Today’s connected consumer suffers from what can only be termed the “Times Square Effect.” The other night, I walked out of a Broadway show and was immediately bombarded by the neon signs and noisy soundtracks of brands trying to attract consumers’ attention. I walked away not remembering a single message from any one specific brand. The “Times Square Effect” is following consumers 24-7-365 as brands compete both online and offline for audience attention and share. PR professionals, who have long been the stewards of a company’s message, must now help curate the enormous amounts of content being thrown at consumers. They are already using social media to create, control and communicate their own experiences. We can help by making sure our output is relevant, useful and meaningful to them.
Consumers want to know what a brand is all about, the humanity behind it, if you will, and they now have the digital tools and resources to find out. If brands aren’t ready to tell their story, consumers can and will decide what it is. This means that even more than before, starting at the top, companies are now asking themselves: “Who are we and what do we stand for?” Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is about weaving that cause throughout the company’s corporate DNA, so that it becomes evident in everything the company does.
Companies are also now faced, more than ever, with having to communicate authentically to their customers and potential customers—in real time. PR practitioners have always been about developing relationships and projecting the humanity of a brand. We are a natural fit to help companies recognize the benefits, and navigate the pitfalls, of real time interaction—they also want context from and an emotional connection to the brands they use every day.
At the end of the day, this is an exciting time for PR and for companies looking to get their message out. The potential for greater creativity is boundless as we have more tools to help clients service consumers. The opportunity to help customers connect with brands that share their concerns and values through meaningful content and conversation is palpable. I’m looking forward to what the rest of 2012 will bring—including the unexpected.