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(Public Opinion in Public Relations) Public relations encompasses various strategies individuals, interest groups, and organizations employ to gain mutual understanding with the public and create a favourable image that supports profitable operations. Because there are several types of public bodies, public relations has various degrees, subdivisions, and forms.

The ongoing sharing of vast volumes of data is a defining feature of the modern world. Through new media, people can communicate, collaborate, and exchange ideas on a scale never before witnessed.

Given these challenges, public relations are more important than ever for businesses, authorities, and public figures. Without public support, succeeding in almost any endeavour is nearly impossible. Thus, those working in public relations have to think about public opinion since they often try to influence it through their work.

Consequently, academics proposed that PR would benefit from an in-depth knowledge of public opinion.

This is possible by defining public opinion, exploring its links to public relations, detailing the significance of enhancing PR techniques, and explaining how such an understanding can lead to beneficial changes in PR practices.

Fortunately, this guide covers all these and more. Let’s dive right in!

Defining Public Opinion

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What does “public opinion” really mean? There is no universally accepted concept of public opinion among scholars. What this idea entails is contingent on notions about who counts as “the public” and what weight their views should receive.

Public opinion’s most inclusive definition is the aggregate of several specific viewpoints. However, more nuanced conceptions of public opinion give more weight to the views of particular individuals, groups, or the elite.

The Types of Public Opinion

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There are broadly four types of public opinions, as listed below:

  • Majority Opinion: Also known as collective opinion, it occurs when most of the population agrees on public policy, government action, or public.
  • Minority Opinion: Occasionally, the minority holds viewpoints that are so prevalent and outspoken that they are taken as the consensus.
  • Group Opinion: a particular set of people’s views, such as merchants, factory employees, or trade associations.
  • Informed Opinion: opinions that knowledgeable individuals who thoroughly understand the subject matter may persuasively offer and defend.

How public opinion is formed and measured?

How people arrive at their opinions depends on a wide variety of factors. Social scientists use political socialization to describe the lifelong process of forming attitudes about topics impacting your environment. Your political convictions will be influenced in particular ways by your unique set of life experiences. Still, for most individuals, these influences will come from their families, friends, schools, churches, and the media.

Measuring Public Opinion

In today’s information age, public opinion polling is a data-intensive endeavour. However, this practice is the primary method of measuring public opinion.

In this context, the media has used public opinion data for quite some time. Press outlets rely on polling data, while polling groups rely on media coverage to spread the word about their findings. For nearly two centuries, media outlets have paid for polling by experts or conducted their surveys.

Today, big news outlets and well-known polling companies work together to determine the public’s thoughts.

What is the meaning of public opinion in public relations?

How the Media Helps to Shape Public Opinion

It is essential to recognize the mass media influencing public opinion can be positive and negative. There are two sides to every story, and media controversy can boost a worthy cause and hinder it if not handled properly.

The most influential factor in moulding perspectives is the Agenda-setting theory of the media. This theory of creating the agenda has two parts:

First, the media distorts and shapes reality before broadcasting it to the public.

Second, the media need not cover every single issue facing society; what’s more crucial is that they focus on a select few of them to the point where the general public begins to believe that these are the only problems that need addressing.

However, the influence public opinion receives from the media was best covered in Walter Lippmann’s theory of public opinion.

What exactly is Walter Lippmann’s theory of public opinion?

Public Opinion, authored by Walter Lippmann in 1922, is the most comprehensive material discussing public opinion and the mass media.

Lippmann’s theory of public opinion poses a simple question: whether ordinary people can acquire a fundamental understanding of current events and make rational decisions.

Impact of Social Media on Public Opinion

When firsthand experience or other sources of knowledge are lacking, the function of mass media, particularly social networking sites, grows in importance. Since there is no method for the audience to verify the media’s claims independently, they must rely on the information provided to them.

Public Relations Strategies to Affect Public Opinion

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Strategies used by PR professionals to shape, persuade, and sway public opinion.

Public opinion is a significant factor in how consumers view a company or product. What buyers think a product or service represents encompasses how they see the brand. Please note that what you say regarding your brand has little bearing on how people perceive it. What matters more is how your product makes your customers feel.

PR professionals know shouting from the rooftops about how great your firm is won’t change people’s minds, explaining why public relations experts use specific strategies instead.

Strategies for Changing Brand Perception With PR

Four strategic pillars are used to boost brand perception and steer public opinion.

  • Social Validation

People desire to fit in, so they usually do what everyone else does. Research shows that people’s convictions strengthen when they perceive that others reflect their views.

  • Repetition

In marketing, it is commonly accepted that a message must be presented to consumers seven times before it begins to register. But repetition can be just as powerful regarding people voicing their thoughts.

  • Comprehensive

According to studies, the greater your confidence in the validity of your opinion, the simpler it is to form one. So, PR professionals keep the marketing materials they distribute to their target audiences as simple as possible.

  • Portraying Core Values

People generally stand by what they consider to be correct. Studies also show people gain confidence in their beliefs after arguing for them. Hence, the key is providing audiences with the space to do so. Sometimes all it takes to get people talking about your company is asking them the appropriate social media questions.

Public Opinion in Crisis Management

When there is a crisis, public opinion can change quickly, and how you act right after may have a big effect on how it goes.

In this age of lightning-fast communication and social media, crises may rapidly worsen and hurt an organization’s image. Professionals in public relations know how crucial it is to deal with problems and concerns as soon as they arise. Crisis communication plans, media releases, and official spokespeople help them manage public perception. Through crisis management, PR professionals can change public opinion and win clients’ trust using proactive steps.

One of the trickiest parts of PR crisis management is handling crisis messages. However, it may be an effective means of gaining support and shifting public opinion when executed correctly.

Effective Crisis Communication Steps

  • Create an easily understood message.
  • Tell your viewers about any changes or new information.
  • Address concerns raised by the general population
  • Always maintain open communication and honesty with constituents.
  • Stay away from assumptions and hasty judgments.
  • Accept accountability for any errors during the emergency
  • Display sympathy for those impacted by the crisis.
  • Keep your cool when things get tough.
  • Quickly react when news breaks.

Public Opinion Data and Social Media Platforms

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Customers and businesses are engaging on social media in new ways. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are social media sites facilitating brand-consumer interaction and brand reputation development.

Public relations firms are aware of the significance of social media in shaping public opinion and work to facilitate this transformation. Therefore, PR experts offer various services to help any business, brand, or solo artist establish a good reputation and win over their target audience.

Some examples include the following:

Enhanced campaign visibility: Social media networks can assist public relations initiatives to gain awareness. For instance, when you share earned media attention on social media, you reach more people.

Public relations efforts can benefit from integrating owned content, or content created by the brand instead of earned in a third-party media outlet, disseminated via social media.

Explore viral conversations: PR firms leverage social media to track breaking news and industry developments that may affect their customers or products in real-time.

Increased interaction with media and intended consumers: With social media, public relations staff may have one-on-one conversations with reporters and build relationships with loyal customers.

Better oversight of reputation: Reputation management is at the heart of public relations, as PR agencies and agencies’ customers strive for positive coverage in the media. This concept extends to social media, where public relations staff may enhance good dialogues and keep tabs on any potential backlash.

Personal branding: Executive communication and the development of personal brands for company representatives are common elements in social media public relations efforts.

Analyzing Public Opinion Trends in Singapore

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The trends in Singaporean public opinion concerning public relations are twofold: first, it reflects how the Singaporean press covers public opinion; second, it helps conclude the societal consequences for policymaking.

The trends indicate that public opinion polls in Singapore are riddled with conceptual and methodological difficulties, and the trends also suggest that the reporting of various surveys in the mainstream media still has a long way to go.

This means that the practice of creating consent in the news, forcing acceptance in the creation of opinions, and having uncontested policy discussions has the potential to encourage complacency on the part of the authorities.

Public Opinion in Policy and Government

The relationship between public opinion and foreign policy may have changed due to the dramatic shifts in how the public receives and processes information. Although conventional methods have separated public opinion on domestic and foreign issues, the combination of recent developments threatens to blur the lines dividing the two, at least in the context of the Singaporean political system.

It currently appears that the procedures observed at the domestic level reflect those critical to the opinion and foreign affairs and processes, including the collection of information, the emergence of popular opinion, the influence of the media, the impact of opinion on policy, and the role of the policymakers.

Similarly, many foreign policy think groups conduct public opinion surveys on foreign policy issues. This has also been true of the European Council on Foreign Relations. Several years ago, we began using surveys to learn more, improve arguments, get the notice of policymakers, and increase the credibility of proposals among the general public.

Case Studies and Examples

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The Ice Bucket Challenge: Spreading Awareness about ALS

You’ll unlikely meet someone who hasn’t caught the cold from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

If you hadn’t heard, it was a clever idea that got people wet and spread the word about ALS.

Initiated in 2014, the viral campaign sought to generate money for studying Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a degenerative disease that destroys brain and spinal cord nerve cells.

Combining online exposure with tried-and-true entertainment, it became an instant hit.

You can see the results of this initiative in three distinct areas:

Awareness: Before this campaign, the public was unaware of or uneducated about ALS.

Funding: Over $200 million was raised worldwide due to the challenge, which will significantly aid the efforts of researchers seeking a remedy for ALS.

Public Participation: Bringing together famous individuals, politicians, athletes, and regular people in a lighthearted event for a serious cause helped unite the world in its fight against the condition.

The #MeToo Movement

The #MeToo movement broke the taboo against discussing the topic of sexual assault and has since built a worldwide discourse and a supportive community for survivors.

Actress Alyssa Milano’s advocacy for adopting the hashtag #MeToo on online platforms to highlight the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault significantly boosted the public relations campaign launched in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke.

You may have witnessed how rapidly it circulated, with millions worldwide contributing their personal stories.

Conclusion 

Hopefully, you fully grasp public opinion and public relations concepts and how these two interplay. Although some ethical questions surround the use of marketing strategies and messaging to influence individual opinions and the actions of the masses, it falls on skilful public relations to steer the boat in the right direction.

Contact Muse&Motif to discover more about the function of a PR firm and how PR can assist your company in achieving its objectives for the coming year.

 

Joscelin Kwek

Joscelin Kwek, founder of Muse & Motif, is a PR expert with nearly 20 years of experience in brand communications and investor relations. She launched her Singapore-based agency during the pandemic, focusing on digital marketing, data analytics, and sustainability. Known for her strategic thinking and crisis management, Joscelin is committed to community support, dedicating efforts to pro-bono work and environmental conservation. Her blogs offer insights into effective PR strategies and industry leadership.