In my case studies in PR Class, our instructor, Signy Gerrard asked me and my classmates to answer two questions in relation to a product called ‘pink slime.’ Below are my responses to her questions.
1. Why is it important that a company have the ability to defend its views while at the same time respecting concerns?
In my view, there are three reasons it is important that a company have the ability to defend its view while at the same time respecting the concerns of the public.
A company must be given an opportunity to defend itself from criticism
We live in a world where emotions drive action. Emotions are guided by, but not limited to jealously, lack of knowledge, or misinformation. A company must be given a chance to defend its views from those who do not always know the facts of a situation, those who hate for the sake of hating, and those who simply have the wrong information.
A company must understand that consumers have the right to choose
At the same time, public opinion is important. If a company decides to implement policy that goes against the grain of public opinion, they must accept their fate, whatever it the end result may be. If it results in minimal impact on their bottom line, then no harm done.
Companies are servants to the consumer
At the end of the day, companies exist to serve the public or publics. Without consumer demand for product and services, organizations will not survive. Historically, if organizations do not serve the will of the people, they will crumble.
2. In the ‘pink slime’ case, in your opinion, is the industry focus on education the correct one? Or should they be taking action to change their product in response to customer concerns?
In the pink slime case, the industry focus on education is part of the answer. Education has the capacity to separate fiction from facts. A company has the right to do what it wants with their products because they invest its development. Beef Products Inc., the company that manufactured the product, faced a PR crisis when ABC news reported a story on the alleged details, composition, and distribution of pink slime to retailers, restaurants, and schools.
In response to the second half of the question, Meat Products Inc. should do whatever they want to do in regards to their products. If they want to ignore public opinion, that is their choice. In general, companies are free to agree or disagree with public opinion, as they either report to the owners and/or their shareholders.
Companies are not obligated to change corporate policy because the public thinks differently of their views. Companies may have designed a service or product to cater to a particular target market. If laws haven’t been broken, then companies are free to do what they want regardless of public opinion. However, a company should know that going against the grain of public opinion is a slippery slope that will have a negative effect on their reputation that may affect their bottom line and balance sheet.
It is my opinion that companies should be extremely mindful of their reputation by building meaningful relationships with their publics and trust with the organizations and clients they serve.
What do you think? Please leave your comments in the section below.