Our study tour in Seoul is definitely full of surprises, but also some familiar concepts as well.
After landing in Seoul and exploring and eating (the blog post describing the live shellfish dinner will come later), today we had our first corporate visit to Fleishman-Hillard (FH) Korea headquarters. The representatives we met with were very friendly, and genuinely passionate about their work and sharing that work with us. Director Yvonne Park and her coworkers spoke on several fascinating public relations subject areas. We heard about FH’s corporate philosophy, the services they offer, their preferred clientele (government and public sector) and their many different case studies – including the Nuclear Safety Summit in 2012. It was fascinating to see firsthand the results of an actual PR firm’s efforts and strategies, and we gained a good amount of advice and strategies.
One of the most important aspects I took away from today’s meeting was the importance of doing research on your market and target audience.
(In fact, if I had to choose one word to describe everything that I learned in this master’s program, it would be “Research”.)
But Fleishman-Hillard demonstrated the importance of research in their own methodology. A large segment of our meeting today was dedicated to learning about the Authenticity Gap, which is Fleishman-Hillard’s worldwide research project. Basically, the FH measures the existing gap between the customer’s expectations of a brand and the customer’s actual experiences with the brand. The Authenticity Gap features three basic areas: Management Behaviors, Customer Benefits, and Society Outcomes. Each of these three areas has its own drivers that Fleishman-Hillard uses as the code of conduct for measuring and managing a brand’s (or company’s, or country’s) authentic engagement with its audiences. The nine drivers are:
- Doing Right
- Consistent Performance
- Credible Communication
- Better Value
- Customer Care
- Care of Environment
- Community Impact
- Employee Care
Using research methods and analytical tools, they first gain an idea of what a customer base expects and then compare them to the actual experiences, and the results were illuminating. One surprising insight we learned was how, despite the very name of our master’s program, very few things are truly “global” – consumer expectations differ, sometimes dramatically, across on different markets and audiences. Data changes across industries, companies, and brands, even populations.
However, one question I wish I had asked today (and why is it that all the good questions pop into my head when the opportunity to have them answered has already flown by?) is that if there’s no such thing as “global”, and the consumer expectations differ by markets, what about instances where a local issue becomes a global concern? One of our favorite cases we’ve discussed during this program is the case involving the Dunkin Donuts TV commercial where a light-skinned teenager suddenly gained black skin after eating a chocolate donut. The tagline of the commercial was “Break every rule of deliciousness”. The commercial, which was an actual success in Thailand, its country of origin, quickly gained attention globally and members of Human Rights Watch and other audiences criticized Dunkin Donuts for enforcing existing racist stereotypes. The idea that being black was “breaking the rules” was opposed strongly in America, but not so much in the ads target audience.
So how a global brand, which has glocalized itself to suit unique markets, react when the actions taken in those separate markets become the focus of a wider audience base? This is an important concept we’ve discussed in class before and I hope I will get the chance to explore this type of situation and possible responses during the rest of this tour. Overall, not bad for the fist day!
Some quick short facts that we also covered:
- Korea has a Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, which FH has worked with in the past. How cool is that and why doesn’t the US have one? Lindsey pointed out that there is a Department of Family Services, but that most gender equality organizations are non-profits, such as Girls Learning Code.
- FH has a Black Box Room, an integrative social media monitoring system, that they use to follow and analyze ALL the conversations taking place around their clients. It’s basically a room with enormous computer screens and high-quality analytic graphics that make this English major wish she had taken more statistics classes so she could get to play around with the pretty graphs and understand the results. I’m working on developing my understanding of analytics and this Black Box Room is very motivating.
- FH has a online magazine called True, which is full of great articles and contributions from PR and communication professionals all over the world. Check it out!