PR version of a popular meme.
Content. So much content. Blogposts, vlogs, social media posts, ads, infographics (remember those?) … The list is endless. They’re discussed in meetings. Created on Macs. Reviewed on large screens (or two). A clever, shiny, high-end process. And then they’re consumed on iPhone 7s with broken screens and two bars of reception.
Content. So much content. Slow to load. Most of it not visible at first glance. Some of it too small to read. Much of it too long to consume for the brief moment-between-moments when a person doom scrolls and thinks, “I hate this phone. And I need to get this screen fixed.”
It’s a view, but not the one you wanted. Certainly not the one that comes up in the analytics.
A lot has been written about the huge gains in digital services brought about by the lockdowns necessitated by COVID-19. These advances bring with them certain pressures. Chief among them is a renewed need to do more for less.
At least since the financial crisis of the late 2000s, most businesses have had some sort of more for less agenda. Business leaders have sought efficiency gains through better targeting their marketing spend, automating processes and reducing their cost base.
The big shift to digital seen in the past year will put further pressure on reducing cost. It comes in two forms. The first will be finding the savings to fund the cost of building out and continually improving the infrastructure needed to maintain that shift to online sales. Many companies will have scaled their digital systems through a combination of ingenuity and sticky tape. They now need to properly build those systems and make them secure and reliable. They need to do so quickly. It will not be cheap.
The second bit of pressure will come in the form of simplification. Customers do not necessarily love buying things online. They do, however, value convenience. Some insurance companies ask tons of questions, some retailers charge for returns, and some banks require you to go to the branch before you can transact online. These companies know they need to catch up to competitors who offer simpler purchase journeys. It is an absolute priority. Customers know it’s possible to order a takeaway in just a couple of clicks. They can check out from Amazon in just a click.
Simplicity is the battleground on which ecommerce will be won. Companies will need to invest to deliver the convenience needed to win in their markets. And again, this investment will need to be funded somehow. Some of that will have to come from savings. We’ve already seen this with the likes of John Lewis closing stores and Thorntons moving to online-only.
So, as budget holder, if you’ve scratched around for savings and efficiencies for the last decade be prepared to carry that search forward through the next one.
Stakeholders are people too. And their day-to-day concerns creep into their professional lives.
Stakeholder maps are the bedrock of so many campaigns. After all, if you want to change a conversation around a topic you need to know who’s involved. And yet, too often stakeholder maps become stakeholder prisons. We begin to believe that the issues of the campaign are the things that stakeholders should care most about. Worse still, we start to believe that this thing we care about is one of the main things that our stakeholders care about.
But they don’t. At least not all the time.
Stakeholders, or to give them their proper name, people, are just as fluctuating in their priorities as the rest of us. They too flit from finding donations for mufty days to sorting out household bills. In between dashing to the loo between video calls and cooking dinner, they also care about the issues you care about. Sometimes.
Campaigns, however, treat them as if all that other stuff doesn’t exist or matter. But it really does.
Over the weekend, Camilla Cavendish used her FT column to complain about companies using Covid as an excuse for poor service. This column came about because of poor experiences with two high street banks. Just a couple of days later, Emma Duncan used her Notebook in The Times to call out companies using “the Covid excuse”. That’s two pieces in the opinion pages of high-profile media complaining about the same issue. And it’s not a stakeholder issue. It’s not sustainability or regulation. It’s not governance or funding. It’s a consumer issue, faced by people every day who are calling companies to sort out bills and bank accounts and broken appliances.
Corporate communicators need to break the wall that stops stakeholders from being seen as people. All the messaging in the world, however beautifully framed it might be, will not win over a stakeholder who through personal experience (or that of their friends and family) has a dim view of your company.
Now, it’s not practical to cover off every eventuality, but if you work for a company that has a customer service call centre, do you know if you’re pre-recorded message is using the Covid excuse? Because resolving that might help shift your stakeholder reputation metrics as much as anything else you’re doing right now.
I had a couple of days of work and thought I’d return to this exercise. This time I’ve put together a lockdown focused series of ads. I had about nine in the end. These four were the ones that felt like they got somewhere.