What will it take to put your company on the map in 2018? You likely gave some thought to this question as the year kicked off. However, with the first few months of 2018 behind us (and in the fast-paced world of marketing), now is the time to revisit your communications strategies to make sure you’re on track to hit your goals this year.
Here are four of the biggest shifts in the market, and what you should do be doing right now.
CEOs Need To Speak Up – And Mean It
Getting people excited about your company is part of themodern-day mandate for today’s CEOs, but CEOs have an even bigger responsibility beyond taking on the role of ultimate brand ambassador. Consumers expect company leaders to be a voice, both on industry thought leadership and on important current events. This is something you should not ignore: A CEO’s ability to gain trust and confidence has a direct impact on a company’s bottom line. Even since last year, there’s been a marked increase in the number of consumers who are actively seeking out information about where companies stand on important social and political issues. According to Global Strategy Group’s 2018 Report on Business and Politics, “Americans continue to believe that corporations should take action to address important issues facing society (81%) and have a responsibility to do so (77%).” And, as noted recently in Harvard Business Review, “Leaders in all sectors — from business to sports to education — are publicly engaging in controversial political and social debates that they would have shied away from just a few years ago.”
What to do now: Decide what issues really matter to you as a leader and are important for the culture of the company that you’re trying to create. From there, find a channel that feels comfortable in making your voice heard, from social media to blogging to PR. Don’t be afraid to take a risk; Gen Z and millennial consumers, in particular, can sense the inauthenticity of companies who hide behind layers of media relations and wait to release perfectly crafted statements.
Streamline The Company Narrative
Consumers are constantly bombarded with multiple brand messages. It’s no coincidence that the companies that are standing out are those with the simplest story to tell. Take, for example, the rise of Brandless, which sells plainly packaged, high-end staples for $3 to $5 apiece and m/f people, which offers luxury, non-gendered skincare products. As the growing popularity of these and other similar companies show, we’re seeing a movement to “resist filling all the white space around a brand” and eliminate, what the Brandless calls ‘the marketing tax’ that gets passed on to consumers. The result? A stronger brand foundation and an easy-to-understand brand promise. Time will tell if this will work, but it’s clear that there’s a move toward simplicity. That ethos filters into communication strategies for B2C and B2B companies alike.
What to do now: Keep your story focused. Make it easy for your customers to understand. What do you do? Why does it matter? Don’t add bells and whistles just because you think you should. Strip it back to the basics and avoid the urge to fill the white space. The simplest stories can be the most compelling.
Bring ‘Radical Transparency’ To Your Messaging
Consumer trust is at an all-time low. (See the numerous headlines about recently about Facebook and Cambridge Analytics that say the lack of transparency was almost as offensive as the data breach itself). We live in a world where information is ubiquitous—we have the power of search at our fingertips and social media watchdogs to quickly report wrongdoing. Some companies are leveraging this shift as an advantage point in their relationship with their customers. For example, sustainable fashion company Everlane has made a commitment to price transparency and shows consumers exactly how much each item of clothing costs to make. Natural beauty company BeautyCounter publishes a list of chemicals they will never use in their products. Whether running a B2C or B2B company, customers want more insight into what your company stands for, how your product gets made, and what matters to you.
What to do now: Take customers behind the scenes of what you’re doing and building as a company. Engage them in the process and the mission. For your employees, keep doors open and share as much information as possible. And if you do get hit with a difficult question from a client or customer, don’t take five days to respond.
Just Get Going
Strategy is important. Goals are vital. Data is queen. “Selecting a strategy, a certain path, is going to provide the necessary constraints you’re going to need to prioritize your initiatives,” says Kristina Halvorson, founder and president of Brain Traffic. But, as the phrase says, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Often, I see brands struggling in a packed conference room to decide when to put out a press release or when to respond to an item. They agonize over what’s “on brand” and what’s not. Procrastination will get you nowhere (and no press) and there’s always going to be a more optimal time to launch something. As long as what you are saying and doing is authentic to you and your company, you will earn a loyal consumer base.
What to do now: Write. Post on social media. Start a podcast. Get your voice out there. The media world works at lightning speed; reporters don’t have time to wait. If you have an opinion and have a simple story, use it. Communicate authentically in times that are good, and even when they aren’t.
I am the CEO of RAISE Communications (@raisecommsgrp) a boutique PR and content strategy firm that helps tech startups, VC Firms and Leadership Teams shape ideas, create influence and inspire action. Follow me @carisommer.