My Three Cents
Ken MakovskyWednesday, December 21, 2016
Communications Resolutions for the New Year
As we move into 2017, I found it worthwhile to revisit proprietary industry research released by our firm’s industry practices in the past 12 months – and identified two important communications-oriented New Year’s Resolutions that could apply to almost any organization’s communications strategy and structure.
1. When it Comes to Trust, Always Keep Your Eye on the Ball
I have always believed that trust – the core of every relationship, as well as the communications profession – shares something in common with hard assets: they have currency, just like money in a bank, as I wrote in a previous blog. When companies consistently engage in actions and behaviors that nurture strong public relationships with all their key constituents, they are building trust reserves not unlike bank deposits, which they can redeem when hard times come.
Nowhere is this truism more salient than for the financial services industry, almost a decade after the 2008 financial crisis. According to our 2016 Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Survey, the impact of the 2008 financial crisis remains present today in the minds and balance sheets of consumers and industry alike.
Our report found that 86% of more than 1,000 surveyed executives and managers in communications and marketing functions at financial services firms believe the 2008 financial crisis still has a major effect on perception of their companies – up from 78% in 2015. And among U.S. consumers, 91% are concerned that another financial crisis could happen in the future.
The good news behind all this is we also learned through the study that these organizations recognize the importance of improving their reputations not only externally with consumers, but internally. They recognize customer service problems can fuel the negative perceptions brought on by the financial crisis – and they are investing more time and money in customer satisfaction research. They are putting a renewed emphasis on strengthening employee communications, turning team members into brand ambassadors. They are also turning to social media channels, putting a more human face to their brands and having conversations with their consumers. Good lessons for any company and ones we are sure will make a difference.
2. When it Comes to Communications Channels, Don’t Take Consumer Preferences for Granted
Two of our industry studies, one in energy and the other in health, probed the importance of how to effectively build relationships with consumers and how best to communicate with them, each with lessons of import.
Our study, How Americans Make Energy Decisions, revealed that communication executives across the spectrum of energy industries face different relationship-building challenges with consumers, and that they should revisit how they are communicating and which channels they are using to inform them.
- With a strong majority (87%) of consumers rating themselves at least somewhat informed about energy sources, the study found that nearly half (47%) of respondents favored popular media (TV and online news) as their go-to information resource. The least regarded channels were corporate and environmental websites, the choice of just 3% of consumers. In our view this finding dramatizes the need for companies to re-evaluate their website content and user experience – as well as the critical need to use video to better educate and influence target audiences. Further, 26% felt none of the information disseminated from energy industries via digital channels – ranging from LinkedIn and Twitter to advertisements and company websites – was helpful.
Our report, the 2016 Makovsky/Kelton Pulse of Online Health, is designed to uncover trends in consumer behavior around online healthcare information use. This report revealed that despite clear opinions on the trustworthiness of different sources, consumers appear to regard ease-of-use as more important than trust when it comes to choosing online health sites. (While data reveal that the doctor-patient relationship remains integral to the healthcare equation, patients are actively seeking information online to supplement their conversations with healthcare professionals – particularly when it comes to treatment options.)
While your industry may have different norms than these examples, the insight is clear: keep up with your audiences’ information priorities and their preferred means of receiving information.