Public Opinion and Reputation Management
Public Opinion and Reputation Management Kevin Jackson University of Phoenix MKT/578 November 1 1, 2012 Sandra Payne Every company, organization, or governmental entity must be able to communicate to its publics in a clear and consistent honest manner. This includes press releases to the public. According to Seitel (2011) (p. 47), communication has four goals, which are; to inform, to persuade, to motive, and to build understanding. Whatever, the ethical and legal nature of the problem a company, organization, or governmental agency is facing, what is communicated to the public can determine how public pinion is influence.
Public opinion is defined as a representation ofa consensus. This consensus derives from many individuals opinion, beginning with people’s attitudes toward the issue in question (Seitel, 2012). Depending on what the ethical and legal nature of the problem a company, such as Paula Deen Enterprise is facing can influence public opinion positive or negative. It is the public relations professional Job to sway public opinion in a favorable light and properly manage the client’s reputation.
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Paula Deen Enterprise Ethical Issue
Paula Deen’s ethical issues started after a lawsuit from a former employee surfaced in the media. The lawsuit alleged that the Paula Deen used racist language referring to Afro-American’s as “niggers,” and her brother engaged in sexual harassment at one of her restaurants Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House. In a deposition, Paula Deen admitted using the racist word in the past, however; a deposition is public record (“Paula Deen: “i Beg For Your Forgiveness””, 2013). When the media obtain this deposition, it forced Paula Deen to issue a press release.
Paula Deen osted two videotapes apologizing and begging forgiveness from fans and critics for using racial language in the past. The first message Paula Deen communicated to her publics was (“TV Chef Paula Deen Apologizes For ‘Hurtful Language'”, 2013), “Please forgive me for the mistakes that I have made for using racist language. I want to apologize to everybody for the wrong that I have done. I want to learn and grow from this. Inappropriate and hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable.
Your color of your skin, your religion, sexual preference does not matter to me. ” The econd message Paula Deen communicated to her publics was an interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show, where she communicated to her publics (Longeretta, 2013), “The main reason I am here today is, it’s important to me that I tell you and everyone out there, what I believe, and how I live my life. I believe that every creature on this earth, every one of God’s creatures was created equal,” “l believe that everyone should be treated equal.
That’s the way I was raised, and that’s the way I live my life. ” “l am here today because I want people to know who I am, and people hat have worked beside me, have walked beside me, know what kind of person I am. ” . “l have apologized. ” “l would never, never with any intention have hurt anyone on purpose, and I never would. ” The first message Paula Deen tried to influence public opinion. In influencing public opinion the public relation program can crystallize attitudes, reinforce beliefs, and occasionally change public opinion.
The opinions to be changed or modified must be identified and understood (Seitel, 2011). In this case for Paula Deen opinion to be changed or modified is that she is not a racist. Second target publics must be clear; this would include the public and her corporate sponsors. Third the public relation professional must have a sharp focus of the laws that govern public opinion (Seitel, 2011). For example, when opinion is highly sensitive to important events in this case the use of racist language from a celebrity such as Paula Deen can be highly sensitive to the events as it unfolds.
The second message that was communicated to her publics was managing her reputation. According, to Seitel (2011) (p. 73), “for an organization or an individual concerned bout public opinion, the organization or individual should manage the reputation. Relationship management aligns communication with an organization’s character and action. This creates recognition, credibility, and trust among key constituents to stay sensitive to its conduct in public with customers and in private with employees.
Reputation management understands its responsibilities to the broader society and is empathetic to society’s needs. ” Legality of Messages To protect Paula Deen Enterprise from defamation, her lawyer made a communicated hat Paula Deen Enterprises will not comment on pending litigation. This is to ensure that any statement made by Paula Deen or those who represent her do not commit libel (written) or slander (orally) to the media. According to Kubasek et, al. (2012), defamation is the intentional publication of a false statement harmful to an individuals reputation.
The messages that Paula Deen communicated to the press were carefully constructed to focus on what she has said in the deposition and nothing related to the defendant Lisa Jackson, so a charge of defamation could not be filed in court. Recommendation There were no ethical and legal issues witn Paula Deen’s messages to ner publics. She was honest in her communications, admitting using racist language. However, it did not to sway public opinion for her target audiences, which were her corporate sponsors.
For example, after she had posted the first message on YouTube, the Food Network decided not to renew her contract, although she has apologized for using such language. The problem with that first message was that she communicated (“TV Chef Paula Deen Apologizes For ‘Hurtful Language'”, 2013), “l want to learn and grow rom this. Inappropriate and hurtful language is totally, totally unacceptable. ” This message to her target audience did not sway public opinion about Paula Deen because it was not sincere.
A more precise way to sway public opinion, even though it would be temporary, ” In the past I have used hurtful language, and I am extremely sorry for that. Over the years, I have learned and grown that all races are equal, and in the business environment and elsewhere in society inappropriate and hurtful language is totally unacceptable. I hope that my fans, critics, and sponsors can orgive my past transgressions. ” Remember, if public opinions are to be changed or modified it must be identified and understood, the target publics must be clear, and the public relation professional must know the laws that govern public opinion (Seitel, 2011).
The public relation professional did not clearly define the target publics. The target public for Paula Deen was her corporate sponsor to her company Paula Deen Enterprises. Companies such as WalMart, Food Network, and Caesars Entertainment did not believe Paula Deen’s apology or was swayed that she was not a acist, and ended the long-term relationship. In managing her reputation, Paula Deen was again unclear. Her public relations team should have included examples of corporate social responsibility of giving to a diverse ethnic group with lower income status.
Corporate social responsibility is about how companies manage the business process to produce an impact on society (Seitel, 2011). This would have shown that she was sorry for her past transgressions and she also have learned and grown from them as well. Paula Deen’s public relations team was unclear when communicating o the target public (corporate sponsor’s), although it was honest communication and it inform the public, it failed to persuade, motivate and build understanding with her corporate sponsor’s.