Social media trust is key for boosting brand authenticity

NEW YORK: Christine Cea, director of marketing communications at Unilever, said Wednesday that trust is key for increasing brand authenticity.

NEW YORK: Christine Cea, director of marketing communications at Unilever, said Wednesday that trust is key for increasing brand authenticity.

During a panel discussion at PRWeek's NEXT Conference in New York, Cea said that two-way communication is heavily social media-based, which makes consumers want to feel engaged and connected with their favorite brands.

“We're being looked at by brands to be an authority in some respect, but also to understand what those consumers' needs are,” she explained. “Their expectation is that we know them and we know their needs, and therefore, we have to address them and do so in a very relevant way.”

For many Unilever brands, such as Ragu, Axe, Suave, and Dove, the company has created interactive Facebook platforms for fans with videos, event coverage, polls, and more to give each brand its own “personality,” Cea said.

After launching a Facebook page for Ragu, Cea added that the brand saw a 350% increase in its fanbase on the social media website.

“It is the brand that is the message,” she added.

Sarah Colamarino, VP of corporate communications at Johnson & Johnson, said showing authenticity from a corporate standpoint is about actively engaging with consumers and giving programs a relatable “voice.”

“It's really being true to who you are, demonstrating it by your actions, and understanding the challenges when you're in large company, but still being true to yourself and what you bring forward,” she said.

Eighteen months ago, J&J launched an initiative called “text4baby,” which sends pregnant women who sign up for the program text messages throughout their pregnancy about healthy pre-natal habits. Colamarino said engaging directly with pregnant women has been “powerful,” and it has even attracted attention and involvement from the White House, State Department, and mom bloggers.

Elizabeth Lee, group head at Edelman Digital, said elevating authenticity stems from a few simple steps.

“There are these basics that are the ways you can engage your stakeholder and consumer audiences that really bring to life your mission and your values, and it's bringing those to life that really bring out authenticity,” she explained.

Being genuine and authentic, Lee said, are the result of having credible voice, delivering content in an easily accessible way, encouraging consumer participation, and driving your message and purpose. 

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