A version of this post originally appeared Folha de S.Paulo.
For many decades, companies’ brands and their products had been unquestionable authorities.
In a communications system structured by the pyramid of influence, they used to occupy the few mass communications channels that existed to talk about what they wanted, when they wanted and for whoever they wanted. To their audiences, there was no objection.
The scenario has changed. The one-way, authoritative communications model does not work anymore. Now, the individuals connected on networks are the ones who build or destroy brands. The 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer shows the common person detains 83 percent of trust to form an opinion about a company, in Brazil, surpassing academic specialists, who detain 72 percent. Another Edelman study, Earned Brand, reveals that 93 percent of Brazilians trust someone like themselves whenever they want to know more about brands. The internet has everything to do with this, as it has given powerful tools to citizens who can confront, comment, criticize or compliment.
Companies can no longer disguise its deficiencies in shady areas. The shell that once protected them has been perforated by the multiplicity and velocity of informational and opinionative channels, blogs, social media and search engines. There are currently no options other than positioning itself, sharing and engaging.
This way, processes of building and protecting brands have become way more complex. The starting point is to determine the brand’s identity, its purpose, values, attributes and language.
Afterwards, it comes the objective acknowledgement of the brand’s behavior: from the ethics that are established on its relations with multiple stakeholders, to the concrete actions that meet societal needs, not only its shareholders.
Only then the brand will be able to start its journey of engaging its stakeholders, that are currently spread across multiple channels and, at the same time, closed in digital clusters due to algorithms that filter and customize information and relations.
The good news for the companies is that, the same way it happens with individuals, the brands can currently build their own communications platforms to share contents that express their identities and are aligned with the public’s interest.
The path, amid this entanglement of vectors, demands monitoring and real time interaction, as well as fast reactions to leverage opportunities and neutralize threats.
The bigger a brand’s engagement capacity is, the more it will count on the public as an ally, reverberating its favorable aspects and defending the brand in critical moments. Building trust is one step ahead of the old reputation concept.
Going beyond the social license to operate, trusted brands have the license to lead and, on an extreme stage, even make mistakes and redeem itself.
Sharing values is no longer the simplest option. It has become a matter of survival.
Yacoff Sarkovas, president and CEO, Edelman Significa.