For many, the Fourth of July is a holiday to relax and unwind, but for public relations folks, it is an opportunity to accomplish something. For some organizations it is a prime date to get out a message to your audience. The Fourth of July requires weeks of preparation for many companies, especially their public relations departments.
There are two main types of Fourth of July PR: public service announcements and sponsorships. A company may aim to get out a message that encourages purchase of its product or build its reputation as a company that cares about its customers. Additionally, it may reach its audience with a sponsorship that brings an experience to the people.
When it comes to reputation many companies may try to improve their images or feature an agenda on the Fourth of July. Fireworks accidents, travel safety, boating safety, pet safety, sun safety, following the law and food safety are common topics for related companies to address on this holiday. For fireworks accidents, the conversation is often started by fireworks distributors and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Something like sun safety is facilitated by the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen brands and hospitals.
Companies will also use the Fourth of July to promote their brands. In most of these cases the company sponsors a related event or donates money based on the customer’s involvement. Some examples of event sponsors are Nathan’s Famous hot dog eating contest, Macy’s New York City fireworks display, Coca-Cola’s Atlanta fireworks celebration, TOMS’ “Red, White and Bold Bash,” and Disney’s week of festival in both parks. Other companies like Kraft and Epicurious prompt their audience to use their recipes to make the summer holiday special. If companies aren’t presenting events or content, then they may be asking for customer participation. Pepsi and Budweiser encourage their customers to buy a specially marked bottle to help the company donate money to charity.
The Fourth of July is an opportune holiday for a gamut of organizations and causes to facilitate their messages or promotions. Chances are your local festival or fireworks display has a sponsor or sponsors, so check them out. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!
Public relations is a significant department in any company, yet some CEOs and other workers never appreciate or understand its necessity and power within an organization. Another reason PR doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves is because it is confused with other specialties and departments. People often confuse PR with marketing, advertising, promotion, or production.
Successful CEOs, business owners and other prosperous people understand the importance of having PR specialists. This is what they have said:
“If I was down to my last dollar, I would spend it on public relations.”
– Bill Gates, Chairman of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Microsoft
“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some hire public relations officers.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin, Historian, professor, attorney and writer
“Advertising is saying you’re good. PR is getting someone else to say you’re good.”
– Jean-Louis Gassée, Founder of BeOS
“Public relations are a key component of any operation in this day of instant communications and rightly inquisitive citizens.”
– Alvin Adams, Diplomat
“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”
– Richard Branson, Founder at Virgin Group
“Public-relations specialists make flower arrangements of the facts, placing them so the wilted and less attractive petals are hidden by sturdy blooms.”
– Alan Harrington, Novelist
Public Relations is not always recognized by its name, but the concept is sometimes understood and appreciated by its functions:
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power.”
– Malcolm X, Human rights activist
"Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality."
– Nikos Kazantzakis, Greek writer
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently.”
– Warren Buffet, Investor
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and this is not being talked about.”
-Oscar Wilde, Novelist, poet and playwright
Every company can benefit from public relations. PR has many functions, some of which overlap with other jobs. You can differentiate PR by remembering this:
“If a young man tells his date how handsome, smart and successful he is – that’s advertising. If the young man tells his date she’s intelligent, looks lovely, and is a great conversationalist, he’s saying the right things to the right person and that’s marketing. If someone else tells the young woman how handsome, smart and successful her date is – that’s PR.”
– S. H. Simmons, Author
Where can we draw the line on our right to privacy? Can our right to privacy simply mean our right to be free of governmental intrusion? Or is it something we need to be willing to give up for national security? Maybe our privacy extends to being free from photos and videos of us being released to the public? With the relatively recent advancements in technology and the evolution toward everyone’s online presence, privacy is an issue now more than ever.
We are not explicitly granted the right to privacy in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. However, the Fourth Amendment of the people’s right “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…” is often interpreted to encompass a person’s right to privacy.
The right to privacy had not been interpreted until 176 years after the signing of the Constitution and 174 years after the Bill or Rights was ratified. The first instance of interpretation that set a precedent for following cases was Griswold v. Connecticut (1965). In this case, Justice William Douglas decided the Bill of Rights implies that a family has the right to privacy concerning intimate details.
Holding back the right to privacy is the First Amendment. The First Amendment ensures us the Freedom of Speech and the Freedom of the Press. These freedoms allow Americans to state something without getting in trouble because the subject is either newsworthy or the public has a right to know. These concepts can be nearly impossible to overcome in that there are several strong defenses against libel, especially for public figures.
The following are suggestions for protecting your privacy.
- Avoid submitting personal information on potentially untrustworthy websites.
- Keep personal and private information off your social media accounts.
- Do not send personal emails on an unsecure networks.
- Check for a green lock to the left of the URL when shopping online.
- Use strong passwords. Phrases are easy to remember and harder to guess.
- Don’t fill in your entire social media profile.
- Set up a google alert for your name.
- Use cash at unknown stores or street vendors.
- Be specific with the answers to your security questions.
Defenses Against Libel
It is important to be careful when reporting to try not to engage in libel. If you are accused of libel, there are some defenses you have as a PR professional or reporter that are protected under The First Amendment. Some defenses include: opinion, innocent construction, truth, fair report, context, absolute privilege, qualified privilege, fair comment, neutral reporting, single publication, libel-proof plaintiff and single mistake.
Among these defenses are conditions concerning how you portray the information, the context of the information, who offered the information and who the information is about.
How you say the information is a huge component to finding a defense against libel.
Truth is an absolute protection against libel, but sometimes even if a statement is not 100 percent true, it may still qualify as non-defamatory. Defamation is using written or spoken speech to damage someone’s reputation.
With regard to the defense of innocent construction, the case depends on what the words actually mean. If the jury decides the words have more than one meaning and one is not defamatory, then the defendant cannot be sued for libel.
In a fair reporting defense, the statement does not need to be true at all. To claim fair reporting as a defense, you must report “accurately and fairly” information obtained from a public record of what was said during an official proceeding. In the case of Edwards v. National Audubon Society, scientists sued The New York Times for reporting that they were being paid to lie about pesticide effects on birds. The New York Times was protected from being sued because it quoted accurately and neutrally the scientists and The National Audubon Society.
The context of the information you present can protect you against libel. In the previously mentioned case of Edwards v. The National Audubon Society, The New York Times was protected against libel because it reported neutrally. This defense is accepted about 50 percent of the time. A more substantial defense was found in Ollman v. Evans (1985). Bertell Ollman sued Rowland Evans and Robert Novak for questioning his qualification for a position as chair for the Department of Government and Politics at The University of Maryland. He claims the column in question led to the withdrawal of the job offer. The court ruled in favor of Evans and Novak because nothing they said could be taken as fact.
The case of Ollman v. Evans (1985) developed the Ollman Test, which is a set of questions to help the court decide if something is a fact or opinion. The first question “is the statement verifiable,” helped decide the verdict in Milkovich v. Lorain Journal (1990). In this case, the journalist wrote that in his opinion Milkovich lied under oath. The perjury could have been proved or disproved, so the journalist lost this case.
In the case of Hustler Magazine v. Falwell (1987), the story in question was not true, but also did not pass the Ollman Test. Hustler Magazine won the appeal because it did not use actual malice against Falwell and the story was “so ridiculous,” it could not possibly be true. Actual malice is knowing the information is false or publishing without caring if the information is true. Actual malice must be proved to qualify a statement as libel when regarding a public figure, or someone who thrust themselves into the limelight.
Who made a statement could be a defense even if the truth or context is not on your side. In the absolute privilege defense, a journalist can quote someone within the performance of their duty. In Hurst v. Capital Cities Media Inc. (2001), Hurst sued Capital for false-light invasion of privacy. Capital was protected against libel because it quoted the state’s attorney.
Related to absolute privilege is qualified privilege. In qualified privilege you can quote a report about judicial coverage and media accounts of open public forums as long as they are in session.
If no public official stated something and you are found libelous, you can be given a warning. Sometimes a reporter will get away with a single mistake defense. In this defense, they take pity on reporters who have no prior offences.
If the journalist has prior offences, then he may also not qualify for trial by reason of the statute of limitations.
In a single publication defense, the most recent publication of a libelous statement cannot be brought to court if a certain amount of time has elapsed.
The last set of defenses encompass the subject matter of the accused statements. In the case of Cherry v. Des Moines Leader (1901), the vaudeville act The Cherry Sisters sued for defamation in an article written by the Des Moines Leader. The courts claimed someone who is in the public eye cannot be offended if they are criticized. This defense is known as fair comment.
In the case of certain people in the public eye, such as the convicted mobster Cardillo, he claimed that Doubleday tarnished his reputation. The courts ruled Cardillo was libel proof because he damaged his own reputation by being a mobster. This libel-proof plaintiff defense protects statements about people that are “so ridiculous” or self-damaging that their reputations cannot be further tarnished.
There are many defenses against libel for a reporter to use. Libel is a serious accusation because a reputation is a privilege of every American citizen and having it tarnished can result in the loss of a job, friends and money. Even though reputation tarnishing is a terrible thing, The First Amendment is more important because it keeps the ideals of the framers of the Constitution alive. The freedom of the press, under The First Amendment, must be protected so that people can live in a safe, just and informed world.