Public Relations chapter 4
Public opinion is an elusive and fragile commodity.
It can take years to build credibility and nurture trust, but only minutes to destroy it. Individuals and companies in the public eye cannot afford to tarnish their reputations. The best public relations campaign can’t
build trust when reality is destroying it.
In the 21st century, public opinion is a combustible and changing commodity. It is difficult to move people toward a strong opinion on anything, and harder yet to move them away from an opinion once it is formed. The heart of public relations work lies in influencing the public opinion process. Most PR programs are designed to:
1. Persuade people to change their opinion.
2. Crystallize uninformed opinions.
3. Reinforce existing opinions. (support positive existing opinions)
The professional challenge….
What public opinion is
How it evolves from people’s attitudes
How it is influenced by communication
What is public opinion?
Experts have created dozens of definitions.
Public relations pioneer Edward Bernays called it “a term describing an ill-defined, mercurial, and changeable group of individual opinions.”
Let’s split the term in two…
A public signifies a group of people who share a common interest in a specific subject. Opinion is the expression of an attitude on a particular topic. When attitudes become strong enough, they surface in the form of opinions. When opinions become strong enough, they lead to verbal or behavioral actions.
Public opinion is determined by three major factors:
Attitudes, opinions and actions
What are attitudes?
Attitudes are evaluations that people make about specific problems or issues. Their conclusions may not be connected to any broad attitude on a given subject. An individual’s attitude may differ from issue to issue.
More on attitudes…
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