Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Detroit Three -- Bail Outs or Bailing?

Can a $20+ billion bail out stop North American consumers from bailing on the Detroit Three? Over the last decade these companies have significantly damaged their relationships with their priority publics, resulting in a dramatic decrease in their overall reputational value. In two recent studies conducted with my MBA students, the Detroit Three ranked at least 30 points behind in corporate reputation scores than Toyota and Honda. So will the investment by both the governments of Canada and the United States impact consumer demand for these products? Rather than simply handing over $20 billion -- which will only be a short term fix to help them through the next quarter -- why not encourage both consumer confidence and spark retail sales by implementing a moratorium on both federal and provincial taxes -- in Ontario that would be a 13% savings for consumers. But on the other hand, this might just help Toyota and Honda continue to out pace the Detroit Three.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Strengthening Relationships and Enhancing Your Reputations During This Economic Crisis

Can public relations initiatives survive this economic crisis? For those of us that can remember the recession of the early 1980's and then the mild economic disruption in the early 1990's -- public relations programs and professionals were among the first casualities of organizational cutbacks.

Will that be the case in this recession or have we done a better job in showing the value and return on investment that strategic public relations programs bring to organizations -- relative to other organizational functions?

From my research, it is clear that when public relations professionals demonstrate their strategic contributions through communications/public relations programs and can tie their program success to increasing the organization's overall value or reputation, then they are in a better position to defend their programs and their jobs.

What do you think?

CPRS Annual Conference Launches Vancouver Website

The Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) will hold its annual conference in Vancouver from June 7-9, 2009 at the Westin Bayshore Hotel. The conference organizers are offering extra early bird registration offers from now until February 20, 2009 -- a $200.00 saving over the full conference fee. Here's a link to the conference website and you can also go to for further information. The list of speakers will be updated in the new year but I can confirm that Dave Scholz (VP Leger Marketing Toronto Office) and I will be presenting our results from two national surveys on the effect of Maple Leaf Foods crisis communications efforts.

Maple Leaf Foods Moves From A- to A on My Rating Scale

News this morning that Maple Leaf Foods has settled a number of class action law suits that were launched in the wake of the listeria outbreak this summer. Reports in the Globe and Mail (A4) and The Record (A1) indicate that the company has agreed to pay around $27 million to settle the claims. This is an approach that I recommended in media interviews in late August as a way to show that the company is living their corporate values -- "Doing the right thing."

I also suggested that due to the high credibility ratings that Mr. McCain achieved in our two DeGroote-Leger national surveys (also had high ratings for trust and believability) conducted in early September and October -- that he should continue to be the company's spokesperson as it worked to regain consumer confidence and rebuild market share.

In those surveys we also isolated a direct and significant effect of their communications efforts on trust and credibility factors and intent to repurchase Maple Leaf products. We also showed that their crisis communications actions also had a positive impact on consumers valuation of the company.

On a final note...Maple Leaf Foods stock traded for $10.90 the day before the recall. It fell about 25% in the first few weeks after the recall and hit a low of $7.10 in early October. Yesterday it closed at $11.00 -- the stock market has certainly viewed their recovery efforts very positively.

Grade === move from A- to A.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Defining Public Relations

Over the summer, a group of us (Fran Gregory -- Conestoga College and Jean Valin -- Government of Canada) reviewed nearly 20 definitions of public relations published in various text books, by national/international associations or journals. We determined that a series of constructs were present in all or some of the defintions. The constructs included: relationship management, reputation management, serving the public interest, strategic and tactical, managed function, and two-way symmetrical.

We used a wiki to revise and refine a proposed definition that could be used by the Canadian Public Relations Society (and perhaps others).

Here is our definition (September 2008):

"Public relations is the strategic management of priority relationships, through two-way communication, between an organization and its publics to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest."

What are your thoughts about this definition? Do you think that it could be used globally? Here's a link to our wiki discussion