For years now, many corporate PR professionals have questioned just what is it that consumer PR’s do and how it can affect decisions made in the boardroom?
Well, let’s rewind to a simpler time. In the distant past (well the 80’s) most people had no idea about shares and the stock market. Then, Margaret Thatcher’s Government’s gave people the chance to buy shares in national companies she wanted to privatise (British Telecom, British Gas et al). All of a sudden people started to get an idea of what shares were and how they worked.
Fast forward to today and a lot of people dabble in the stock-market either themselves or via pension funds. The majority of people let their financial advisors do this but, as a whole, people understand that there is money to be made via stocks and shares.
This knowledge means that the ‘person in the street’ mainstream consumer has an understanding of how listed companies work. They understand the fact that a company’s goal is to make a profit for its shareholders. If a company isn’t making profits changes are made, be that redundancies or diversification of products and offerings.
Social media has equipped the consumer with a voice to say what they think of companies. Twitter is one of the easiest and fastest ways to complain. What’s more it’s very public. Just go and search for the likes of South West Trains or Yodel on twitter. It is easier for consumers to see if companies offer a good service and if they want to interact with said companies. If consumers don’t engage in high enough numbers profits fall. Simple econonomics.
For me the biggest teller of how important the end point consumer, and so consumer PR and communication, has become is when a company talks about shareholders, or their lack of, in an advert aimed squarely at a consumer purchaser not a business audience. Take this latest ad campaign from BUPA which talks about their corporate structure:
This line about no shareholders would not have been used 5-10 years ago. However, today, with the consumer being super savvy companies feel it’s important to tell their customers the benefits of how their business works and why their way of working is the best.
Consumer PR professionals are experts in creating campaigns that engage these customers much like corporate and financial PR’s are experts in talking to analysts, markets and business audiences.
What makes our campaigns stronger is if they are cohesive. As the consumer gets smarter and social media gives them a louder voice every consumer communications professional, more than ever before, has an important place in the boardroom and can add visible value to any company’s bottom line.
Nick Southall is an Associate Director at All about the Idea looking after the Consumer PR and Social Media business. You can see more of his random Twitter talk here