& Nick Gowland
Directors of Blackland PR.
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Real Responses: Countdown shoplifting
Posted last week
A supermarket chain got its public relations right with an applaudable, if over-egged, response to a public embarrassment. Two customers got a $3500 shopping spree treat after complaining to media that a Countdown store staff wrongly identified them as shoplifters over the store's public intercom. The issue had two puiblic-interest components that would get journalists excited. Firstly, the staff used the speaker system to publicly identify suspect shoppers, a heavy-handed approach compounded by apparently not being right. Secondly, the shoppers were Maori, so it appeared they were pinpointed because of their race. Countdown seems to have taken a leaf directly from the BlacklandPR "real responses" book. General manager for operations Brett Ashley told media via a statement that "We were disappointed and shocked to hear of this incident.". "We apologise unreservedly to our customer and her family. Under no circumstances is what happened acceptable. We are taking this matter very seriously." "I've contacted our customer to arrange a personal apology, to discuss the incident and to make amends." As part of its apology it gave the complainant three shopping trolleys to fill with groceries at the ...
People want your expertise
Posted 2 weeks ago
The current business trend is to outsource ideas to the crowd. All manner of organisations are running campaigns asking people to give them ideas about one subject or another. We find the idea dispiriting and disquieting. Organisations are giving up the requirement to lead, inspire and deliver what people want. In addition, a significant reason why people trust brands, and their suppliers, is that they want expertise. They are willing to pay for someone else to specialise and do the clever thinking. That's why a recent US study on pregnant women caught our eye. The research found that pregnant women do indeed go online to connect with other women for information and experiences, but they would much rather be talking to their doctors and specialists. Apparently, first-time mothers used Google to answer questions at the beginning of their pregnancy, before their first doctor’s appointment. It gets worse for doctors though. Following the first visit mothers were disappointed by the literature the doctor gave them, so turned to the internet—using search engines and social media—to find answers to their questions. This is the new normal: ...
Real Responses: McDonalds processes
Posted 2 weeks ago
Corporate speak makes us hopping mad, so McDonalds got us all riled up when it failed recently to talk normally about a customer complaint. A two year old girl “nearly choked” at a Sylvia Park branch on two rusty wire rings in a cheeseburger. The mother was not impressed by how the manager treated her complaint, nor the failure to hear back from McDonalds after being told the incident would be investigated. So the mother went to the media, and McDonalds choked itself on a barrow-load of emotionless inanity. A McDonald's spokesman said ‘it appeared the restaurant had followed the correct procedure, completing an incident report…” He said "McDonald's takes any food safety complaint very seriously. We have policies and processes in place to carry out a full investigation to establish how a foreign object may become present." Our first beef is with the language itself. It doesn’t communicate, it stipulates. That turns off people's willingness to listen. Our second beef is the mistaken intent behind the language. Dull and stiff wording is thought by organisations to signal commitment and certainty. It does the opposite ...
Does your Facebook page depress people?
Posted 2 weeks ago
Corporates have to deal with negativity every day, but it’s astounding so many give people free rein to express it publicly. The headlines this month that Facebook makes its users depressed were not quite accurate, but they were a reminder that corporates must be more deliberate in ‘framing’ what people talk about. The widely publicised research varied the amount of positive and negative posts that test subjects would see from friends. The participant's own use of positive and negative words in Facebook posts was then monitored for a week. The number of negative words used in status updates increased, on average, by 0.04% when their friends’ positive posts in news feeds were reduced. That means only about four more negative words for every 10,000 written by these study participants. At the same time, the number of positive words decreased by only 0.1%, or about one less word for every 1,000 words written. The effect is small because emotional responses are triggered by a lot more than Facebook status updates. Other studies have shown though that we are indeed measurably influenced by the ...
Turning the crowd's roar
Posted 2 weeks ago
Just like sports teams, corporates can benefit or suffer from the power of the crowd. The Football World Cup has had accusations that host nation Brazil is benefiting from more favourable referee decisions. From the evidence, it seems the roar of home fans is influencing the referee. Psychologists call this influence 'conformity'. It's the desire in all of us to be liked, and our fear of being left out. Studies have shown we will do what the majority of our peers do even if we think it is the wrong thing. A decade ago, a study of 40 qualified referees were asked to judge various incidents which had been recorded on videotape, either with or without sound. Those viewing the footage with crowd noise awarded significantly fewer fouls (15.5%) against the home team compared with those watching in silence. Corporates can sometimes find themselves in similar situations to a World Cup referee - ‘harassed’ by swathes of people to change a policy, product or price. The ordinary PR person, or indeed CEO, will give in. And sometimes, it's easiest and ...
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