What do our audiences require from us?
A short History of Brand Communication
Although it may sound contradictory, in order to pose a futuristic scenario of brand communication, it is worth going back to the origins. From the first press release on a railroad accident issued by Ivy Lee in 1906 to its growing popularity through the controversial Edward Bernays, much water has passed under the bridge.
The course of activity has included the development of Press Releases, Press Conferences (that emerged in Universities and were adapted by diplomats and entrepreneurs to confront hypothesis and expose approaches), PR actions and of course the advent of the Internet and new technologies that gave way to multiple new ways of communicating. Beyond the complexity and permanent reinvention of the PR industry, this evolution has been guided by one objective: to convince (and not to manipulate), to promote, to generate trust and adhesion and, above all, to build a positive reputation. Unlike Advertising, Brand Communication has always had to rely on the existence of newsworthy events, because it is not about paying publications, but about finding the excuse for the media to speak of us (and speak well).
However, the framework does not end there. The dynamic globalisation and the arrival of social networks in 1995 changed the rules of the game. It is no longer about reaching the audience through the media only. The sequence was democratised and anybody can impose their voice. This is how early users, influencers, youtubers, instagrammers, etc. emerged who positioned themselves as genuine spokespersons for a period of time. And little by little they also learned to take advantage of their unprecedented success to become a brand’s allies or enemies and monetise their activity.
The 5 Keys to the Future of Brand Communication
From my personal point of view, these “new channels” have assumed the same logic as “traditional media”, except for a few that have retained the initial idea of genuinely transmitting and sharing what they believe, feel and choose. Today, we have returned to day one. Brands must continue to generate newsworthy events or use Advertising to achieve “win-win” exchanges through which to obtain positive impacts in all these channels.
1.- Know Thyself
So, how do we face the future of our activity? As we mentioned in another post, communication and change go hand in hand. And to assume this precept is the first step.
Above all, know the inside of things. It is useless to think in terms of projection to the outside world, unless we know who we are, where we are going, what we want to say, who our effective or potential consumer is and through what means we should listen to and reach them. It may seem obvious, but even today there are companies that launch themselves into Communication campaigns without this minimum analysis.
2.- People at the Centre of our Communication
Focus on people. Get to know your people. Explore your ecosystem. Value the people that make up the organisation and give them priority. Get to know your consumers and make them feel part of your brand. Promote positive relationships with all external stakeholders and communicate in a frequent, respectful and transparent way with all of them. Personalise. Today there are thousands of tools that allow us to know both our niche and mainstream audiences in depth. From a simple one-on-one encounter to Big Data analysis, all these initiatives are and will be fundamental to live on beyond the present moment.
3.- Quality and Coherence
Quality and coherence are a must. A brand is something you build, it contains a story, a set of values and attributes that make it desirable (or not) for people. Communication is not and will not be –in my opinion– a guerrilla commando that fires press releases and messages in burst. It is a reflective area, although that does not mean it is slow. Its function is to ensure quality and consistency. This is what sustains a brand over time and allows it to grow and reinvent itself. It will be a shield that allows events to speak for themselves, whatever is being said.
4.- Sincerity and Humanity
Sincerity and humanity. Sincerity springs from quality and coherence. A brand must support its words with its actions. A brand can make mistakes, apologise, fail and suffer a crisis. But it must never lie. Lacking the truth is the most fatal error a company can make.
In the near future, mechanised organisations that are disconnected from the interests of society will no longer be able to survive. And I do not speak of Social Responsibility as an assumed area, but of a sincere commitment with causes that have a real impact. The new generations demand us a hands-on approach, they require us to be agents of change, to take responsibility for our actions. In short, to contribute –and without this being a standard phrase– to a better world.
There will be increasingly disruptive tools and channels. However, those of us who want Communication to grow and contribute positively to the contact between brands and their audiences must be increasingly aware of their initial inspiration, intentions and effects.
Or, as my colleague Claudio likes to say: “First we need to be, then we have to do –and then, and only then– to show”.