Help Companies be more open, authentic, transparent
Help Companies be more open, authentic, transparent. This is Communicators’ single most important task today. Communications is the only role today in the entire organization, knowing what’s going on at the outside…
Communicators, the last Catalysts
There’s no other critical company role today, that that of the Brand, CMO, Communication teams and specialists. Unfortunately, most companies and C-level Leaders try hard to lock in the efficiency of companies and look at how to mitigate financial and market risks.
The pressure they put in their organizations deviates attention from the Brand, Positioning, Audience, Customer. CMO teams are now the only knowledgeable, with outside-in view resource in the company.
Tough? Been there, I know. When my teams and I were talking to our leaders, they couldn’t easily understand that we were trying to reconnect Leadership, Communication, and Organization (which today are in a huge disarray).
Companies hide more than they should
A company might have a huge paid media presence, native content, events, corporate responsibility and social initiatives in place. These are now less important than being a thought leader for transparency, authenticity, and ethical stance; the only realities a Brand needs to continue its path.
If you check Edelman Trust Barometer, Holmes Report, CEO studies from IBM, Oracle and many others, there is a very clear insight: people feel that their interests aren’t ‘mirroring’ with company’s processes, performance, and ways of telling the truth. You see, so much have happened in the corporate world and now social media reveal discontent so easily and so loudly.
It can be anything to restore trust: publishing revenue and spending on your website, or having a special core team to manage live customer complaints (before you go to chat-bots, build real Trust first), or your CEO being approachable and present in the public dialogue. So many areas you can profile your company as a transparent and authentic player.
“When I hear the word “authentic” I do not think of McDonald’s.”
This consumer verbatim implies a lot more for the corporate world. Corporate or Brand Communications could have told to these consumers how much they are regulated, scrutinized, how many quality certifications their companies follow… If they don’t, perception is the reality.
Most companies deliver as promised and they have a transparent culture. Example: Samsung. It was the top-boss that told the world that the company’s first tablet wasn’t good enough, and later on, they’ve said to investors that their mobile software wasn’t as good as their hardware. In certain cases like McDonald’s, Samsung and Apple, the companies made a conscious decision to be more transparent on important topics. At least, they try.
Take the case of the alcohol industry (which collectively scores at the bottom of transparency surveys): they have challenges being honest with people about the health effects of their products. But at least, it took a lot of courage to globally adopt the “drink responsibly” disclaimer for the issue.
Transparency in Communications, or else, Crisis & Haters
Your Marketing & PR budget was looking for years into channel and content convergence, but this is now over. You were trying for long to converge efforts, media, channels into one brand experience.
Now the world diverges with inequality gaps, audiences differ in every local market, protectionist governments regulating everything, a rise in political and other tensions, new dialogue platforms, and personalized choices. All of these impact your brand, company, and customer’s journey. The change will continue to disrupt…
Authenticity and Transparency, your two defence strategies
To peers and Marketing Directors, I always argue: go further and do an “authenticity audit”. Prepare your organization to start investing in clear, loud responses and customer experiences in all channels. Ask yourself: what would happen if the X issues get out? Would we be damaged? Be proactive, embrace it, and turn it to your advantage.
Hold your brand accountable
The first step toward improving transparency is redefining the impact you have on consumers. When a brand promises to provide a product or service, that business is responsible for keeping the promise. Have empathy for the clients. Let’s not forget that in the last 5 years most crisis cases were connected to brand-product performance and claims. Work through unprecedented customer service. Treat people like people.
Stimuli to discuss and share
The 2017 Cohn & Wolfe Authentic Brands study examines the role of authenticity in business, the attributes associated with an authentic brand and the impact of authenticity on consumer, investor and employee attitudes and behaviours.
The 2017 Authentic Brands study is the result of a combination of primary and secondary research, including surveys on more than 1,400 brands, measuring more than 200 global brands, administered over two months (May to June 2017) to over 15,000 consumers in 15 markets: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
(source: Cohn & Wolfe)
The call to action for marketers to “Think Human” is not based on a whim either. Neuroscience demonstrates that receptiveness to marketing messages is enhanced if they are communicated in a humanized way, encouraging people to form a more human bond with the brand. Our Top 50 Human Marketers report highlights the core qualities that position brands as human-centric, trustworthy, businesses, and identifies a broad range of marketers who have built successful strategies around the four key principles of empathy, confidence, responsiveness, and surprise. The marketers in our report truly believe that success that can be delivered by brands communicating in a human way.
(source: Guardian, advertising section – article here)
The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.
They are talking about your Company and your Brand 24/7, 365d!
Whether you like it or not, communities are talking about you, judge your experience, compare prices, and evaluate if you stand true to the brand promise. They are open to many web choices, so they get more mature.
Surveys show that there are no more loyal customers (the old-logic was measuring loyalty through retail audits, U&A surveys, and sales volume… generally without concrete data), since they buy the one day and talk over your amazing services, but on the next day they comment, post, review the defective products you’ve manufactured.
They’re complaining about your exorbitant fees, comparing to extraordinary discounts over the internet. Crazy? Not so… Your latest CEO’s interview shared on Facebook or Twitter might be laughed at, in conjunction with bad customer experiences the user have had in the past. Consumers and communities can become very cynical about flight attendants, bank cashiers, rude customer service staff in-shop while always compare competitors.
They review loudly and openly the bad offering or experience and they ‘crack’ the trust perception you’re trying to build every day. These conversations are happening physically and in all social media.
You will never again have control over these conversations
Companies will never “control” or “direct” the perceptions in the open, peer-to-peer economy. Have you ever really thought how big this change is? No more convincing paid media or native (paid) content? No more “virtual” (accounts) to ‘bombard’ consumers?
Can you be passionate and loud as they are? Believe me, simple social “listening” is not enough. You can put all the monitor teams you like on duty, but if the company doesn’t embed itself in the conversations that matter, your brand and business will suffer.
Do you know the communities, the haters, the ambassadors, your employees in these public conversations? Have you ever tried -even as a pilot- to twist those talks around, while building SEO-related content narratives?
“I don’t know this, I’ll have to check“, “Thank you for the comment, it was escalated to X Manager responsible and we’ll get back to you in two days” are examples of a trusted, transparent, ethical stance. In this way, you sustain your wanted perception and your business.
Creating appropriately voiced and visualized content on the right channels, at the right moments is critical to your engagements. If they judge you as a ‘deals-only’ organization, you’ll get their indifference. Tune into their conversations, listen, embed yourself with a purpose.
Hear me out my dear, I’ve fought long for the same purposes as you do, but the influence game has changed for good, forever!