Businesses are sailing in unchartered reputational waters as Trump’s ‘alternative fact’ era settles on the public psyche.
For corporates, there needs to be a realisation that the rule book is fast being re-written.
Put simply, we face a new set of challenges for corporate communications.
Authenticity and transparency – so often the go-to mantra of corp comms professionals – are now mere hygiene factors.
To gain real trust, Business leaders must go further. They need to put the core values of humanity and empathy at the very heart of their corporate brand.
Forget a traditional view of B2B and B2C communications; companies who will succeed in this post-truth world will be the ones investing in B2H communications - 'business to human'.
Just a few weeks ago, ride-sharing behemoths Uber and Lyft showed how behaving and acting in a human way can directly impact reputation.
Embroiled in the New York Taxi Workers Alliance strike following Trump’s immigration ban, Uber, by thinking like a business rather than a human being, quickly got itself into deep water, with #DeleteUber trending globally and hundreds of thousands of users removing the app from their devices.
Lyft, on the other hand, successfully took the temperature of the city and responded empathetically, acting like a concerned neighbour, with the pitch of their response in tune with what their customers (and potential Uber switchers) wanted to hear.
What differentiated Uber and Lyft wasn’t their business model or communications objectives – they both had the primary intention of helping their customers.
Instead, it was an understanding of core human behaviour that translates at a much higher level. By putting the actions of businesses through a human lens, certain behaviours deliver enhanced reputational impact:
• Understand environments and perspectives that aren’t your own. Come down off your pedestal, see where your audiences live and the problems they face in order to make an emotional connection that is culturally relevant.
• Have a point of view, and back it up. Be opinionated, don’t be dull, and certainly don’t hide. Have a purpose, a passion and a point of view that reflects the actions of your business.
• Respect privacy. A friend wouldn’t sell off personal information to the highest bidder without telling you first. Be transparent about your own behaviour and be credible in your actions.
Speaking to your audiences on a basic human level should be the most natural thing, yet for businesses it can often be one of the hardest.
Companies interact with millions of customers, stakeholders and employees, all with myriad world views.
Of course views can differ, but communicating in a way that respects and reflects core human truths, is the great opportunity for communications professionals.
Those who do business in a more human way – across every product, every service, every business decision, every supplier and customer interaction – will ultimately be the ones who prosper.
Jeremy Lucas is head of corporate at Ogilvy PR