Published On: Fri, Apr 20th, 2012

The Business of Public Opinion

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By: Gerald J. Sherman

Positive public opinion is one of the primary goals of public relations. It is also a vital key to success in business. The way that customers, vendors, suppliers, retailers, the media, and the community at large perceive the company and its products/services has tremendous effect on the success of these companies. When public opinion about the company is positive, a buzz surrounds the company through social media and word of mouth. The results often improve relationships with existing customers, attract new customers, create stronger bonds with the community, and increase sales and help develop the brand.

When public opinion turns negative, the damages can easily bring a company down to its knees—unfavorable stories in the media, bitter criticism passed on through word of mouth, and even official complaints filed with business and governmental organizations can decrease a company’s sales for such long periods of time and to such an extent that the company cannot survive. Nike’s ongoing battle with allegations of child labor abuse since the early 1990s shows the powerful effects of negative public opinion. While Nike may not have violated child labor laws, human rights groups charged that Nike’s suppliers did. Public sentiment against the company’s association with such practices tarnished the company’s reputation. It is therefore extremely important for a company to identify, monitor, and proactively improve the public opinion about the company and its brands.

To succeed over the long run, the company should offer products/services that in some way beneficially serve one or more groups of customers, as well as provide good customer service. Public opinion demands that the product must serve and satisfy the intended target customer and is delivered as promised.

Imagine a company that does not deliver the product/service that they initially sold to their buyers. How long do you think this company will survive in the marketplace? If the product/service gets to the consumer level and is ultimately rejected, then negative public opinion will likely result from this type of poor management and misrepresentation. The media is always alert to the positive and negative happenings that the public is exposed to and jumps on the opportunity to report on newsworthy material—particularly of a controversial nature–that affects the public. It won’t be long before such a story appeared in the media. How long do you think this company will last when “word of mouth” spreads about this product and the company? Once a product or company is seen in this negative light, it is very difficult for that product to survive, and public opinion becomes the executioner.

As a corollary, it can be seen that when a product/service is superior to other products/services in the market, customers will likely tell their friends and family about their positive experience, significantly improving their awareness.  As can be seen, public opinion has tremendous effect on a company’s success or failure.

Special notice to our readers – We will be conducting a workshop in Social Media which will be sponsored by The Boca Raton Tribune. Pedro Heizer, Associate Editor and Social Media expert will conduct the workshop in May (date to be announced). You will learn how to use Facebook and Twitter effectively for your social and business activities. To make a reservation for this dynamic workshop, kindly call 561.715.2788 (Limited seating).

Excerpts from the book, Fashion Public Relations, Gerald J. Sherman & Nast Publications, Sar S. Perlman. Fairchild Books, Division of Conde Gerald J. Sherman, MBA, DBA of Sherman & Perlman LLC, Integrated Marketing is a Boca Raton based author, marketing consultant, and public relations person.

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