«13TH INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC RELATIONS RESEARCH CONFERENCE “Ethical Issues for Public Relations Practice in a Multicultural World” Holiday Inn ...»
To a certain extent, stealth marketing has a lot in common with the press agentry/publicity model of public relations. Langer (2006) argues that Berneys’ staging a march of cigarettepuffing debutantes at the New York’s Annual Easter Parade in 1929 without revealing his tobacco client can be considered a stealth marketing activity. The press agentry/publicity model, although still practiced around the world, is considered to be the least ethical and socially responsible approach of public relations (Grunig 1992). In today’s business world, organizations are asked to be more and more socially responsible and ethical in their actions (Stohl et al. 2009).
An extensive use of the press agentry/publicity model is thus not suitable for responding to these concerns. On the other hand, pressures from globalization and more skeptical stakeholders have led towards a revival of stealth marketing. Johansson (2004) and Wells (2004) claim that the popularity of stealth marketing has increased in correspondence with the growing resentment of consumers to being targeted by companies with different types of publicity. Many companies have responded by using more and more stealth marketing in order to grab consumers’ attention, including highly successful emotional branding campaigns, wild publicity stunts, and creative product placement and awareness generation tactics (Martin & Smith 2008). How effective stealth marketing is in achieving ‘publicity’ goals is still questioned, especially if organizations are worried about their reputation (Walker 2004; Creamer 2005). Martin and Smith (2008) analyze three companies’ stealth marketing activities and concluded that covert marketing is unethical along multiple dimensions and detail possible consequences of these techniques to firms and consumers. As for viral marketing, we were not able to track specific studies that have looked at implications and consequences of using stealth marketing for the tourism sector using social media.
Conceptual Framework Conceptually, this paper is grounded in a stakeholder perspective. When analyzing the case presented in this paper, we will consider the stakeholders of the campaign that was launched by VisitDenmark and their stakes. To this end, this section will present our approach for classifying VisitDenmark stakeholders 88 and outline the role of media as one of the main stakeholders of the organization. In our analysis, we decided to focus only on one stakeholder, namely print and online media, as the mass media played a critical role in the VisitDenmark case by increasing the rumor around this stealth marketing campaign, by drawing public attention to the campaign and by raising ethical concerns among different groups. Our point of departure is to examine whether or not and to what extent media coverage was the driver of the development and expression of stakeholders’ concerns on their ‘stakes’.
Furthermore, in order to grasp better the implications of the VisitDenmark campaign for media coverage and for its different stakeholders, we needed to look for a model for classifying VisitDenmark stakeholders that allows us to explain stakeholder concerns about their ‘stakes’ and their relevance vis-à-vis the organization’s choice of campaign strategy. Thus, we decided to combine McCombs & Shaw’s agenda setting theory (1972) with Mitchell et al.’s model of stakeholder salience (1997). While the former provides a framework for explaining how the campaign became an issue of importance for the public agenda and consequently how the media have mobilized other stakeholders to participate in the public discussion, the latter helps us to classify VisitDenmark's stakeholders according to their power, urgency and legitimacy.
Mitchell et al.'s (1997) model of stakeholder salience is a useful classification model for studying stakeholder relations and their stakes in organizations. It takes departure in three attributes: power, urgency, and legitimacy. Power denotes the stakeholder's control over financial or material resources or their ability to command the attention of the mass media.
Urgency means that the stakeholders have claims for which they demand immediate attention from the organization. Lastly, stakeholders that have legitimacy make claims that are appropriate and acceptable within the framework of the social system in which the stakeholder group and the organization interact. Each stakeholder group can be characterized by one or more of these characteristics, which results in seven different kinds of stakeholder groups.
Before presenting VisitDenmark's primary and secondary stakeholders, we shall briefly discuss the role of mass media in selecting and defining issues. Mass media play an important role as organizational stakeholders, as they often act as intermediaries between the organization and its other stakeholders through news reporting. Given that their main activities are investigating and reporting, the news media transmit information from the organization to the stakeholder and vice versa (Friedman & Miles 2006). Agenda setting and framing theories tell us that news media play an important role in setting the public agenda and shaping public opinion through the selection of news stories and the evaluation of the content they publish (McCombs & Shaw 1972). Therefore, by shaping public opinion, the media contribute to increased public attention to specific situations and actions and/or behaviors of organizations.
In their discussion of issues management, Bridges and Nelson (2000) argue that the concept of framing within issues management suggests that an issue for media audience is
defined by what is said about it, what is omitted, and the language used in media coverage (ibid:
100). For organizations, this means that potentially any communication about actions and activities can become an issue for some of their stakeholders when media coverage frames them as such. When organizational actions and/or behaviors have become an issue for certain publics, then organizations cannot control and interact with this stakeholder group the way they interact with other groups. Also, attempts by the organization to control the issue may even backfire (Friedman & Miles 2006).
Moreover, the mass media play a critical role in drawing public attention to specific frames and therefore have an impact both at the level of awareness and at the level of stances taken.
Entman (1989) found a correlation between media coverage and public attitude. Although certain organizational actions/behaviors affect the influence of the media on those actions/behaviors, media coverage of organizational actions/behaviors can make the media audience larger and also increases the group's perceived importance and/or consequences of the organizational actions/behaviors (Bridges & Nelson 2000). Communication campaigns, thus, can also contribute to increase the level of awareness among different types of publics, thereby moving 839 them from latent to aware and on to active publics (Grunig 1989). Hence, the mass media are not only important stakeholders per se representing the Fourth Estate in societies (Burke quoted in Carlyle 1866), but also as an entity influencing the attitudes and perceptions of other stakeholders. As we will discuss later in this paper, one of the outcomes of the VisitDenmark campaign was that latent publics turned into active ones and this was enhanced by media framing.
Methodology A case study was chosen as the main research strategy, supported by content analyses of news articles and blog posts to capture how audiences evaluated VisitDenmark's campaign. This section describes the research approach and the data collection procedures.
Case Study Research Broadly, a case study is defined as "an intensive study of a single unit or a small number of units (the cases) for the purpose of understanding a larger class of similar units (the population of cases)" (Gerring 2007: 37). Case studies, which have been conceptualized as a "research strategy" (Yin 1981a: 98), are suitable when the research wants to examine a particular phenomenon together with its real-life context (Yin 1981b). Case studies are a powerful research strategy when one wants to gain an in-depth understanding of a complex issue or phenomenon that would be difficult to capture in quantitative variables. This paper studies stealth marketing via social media. Given the complex and multi-faceted nature of this topic, a case study appeared to be an appropriate strategy in order to gain a better understanding of success factors and potential pitfalls for such campaigns.
The results of case study research are often unduly criticized for not providing opportunities to generalize from the case findings. To counter this criticism, Flyvbjerg (2006) recommends that a very atypical or extreme case is selected in order to ensure that the case is rich in detail and involves more actors and mechanisms than a less extreme case. We therefore chose the case of VisitDenmark and its stealth marketing campaign via YouTube, for which it was heavily criticized. This case paints a rich and colorful picture of how critical stakeholder relations are in such an endeavor.
Within a case study, a researcher can employ various data collection procedures in order to gather as much evidence as is needed to examine the phenomenon under study. Such data collection procedures can include observation, document analysis, surveys, or interviews. These data can then be used for comparison within a case or across cases (cf. Yin 1981a; Yin 1981b;
Yin 1994). The case presented in this paper was researched using two sets of data. First, the case narrative describing the events was compiled using Danish news coverage, Danish blogs, and press releases from VisitDenmark. The blog posts used to write up the case were quoted from in the media coverage and subsequently retrieved from the original blogs. The second set of data consisted of a systematic content analysis of Danish and international news coverage in order to gain an understanding of how the events were received by the media. This is important, given that the media set and shape the public agenda (cf. McCombs & Shaw 1972) and therefore have a crucial impact on how the public perceives the campaign. The content analytic procedure is described in more detail in the section below.
840 Content Analysis Content analysis was used to analyze how the campaign was commented on in the media.
The merit of content analysis is that it systematically condenses texts into content categories by applying a coding scheme that produces quantitative indices of textual content (cf. Krippendorff 1980; Weber 1985; Kolbe & Burnett 1991; Neuendorf 2002). Content analysis was applied to articles from the Danish press and articles from the English-language foreign press.
The coverage of the affair in the Danish press was limited to the five major Danish newspapers. They include Ekstra Bladet, Berlingske Tidende, Jyllands-Posten, Politiken, Kristeligt Dagblad. The articles were retrieved through Infomedia, a database for Danish news coverage, based on searchers for various combinations of the terms "VisitDenmark", "YouTube", "Karen", "mor" [mother], and "far" [father]. To ensure that the unfolding of the story was captured in its entirety, the print articles were compared to the online editions of the newspapers.
As it turned out that the online content was different from the print content, the articles published online were included as well. They were found by accessing each newspaper's website and searching their archives with the search words listed above.
English-language foreign news coverage of the affair was retrieved through Lexis-Nexis, based on searches for various combinations of the terms "VisitDenmark", "Denmark" "Danish" "YouTube", "Karen", "mother", and "father" in the months of September and October 2009. The 15 articles found were published between September 15 and October 20, 2009 and include newspapers, magazines, and news wire services from the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia. The articles were compared against the online editions of the newspapers that had published these articles, yet no additional content was found. The articles either appeared in the same format as the print articles or no online content about the story was available. Therefore, foreign news coverage contains online print articles.
Overall, the sample consisted of 27 articles from the Danish press, 15 articles from the foreign press, and 65 online articles from the Danish online press. With no existing coding scheme available to code these data, the coding scheme was developed from the data using an inductive coding strategy. Inductive coding begins with the close and thorough study of documents in an unrestricted manner to open up the inquiry and identify relevant categories that fit the data (Strauss & Corbin 1990). A preliminary coding scheme was drawn up by examining all English-language and Danish print articles. This produced a coding scheme of nine content categories, 20 evaluative content categories, and ten sources. The nine content and 20 evaluation categories are listed in Table 1 and Table 2 together with the results. The ten different sources of the content categories and the evaluation can be found in Table 3. The coding was performed by two different researchers. As a check on inter-coder reliability and consistency, a random sample of 14 texts (25% of the total amount of articles) was coded by both coders (cf. Bauer 2000;
Stempel & Wesley 1981). Cohen's kappa was 0.72.
with private companies. VisitDenmark was set up to increase awareness of and promote Denmark as a tourist destination (VisitDenmark 2010). Accordingly, its vision is to "attract tourists to Denmark and enhance their experiences", while its mission is "to bring world recognition to Denmark for its engaging and easily accessible experiences all year round" (VisitDenmark 2010: 3).