Mind the gap: Consumer perspectives of ‘ethical’ retailers

I was recently tasked with writing a research report for the Ethics, Issues, and Crisis Management unit on my Public Relations and Communication course. I am required to research into an organisation of my choice and identify any ethical issues that this organisation faces and how this affects their brand reputation and stakeholder communication.

Ethics has always been a part of PR that I have been interested in and this report is a great opportunity to practice researching into ethics for a small report before taking on the task of my dissertation, which also focuses on ethics. I chose Gap as the organisation in focus for the report, not to draw out and Gap logohighlight their ethical issues but to demonstrate how some organisations can struggle to repair reputations after widely covered scandals, such as Gap’s sweatshop and child labour scandals. I have recently ended my part time job at Gap to focus completely on my final year studies and during my time with the organisation I worked with the Southampton team on a number of different CSR events, such as an employees uniform recycle scheme where staff donated old pieces of Gap uniform that could be resold at a stand within West Quay, Southampton to raise money for Rose Road, a charity for disabled children and young people. I think that the current ethical responsibilities that Gap are managing aren’t achieving enough awareness for consumer perceptions to change. From this report I hope to emphasise the need for awareness when reputation management efforts are being made and give recommendations on how organisations can effectively communicate their ethical responsibilities.

In order to gain some consumer perspectives about Gap and ethical retailers I have created a short survey. If you would like to get involved and share your views on ethics within retail please go to my survey.

The Power of the ‘Ordinary’ Person

Ordinary is a funny word to use, I find. As is ‘normal’, as I have a big interest in the philosophical questions of what is ‘normal’ and who decides what is ‘ordinary’? However, by ‘ordinary’ I mean the non-professional, the average citizen, or the industry nobody. I mean the person who happens to be walking by as something phenomenal happens and they pull out their camera phone, send it off to a news corporation that then sparks off a viral news story.

I first learnt the basics of Citizen Journalism at A-Level when studying Media Studies. My tutor, Stephen Jones (who I will always give credit to for getting me to university) presented an interesting class where the students took to social media sites to find out what the ‘average’ person was talking about. At that point we all saw the twitter trends about Bin Laden and we all found out about his death via Twitter then and there in that class due to the power of the ‘average’ person. It was ideal and it was a real-life case study that we were learning from and it couldn’t have been any more current. After that I never really focused on Citizen Journalism again as the curriculum moved on and it hasn’t been presented to me again in any other studies, however, I am very interested in the impact it has upon the media, journalism and PR industry.

Twitter is a very popular platform for people to voice their opinions on and the hash-tag trends allow people to be up-to-date with the most popular and currents stories. For example, Worldwide, ‘Syria’ is trending (Monday, 26th August 2013). I had heard briefly about the news of a chemical attack against Syria on the radio but found out more of the ‘facts’ via the twitter trend. I say ‘facts’ in inverted comas as there is always the possibility of the news being exaggerated or misinterpreted by the ‘ordinary’ person. And of course the tweets that form the hash-tag trend are mostly a matter of opinion and can’t be expected to be the truth. So when looking at how much of an impact citizen journalism has on the media industry we first have to answer the question: Do people trust citizen journalism or is it being by-passed as opinion? Also, how much more trustworthy are the ‘proper’ news channels compared to the ‘ordinary’ person when it comes to bias or influential news reporting?

I created a short survey using surveymonkey.com to find out what peoples thoughts were. Below are the results.


Thank you to everyone who took part in the survey and the results have confirmed what I had thought: The majority will side-step Citizen Journalism due to it being fed by opinion. It was interesting to see that a few people were ‘not sure’ whether they had contributed to Citizen Journalism as this could show a lack of understanding in the area.

I would love to hear your views or answers to the survey so please do feel free to leave a comment.