In an era of fake news and hyper connectivity, how do organisations manage their reputations effectively? This was the main question debated at our Big Picture event in London at the end of March, where we were joined at Picturehouse Central by senior marketing and comms professionals and industry experts.
We heard about six trends from Nick Chiarelli (Foresight Factory), enjoyed a lively discussion on reputation management from a panel chaired by our Head of Corporate, Dan Masser, and formed of Matt Davies (Splunk), Sam Ahuja (Schillings International) and Kristie Perrotte (Robert Half), considered how the world has changed with our SVP EMEA and UK MD Giles Peddy and listened attentively to business journalist Maggie Pagano, who has written for publications including The Times, Daily Mail, Independent, Independent on Sunday, Financial News and Evening Standard.
Here are 10 of the key discussion points and learnings from the day.
1. Reputation comes from everywhere and everything
The reputation of a business is paramount, and comes from every element of the organisation. Once, reputation was judged purely in terms of financial results, but now it’s about everything a business does, how it communicates and how its employees live the brand. Every element of a business is fundamental to its reputation – from marketing, communications, employee engagement and legal to technology, commercial and data.
2. Fake news has always existed
We used to call it propaganda. What’s new, in this always-on culture, is the speed with which it spreads (particularly via non-news platforms) and therefore the speed with which it has to be responded to. Perhaps now everyone is aware of it (or borderline obsessed), we can understand it better and deal with it more effectively.
3. Reputation protection is key
In the wake of social media and fake news, reputation protection is a crucial part of reputation management. Businesses and brands need to make sure they have goodwill in the bank for when they need it most. With this in mind, it helps for businesses to take active steps to articulate their bigger purpose, along with their values and what they stand for. And this needs to come right from the top of an organisation.
4. Seeing the world through a single lens is dangerous
In this algorithm culture, there’s a danger of us seeing the world through a single lens. This can make our understanding of the world extremely narrow and segmented. It’s the responsibility of all of us to read widely, question what we read, understand our sources and not just rely on what we’re fed by social media and Google.
5. Commerce is becoming increasingly conversational
Consumers want more of an equal, transparent dialogue and are responding to brands that inhabit the social media channels (like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger) where they feel comfortable.
6. Personalised messaging will become the new normal
This is leading to an evolution in the way consumers are connecting with brands (and vice versa). Personalised messaging will become the new normal, based on businesses understanding what consumers care about. Brands know they must make online interactions warmer, more dynamic and human, to make their engagements deeper and richer. And it’s a two-way process: an increasing number of brands are following Uber and Airbnb by rating their customers…
7. Data changes industries
In a world where data plays such a crucial part, industries will change. For example, driverless tractors aren’t just useful pieces of farm equipment operating via the latest technology, but can gather business-changing data for agrochemical companies. Coffee companies could provide crucial information and data to healthcare businesses. The applications across industries are significant.
8. Corporate communications is always-on
The world of corporate communications continues to evolve. There is no longer a captive audience consuming news at set times, from set places (national news bulletins at 6pm and 10pm, or the front page of the daily newspaper first thing in the morning, for example). Now, it’s always-on, with consumers playing a multi-faceted role communicating, consuming and publishing. So corporate communications is about influencing a much broader group of stakeholders to achieve traction.
9. Know your audience and respond to issues
Businesses and brands need to keep abreast of public opinions and the issues that are particularly relevant. The consumer appetite for causes can be transient to say the least, so organisations must know their audience and respond to issues that are aligned with their core brand values, in order to avoid being dismissed as shallow and inauthentic.
10. And it’s getting more complex
The world will continue getting more complex with a demanding stakeholder environment that makes influencer marketing increasingly challenging. Smart thinking and better planning will be needed to communicate more nuanced messaging, measure more effectively and show business impact.
Watch our highlights here: