Friday, 22 January 2010
Since starting a master's in PR I have learnt more about the role of social media within communication strategies. Before I looked at Facebook as a communcation tool for a person rather than for a business, but now I understand how powerful social media can be in influencing and informing people. As social media platforms are used worldwide, there are great opportunities for companies which operate globally.
Companies can now communicate to a worldwide audience via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. A company such as Next use both these social networking sites in order to let their customers know of new the styles on offer and they upload pictures of these styles.
Video sharing sites such as YouTube have allowed companies to share videos of adverts and videos of how to use their products. Marks and Spencer adverts are widely available on YouTube, this enables people in other countries to view English adverts which wouldn’t be aired on television in their country.
Blogging allows companies to share information regarding their brand with people. This allows for two-way communication as people can post their comments and converse with the author of the blog as well as other people who comment on it.
While there are many opportunities for global brands using social media platforms, there are also threats. An example is the recent blogging backlash that Eurostar were faced with when some of their trains were trapped inside the tunnel. Many passengers used Twitter to talk of their experiences and the poor communication from Eurostar. Consequently, their reputation has been seriously damaged.
Any threats of social media to global companies are severely outweighed by the opportunities. The amount of users signed up to social networking sites is ever increasing and this allows for companies to expand on their existing communication strategies and reach a wider audience than ever before.
I know if I ever start up my own business I will definately take advantage of the use of social media.
Monday, 18 January 2010
Sunday, 17 January 2010
Recently, I was watching a very comical documentary presented by Alex Riley called Britain’s Really Disgusting Foods. One of the topics that Alex investigates is the production of palm oil used for producing chocolate. To produce palm oil many South-East Asian rainforests have been cleared and this could cause the orangutan to be extinct within 10 years.
Mars Chocolate UK Ltd recently announced that the Galaxy chocolate bar will be Rainforest Alliance certified in 2010. However, while the cocoa they use in it will be 100% sustainable, the palm oil won’t be.
Alex decides to meet the spokesperson for The Rainforest Alliance and asks him why Mars are allowed to get the Galaxy certified by them when they are using unsustainable palm oil. Alex is told that in order to get The Rainforest Alliance seal of approval the cocoa needs to be from a rainforest certified farm, regardless of whether the palm oil is sustainable or not. One word now enters my head, 'greenwashing!'
Alex then decides to go to the Mars Chocolate UK Ltd Head Office with a lorry full of 'orangutan friendly' palm oil and a group of people dressed up in orangutan costumes. Alex tries to sell the palm oil to Mars; however they decline the offer. This is hardly surprising, would you a buy a lorry full of palm oil from a load of people dressed up in orangutan costumes? I very much doubt it.
A spokesperson then comes out and hands Alex a statement. The statement explains that Mars have now committed to using sustainable palm oil by 2015. You may be thinking that’s a fairly good outcome, but how many orangutans will actually be left in 2015?
Although the documentary was presented in a comical way, the issues raised were quite serious. It has all led me to think about the topic of greenwashing. Before you ask me what greenwashing is, no it isn’t like stonewashing jeans but with grass instead of stones!
Greenwashing is when companies mislead consumers to believe the environmental impact and sustainability of a product is more positive than it actually is. This is exactly what Mars have done with the Galaxy. Consumers see that it’s Rainforest Alliance certified and think that it’s environmentally friendly and saving the rainforest, what they don’t know is that the palm oil used in it is causing the extinction of the orangutan.
I wouldn’t say that I’m a 'tree hugging' type of person, but I’m all up for helping to protect the environment. I bet many of you could probably say the same? Whether you're a 'tree hugger' or not, the environment and sustainablilty is something we all need to understand in order to keep the world going.
Maybe, if more of us knew about greenwashing and how widespread it is then companies wouldn’t get away with it. But on the other hand, this wouldn’t be fair on companies whch communicate their CSR to the public and are making genuine attempts in being 'green', as we may think they are greenwashing' when in fact they aren’t.
Companies may then be put off from communicating their CSR in fear of being accused of greenwashing. Personally, I wouldn’t want to see this happen as I think companies have the right to let people know they are acting responsibly and as a consumer I would want to know when they are demonstrating CSR.
What do you think about all this? Should we find a way to prevent companies from greenwashing or should we let consumers work out for themselves whether they are undertaking genuine CSR or not?
Saturday, 9 January 2010
After a busy first week at my work experience placement I've got involved in a wide range of hands on experience, including blogging, writing press releases, writing letters to clients etc. Check out this blog post I've done for the Message Merchants, who are part of The Phoenix Partners. There may be more to come in the weeks ahead.