**Please note that there will not be an IPR Research Letter next week due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. The IPR Research Letter will resume on December 1. 
The Institute for Public Relations and Cision examined the conversation around environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) topics. This first report focuses on the ‘S’ in ESG — social impact. The past few years have brought a renewed focus on social issues and activism, which has had an impact on consumers’ expectations from brands.

Cision and the Institute for Public Relations analyzed online mentions for social issue topics from May 1 – July 31, 2021, using Brandwatch’s Consumer Research tool. The queried topics were “race relations,” “gender issues,” “voting rights,” “healthcare,” “gun violence,” “immigration,” “climate change,” and “mental health.” The data set included 208.96 million total mentions from 75.5 million unique authors. The total online mentions comprised both news and social media mentions.

Some key findings include:
  • LGBTQ+ rights (30%), mental health (23%), and race relations (22%) were the most discussed topics from May to July 2021.
  • Across the board, opinions on issues were starkly polarized based on political affiliation.
  • Across most social media platforms, people were more likely to give their opinion about a social issue, rather than encouraging dialogue and discussion from others.
  • Race relations and mental health were two areas where people were more likely to engage in two-way conversations. 
  • References to celebratory days and months, such as #PrideMonth and #WorldRefugeeDay, briefly increased social media chatter around social issues, but the discussions quickly dissipated when those events ended.

Institute for Public Relations
IPR is featuring some of the many Native American and Indigenous pioneers and modern-day heroes to celebrate Native American Heritage Month. This post appears courtesy of the South Dakota Hall of Fame and Britannica.

Eagle Woman, Sioux name Wambdi Autepewin (“Eagle Woman That All Look At”), was a Native American peace activist who advocated for the Teton (or Western Sioux) people. She was known as a woman of honor in both Native American and white societies for her lifelong attempts to make peace between the two communities.

Eagle Woman and her second husband, Charles Galpin, helped resolve many tense conflicts between the Sioux people and white traders, often risking their lives to mitigate violence. Following her husband’s death in 1869, Eagle Woman assumed his role as a trader on the Sioux reservation, one of the first women to assume that position. She was noted for her generosity but was also committed to seeing her people sustain themselves independently of the white population.

When the Sioux War broke out in 1876, the government refused to supply provisions for the Sioux people and attempted to force a new treaty that would have ceded disputed lands to the United States. During the war, Eagle Woman was the primary translator for her people during negotiations with the government. When the Sioux War ended in the early 1880s, Eagle Woman again played an instrumental role in easing the transition to reservation living for her people. She died peacefully at the home of her daughter Alma in 1888.

What does it take for a company — or an industry — to get back in the good graces of the American public once it has a poor reputation? It takes more than 380 million doses of a life-saving vaccine distributed free of charge. We know this because the pharmaceutical industry remains the least-trusted industry in the U.S., according to a recent Public Affairs Council poll.

Despite a slight improvement this year, the pharmaceutical industry has been ranked both the least trustworthy and the most under-regulated sector for more than five years running. During that time, there has also been a gradual decline in trust in the technology industry and a concomitant increase in the public appetite for more oversight of tech firms.

The poll of 2,199 Americans, conducted in September 2021 by Morning Consult, also explores support for democratic rights, the state of racism in America, and the most trusted sources of political news.

Some key findings from the study include:
  • 46% of the public say pharmaceutical companies are less trustworthy than other major companies, and only 13% believe they are more trustworthy. 
  • 78% of Democrats support major company efforts to promote the COVID-19 vaccine compared to 42% of Republicans.
  • 73% of respondents have “some” or “a lot” of trust in the news coming from friends and family.
  • The next most trusted sources are trade/professional associations (44%) and businesses (43%).

Jordan Mower, Pattern; Kenneth D. Plowman, Ph.D., Brigham Young University; and Kris Boyle, Ph.D., Brigham Young University
This blog is based on the original journal article in the Public Relations Journal.

The National Football League (NFL) has been in a near-constant state of crisis (both self-inflicted and from situations out of its control) for the past several years. The organization has experienced numerous recent public relations crises related to player misbehavior, unethical behavior by teams and coaches, and self-interested actions by the league in their prioritization of discipline and player-safety measures. These situations demonstrate the need for public relations expertise in handling such issues.

This case study examines the role cultural ingrainment plays in one of the NFL’s more recent crisis responses – the concussion crisis. The term “cultural ingrainment” describes the degree to which a brand has become embedded in the culture of its society or the success of a brand in terms of cultural branding. Cultural ingrainment is introduced into existing crisis communications models as a component that explains the success of the NFL, despite discrepancies between the league’s tactics and recommended strategies. The study also explores how cultural ingrainment may lead to the phenomenon of the "invincible brand."

Deciding whether, and how, to weigh in on political or societal issues is an increasingly common and difficult challenge for brands. When opinions are so divided, why risk alienating a segment of your customer base? But in today’s environment, staying silent can be even more damaging to a brand’s reputation.

More and more often, internal and external stakeholders expect brands to state their position on a range of topics, from voting rights to racial equity to climate change. At the same time, hasty comments on social media or other channels can be disastrous for a brand — and send a communications team scrambling into damage-control mode.

To know whether, and how, to engage, brands must first understand the complex new landscape they’re operating in. WE Communications’ 2021 Brands in Motion report, a global survey of consumers and B2B decision-makers, finds that brands today face confusing and contradictory feedback from stakeholders regarding their engagement on societal issues. By clarifying your brand’s purpose and values, and building a strong company culture around them, you can develop an internal compass that will help you determine whether to act.

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