De Lyser: Ethics for April 10

When it comes to conducting research within online communities, some might substitute “exploitation” for the word research. Researchers certainly have an ethical, if not legal, obligation to adhere to any internet community guidelines prohibiting researcher contact. Violating these guidelines is clearly unethical.

As Eysenbach and Till point out, communities without guidelines create a more ambiguous environment. If a community doesn’t specifically preclude “outside” participation, a researcher could reasonably argue that contacting members isn’t an ethical violation. It is reasonable to assume that internet communities without specific exclusions are open to everyone? I understand, and sympathize with, the privacy argument. However, if the host/sponsoring organization has not made efforts to protect participants’ privacy, is it the researcher’s responsibility to do so?

Even if researcher activity is accepted, other ethical considerations come into play. The internet has the capability to dehumanize. Markham et al., 2012, raise the question, “Is this a text or a person?” The authors mentioned protection of vulnerable populations. Though this issue is not unique to online communities, the “distance” between researcher and subject in the online environment makes it difficult for researchers to gauge subjects’ mental/emotional stability. Authenticity is also a factor. Is the subject who she/he says he is? Does he/she really have the characteristics/experiences the researcher requires?

The IRB regulates research on human subjects. Should a similar body be created to oversee privacy in online communities? Should participants in online communities expect that level of privacy?

Ethics AND advertising or ethics OR advertising?

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It’s sad that “ethics” and “advertising” are often perceived as contradictory terms. In fact, I was surprised to learn that, according to the Institute for Advertising Ethics article, that only 13% of respondents said they “never” trust that advertising is honest in its claims. I would have thought the percentage would have been higher.

Digital culture has made it easier for advertisers to tout their products less ethically.  Is it ethical, for example, for a company to pay reviewers – either in cash or product – to write positive reviews about a product?  I recently viewed a blog that purported to be a how-to site.  Instead, it advertised an online service with a “free 30-day trial.”

On the flip side, social media allows consumers to share their experiences with products.  When these experiences contradict advertisers’ claims, the product/service/company suffers.  In addition, digital culture makes it easier than ever before for consumers to research products, services and companies long before they reach for their wallets.

Digital media doesn’t seem to have made building consumer trust any easier for companies and advertisers.  For example, according to The Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in business and government leadership is at a crisis.  Is a lack of trust in a business’s leadership reflected in the consumer’s trust in the businesses’ advertising claims?   It’s an interesting question.  I don’t think, for example, that consumers trusted Toyota’s CEO after the company mismanaged the gas –pedal crisis.  Yet consumers responded to the ad campaign that followed.  Is that the norm?

Ethics and advertising or ethics or advertising?

It’s sad that “ethics” and “advertising” are often perceived as contradictory terms. In fact, I was surprised to learn that, according to the Institute for Advertising Ethics article, that only 13% of respondents said they “never” trust that advertising is honest in its claims. I would have thought the percentage would have been higher.

Digital culture has made it easier for advertisers to tout their products less ethically.  Is it ethical, for example, for a company to pay reviewers – either in cash or product – to write positive reviews about a product?  I recently viewed a blog that purported to be a how-to site.  Instead, it advertised an online service with a “free 30-day trial.”

On the flip side, social media allows consumers to share their experiences with products.  When these experiences contradict advertisers’ claims, the product/service/company suffers.  In addition, digital culture makes it easier than ever before for consumers to research products, services and companies long before they reach for their wallets.

Digital media doesn’t seem to have made building consumer trust any easier for companies and advertisers.  For example, according to The Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in business and government leadership is at a crisis.  Is a lack of trust in a business’s leadership reflected in the consumer’s trust in the businesses’ advertising claims?   It’s an interesting question.  I don’t think, for example, that consumers trusted Toyota’s CEO after the company mismanaged the gas –pedal crisis.  Yet consumers responded to the ad campaign that followed.  Is that the norm?

Questions for Crisis Communication Presentation on 11/18.

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Greetings!

Katherine Pokrass and I will be presenting on crisis communication on Monday night.  You will be asked to serve as the PR team for M Stewart Farm – a company who is in some deep …. well, you’ll hear more tomorrow.  At the end of our presentation, we’ll be asking you – in an interactive way – some questions specific to M Stewart Farm’s crisis, response strategy and media plan.  Please plan to use your cell phones!

Our questions are as follows:

1.  Based on Strategic Crisis Communication Theory (SCCT), what kind of crisis is M Stewart Farms facing?

2.  Utilizing SCCT, what is an appropriate response strategy?

3.  What type of media should M Stewart Farm utilize?

Thanks much!  See you Monday!

Melissa

 

De Lyer, Week 7: Communicating emergencies via social media or 911?

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In 2009, two Australian girls became trapped in a storm drain.  With limited cell phone life, they posted their emergency on Facebook rather than call the Australian equivalent of 911.  It took four hours before someone reported the situation to authorities, who rescued the girls.

The story attracted widespread media attention. Law enforcement weighed in, advising people that social media was not for emergency use.  Officers pointed out, correctly, that the girls would have been rescued sooner if they had called emergency services.

Fast forward four years and the message has changed.  Not completely – I suspect most law enforcement would prefer to receive emergency calls via 911 over Twitter, depending on the situation.  But both the public and law enforcement have embraced social media as a means of communicating emergencies.  This cultural shift presents new communication challenges.

Suicide hotline operators, hostage negotiators, police dispatchers – until now, their training has focused on telephone and in-person communication. Creating trust, conveying empathy and averting panic are skills that emergency personnel have developed in part by relying on tone of voice, facial expression or body language.  Can hostage negotiators talk someone out of pulling the trigger via text or Twitter?

Both law enforcement and the American Red Cross have made good use of social media platforms, as this week’s readings demonstrate.  It will be interesting to see how far, and fast, social media can move that acceptable-use point, as technology evolves.  One day, could 911 be an app-only platform, residing in the Cloud?

Communication emergencies on social media or 911?

In 2009, two Australian girls became trapped in a storm drain.  With limited cell phone life, they posted their emergency on Facebook rather than call the Australian equivalent of 911.  It took four hours before someone reported the situation to authorities, who rescued the girls.

The story attracted widespread media attention. Law enforcement weighed in, advising people that social media was not for emergency use.  Officers pointed out, correctly, that the girls would have been rescued sooner if they had called emergency services.

Fast forward four years and the message has changed.  Not completely – I suspect most law enforcement would prefer to receive emergency calls via 911 over Twitter, depending on the situation.  But both the public and law enforcement have embraced social media as a means of communicating emergencies.  This cultural shift presents new communication challenges.

Suicide hotline operators, hostage negotiators, police dispatchers – until now, their training has focused on telephone and in-person communication. Creating trust, conveying empathy and averting panic are skills that emergency personnel have developed in part by relying on tone of voice, facial expression or body language.  Can hostage negotiators talk someone out of pulling the trigger via text or Twitter?

Both law enforcement and the American Red Cross have made good use of social media platforms, as this week’s readings demonstrate.  It will be interesting to see how far, and fast, social media can move that acceptable-use point, as technology evolves.  One day, could 911 be an app-only platform, residing in the Cloud?

Week 4: De Lyser – Story provides the context

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Fischer’s Narrative Theory, as described by Edgar and Volkman in Using Communication Theory for Health Promotion:  Practical Guidance on Message Design and Strategy, reflects the fundamental premise of The Storytelling Animal: We are all storytellers; we all relate to story. Edgar and Volkman write:

“… people are essentially storytellers and that we live in a world full of stories.  When people hear another’s story, it helps provide an understanding about the world.”

In Mediated communication of ‘sustainable consumption’ in the alternative media: a case study exploring a message framing strategy, Kolandai-Matchett describe a sustainable consumption mediated communications campaign in Christchurch, New Zealand, as having an “emotional appeal,” which was influenced by the notion of caring.  The campaign featured workers in developing countries and other negative effects of consumerism.  In essence, the campaign told a story – providing context for the need for sustainable consumption.

Stories provide the context for ideas and are an effective means of communications, particularly with regard for advocating change.  Tips from a Smoker, an anti-smoking campaign featuring Terrie Hall, a woman whose voice box was removed as part of her cancer recovery treatment, is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have influenced about 100,000 Americans to quit smoking. The ads featured Hall’s morning routine:  putting in her teeth, inserting her hand-operated voice control device and putting on her wig – all the while talking about how she used to be a smoker.

I do think, however, that narrative and/or story as a means of persuasive communication needs to be used judiciously.  While the story and the storyteller need to be compelling, there is the potential for one or both to overshadow the message.  For example, remember the YouTube video of the woman sitting on the toilet.  There was certainly a story involved there – but none of us could remember the name of the product being promoted.  Yes, we were prompted to look it up, but the goal of narrative theory-based communication should be instant recall of the message and the story.

Effect of Twitter on PR – for Oct. 7

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While I’m not suggesting that Wilson & Supa’s research is invalid, I’m curious to know how survey respondents defined “use” of Twitter.  In social media, the word “use” is almost as ambiguous as “engagement.”  What defines use?

Consider this example: A journalist skims his/her Twitter feed four times daily.  He/she never clicks on anything and never tweets.  However, he/she does pick up story ideas from PR tweets that he later follows up on.  Is he “using” Twitter for media relations?  I say yes.  However, I know journalists who say no.

Why would a journalist so narrowly define Twitter use?  Anecdotally, I think more traditional journalists are reluctant to admit to using a source that doesn’t have the fact-checking, editor-controlled aspects of the AP newswire.  Journalists would scan the AP wires looking for story ideas much like they now scan Twitter. I don’t think there’s much difference.  But those who started their careers before the Internet may feel differently about admitting that they use 40-character phrases to develop story ideas.

In addition, is there a perception that Twitter has become the new PR Newswire?  PR Newswire, while used by journalists, felt advertorial, in that it was biased and self-promoting.  As Wilson & Supa mentioned, there’s definitely a sense of that with Twitter, too, when it comes to media relations.  Are journalists reluctant to admit how much they use on Twitter as a result?