By Lucy Walker – Head of Audience – Melbourne, Perth, Asia and the United States
As brands generate more content, and also have the ability to have an increasing number of direct conversations with consumers, the possibility of a crisis increases.
Brands are producing more content than ever before, and our target audiences are consuming more than ever before, which means expectations have changed. A few years ago, audiences were consuming limited amounts of content through select channels, and making important decisions based on that content. Now consumers have a multitude of content sources and options available. Rather than being instantly sold a product or service, they are looking for a reliable source that will help educate and inform their decision.
We’re also navigating constantly changing technologies, brand new tactics and audiences that demand more, so we’re constantly in a state of planning for what’s next. This is being driven by the building popularity of instant content, thanks to the likes of Snapchat, Facebook Live, and now Instagram Stories. With instant content, however, not only are we dealing with changing audience expectations, but also the increased risk of a crisis.
What we have seen when media issues do arise is that there is an instantaneous spotlight on a brand’s response.
If your products, service or responses aren’t up to standard, your audience will know within seconds.
When your brand is mentioned in the media and associated with a consumer issue, your responses need to be on point. When Coles was quizzed about the alleged mistreatment of local dairy farmers and the quality of their own products, they replied in a social media post that Coles Brand Fresh Milk is made from reconstituted milk powder – unfortunately they missed out the keyword, ‘not’. By the time Coles responded about the typo it was too late, and the error had been picked up by consumers and mainstream media. It’s a seemingly simple mistake, but it had a negative impact on the brand. It’s an example of why it’s important for brands to take a few minutes to consider and check all responses, not just those on social media.
Consumers are now feeling empowered as they not only have access to a mass of content, but they can instantly publish their own. We now get to see things from a completely different point of view, and it gives others the chance to see what really happens, up close and personal. As human beings we are compelled to watch, listen and comment, and this means issues can arise for organisations more frequently.
The speed at which brands have to respond to negative comments has increased. While brands want to know more about consumer opinion, the opinions are not always positive, so brands now need to update their crisis management and reactive content strategies to ensure that appropriate responses are provided quickly to limit the spread of misinformation.
There is a fine line between consumer empowerment and a digital nightmare for brands. While honesty and speed are still a necessity to avoid a digital crisis, brands need to consider how consumers can be positively engaged to build a strong social reputation with their target audience.