friday, February 8th for three reasons:

  1. To overcome Nemo – we would be snowed in.
  2. To create a pseudo event – turn our regular class material into an extraordinary historical event.
  3. To utilize an up & coming social platform – SpreeCast – a video networking site that allows the public to meet celebrities, watch tutorials, and speak live with others.

Image Click on logo to see COMM270’s SpreeClass & witness history!

The planning and creation of the “SpreeClass” does not stop there. With any event or news story, there must be follow-up. We then gathered our thoughts and made sure to share clips via Twitter, and write press releases on the historical event. Impression management is more than creating a fancy headline. A PR agent must plan, host, network, follow-up, socialize, fix crisis, and create importance in whatever they do.

My Spreeclass Press Release

Our “SpreeClass” has now become a bi-weekly event, in which each group takes their turn at presenting a chapter of Ewen’s book via SpreeCast from a different location. The class must discuss via video, comment live, and suggest links throughout our classes. We have taken communication to a whole new level! Image

Cover of "PR! - A Social History of Spin&...

Cover of PR! – A Social History of Spin

Chapter 1 – Visiting Edward Bernays

         Stuart Ewen begins his book, PR! A Social History of Spin, with the interview of one of the most important agents of public relations in history, Edward Bernays. Known to many as the Father of Public Relations, Bernays was an intriguing character. Bernays described to Ewen his take on the public relations, and how the term is often abused, overused, and misused. Bernays explains to Ewen how a young woman handing out flyers is not public relations, the term is much more narrow than that. There are only an “intelligent few” who hold responsibility for considering and influencing history and how it should be perceived in the public eye; these people are in public relations – the influencers. The rest of the world is to listen to the intelligent few, and respond to history without any deep thought behind it – they are the influenced. The influenced believe what they see and hear according to the second-hand accounts they receive from the PR industry.

Bernays described public relations as “a response to transhistoric concern: the requirement, for those people in power, to shape the attitudes of the general population.”

Not only does Bernays describe the way in which a PR agent should influence the public within the realm of a natural historic event. Bernays explains that more importantly, a PR agent should create –or advise one’s client to create – a historic event. In other words, a PR agent must be able to create a man-made historic event to grab the eye of the public, ”interrupting the continuity of life in some way to bring about a response.”

Public Relations Expert Edward Bernays

“An innovator and artiste of modern public relations” – Ewen on Bernays

One of Bernays’ most well known PR feats was his ability to influence women to smoke, and the public to allow for it – for some time at least. In the 1920’s, women had finally gained the power to vote, run for governor (some states), and more were attending universities. At the same time, cigarette use was on the rise. George Washington Hill, President of the American Tobacco Company, saw an opportunity. Hill hired Bernays to entice woman to smoke in public, broadening the cigarette market.

Torches of Freedom

Torches of Freedom

At the time, almost all woman smokers only did so in privacy. Bernays utilized the suffrage movement in his advertisements to influence women. He labeled cigarettes as “Torches of Freedom”. He turned a simple product into a symbol in the eye of the public. The campaign became a national news story in a plethora of papers. Bernays turned the cigarette into a representation of gender equality, stirring response everywhere.