* This entry was originally published on Inside PR.
Inside PR and PRSA present the PRSA 2012 International Conference series. This week, Martin Waxman, APR interviews International Conference keynote speaker June Cotte, Ph.D, associate professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ontario and the school’s George and Mary Turnbull Fellow.
Cotte studies consumer behavioral and purchase attitudes, also the subject of her presentation, 'When Will Consumers Pay to Be Good.' Cotte and her colleagues conduct research on socially conscious consumption including recent experiments where consumers are exposed to certain purchase conditions and then asked to respond in order to determine how and why people behave the way they do and when they’ll pay more for ethically produced products.
In addition to paying a premium for ethically produced products, she found consumers will penalize brands by paying a lower price for goods when a company’s corporate behavior is in question. Consumer attitudes are cyclical and Cotte observed that ethical consumption was important in the ‘70s though less so in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The current prevailing sentiment toward socially responsible behavior began to emerge again in the 2000s. She contends a cultural zeitgeist drives the change and that is where PR can come in, to explain the story and the benefits of an organization’s positive behaviour to consumers. This is especially important in an economic downturn where price becomes more of a consideration.
And because firms can get into trouble when they oversell a claim, communicators can help organizations strike a balance between explaining what they’re doing and the effect it has and help them deliver the story in the right tone.
It’s a fascinating study and you can hear more at the PRSA International Conference. Cotte's keynote speech will take place Monday, October 15, 8-9:45 a.m. The PRSA 2012 International Conference takes place October 13 - 16, 2012 in San Francisco.
Inside PR is a weekly podcast about public relations and social media, hosted by Gini Dietrich in Chicago, Joseph Thornley in Ottawa and Martin Waxman in Toronto and produced by Thornley Fallis. Each week, the three industry veterans take a look at the state of the PR industry, explore topical and provocative issues, discuss listener comments, and even interview an interesting guest or two.