As 2021 unfolds, presenting many of the same challenges and pitfalls that plagued 2020, what role does Consumer Public Relations (PR) play in the world of brands navigating an endless sea of disruption? What is the connection point between brands and consumers in an increasingly disconnected, uncertain and fragmented world? The answer is purpose.
If last year taught us to expect the unexpected, as PR professionals and marketers, it also demonstrated the importance of introspection and purpose. As communicators, the stories we told throughout the past 12 months pivoted to highlight the creation of net new businesses, and the evolution (or unfortunate demise) of others. It was the human stories (resilience, triumph and heart) that won the day—transparent narratives that put the spotlight on how we do our business and who we are as people (both individually and collectively).
What lies ahead for brands working to make a future connection?
Moving forward, successful brand communications must continue to favour the true and emotive storyteller—one who authentically addresses and contributes to environmental, societal and governance causes, and engages both internal and external stakeholders. Making believers of us all.
For today’s brands looking to win the hearts of consumers and employees alike, it is no longer enough to simply make a covetable product, provide an innovative service or be a great place to work. Nor is it acceptable to flag a lofty brand mission without providing tangible proof points.
No, the must-have atop every consumer’s 2021 shopping list is credible, legitimate purpose-led values that permeate across a brand’s entire business, demonstrating a desire to advance social causes, rather than just flag them.
In fact, a 2020 Capgemini Research Institute Consumer Purpose survey found that “seventy-eight per cent of consumers believe companies have a larger role to play in society than just looking after their self-interests.”
Addressing social issues
So how can brands (and consumer marketers) tackle important societal and political issues, such as climate change, diversity, equity and inclusion, localism, and job growth, while remaining authentic and relevant to their target audiences? How do they avoid perceived soapbox posturing, while effectively showcasing market differentiation, credibility, and relevance?
Spoiler alert: there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
In the end, it’s about bringing real people back into the equation and giving the audience a voice. Granting all stakeholders access and ownership to the brand, and to a two-way conversation on the shared values, issues and cultural tensions that matter most.
At NATIONAL, our Consumer Practice is committed to starting this conversation and driving change-fuelled results for our clients through purpose-led PR. We help our clients dig deep, collaboratively crafting a distinct narrative that outlines and articulates a differentiated purpose, but also identifies and champions those stories that already exist within an organization to demonstrate human and cultural value for today—and tomorrow. We take a bespoke and strategic, audience-based approach to storytelling that matters. Stories that highlight diversity and local causes, and actions that focus on community, not clout.
While there is no crystal ball, as we collectively emerge into whatever our new normal will be after the COVID-19 pandemic, the brands that will flourish—agnostic of industry or vertical—will be those that most clearly communicate their purpose.
This will hold especially true for businesses and segments that have felt the most COVID-19-driven disruption, or for brands and services born or amplified in response to the pandemic, like leisure (travel, arts and culture, and hospitality), shopper (retail and e-commerce) and start-ups (disruptors such as food delivery and home products). As these industries build back and up, the ultimate communications goal should be a commitment to helping them to build back, and up better.
NATIONAL’s senior Consumer practice team leaders drive expert counsel and programs within each of these three categories. Reach out to our team of senior Consumer PR experts to learn more about how we can help you shape and tell your brand’s purpose-led story for today and tomorrow.