Public Relations

How News Gets Framed Influences Public Emotions Towards Corporations

TVsetCorporate spinmeisters may take note of a new study out this month by University of Missouri and University of Singapore researchers. They studied readers' reaction to various news articles and found that the subtle way in which journalists report on crises -- like oil spills, plane crashes or product recalls -- can affect the public's attitude towards the corporation involved in the crisis. Not surprisingly, the public tends to respond more favorably towards a corporation if the story is given a "sadness-frame," meaning if it centers around the plight of the victims and how relief is being delivered. By contrast, if a story focuses on the corporation's contribution to the crisis, including laws that were potentially broken and possible punishment, it elicits a more negative attitudes towards the corporation. The research may prove useful to corporate criminals as well as accident-prone industries. "It is important for corporations to put on a human face during crises," Cameron said. "If a corporation can focus on the well-being of the victims and how the corporation will improve following the crisis, they have a better chance of influencing 'sadness-frame' news coverage as opposed to 'anger-frame' coverage. If the news coverage remains 'sadness-framed,' public perception will stay more positive." Watch for this spin in your local news and keep us informed at PRWatch.org.

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ALEC Politician Claims ALEC Meetings Are "Open to the Public." Really?

ALEC's Rep. Bill Howell (R-VA)Confronted with a report by ProgressVA stating that through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporate lobbyists get access to legislators "behind closed doors," ALEC politician Bill Howell dismissed the claim and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that all ALEC meetings were open to the public.

Really?

That would be breaking news to both traditional press and the online media that have been blocked from ALEC meetings and are increasingly being threatened with arrest.

ALEC and Westin/Starwood: Who is Your Hotel in Bed With While You're in Bed at Your Hotel?

Westin Kierland Resort in ScottsdaleTucson-based civil rights attorney Stacy Scheff believes that Westin Kierland may have violated federal constitutional law when they threw a journalist (and paid guest) out into the dead of night--due to the simple fact that the journalist evicted had written critically of (and was not liked by) the organization hosting a conference at the hotel. (A new story about these events is available here).

Lobbying Firm Caught Editing Wikipedia Article on Beer Brand

Stella ArtoisAnheuser-Busch's United Kingdom division, InBev, employed a lobbying firm to edit the Wikipedia entry about its Stella Artois brand of lager to delete a negative reference to the brand. Portland Communications, a lobbying firm run by a former adviser to Tony Blair, deleted the term "wife-beater" from the Wikipedia article about Stella Artois, reportedly to "challenge any connections between the brand and domestic violence." Stella Artois, one of the biggest brands of lager in the UK, in recent years has earned the nickname "wife beater" because of its high alcohol content and apparent popularity among rowdy soccer players. The changes on Wikipedia were made by a user named Portlander10, who had an IP address traceable to Portland Communications. Portland maintains that the changes were made openly and within Wikipedia's rules. In the wake of this revelation, though, a meeting has been scheduled between the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Wikipedia to give PR professionals guidance for working on Wikipedia, and to develop a code of conduct for PR professionals to help minimize attempts to mask the true identity of PR pros seeking to edit the site.

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The Real "Winner" in Iowa: New "Super" Front Groups That Are Super Corrupting Our Democracy Thanks to "Citizens United"

Contrary to most press accounts, there was a decisive winner in the Iowa caucuses last night, and it was neither Rick Santorum nor Mitt Romney. The "winner" was the so-called "Super" PACs (political action committees), the mutant front groups for political candidates that were "created" in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that unleashed corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited money influencing elections.

Upcoming American Petroleum Institute 'Vote 4 Energy' TV Campaign Disrupted by Undercover Activists

This report exposing the deceptive tactics of the American Petroleum Institute was originally posted at Greenpeace.

Recently, Greenpeace got a rare look behind the curtain at how Big Oil stages citizen support for huge oil companies, when activists got inside a TV commercial shoot in Washington DC. The American Petroleum Institute(API), and their PR firm Edelman, were filming a new series of TV commercials that we learned API plans to air nationally on CNN starting in January. The ads, aimed at the 2012 elections, will aim to demonstrate authentic citizen support for the oil industry's agenda.

Sludge Industry Reveals "Resource Recovery" Spin

The Water Environment Federation (WEF), the sewage sludge industry trade group that invented the Orwellian PR euphemism "biosolids" for toxic sludge in 1991, is now "rebranding" sewage treatment plants as "water resource recovery facilities." The PR spin conveniently glosses over the toxic sewage sludge removed from the water and then heated and dumped on land for crops and grazing as "fertilizer" or misleadingly called "compost." The toxins in sludge can then bioaccumulate in the meat and dairy we eat and be taken up by the food plants that feed us.

The Battle Between O'Dwyer and PRSA

Jack O'DwyerThe Public Relations Society of America, the trade group for the American public relations industry, and Jack O'Dwyer, who has specialized in reporting on the PR industry for over 40 years, are at war, and the battle is getting heated -- and harmful for PRSA.

Why should people care about this obscure fight? Because the conflict is a microcosm of the battle against the unethical and harmful PR trends that are hurting this country.

Synagro's Shiny New Patina

Synagro protest in DetroitSynagro Technologies is the latest big corporation trying to ditch a scandal-ridden past by re-branding itself. In an August 10, 2011 press release, the company announced it is launching a new website as part of a "rebranding initiative." The press release says the initiative "is a reflection of the enhanced and growing service and solution offerings that have resulted from organic growth and recent acquisitions." Of course, the press release fails to mention the back-to-back scandals that have plagued Synagro since 2008 as well as earlier controversies.

Synagro is in the business of marketing sewage sludge as "compost," or, as the company's new, PR-approved website puts it, "Transforming natural waste challenges into sustainable, planet-friendly solutions." The company is a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. Carlyle is also a sizeable part of the military-industrial complex with ties to numerous national politicians, including former British Prime Minister John Major, Alice Albright (daughter of former Secretary of State Madelyn Albright), and both George W. and George H.W. Bush.

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