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Yesterday I went out to eat at a restaurant. On the table was a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. The label read, "Take a Selfie for Good". By posting a picture online with your Heinz bottle, Heinz would donate up to $200,000 to Stop Hunger Now.

Did anyone else feel awkwardly uncomfortable after reading that?

That's right.... while you shovel your face full of food, you can relieve some of your middle-class burden by snapping a selfie on your mobile phone (likely quite expensive in itself) and Heinz will help those out who are too starving to afford their own meal at the restaurant (or even a bottle of ketchup). Don't do it and you're letting the poor people starve.

While I'm certain such campaigns are effective on some people, I suddenly lost all respect for Ketchup (and Heinz's public relations team) in that moment and grabbed a bottle of A1 instead (unfortunately Kraft owns them too). I know someone in marketing at their corporate office thought this was a good idea. I can imagine someone got their ideas right out of Coca-Cola's playbook. Remember all the Coke selfies people were taking with their personalized names on them? "Brilliant!", someone thought. Except, the difference was their campaign wasn't contrived. It didn't guilt people into taking the pictures, people wanted to do it. That's a big difference.

When I got home, I decided to Google the campaign. It has now finished, of course, but doing a quick Google image search for "Selfie for Good", yielded almost no results for Heinz. Googling "Heinz Selfie for Good", yielded about two dozen images. That's not much of a response for so large and expensive a campaign.  So did it work?

Well I took notice but didn't like the feeling of the campaign. I was forced to contemplate starvation and America's socio-economic crisis while eating a lemon and rosemary sirloin. No body wants to do that! I go out to eat to relax!  Also, I would have felt quite stupid posting a picture of ketchup to my Instagram and I'm guessing others would too. The bigger question you have to ask of a corporation as large as Heinz, why wouldn't you donate the money anyways (they probably would for tax purposes)? So, I think the lesson here is, innovate your campaigns, don't copy them, and when appealing to your audience's emotions, guilt is not one in which you should use unless you're certain how people will respond to it.

Should we share our salary with co-workers?

Information Asymmetry is a bit like playing poker. It's the ability to keep a straight face, and withhold information to your strategic advantage until which point you leverage the information against the other party. Blogging has done a lot in recent years to create more transparent communications for organizations but, often, especially with internal communications such practices of information asymmetry are embedded into the culture of the work environment.

One particular video takes on a humorous look at what would happen if we all shared our salaries and provides a general explanation of the practice of asymmetry with regards to internal communications.


If we understand that information has an inherent economic value and communications professionals are the guardians of such wealth, then we must ask is it truly more beneficial to exploit such imbalances or do organizations who practice such techniques, actually do themselves harm?

The answer is actually really simply. If an organization has sufficient trust  (reputation) with it's stakeholders, then asymmetrical communications can provide a competitive advantage for the firm. If this trust cannot be transferred, perceived or understood, then quite often we find that symmetrical communications, both internally and externally, are favorably with regards to the economics of information.

Why? Well, without a feedback loop for communicators to quantify their communications, it's quite possible that such practices could become antiquated in their effectiveness and result in long-term disadvantages as a consequence of not completely understanding the effects of such communication styles towards their audience. In the above example, this could relate to the long-term retention of talent or with external audiences, brand reputation and loss of trust.

Of course that still doesn't make any of us more likely to share our salary.





I remember during my under-graduate degree learning of the defeat of Germany in World War II. More importantly, I remember the text books that described in detail how the U.S. psychologically reformatted Germans in the years that followed to create a passive, peaceful culture among its citizens. America has been known to influence foreign entities since its independence with public relations and propaganda despite many in the academic paradigm of public relations trying to limit its modern association with its roots in deceptive information wars. By the time I did my master's, truth, transparency and integrity was drilled into our little fragile heads.

Then, in 2017, President Trump was elected to office of the White House of the United States of America. A decidedly, conservative right candidate with anti-socialist and anti-global views of the world. Regardless of your own political opinions, most Americans would agree that his election was a bit of surprise and his political actions have taken us further away from the aligned global values of many of our previous and current allies including Europe and Asia. As a student of communications, I wonder how much of what allowed for us to arrive at this moment in history was a concerted effort by others (in the U.S.) to manipulate American opinion and move it to the right?

As early as the 1930s,  America was shifting towards socialism in a similar fashion to its European counterparts. There were subways in Los Angeles and other major cities, talk of National Health Care and other signs of socialism in the works. Then a campaign by many U.S. corporations and organizations, such as Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers attempted to shift public opinion with their public relations. By 1947, a State Department public relations officer remarked that...

 "Smart public relations paid off as it has before and will again. While the rest of the world has moved to the left, has admitted labor into government, has passed liberalized legislation, the United States has become anti-social change, anti-economic change, anti-labor." Public opinion "has been moved-cleverly-to the right"
There's no doubt that history is littered with examples of such influence. Shell, GM and tire companies took a concerted effort in the 1940s to end the Los Angeles subway purchasing Pacific Electric Rail and closing it down. Today, those same metro lines that are similar to the London Underground are where freeways and millions of cars cut through the city.

By 1950, major unions were complicit in the new economic order and the Treaty of Detroit essentially bargained certain wage increases and benefits in exchange for Unions ceding control of U.S. labor back to the corporations. This new capitalism, enacted partially as a result of the fear of communism, resulted in a new structure of economic class in America where employees has little to no control in their own self-interest, autonomy and liberty.

Some might argue that the Trump Presidency, one in which a wealthy CEO controls most all major aspects of a nation and arguable the world, is the end result of such a campaign to move America right and to align power away from the collective social will of its citizens and direct it to that of the corporate elite. That's one hell of public relations campaign.
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