Wegmans and Its Success in Delivering Messages to Key Publics

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Wegmans Food Markets is a family-owned U.S. grocery retailer headquartered in Gates, New York.  It was founded in 1916 in Rochester, and today there are 83 stores in various locations. Since consumers’ awareness and perceptions on organic food have changed, the natural growth of organic product sales at Wegmans has been surging from 15 to 25 percent in the past five years. Wegmans Food Markets has recognized as the Best Grocery Store by Food Network in 2007, and ranked as the Top Large U.S. Grocery Chain from Consumer Report in 2012. Their success in the food market has been recognized by public, and its marketing and public relations strategies have known as the power of its success.

According to Wegmans, the company’s philosophy is

At Wegmans, we believe that good people, working toward a common goal, can accomplish anything they set out to do. In this spirit, we set out goal to be the very best at serving the needs of our customers. Every action we take should be made with this in mind. We also believe that we can achieve our goal only if we fulfill the needs of our own people. To our customers and our people we pledge continuous improvement, and we make the commitment:’ Every Day You Get Our Best’

This statement shows how Wegmans has commitment to their key public, and the motor of its products and services.  Throughout its messages on its homepage, Wegmans used effective communication that emphasizes its commitment to not only its customers but also its employees. Such sentences ” we care about our people, ” and ” we listen to each other and recognize diversity.”  shows that they truly care about its key demographics and employees, and all people who share its company’s value and interests.

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Wegmans clearly tells its target market by saying that its target customers are busy people with high food interest, and its primary business is to help its customers make great meals and enjoy products that it offers.  According to the information on its homepage, the possible key audiences can be female and male aged between 20 and 60 who enjoy cooking , and families.

1. Delivering messages with good visuals – All about food and family 

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First, I would like to talk about the images on its the main page on its homepage – All about food and recipes! Since Easter is coming, the main page was full of Easter food and family gathering. It definitely shows that Wegmans care about customers’ family values and upcoming events. These pictures connects to the information about recipes of Easter food and product suggestions for Easter.  This makes its customers easy to shop and choose and try new food using eggs  among variety of food recipes. It is especially targeting moms who suffer from cooking holiday food, and gives them variety of choices ( I know this because my mom always worries about food when holiday is coming! Those recipes will definitely help moms.)

2. Engagement via Media Room 

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In a PR approach, Wegmans has its own media room, and it consistently upload its press releases about the company and events. This  allows its consumers to keep up with the company’s news and stories and to engage with all activities.

3.  Nutrition information – Eat well, live well and crave food 

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What made me surprised about the company’s movement was the facts about food. There is separate page about nutrition of food that we consume everyday. As you read it, your thinking about what you eat will change. As it stated, ” our mission is to inspire and support each other to enjoy healthier better lives using four simple ” Eat well live well” principles.” This definitely works for targeting their key audiences, and well matches with their mission statement as well. All women and men, especially aged between 20 and 60,  are well aware of  being healthy and consuming healthier food. This kind of information gives audiences a good impression that the company actually cares about its products and services and its consumers’ health.

4. Engagement with Social Media

 

How Wegmans uses social media platforms to make their website interactive to its audiences is amazing to see. Use of social media platforms not only helps engaging with existing customers but also targeting new customers. Especially, I am amazed by all videos about Wegmans on YouTube. You can see some video clips that Wegmans produced whenever the company opens its stores in new locations. In that videos, there are virtual tours of the new stores. These videos definitely help engagements with its customers.

Overall, Wegmans well delivers its  messages to its key audiences via its website and social media platforms. The ways that Wegmans represents the company’s value are effective at delivering messages to its key audiences. I now see why Wegmans is the best and growing  grocery store in the United States, and is loved by all generations. Its succession has been driven by its efforts to deliver its values and messages to customers.

 

 

“American Hustle”, a Self-Portrait of 2014 Reflected from the Story of 1970’s

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The best con-artist couple ‘Irving Rosenfeld’ (Christian Bale) and ‘Sydney Prossor’ (Amy Adams) is scouted for a big mission to snare corrupt politicians by an ambitious FBI agent ‘Richie DiMaso’ (Bradley Cooper). Initially they plan to entrap four politicians including the top priority ‘Carmine Polito’ (Jeremy Renner), but they get involved in bigger situations dealing with a number of politicians and the Mafia. This situation goes uncontrollably when the wife of Irving Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) becomes an unexpected variable for their plan.

In a voice over at the end of movie, Irving speaks “The art of survival is a story that never ends.” American Hustle is a movie about “the art of survival or survival skills” of Irving and Sydney, the con-artist couple. But the skills are not the only worries for the con-artists in the screen. All of our lives require our own self-survival skills, and they are constant sources of worry to us. As Irving says,” We’re all conning ourselves to get through life.”

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Constant worries about ‘Survival skills’ of each character give authentic feelings to the audiences because the story is scripted based on a true story of Abscam Scandal that occurred in 1978. If this movie were not derived from a true story, the dialogue about the art of survival in the metaphor for the competitive struggle of life would have been nothing more than a famous line from the Hollywood actor. In that sense, America’s historical background of 1970s, the main period of American Hustle, is noteworthy feature.

In fact, Irving and Sydney get closer and begin their love affair together by talking about Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues”. This song plays a key role in the movie by indicating who Irving and Sydney are and what they pursue for their vision and lives – the elegant life style. They both say, “Fucking Jimmy Carter. Fucking Nixon, really, with the war and the deficit and all that shit.” Judging from the conversation about the inabilities of President Nixon who took power until 1974 and Jimmy Carter who served his term from 1977 to 1981, their lives are not as intimidating as they have dreamed of. American society at the time was full of distrust because of Nixon’s Watergate Scandal and the Vietnam War that continued until 1975. Especially, in the late-1970s when Abscam Scandal occurred, the U.S economy was in the worst state due to the failure of economic policies that President Carter faced 14 to 16 % of inflation rate due to the oil price crisis. At the time of the era, the concept of “American Dream” has lured people, and this movie is based on American Dream that each character pursues her or his ambition, expecting a better life.

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Eventually, looking for the art of survival for each character living in the lost era of justice and morality is the point you could focus on as you watch the American Hustle. The constant actions, of Irving arranging his back hair to the front to hide his bare head, Sydney laying her background as British when she is originally New Mexican and faking her accent, and Rich making his straight hair curly, are all part of the scam. The characters practice their own deceptions to survive in a troubled and troubling world by using the basis of human characteristics that people believe what they want to believe. The reversal at the ending in the movie shows the survival skill as well. However, Carmine is the driving force for the story. The survival technique of Irving who becomes friends with Carmine is different – it shows humanism. Irving starts to feel guilty for backstabbing Carmine, who really treated him as a true friend, in the back.

American Hustle does not make audiences feel sympathy for the story. But, actors’ performances are something to talk about – you should save your admiration for the performances! Especially, the performance of Jennifer Lawrence who brings wild energy to her role, and it shows why she is the Hollywood’s new favorite. Bradley Cooper as an ambitious FBI agent plays a more extreme character compared to the mentally ill character that he stared in the movie Silver Linings Playbook. At the same time, Amy Adams and Christian Bale also bring their own set of desires and dreams to this story. Each actor has really different and dynamic personalities and shows fundamental human behaviors, and all actors make their audiences to be immersed in their characters and make the story more absorbing and vitalizing.

The reason American Hustle received 10 nominations at the 86th Academy Awards is that not only the performances of actors were amazing but also that David O. Russell well directed and sensitively depicted the sculpture of human characteristic based on the true story. Even though the story of the movie does not have strong reversal component, the genre of comic and parody makes the criminal story less serious and more interesting. We should remember that this movie is just more than a parody of the true story – it is a movie about our instincts that we all should question about the art of survival for our lives and still love to have ambitions for better lives.

General Motors Recall PR Crisis

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What GM (General Motors Company) is

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General Motors Company is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures, markets, distributes, and sells vehicles and vehicle parts. The company was founded on September 16, 1908 and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan. It has been routinely one of the world’s largest automakers based on global sales.

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In 2010, GM sold 8.4 million cars and trucks globally. The United States, China and Brazil are the top three countries which GM drives most of its sales – China is one of its growing market. GM manufactures most of its vehicles in China. In their homepage, GM stresses the importance of its employees and stakeholders by stating “Making the world’s best vehicles can only happen with world’s greatest employees.”  It strive to value their commitment to their customers, employees, partners and other key stakeholders. Based on the value, it has five principles that guide them in everything they do.

  • Safety and Quality Service
  • Create Lifelong Customers
  • Innovate
  • Deliver Long-Term Investment Value
  • Make a Positive Difference

GM’s current problem

(GM Recall : Connecting Dots to Explain Teen Deaths from Bloomberg News)

2.6 million General Motors (GM) cars have recalled because of a fault ignition switch. On March 28, GM announced that 1.62 million cars from model years 2007 and earlier will be recalled, and they expanded the recall to 971,000 additional later-model cars.  Due to the faulty switches, there have been 13 deaths caused by problems with the defective ignition switch, but the number may be higher (retrieved from the New York Times article).

GM also stated that those cars are safe to drive as long as the cars are repaired. To eliminate unnecessary weight, GM suggested the car owners to remove everything from the key ring except the ignition key. In the New York Times Article,  Mary T. Barra, the CEO of GM, told Congress that she would allow her own child to drive one of the cars, with a stripped-down key ring. Also, along with their statement, GM stated that they had enough safety tests about the faulty switches to support their statement.

According to Reuters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has tried to answer for failing to protect consumers. GM currently submitted more than 200,000 pages of documents to prove what went wrong with the automaker’s ignition switch to federal safety regulators.

(Shouldn’t GM Get Death Penalty for the 57 Cent Murder? from The Big Picture RT)

Like the video above, media focused on the fact that GM knew about the ignition switch issues in their cars, but they kept in silence for a decade. It became issue that the company did not do anything about the issue for the duration, and there have been 13 deaths due to this problem.

How GM has been handling this crisis

(GM CEO: “We Will Hold Ourselves Accountable” for the Recalls from CBS Evening News)

Overall, Mary Barra, the first female CEO of GM has got credits for handling and navigating the crisis well. According to one article from Forbes,

”  Ms. Barra struck exactly the right tone: calm, in control, honestly sympathetic, yet not going to be pushed into a statement she did not want to make. She was unfailingly polite, and seemed dedicated to finding out the truth, and then to addressing it head-on. She did not grandstand nor was she flustered; she did not defer nor did she deflect the criticism, but she did stand up to her questioners when they were not clear, in a way that was neither angry, nor defensive, nor subservient.”

GM has been currently facing  this massive issue, but they are handling this immense crisis really well. Public has had impressions that the company is actually being responsible for it and being sincere to their apology to the families who lost their loved ones due to this problem.

Press Handling

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  • GM’s Press Room/ GM Ignition Switch Website: GM has its own press room and created a website related to the ignition switch safety. Through both sites, they have released up-to-date information about the crisis. It has allowed public to follow what has been currently going on and what processes the company has done. 
  • CEO Press Presence : The CEO has been on the media and actually made a statement that the company is sorry for what happened, and they will account every actions and results the issue has brought. CEO’s presence on media press gives more credibility when crisis happens, and GM is making right approach and doing good PR.

Social Media Handling

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  • Facebook :  There is only one Facebook post that is related to this issue. The above picture is the most current post from their Facebook page. I think they could have released more posts related to the issue such as posting apology statement when the crisis just happened. Since social media is a facilitator for delivering and sharing information and managing relationship, it could help the company to  easily deliver its own thoughts and apologies to the public.  However, the picture with the post gives audiences good readability and clear information with less texts.

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  • Twitter : GE used Twitter as a key social media platform. Ever since the issue has been out to the public, GE twitted up-to-date information. Especially, the CEO’s Twitter usage is very smart movement. It shows engagement with their audiences, and this platform has mediated as acting like a bridge between the company and the audiences.

General Motor’s handling over the crisis has been well recognized by public. Their PR movement is smart, and the CEO is navigating this massive crisis. It will be good to watch and look over the GE’s future movement handling the issue.

 

Leveraging social media for PR crisis management

Social media has allowed businesses to communicate with their publics easier than ever. Some people argue that the growing demands of social media has blurred line between marketing and public relations where there used to be a clear delineation between the two industries. However, it actually has helped enhancing the efficiency of PR industry, and incorporating social media and inbounding Internet marketing tools and strategies have enhanced our business‘ PR efforts. Especially, when a business faces crisis, social media platforms are used effectively for crisis management.

According to a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers, a majority of companies do not use social media for their crisis management. Only 8% of respondents believed social media enable them to proactively identify and respond to crisis.  However, more companies are aware of the importance of social media for their crisis management because social media platforms allow having conversations in a real time.

Why social media participation is important for PR crisis management

Social media has risen in popularity, and its influence is huge in all business sectors, because of the viral nature of social media.  If a company were not participating in social media, it would miss a lot of opportunities to spread its unique and valuable messages to its audiences and to have communications with its value customers and future audiences.

Moreover, social media is a great facilitator for businesses to develop and maintain their relationships with influencers. For businesses, making a connection with the journalists, reporters, bloggers and other influencers who cover topics in the industries that they belong.  By having communication with these influencers via social media platforms, businesses will have greater opportunity to have their stories on first hands when the company is facing a difficult time.

What attributes PR practitioners need to be aware of when using social media

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Choice When crisis happen, choosing a right social media platform is really important. Social media platforms that get most attention from audiences will be used to communicate in a real time. Usually, Twitter is a platform that draws and deserves the most attention because it acts as an instant news services – Twitter is a word-of-mouth. If company constantly tweets what is happening, information via Twitter will be spread faster than via any other platforms such as Facebook.

 

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Engagement It is the basic skill that all PR practitioners should be aware of. Social relationships are built even before crisis happens, so building relationship with engagement will help saving a reputation at a time of crisis.

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Listening It is also another basic skill that all PR practitioners should have. Monitoring conversations related to the company is really important. In the time of crisis, this attribute becomes more important because you do not want public to say invalid information and rumors get bigger. You should be careful watching all conversations.

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Responses Along with the listening component, responding to messages is also a critical role. As a PR practitioner, you should be able manage all messages because you do not have control over the messages. Reaching out to influencers or people who are most active during the crisis is important. Responding to inaccurate information or rumors will help you to prevent possible problems that can be raised in the future.

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Follow-up  PR practitioners never sleep even after crisis! You should keep monitoring and following up what public talks. There would be firestorm of bad information, and you should keep tracking on them and try to find ways to solve the problems.  Follow-up will help maintaining relationships with current customers and even future customers as well.

Crowdsourcing with the story of the disappeared Malaysian Airlines Flight, MH370

Crowdsourcing is a new way of sourcing people who voluntarily want to help or work on a project. This allows us to have enough resources and time, and to transform into high possibility of manpower. Crowdsourced mapping has been useful in disasters before. In the case of a missing plane, crowdsourcing helps to eliminate areas of the maps where there is any signs of oil, so experts can focus on analyzing more promising leads. It has also widely used for searching a disappeared Malaysian Airlines Flight, MH370.

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Since the flight MH370 disappeared on March 23, 2014 with 239 people on board, millions of Internet users have joined search teams from 26 nations hunting for any signs of the missing plane. This crowdsourced online helped in the search for the missing jet, and it has been the most massive and the largest crowdsourcing project.

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It is a valuable method because it allows us to save time and leads us to approach to the best possible answers. In the case of MH370, people from various locations have looked for the satellite imagery for the possible evidence of oil slicks, wreckage or survivors. Through social networking sites such as Reddit and DigitalGlobe, searchers have involved and shared their findings from the satellite image search by tagging photos and posting threads about Flight MH370. Malaysian newspapers received numerous information and tips from people claiming that they found places for possible oil slicks.

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Another advantage of crowdsourcing is cost-savings. With all information from people, Malaysian government could save resources and minimize costs for searching the plane. It also allowed the government to speculate the case with the broad view. Malaysian authorities have expanded the search area to include a region west of the takeoff point.

Even though it has given us great advantages for solving the puzzles, we should know that there are possible disadvantages of this tool.

1) Crowdsourcing does not guarantee that all information have sufficient quality

: People participate via online, and there will be lack of reliability since we do not know whether the source is from experts or random people. We should question about the reliability of all sources.

2) There are time costs that are needed for filtering the information

: There might be little or no relevance and value, so we need some experts to figure out which information is reliable or not. This will generate more time and costs.

3) There are people who intend to trick the information and create chaos.

: How are we going to measure the searchers’ contributions and their authentication? It is hard to find which information is wrong.

Crowdsourcing is not a method for everything. In order to use it successfully and effectively, we should aware that there are disadvantages, and it is not a method for solving problems and finding answers. Using it with strategies will give us possible approaches to solving problems.

Verizon Wireless: Transforming Communications For a Digital and Social Age

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Torod Neptune, the Vice President of Corporate Communications for Verizon Wireless gave a lecture on the changing field of communications in a new digital and social age.

Social media has become an integral part of our lives. It has become engagement channel between corporations and consumers. About 47% of smartphone users get news through social network sometimes or regularly. Moreover, 30 % of US adults consume news on Facebook, and 8% US adults read news on Twitter. Mr.Neptune stressed that people are now “young, mobile and educated.”

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We as consumers have raised their expectations on corporations as technology has been developed. First, we live in an age of greater transparency that consumers value the most. Second, we have growing demand for personalized products across industries. We also are still dealing with distrusts.

Today, “Brand affinity” is important, and more brands talk about what they can bring to the culture of mobile lifestyle. It’s because consumer behavior patterns has changed from linear communication to multidimensional communication. As Mr.Neptune said, companies need to view their audiences as community, not a mass. To have better communication, companies should have

  1. Better social listening and intelligence of gathering to create more resonant content
  2. Better Statistical reporting data insights to understand content and individual performance drivers
  3. Better story telling; shifting content development to map closer to intersection of brand and audience
  4. Focus on relationship with things that impacts company.

PR-social-mediaHis lecture gave an insight of how Verizon Wireless has been working for creating better communication with their consumers. Social media analytic has helped them to understand their consumers’ behaviors and improved communication with their audiences. This is important for public relations practitioners because we serve as communication roles for companies. Knowing current communication trends is really important for us.

Since today more people experience contents through word-of-mouth or online data, we as public relations PR practitioners should know how to deal with audiences via social media platforms. Other than focusing on delivering messages and expected services to our audiences, we need to have strong point of view on each content and communication strategies. But, the most important thing that we should remind us is that consumers want to be engaged, informed and invested, and they want us to be transparency.

Public relations in Korea

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Existing public relations theories were developed largely in the United States. Public relations in Korea functions differently than that in the United States due to differences in cultural and business systems. I learned a lot about public relations at Newhouse School of Public Communication, but what I experienced from my summer internship at Korean public relations agency, Korcom Porter Novelli, is different from what I have learned.

When I had an internship at Korcom, I realized that how they do public relations for their clients was different from western models of public relations even though its business system was adopted from the United States.

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PR degree doesn’t matter.

Most of its employees did not have degrees on public relations. In order to work in public relations agencies in Korea, having a public relations degree isn’t a beneficial factor. Companies do prefer students majoring in public relations when they hire them as interns, but when they hire higher positioned employees, someone who knows business will take advantages.  The problem was that its employees were not passionate and caring for what they were doing for their clients. Generally their major goal was to maximize their clients’ profits, and  they did not even care about the clients’ reputations –This is really bad. I truly believe that, as  public relations practitioners, we need to be more passionate about what we do.

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Relationships are the best in Korean PR

Most campaigns were created based on press conferences and media relations. Giving out gifts to reporters for good media coverage is a normal act. One time, a manager said that relationships with reporters are the most important part of public relations. What all they do is flattering the targeted reporters for better coverage for their stories – companies operating in Korea are not interested in the high value disciplines of public relations but more so on control of the story especially in terms of guaranteeing positive coverage. It is considered as ethically wrong in the United States, but it is common in Korea. When they make a final report to their clients about certain campaigns or events, the numbers of coverage about the campaigns or events were the measurement of their success. This shows that Korean PR heavily relies on media relations. Media relations is huge because Korea still remains as a place where offline and traditional media are the most credible and influential.

From these two key features, I saw a lot of problems in Korean public relations during internship. Research, strategies and tactics were non-existed. It would be a perfect example why public relations practitioners are called as spin-doctors. As working there, I could not even believe what’s out to public. Even single news article or blog reviews about certain products made me to doubt where this information came from – maybe people from PR or marketing departments. Public is now getting controlled information, and even some information were manipulated.

Public relations in Korea has evolved in many ways along with the country’s development. A lot of Korean companies are leading in global markets. In order to take a place even more at the global level, they should have right forms of public relations and they need to shape up better practices and regulations.