Tag Archives: social media

Barriers to Government and Citizen Communication

The first part of this post is a homework assignment for Strategic Communications Applications class in which I summarize the barriers to government and citizen communication as stated in our textbook, “Cutlip & Center’s Effective Public Relations”. The second section is my own commentary which includes a lot of my opinion, speculation, and things I’d like the opportunity to delve into further to either prove or disprove. What do you think? Is your government a help to your life, a deadweight on your progress, or a mixture of both?

In our textbook are listed many challenges to successful two-way communication between citizens and government (Broom and Sha 356-366).

1. The government is large and complex with many bureaucratic layers that are difficult and time consuming to navigate.

2. Citizens expectations of what services government should provide keep expanding.

3. There is suspicion about the ethics of the entire profession of public relations and the governments that employ them.

4. Actual incidents of government misinformation have occurred, intentional or just not thorough enough, interpreted as lies or spin, such as in the Iraq war buildup.

5. There is a lot of citizen apathy.

6. There is often hostility of legislators to the public relations profession for budget and other reasons, sometimes causing practitioners to choose other areas of expertise.

7. A lack of journalists to cover government activity thoroughly.

8. When it comes to distributing information, government and media often have different agendas.

9. The job of informing the public is too large for anyone to do well.

10. Unlike a business with a more limited scope, a government has to attempt to please everyone rather than cater to one public in particular.

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

My Further Commentary

Here are some factors I’ve considered that the book did not mention, based partly on my own opinion, perceptions and experiences. I’ll put in any links and citations I can find as I go, exploring ideas that I can bolster with other sources.

A. Some members of government agencies represent their departments poorly and abuse their power over citizens, building mistrust. This apparently is what happened to my husband and I when we started putting in a rain garden to help cope with excess storm water. I documented all that in these two blog posts of mine and my final project for this course, Strategic Communications Applications, will partly be an attempt to analyze and find motivation for these actions against us.

B. News media is no longer the watchdog over government that it once was, due to more activist news coverage (Broom and Sha 365), or was perceived to have been. There is more than one reason for this in my opinion.

    • 1. Because traditional “old media” institutions are losing revenue to other channels, they are concentrating more on their social media channels. News on social media tends to be less informative, more opinion based, less accurate, and posted by journalists who are less constrained by ethics or standards than in the past (“The Impact of…”). Much content is only created to get views and clicks in order to sell ads and does not need to have much substance or even be true in order to meet the goals of the media organizations who publish it (Johnstone).
    • 2. Investigative journalism about government takes a lot of time and money to produce, and available money and staff are more limited (Grieco). Journalists can get stories with less time and effort by just repeating statements from sources without confirming or investigating (Johnstone).
        “Journalists wanted information to be easily available, yet resented the men and women who made it available. By the mid twentieth century, journalists were dependent on PR practitioners for a large percentage of the stories appearing in newspapers. But admitting their dependence would shatter cherished ideals. Journalists were proud of their ability to uncover stories, verify details, and expose sham. Thus, they were unlikely to admit their dependence, lack of skepticism, failure to verify, and failure to expose every sham.” – Delorme and Fedler, 2003. (Broom and Sha, 226)
    • 3. The attention span of the average person in our country is going down and there is less demand for in-depth stories with enough information to truly be informed (Lords).
    • 4. Issues related to the size and function of government are politicized. The personal philosophy of journalists and companies that employ them is more likely to follow their political interests rather than the well-being of citizens than in the past (“The Impact of…”).
    • 5. The media has less and less credibility with citizens because of selective reporting, staging and manipulating events in order to have a story that they want to be able to report, un-named sources that may or may not even exist and outright fabrication (“The Impact of…”, Johnstone). There are bi-partisan examples of this to be found. I’ll post one example each from two different political sides here for examination.

      The Pew Research Center measures the public’s attitudes toward both media and government and finds that news coverage about government is evaluated and consumed very differently according to political affiliation (Jurkowitz, et al).

    • 6. Many media institutions and personalities engage in “gaslighting”, similar to what is often done to the victim in abusive domestic relationships. Media, both entertainment and what is presented as “news” is permeated with attempts to make a lot of people who have done nothing wrong and have accurate and reasonable perceptions of reality to feel ridiculed and ostracized (Battaglio). If this is continued, the “Spiral of Silence” theory posits that certain ideas disappear from public discourse over time (Baran and Davis 268). Our form of government is based on the premise that people should be free to discuss issues in order to make the most rational choice, but there are many forces trying to restrict certain information from being discussed in public (Bufkin, Farrah, Gordon, OyperG, Poulakidakos, Sherr).

      For example in 2013 I was literally holding in my hand a letter from my insurance company saying that my insurance was cancelled when an “entertainment” podcast I was listening to was ridiculing people who claimed that their insurance was cancelled, claiming we were liars trying to fool people. This was a podcast that I had a paid subscription to. I sent a scan of my rejection letter to the podcast host along with a cancellation of my subscription to the podcast. The host’s response was to call me stupid and say I was making it up. That’s an example of gaslighting and DARVO, Deny Attack Reverse Victim Offender, a tactic that abusive domestic partners and other abusers use to keep their victims under coercive control (Harsey, Zurbriggen and Freyd, 644). While the majority of media outlets were trying to deny that there were cancellations happening, a web site with Twitter account was set up for people to send pictures of their cancellation letters for publication (Fennell). Twitter shut that account down, then reinstated it later after public outrage (Fennell). Since I did see my letter on that web site and Twitter account and it was unaltered from what I sent them, I judged the things they were posting to be credible unless I was presented with information indicating otherwise. So even in a society where there is supposed to be freedom of speech and the government has limited ability to censor if the constitution is followed, corporations can take political stances and if they don’t want certain things known they can do a lot to censor information that isn’t in their interests (OyperG, Fennell, Bufkin). If we rely for information on a corporation that is in the business of news or providing a communication platform, we can’t assume without investigating that we are getting true or complete information about any issue. While media corporations sometimes have an agenda that is in opposition to a government (Broom and Sha 365), at other times they can be complicit (Woodruff). Citizens must investigate for themselves to try to determine the truth to the best of their ability, and many do not have the time or interest and so remain poorly informed (Broom and Sha 356-366, Poulakidakos 373).


Works Cited

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Battaglio, Stephen, “Hallmark Channel isn’t winning Emmys, but red states love it.” Los Angeles Times, 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-hallmark-red-state-20170914-story.html. Accessed 12 November 2019.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Bufkin, Ellie, “Twitter Users Appalled by Bias and Censorship Plan Boycott.” Townhall.com/Salem Media, 2020, https://townhall.com/tipsheet/elliebufkin/2020/06/24/conservatives-appalled-by-bias-and-censorship-plan-twitter-boycott-n2571231. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Fennell, “Twitter Suspends (Then Reinstates) Account Critical of Obamacare.” IndustryDive, 2013, www.socialmediatoday.com/content/twitter-suspends-then-reinstates-account-critical-obamacare. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Grieco, Elizabeth. “U.S. newspapers have shed half of their newsroom employees since 2008.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/04/20/u-s-newsroom-employment-has-dropped-by-a-quarter-since-2008/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Hasenfratz, Carolyn. “MSD’s Project Clear and Our Local Water Issues.” Schnarr’s Hardware Company, 2017, schnarrsblog.com/msds-project-clear-and-our-local-water-issues/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Johnstone, Caitlin. “‘Confirmed’ Is a Meaningless Word In MSM News Reporting.” Consortiumnews, 2020, consortiumnews.com/2020/09/27/confirmed-is-a-meaningless-word-in-msm-news-reporting/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Jurkowitz, Mark et al. “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided.” Pew Research Center, 2020, www.journalism.org/2020/01/24/u-s-media-polarization-and-the-2020-election-a-nation-divided/. Accessed 11 October 2020.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Lords, Shannon, “As Attention Spans Get Shorter, Content Gets Even Shorter – What Would Ken Burns Do?” Advertising Week, 2020, https://www.advertisingweek360.com/attention-spans-get-shorter-content-gets-shorter-ken-burns/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

OyperG, “NBC Goes Mask Off – Reveals Twitter Censorship Methods After Devastating Hack.” Bitcoin Warrior, 2020, bitcoinwarrior.net/2020/07/nbc-goes-mask-off-reveals-twitter-censorship-methods-after-devastating-hack/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Sarah J. Harsey, Eileen L. Zurbriggen & Jennifer J. Freyd (2017) Perpetrator Responses to Victim Confrontation: DARVO and Victim Self-Blame, Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26:6, 644-663, DOI: 10.1080/10926771.2017.1320777. Accessed 12 October 2020.

Sherr, Ian. “How Facebook censors your posts (FAQ).” CNET, 2016, www.cnet.com/news/how-zuckerberg-facebook-censors-korryn-gaines-philando-castile-dallas-police-your-posts-faq/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

Silverblatt, Art et al. Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Fourth Edition. Praeger, 2014.

Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup, Inc. 2016, https://news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx. Accessed 24 September 2019.

“Taliban Denies CBS Claim of Endorsing Trump Reelection.” Tasnim News Agency, 2020, www.tasnimnews.com/en/news/2020/10/11/2367327/taliban-denies-cbs-claim-of-endorsing-trump-reelection. Accessed 11 October 2020.

“The Impact Of Social Media On News and Journalism.” New York Film Academy, 2014, www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/social-media-in-journalism/. Accessed 10 October 2020.

Winkelmann, Carolyn Hasenfratz. “Drainage Problems Are Bringing Tom and Me To Court.” Carolyn Hasenfratz Design, 2019, www.chasenfratz.com/wp/drainage-problems-are-bringing-tom-and-i-to-court/. Accessed 15 October 2019.

Woodruff, Betsy. “Democrat Rep: Insurance Cancellation Letters Should Have Just Said Things Are Getting Better.” National Review, 2013, www.nationalreview.com/corner/democrat-rep-insurance-cancellation-letters-should-have-just-said-things-are-getting/. Accessed 9 October 2020.

I also put some resources I’ve collected as I work on my degree on this Pinterest board:


Social Media at the Time of the American Revolution

No I’m not talking about the revolution that is being attempted in the US right now, I’m talking about the 1770s. Here is another history themed homework assignment that I enjoyed writing. What social media tools would I recommend if I could go back in time and be a consultant to Samuel Adams and friends?

“Samuel Adams and fellow revolutionaries used many techniques to achieve support for the United States Revolutionary War. With the use of “pen, platform, pulpit, staged events, symbols, news tips, and political organization”, these revolutionaries used events, manufactured if necessary, to appeal to and engage the senses of their hoped-for compatriots in the fight for independence from England (Broom and Sha 75). In the imaginary world of this assignment, I’m a time-traveling public relations consultant with the power to bring today’s social media tools to Sam Adams and the revolutionaries to help them win their campaign.

I’m going to recommend to Samuel Adams that he should add social media to the tools he is already using to make communication over long distances easier, cheaper, and less risky, with the potential to reach many more publics than presently. Some of the acts described below were considered by the British administration of the time to be treasonous and potentially punishable by death (Thernstrom 137), so the network and devices that Adams and his followers use will have to be secure from British spying.

The pamphlet “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine was a powerful piece of writing in favor of revolution that had a circulation of more than 100,000 copies throughout the colonies (Broom and Sha 76). Paine argued for independence with some fiery language, but the pragmatic argument that the colonies needed to be independent to form alliances with other nations in order to get assistance in fighting the British forces was considered the most persuasive (Thernstrom 143).

Thomas Paine and other eloquent and persuasive writers of their time would benefit from having their own blogs to publicize their content and collect subscribers so that the contact information can be shared with members of the revolutionary movement who are planning events and protests. Since readings of Common Sense were popular in taverns and coffee houses of the time (Thernstrom 143), audio and video presentations of this material that are shareable on social media will increase the reach tremendously. Most colonists at this time were not literate (Bitter 21), but would be able to consume videos and podcasts with the right receiving equipment.

A platform is easier to remember and rally around if it’s short and resonates with the public. “Taxation without representation is tyranny” is the well known slogan that describes the platform of the revolutionaries (Broom and Sha 76).

A graphic with a unifying image, such as the Liberty Tree, with this slogan should be prepared to use on social media outlets as a profile picture, header graphic, avatar image and any other identifying graphics that you need to reinforce your brand on social media platforms.

The British parliament passed the Quebec Act of 1774 which opened some additional areas of North America up to colonial American settlers, but with French law presiding and Catholic churches enjoying advantages over Protestant churches. Protestants were the majority of colonists and anti-Catholic feeling added more resentment against the British imperial government (Thernstrom 139). A further religious-based rift between Britain and America was widened by the Great Awakening, a renewal of Christian fervor in the colonies that made the old country seem more decadent and therefore less desirable to the colonists in comparison (Thernstrom 145).

Christian and Biblical references can be inserted when appropriate into communications to keep emphasizing the perceived moral superiority of the new society that is being created. Revolution-minded colonists did not shy away from including Biblical allegories and passages on items such as flags and needlework (“Religion and the…”), and such images could be adopted into memes or other sharable graphics. Ministers played a great role in propagating the idea of revolution against the British as a righteous cause (“Religion and the…”), and therefore making sermons available as shareable audio and video presentations could be very advantageous.

Staged Events
A provocative event can capture the attention of many members of the public who were otherwise indifferent (Broom and Sha 76). The Boston Tea Party was an event that could be considered staged. In all the other colonies except Massachusetts, ships carrying British Tea turned back when confronted by colonists who opposed the tea act because they had been persuaded by colonial tea wholesalers that it was dangerous for future liberty to grant a tea monopoly to the English East India tea company (Thernstrom 138). The Massachusetts Governor did not want to back down so he ordered all ships in Boston Harbor to remain until they unloaded all their cargo. In response, Samuel Adams and 150 followers dressed as Native Americans boarded the ships and unloaded 90,000 pounds of British tea into the harbor. This property destruction did not meet with universal approval even from colonists who opposed the tea act, but many lost sympathy for the home country when the British government reduced liberties in Massachusetts to the point where the colonial charter of 1691 was virtually null and void (Thernstrom 138-139). By provoking a harsh response from the British, Samuel Adams and friends re-ignited a lot of the anti-British sentiment in the other colonies that had risen during earlier unpopular tactics of the British but had temporarily quieted after most of the offending acts had been repealed or were left un-enforced (Thernstrom 138-139).

I recommend that Adams and followers should not publicize pictures of tea being destroyed, but instead try to propagate stories of British oppression throughout social media. Video footage of colonists trying to exercise some of their previously held rights, such as assembly, but being confronted by British officials and troops could be very effective and can be uploaded to YouTube, embedded on blogs, and more.

Political Organization
The Sons of Liberty and Committees of Correspondence were both formed in Boston to bring about the actions that the revolutionaries public relations efforts had inspired (Broom and Sha 76). The Massachusetts Committee on Correspondence urged the other colonies to limit importation of British luxury goods as a protest against the Sugar Act which they saw as an example of unfair taxation but received only limited support at that time (Thernstrom 131).

Social media is terrific for boycotts – a multimedia campaign with hashtags such as #boycottbritain or #boycottbritishgoods could be very effective as the colonists power to boycott has caused economic damage to Britain on more than one occasion (Thernstrom 132, 137).

The Liberty Tree is an an example of a symbol that the revolutionaries adopted to identify their movement and get potential recruits emotionally involved (Broom and Sha 76). The original Liberty Tree was an elm located in Boston. Under its branches, critics of the British government met and launched a protest, inflamed by the Stamp Act, which they believed ushered in an unwelcome era of taxation without representation. The Stamp Act required revenue-raising stamps to be sold by the imperial government and be placed by the colonists on any printed matter. In addition, since violators of the Stamp Act were not to be tried in colonial courts but rather British admirality courts which heretofore had restricted themselves to navigation related cases, the colonists revolted in order not to set a precedence for trials without a jury (Thernstrom 131-132).

The “Sons of Liberty”, who led protests against the Stamp Act throughout the colonies created effigies of stamp officials and subjected the effigies to various indignities including symbolic hanging from the Liberty Tree. Using other methods to intimidate would-be stamp officials into resigning, such as property damage and marches, the “Sons of Liberty” wanted to keep the protests mostly symbolic but were sometimes joined by sailors and workers who had patronized the local taverns and were primed to engage in some burning and looting. The pressures from these acts of civil disobedience and property destruction were enough to make the Stamp Act unenforceable by the British (Thernstrom 132).

The Stamp Act was able to unify the colonies in their outrage more than the previous Sugar Act had been, although more widening of rifts between the British government and the colonists would be required to get the protest leaders more interested in revolution (Thernstrom 133-134). A popular manifestation of opposition to the Stamp Act was a skull and crossbones placed on papers where the hated taxation stamp should have gone. Many newspapers throughout the colonies used similar imagery (“A Pledge to…”), displaying how a symbol can spread socially even with non-electronic technology available. The skull and crossbones could be an even more popular image with electronic help to go along with hash tags such as #thefatalstamp.

News Tips
The Boston Massacre is one example of the revolutionaries’ ability to get their side of the story out first in order to promote their interpretation of events (Broom and Sha 76). Many colonists were persuaded to see the killings as deliberate acts of tyranny by Samuel Adams and the colonial press (Thernstrom 137).

Citizen journalists allied with the revolutionary cause are encouraged to take pictures and video of the massacre and send to as many social media channels and media outlets as possible, along with personal accounts and reports, to make sure our take on the event is prominent in the public discourse and disseminated as quickly as possible.”

Works Cited

“A Pledge to Violate the Stamp Act.” NCpedia, 2020, www.ncpedia.org/anchor/pledge-violate-stamp-act. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Bitter, John. “Which Came First – Journalism or Public Relations.” Public Relations Quarterly, Fall 1987, pp. 21-22. Accessed 20 August 2020.

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

“Religion and the Founding of the American Republic.” Library of Congress, 2020, https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel03.html. Accessed 21 September 2020.

Thernstrom, Stephan. A History of the American People: Volume One: To 1877. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1984.

Blasts From The Past

When I worked for Webinar Resources, I wrote a lot of blog and newsletter articles. I’m going through some of them for an assignment I’m doing in my Strategic Communications class. Here is a Wayback Machine link to some of the articles I wrote between 2009 and 2012. Enjoy!

Webinar Resources Blog on the Wayback Machine

Webinar Resources Newsletter Archive

Here is how my homework turned out.

“In the article “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It” author Kimberly E. Stone makes the case that social media should be used to reinforce what traditional marketing is doing, but not take over or take the lead from traditional channels.

She believes the best uses for social media in the present day are:

  • Gaining intelligence
  • Interacting with customers
  • Managing crises

It would be interesting to review how I thought social media should be used back when the company I was working for was heavily into business blogging and I was writing blog and newsletter articles about how and why to use social media. I found articles I wrote on our old blog from 2009-2012 on the Wayback Machine. Here is the link I used to view my old articles.


What did I think social media was good for during that time?

  • Making it easy for customers to share your content
    Applications designed to build subscriber lists
  • Making shareable archives
  • Broadcasting
  • Listening
    What are customers currently interested in
    Is anyone talking about us in a negative way
  • Cutting the cost of distributing your content
  • Customer relations
  • Community building
  • Creative expression
  • Collaboration
  • Leveraging the investment in content by repurposing in different channels
  • Manage reputation

My list is much more broad, but although I worded some things differently my list mostly includes everything that is in the author’s list. I did say in one of my articles that I learned in a webinar put on by Compendium Blogware that an organization has to get their “SEO, Social, Content, Email Marketing and PR people to communicate with each other”. A PR practitioner can play a role in facilitating communication within an organization as well as between the organization and its publics (Broom and Sha 189). So I do agree with the author’s premise, that social media should augment traditional channels but not replace them.

While I was writing these articles I was mostly writing for small companies. I touted the benefits of social media partly for the lower price point of entry over some traditional marketing channels. That did not mean I favored not using the older channels if there is a budget for it.  Whatever is new is always exciting, but it doesn’t mean you have to jump on every new thing if it doesn’t fit. The goals of all the channels that are used should be to present a consistent experience in keeping with the organizations brand and objectives. All channels are not appropriate for all audiences, so it isn’t necessarily good to use every one that is available. Also, during Marketing 5000 class I learned there is at least one older channel that is coming back into favor if used in an updated way – the catalog. To choose the right mix means keeping up to date on the trends as popularity waxes and wanes for certain channels.”

Works Cited

Broom, Glen M. and Bey-Ling Sha. Effective Public Relations. Pearson, 2013.

Stone, Kimberly E. “Why Traditional Marketing Trumps Social Media, And What To Do About It.” Forbes, Sep 18, 2012. Accessed 15 September 2020.

Article Review: Marketing “Green” Products and Being a Good Corporate Citizen

This is a homework assignment for my Marketing 5000 class at Webster University. It has not been graded yet.

Carolyn Hasenfratz Winkelmann

Dr. John Jinkner

MRKT-5000: Marketing

6 April 2020

Article Review #1: – E-Marketing, Digital Media and Social Networking

Name of the Article:  “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales”

Source:  Journal of Interactive Marketing

URL:  http://dx.doi.org.library3.webster.edu/10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005

Article Summary

Authors Lu and Miller examined how loyalty rewards programs (LRP) combined with customer relationship management (CRM) and social media campaigns could increase sales of “green” products in a retail setting.  Concentrating on grocers who sell foods that are marketed as organic, healthy and sustainable, the article explains that while the demand for “green” foods is growing, there are barriers to the acceptance of these products among some consumers (Lu and Miller, 87-88).  Some potential customers hold the perception that environmentally sustainable foods are too expensive, aren’t adequate substitutes for conventional products and are not worth the extra cost.  With additional knowledge about the value of such products, some consumers can be persuaded to give them a chance and be converted to motivated buyers (Lu and Miller, 88).

Because Facebook was the most dominant social media platform in the world at the time of the study, the authors used it to examine the relationship between Facebook content and sales among “green” grocery retailers in a large city in Australia.  Facebook is a platform that marketers can use to practice social customer relationship management (SCRM), an updated form of customer relationship management (CRM) that adds social media into the marketing mix (Lu and Miller, 89).  Intuition and previous studies showed the authors that effective content on Facebook should increase sales.  Their study focused on participants in loyalty rewards programs which are proven to increase profitability if used effectively (Lu and Miller, 90).

Social media gives consumers more control over marketing because they can create and share content rather than just consuming content that is pushed to them by the brand (Lu and Miller, 89).  Both brand-generated and consumer-generated content can increase the level of interest and engagement with a brand, which has a positive influence on actual shopping activity (Lu and Miller, 89, 91).  “Green” products do often require more knowledge on the part of the consumer to realize the value and to stimulate a purchase (Lu and Miller, 91).  Many “green” consumers organize themselves into social media-based communities that share common values and exchange information (Lu and Miller, 91).  Consumers need to be motivated to effectively consume information presented by a brand (Lu and Miller, 92).  It makes sense to leverage the power of social media along with the heightened brand engagement exhibited by long-term loyalty reward program participants (Lu and Miller, 92) to increase the acceptance of environmentally responsible products.  Lu and Miller found that thoughtful SCRM strategies did increase the sales of “green” products to long-term LRP members (Lu and Miller, 97) and that these loyal customers responded more to messages about the health benefits of sustainable products than they did about the environmental benefits or the price (Lu and Miller, 98).

How this Article Relates to our Course

In Chapter 1 of our textbook, “Marketing”, we are reminded that environmental factors that influence marketing can change quickly (Pride and Ferrell, 13).  As we are now suddenly dealing with a global health issue that has severe effects on many aspects of life, one way consumer needs have changed rapidly is that we need supplies to protect ourselves from infection.  Health, physical and mental, is at the top of nearly everyone’s concerns right now.  I work in a store that has a loyalty rewards program, engages in social media marketing, and sells some environmentally conscious products, considerations which made the article I reviewed of particular interest.  We also sell supplies, some in stock intermittently, that customers want and need to cope with the pandemic.  I’m observing and participating in real time how to change course rapidly as we respond to consumer demand as well as reading about it in our textbook.

Perhaps some might assume that such an event in history is a time for mere coping, not marketing.  Marketing concept is a philosophy that an organization adopts when it takes into account not only the needs of customers but the welfare of all the stakeholders that it has an effect upon (Pride and Ferrell, 13-14).  Customers of the store are stakeholders, as well as are owners, employees, vendors, service providers, delivery people, the families of all those groups and the community as a whole. Profiting by satisfying customer demand at the expense of other stakeholders was already frowned upon by many as a business practice before the current challenges we are facing (Pride and Ferrell, 14).  Brand managers would be wise to be wary of being perceived as exploiting a crisis.  For example, businesses that inflate the prices of crucial items or make false claims about the usefulness of products have been reported by name in an article published by the St. Louis Post Dispatch (Stewart).

The article I reviewed is enlightening when considering how marketing concept applies to serving the community in the present time.  Since long-term loyalty rewards program customers are the most profitable customer category for a retailer (Lu and Miller, 92), it is less than rational to reap short-term gains at the risk of offending long-term loyal customers with behavior that is not community-minded.  I hypothesize that a brand that already takes into account all stakeholders and has effectively imbued its organization with the philosophy behind its marketing concept is at low risk for carelessly implementing an action that will backfire because the first instincts of individuals within the organization will be to serve rather than exploit.  Now is not a time to cease marketing but to use actions as marketing while serving all stakeholders with a view to their long-term health and welfare, fiscal and otherwise.

Works Cited

Lu, Qiang Steven, and Rohan Miller. “How Social Media Communications Combine with Customer Loyalty Management to Boost Green Retail Sales.” Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 46, May 2019, pp. 87–100. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.intmar.2018.12.005. Accessed 06 April 2020.

Pride, William M. and O.C. Ferrell. Marketing. 2018 Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2016, 2018.

Stewart, Tynan. “Overpriced toilet paper, $12 masks: Missourians complain about coronavirus price-gouging.” Stltoday.com, 2020, www.stltoday.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/overpriced-toilet-paper-12-masks-missourians-complain-about-coronavirus-price-gouging/article_4bedcd86-c828-5be2-9f03-c3e010ef820c.html. Accessed 6 April 2020.

Media Literacy and Interpreting Political Messages

In Mass Communication class this past fall, I wrote about the following propaganda techniques in my paper “How do we decide which media sources we can trust?” – Name Calling, Glittering Generalities, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, Band Wagon, Impersonation, Emotion, Polarization, Conspiracy, Discredit and Trolling. I found some really interesting information about trolling that I saved in the extra links section below my paper for further study later. Recently in Media and Culture class, we watched a 60 Minutes video report titled “Brain Hacking” which inspired me to do a little experiment on social media the next day.

I saw a meme shared by a friend on Facebook that contained a false but somewhat plausible sounding claim about current political events. I shared it in my Facebook feed, which is public because I use it for marketing as well as other purposes, to see what kind of reaction I would get. I and others made some comments below it that I plan to investigate more and write up in a more polished way later. For now, one of the most important things I observed was that the meme drew comments from people I’ve been Facebook friends with for years (and friends in real life in some cases) who never respond to my more typical, much higher quality content. I can speculate on many reasons why this was so, some of which I may be able to prove and some I may not. One thing I can definitively assert however is the effect of the trolling on this blog, a separate channel from Facebook but with lots of cross-links back and forth. I posted the trolling meme on November 20, 2019 and here is a screenshot I took this morning of my blog stats.

blog traffic increased by trolling
Yes I’m a graphic designer and I could have easily faked this graphic – but I give you my word that I didn’t, for what it’s worth!

With more research I hope to understand more about how trolling works, but I think it’s pretty clear why so many people do it – it gets attention!

In my current Media and Culture class, one of our recent assignments was to find and analyze examples of a successful political ad and and unsuccessful political ad. I found something really great – a successful political ad about political ads, very interesting for that reason alone, which was also a Facebook trolling experiment perpetrated by a presidential campaign.

A political ad that comments on advertising and is also a trolling test.

Even though “trolling” is a word with negative connotations, I think this is a very successful example and in a way could be considered “good” propaganda as I consider my own trolling test to be. In both cases we tried to be somewhat ethical while trolling by eventually coming clean about what we were doing in order to raise awareness. Regardless of which candidate one supports, I think all can benefit from seeing and analyzing the Warren ad. In order to truly be able to interpret media messages it is a good media literacy skill to be aware of the ad policy on the channel on which you are viewing the content. It’s a hot topic right now in the news as channels scramble to modify their ad policies to bring about the election results they want, appease users who fear “fake news” and trolls, and still get a slice of that fat advertising pie (according to Bloomberg over a billion in 2016 just for the dominant presidential candidates).

The original Warren ad led off with a shocking statement to get attention. After explaining the purpose of lying in the ad, the copy then makes accusations that would take research to prove or disprove which I’m not going to attempt here, but would probably be believed or dismissed by many depending on how the audience has been primed. The photo of Trump and Zuckerberg shaking hands will likely get an emotional reaction out of a lot of people. Even though a handshake is a standard beginning and end to a business meeting, the photo suggests they are partners. I don’t know if the photo was purposely chosen to show eye contact between Mr. Zuckerberg and President Trump with the President appearing to be speaking and Mr. Zuckerberg listening, but it could be interpreted as trying to show the smaller, slighter, younger Zuckerberg as being under Trump’s thrall.

Was the Warren ad effective? When I did research trying to find information about this ad, I learned that it inspired commentary and articles on NPR, CNET, CNBC, The New York Times and others. The media coverage I’m sure is something the campaign wants since their stated goal is to raise awareness of Facebook’s current advertising policy. Based on a quick glance at Warren’s Twitter feed, the amount of likes and shares this ad instigated was a very good result compared to normal results. The call to action at the end is a common feature of many good ads – it lets viewers do something right away if they are so moved.

There is a Facebook Ad Library that allows you to view current and past ads, even ones you were not otherwise shown because you were not the target audience. It’s interesting to see what each campaign is running! Also if you do searches about a candidate (for example “Donald Trump”) vs. those that are paid for by the Candidate’s own committee (for example ” Trump Make America Great Again Committee”), you can get very different results. Try it!

The photo in the troll ad reminds me of the Webster University Journal article we discussed toward the beginning of the class about Senator Josh Hawley and the Confucius Institute. A lot of photos could have been chosen to use in that article. It’s interesting that most of the other articles I found have photos of activities at Confucius Institutes, Chinese people or Chinese culture, or some kind of protest. But the Journal article has a photo that could be considered kind of loaded, especially when you consider it in conjunction with the article’s contents. Why do you think a photo from Cape Girardeau was chosen instead of one from the St. Louis area when Webster University and the Confucius Institute it hosts are in St. Louis County? Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they are available. Sometimes certain photos are chosen because they convey a latent message. Do you think there are latent messages in these two photos?

political photo choice in an ad and in an article
Photo from the Warren ad on the left, photo from the Webster University Journal on the right. What messages might be sent based on Scale? On Relative Position? Anything else?

After reading my paper “Production Elements and Messages in The Television Series The Crown what do you think of the above two photos? Still photos and motion pictures use a lot of the same production elements. Following are some more questions I would ask the writer, editor and publisher of the Journal if I could.

Why was there no mention made that there was a Senate hearing on the issue with a member of the FBI giving testimony about why the agency was concerned?

Why was no mention made of other politicians from both major parties writing similar letters to colleges in their states? Some of the other Universities’ actions were mentioned, but not what prompted them. Why is that?

Why was no mention made of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report? The excerpt below is from page 21:

“Over the last several years, members of Congress, U.S. government officials, and academics have raised a number of concerns about Confucius Institutes, including about academic freedom, contractual agreements, transparency, hiring practices, and self-censorship. The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Foreign Relations Committees all held broad hearings that discussed China at which Senators heard from experts on U.S.-China relations, academic freedom advocates, and law enforcement officials. Additionally, members of Congress from several states issued public letters to U.S. schools with Confucius Institutes urging them to reconsider their arrangement with Hanban.”

I am very much in favor of cultural exchange and the learning languages of other cultures. I think the more we and other nations understand each other the better off we will all be. I don’t know whether the Webster University Chancellor made the right decision or not because I don’t know enough about the legal and financial arrangements to judge. I could not detect anything false in the Webster Journal article, but on the other hand I don’t think there was enough information in it to understand the actual issue. I am pretty sure I know what the Journal wanted me to think about it though. I think my analysis is an example of how we have to read all news stories to be informed and not just manipulated.

To see what I used as sources in analyzing the Journal article I put a link to the Journal article and other interesting articles on the topic I found, plus a link to the Senate report on this Confucius Institutes on College Campuses Pinterest board.

The Spiral of Silence Theory

DISCLAIMER: The following is graduate student work. I’m uploading it after grading from the Professor but no corrections were made.

The Spiral of Silence Theory

In 1963, Bernard Cohen identified a mass media phenomenon called agenda-setting, a theory which posits that the media has an influence over what topics people think are important even if it has limited control over the content of those thoughts (Baran and Davis 264). Research in 1972 by Maxwell E. McCombs and Donald Shaw appeared to confirm the theory while later researchers expanded on the nature of agenda-setting and amount of interchange between the media and the intended audience (Baran and Davis 264-268). Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann originated the spiral-of-silence theory which argues that people will be more reluctant to express their views if they believe those views are in the minority. This self-censorship results in views that are perceived as less popular gradually disappearing from public debate (Baran and Davis 268).

In 1973, Noelle-Neumann examined what caused the media to possess this agenda-setting power. In her view, one factor is that the media is readily available for consumption. Another reason is that there is a cumulative effect – the messages cross content formats and types of media and are repeated over time. Thirdly, there is a lack of diversity among the opinions of journalists that tends to lead to homogeneity of topics presented to the public (Baran and Davis 268-269). Other researchers have continued to criticize, test and analyze the spiral of silence theory (Baran and Davis 269).

During the 20th Century, information tended to flow in a top-down manner from the elites to the masses. In the present time, we still use legacy media such as printed materials and electronic media. The category of actors that would have relied on such “old media” to distribute their messages, such as activist groups, governments, organizations and companies, are still using those legacy channels along with the newer decentralized web-based platforms. Additionally, we are producing user-generated content in the form of blogs and social media posts that compete for time and attention alongside the more elite content sources (Poulakidakos 373). The line between production and consumption has been considerably blurred (Poulakidakos 377).

Individual media users make decisions to determine when it is safe or desirable to express an opinion in the public sphere (Poulakidakos 374). Users do monitor whether their opinion is in the majority or minority and take the effect on their online and real-life relationships into consideration before deciding what to share (Poulakidakos 374). A 2011 study by Andrew Hayes and associates examined the effect of opinion polls and found that they do have a greater influence on people who suffer more fear of social isolation (Baran and Davis 269). There is a tendency for some individuals polled to tell the researchers what they think they want to hear rather than their true opinion (Gearhart and Zhgang 38). This behavior suggests that some people who think they are conforming to their fellow citizens to gain social acceptance are really conforming to the perceived opinions of the poll takers instead.

What factors make people more willing to take the risk of expressing their opinion? Awareness of a wider variety of opinions helps – with more diverse points of view available for consumption, there is less fear of social exclusion for expressing an opinion, helping to break the spiral of silence effect (Poulakidakos 375). Minority opinion holders are more willing to speak out on issues that they hold very firmly and believe are of high importance (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). People are more willing to express their true opinions in forums where they are not required to reveal their real-life identity (Gearhart and Zhgang 39). Less popular opinions are more likely to be expressed when people perceive that their view is gaining momentum (Gearhart and Zhgang 48).

Research by Gerarhart and Zhang shows that the perception that the media is in line with the user’s opinions has only a limited effect on the willingness of people to post truthfully about their thoughts. The perceived opinion of other members of the person’s nation had very little effect (Gearhart and Zhgang 44-46). In other words, the opinions of real-life friends and family carry a lot more weight with individuals than the media or the general public (Gearhart and Zhgang 50).

Even if the intended effect is not very significant, some appear to feel that any advantage is worth pursuing when the stakes are high, such as they are in the case of a major election. It is estimated that 1.4 billion USD was spent on digital advertising in the 2016 US Presidential election (Madrigal). A Pew research study shows that with over a year to go before the next Presidential election, 46% of social media users are already fatigued by the amount of political content they are exposed to (Anderson and Quinn). Our current culture is increasingly tolerant of incivility and some of the political content and behavior goes beyond mere propaganda, taking the form of online shaming, bullying and offline terrorism. Vitriol is not only directed at candidates but also their supporters (Gordon). On our own Webster University Campus in 2019, wearing a candidate’s t-shirt or having a candidate’s bumper sticker on a car has resulted in attempted property damage, vituperative verbal insults, and physical assault (Farrah). It is possible to be attacked even when not engaging in public political speech based solely on identity (Gordon). In 2015, a man was allegedly beaten on public transportation in St. Louis for declining to state a political opinion when asked (Associated Press). The Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2016 that there were 10 active hate groups in the St. Louis area that “target others based on perceived membership in a class of people” (Moffit).

Studies cited earlier in this paper have found that the opinion climate in a particular environment does have some effect on open opinion expression. In the case of political views, can the majority consensus in a social media platform, such as Facebook, accurately predict voting behavior? According to a study by Mihee Kim, if an individual is not strongly committed to a political point of view, not only is such a person unlikely to express an opinion in a hostile environment, that person is less likely to vote at all. People strongly partisan to a certain point of view were also less forthcoming with opinions in a hostile environment, but rather than reducing political participation in the real world as the less committed did, they increased their activities in a direction opposite of what they perceived as the majority view (Kim 700). As a result, those actors attempting to sway voters in their preferred political direction by making it seem as though the voters’ own opinions are unpopular are likely to get the opposite outcome than was intended.

The nature of new media results in users having more choices of what content to consume and more individualized control over what they prefer to consume (Poulakidakos 374). If our nation has lost its’ tolerance for the open debate that allows ideas to be heard and judged on their merits, then we will continue to make important decisions about the future of our country with only the opinions from our own self-selected sphere of influence to guide us (Poulakidakos 374).

Works Cited

Anderson, Monica and Dennis Quinn. “46% of U.S. social media users say they are ‘worn out’ by political posts and discussions.” Pew Research Center, 2019, www.pewresearch.org/…/46-of-u-s-social-media-users…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Associated Press. “FBI investigates possible hate crime cases in St. Louis.” CBS Interactive Inc., 2015, www.cbsnews.com/…/fbi-begins-investigations-into…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Baran, Stanley J. and Dennis K. Davis. Mass Communication Theory: Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Seventh Edition. CENGAGE Learning, 2015.

Farrah, Kristen. “Republicans fear prejudice on campus.” Webster Journal, 2019, websterjournal.com/…/republicans-fear-prejudice-on…/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Gearhart, Sherice, and Weiwu Zhang. “Same Spiral, Different Day? Testing the Spiral of Silence across Issue Types.” Communication Research, vol. 45, no. 1, Feb. 2018, pp. 34-54. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0093650215616456. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Gordon, Sherri. “How to Handle Political Bullying on Facebook.” Dotdash, 2019, www.verywellmind.com/how-to-handle-political-bullying…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Kim, Mihee. “Facebook’s Spiral of Silence and Participation: The Role of Political Expression on Facebook and Partisan Strength in Political Participation.” CyberPsychology, Behavior & Social Networking, vol. 19, no. 12, Dec. 2016, pp. 696-702. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1089/cyber.2016.0137. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Madrigal, Alexis C. “What Facebook Did to American Democracy And why it was so hard to see it coming.” The Atlantic, 2017, www.theatlantic.com/…/2017/10/what-facebook-did/542502/. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Moffit, Kelly. “10 hate groups in the St. Louis area: Defining and discussing what they stand for today.” St. Louis Public Radio, 2016, https://news.stlpublicradio.org/…/10-hate-groups-st…. Accessed 4 October 2019.

Poulakidakos, Stamatis, et al. “Post-Truth, Propaganda and the Transformation of the Spiral of Silence.” International Journal of Media & Cultural Politics, vol. 14, no. 3, Sept. 2018, pp. 367-382. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1386/macp.14.3.367_1. Accessed 2 October 2019.

Further reading: Here are some links to things I didn’t use or cite but might be interesting to read if you like this topic!

Democracy vs. Republic

The Power to Influence

12 Devious Tricks People Use To Manipulate You

Facebook Says it Doesn’t Try to Influence How People Vote

“Feminazis,” “libtards,” “snowflakes,” and “racists”: Trolling and the Spiral of Silence effect in women, LGBTQIA communities, and disability populations before and after the 2016 election

Effects of the “Spiral of Silence” in Digital Media

Spiral of Silence, and the Election Half of us Saw Coming

The only true winners of this election are trolls

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

A Comparison Between Emotional Abuse and Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”

The tone of public discourse about politics in our country today alarms a lot of people of different political persuasions. Events in my recent personal history have caused me to educate myself about emotional abuse tactics that others have used against me. I’ve noticed that a lot of these tactics are prominent in social media and the “mainstream” media. It seems to permeate almost all pop culture, entertainment and “news” which is why I avoid most of it and have for many years. I thought it would be interesting to compare emotional abuse tactics that I have personally experienced with Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” and see if there is any overlap.

Here are links to the source documents I used for my comparison:

And here are the results:

My Personal Experience Rules for Radicals
Intended target I was likely perceived as vulnerable because of grieving a deep personal loss and having suffered a recent and extreme career and financial downturn Low-income communities and “have nots”
Gaslighting Ex-boyfriend tried to convince me that I have a lot of illnesses and that my web site gave him a virus. Ex-boss told me I’m not smart enough to learn things in classes I wanted to take. “Whenever possible, go outside the expertise of the enemy.” Look for ways to increase insecurity, anxiety and uncertainty.
Name-calling and put-downs Just in the last week I’ve had the following terms applied to me – “dumb”, “mouth-breathing”, “brain-dead”, “stupid”, “subhuman dwarf”. These were in one-on-one interactions where the people knew exactly who they were addressing.
My ex-boyfriend mocked my physical appearance and gloated and mocked me over signs that I was hurt by his actions.
“Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also
works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.
Isolating you from your support networks My ex-boyfriend put down my family and sabotaged a reunion I had with some friends I hadn’t seen in years.
My ex-boss instructed co-workers not to help me with my projects.
“Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the
target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.
Projection – accusing you of doing things they are doing themselves My ex-boyfriend had a lot of debt and I have none but he accused me numerous times of being bad at handling money. “Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have.”
They accuse you of being “too sensitive” in order to deflect their abusive remarks When people taunt you and hurt you until you react, they can accuse you of all kinds of things, such as being neurotic and mentally ill. And that’s just the beginning! “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”
They try to make you feel as though they are always right, and you are wrong Abusive people have criticized me for not having enough money then got angry at me for working too hard.
I’ve been put down for taking classes to help me with my career while simultaneously being put down by the same person for my career not being sufficiently successful. I’ve been put down for things that I think are common sense – getting exercise, wearing sunscreen, eating healthy food, losing weight, saving my retirement money for retirement, combining car trips to save on gas. An abusive ex-roommate used to put down my hair color (it was natural then!). There doesn’t seem to be any aspect of my life that is too trivial for someone else to take notice of and attack.
“Keep the pressure on. Never let up.” Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance.

Results: there is not a one-to-one correspondence, but there is some overlap. I recommend you read the signs of emotional abuse very carefully – is someone in your personal life using those tactics against you? Is the media using those tactics against you? Are political movements using those tactics against you? I’m not pointing the finger at only one side here – I’ve been abused by people from different political points of view. My goal in writing this is to make you more aware of abuse in your life and inspire you to refuse to tolerate it – no matter who is doing it to you!