We all talk about how the world is changing and how digital has impacted this change – this is in no way news. However, no matter how many times organisations state the world is changing, I am still seeing very little change in how they engage people – in the words used or the tone of the conversation when they manage their engagement strategy with the public. Mitigating risk is still dominating how PR is scripted by organisations, especially during a crisis.
Of course, over the last year, negative news headlines have dominated much of Twitter and online reaction from users – many of which has been enraged by the lack of humanity companies and the individuals leading these companies are showing in their response to issues. And so, this points me to ask a very crucial question in terms of PR and engagement strategies today – when do you let facts, and they need to convey these facts, overrun the emotional response that will be given by your audience?
Well the simple answer is you don’t! Yes, people want facts – it is essential if you are going to run an effective engagement strategy, and business for that matter, but companies don’t realise the importance of how they communicate these facts. It’s not always what you say – but rather your humanity and integrity in dealing with communicating these facts that can influence public perception. And let’s be honest, the old adage of PR – perception is reality – seems to ring even more true in the digital world.
No industry has been left untouched by this. Everything from retail, food, financial services and even healthcare has felt the impact of emotional responses to a perceived incident. Brands have suffered – some irrevocably – because of their poor communication in a digital world.
Of course, I would never advocate that during a time of heightened public awareness or a company crisis that a company respond emotionally – of course not. Facts are needed, and facts must underpin the strategy. However, this cannot be done in a silo. Facts can be perceived as cold and therefore a company reaction which is merely fact based is often perceived with a sense of detachment. Remember, when you are dealing with people, respond to them as a person – humanity is a universal language – and doesn’t need to be reserved for friends and family.
Of course, there are arguments to counter this – stating that further debate is then invited or that market precedents are set, all of which open a company or individual to adverse risk – and I understand that. However, given that the online world is often dominated by people who ‘shout’ – and ‘shout’ loud – surely responding with facts, which are coupled with a sense of humanity, upfront, allows your customers/market to feel heard and ultimately illicit a more positive market reaction down the line. No, this won’t solve your issue – but it will support your engagement strategy, which I presume most organisation’s have, in some form, especially if they have a digital strategy.
Agree, disagree? I would love to hear from you.