In the wake of false reports, misleading information and outright lies in 2017, transparency has been heralded as the antidote to fake news for 2018. But it is a tricky line to tread.
Companies that can show transparency as part of an intelligent strategy will benefit from more trust in their brand and more loyalty from their customers. But we’re all aware that some company policies and values make perfect sense from a business perspective but don’t always do much for our public relations. And choosing to be transparent with your audience means you can’t pick and choose what to be transparent about.
So how do you build trust with your audience without making a blunder?
Listen to your audience
One of the biggest advantages of using social media is having access to what people really think of your brand. Whether a fan or not, people don’t hold back with their feedback online. If you’re working smartly then you can use this to your advantage by judging the tone of your audience and how your transparency is likely to be received.
When Poundland recently got into trouble with the ASA following complaints about their cheeky Christmas campaign that showed an elf toy in provocative scenarios, they could have quietly swept it under the carpet, or perhaps issued an apology if it wouldn’t go away. Instead, they chose to be completely transparent on the matter, even going so far as to publish their letter of response to the ASA online and to issue a ‘statement from Elfie’.
Credit: Poundland / Twitter
Poundland managed to get away with this unscathed because of their attention to their audience. They clearly monitored the overall response to their campaign online, even citing a Twitter poll by comedian Jason Manford that received 12k votes mostly in favour of the campaign in their letter to the ASA. By doing this they had the confidence to stand their ground, and could gauge the appropriate response that would generate support from their followers; positioning their campaign alongside the saucy humour of the Carry On films that has been part of British identity for decades.
Establish likeable values and demonstrate them consistently
It always pays to associate your brand with good values that resonate with your audience, and the closer you can merge your brand with these values, the better positioned you’ll be to be open and transparent with your audience. This is where you content strategy comes into play. Your content can help you to tap into the various values that your audiences hold, and to connect your brand with them in new and exciting ways. Innocent Drinks are the masters at this, positioning the brand as quirky, charitable and down-to-earth with light-hearted and funny content that their audience wants to engage with.
Credit: Innocent Drinks / Twitter
Building this likeable, just-one-of-us brand story makes it all the more easier to be transparent with their audience about subjects such as where their fruit is sourced from, how environmentally-friendly their head office is, and the work that their charities do. Their audience already wants to trust and like their story because they trust and like the brand.
Prepare to be humble, acknowledge criticism and make changes
You can’t come up with a dicey excuse for a PR mishap, wheel it out whenever someone criticises the brand and then stick your head back in the sand and call it transparency. If you want to use transparency to your advantage, then you’re going to have to accept at least some changes to the way you do things.
One brand that took this to heart and managed to completely overhaul their image with some cleverly transparent content was McDonalds. As headlines about child obesity became more frequent and healthy eating became a more prominent concern - particularly for parents - McDonalds desperately needed to shake their image of being a guilty and unhealthy choice. They devised an enormous and lengthy campaign that saw them introduce healthier options such as salads, wraps, fruit juice and veggies, reveal where they source their meat from, and even create programs to better look after their staff.
The changes that McDonalds have made over the last 5 years have been too extensive to cover them all here, and they continue to maintain their more responsible image with clever transparent content such as inviting YouTubers to 'investigate' their chicken nuggets. If you want to win over your critics and demonstrate to your fans that you can be trusted, then sometimes holding up your hands and being transparent about the changes you’re making to rectify your mistakes is the best course of action. But don’t forget that once you’ve taken that action, maintaining it and developing it is equally as important as that first step.
If transparency is going to be important to your marketing strategy this year then contact us today for expert advice and guidance on how to produce content that will benefit your brand.