Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
By: Marko Galić, Client Service Director, Komunikacijski Laboratorij
Where does communication begin and where does it end?
The right answer is that communication has no beginning and no end, communication is always happening – everywhere, at an ever increasing speed, live, simultaneously on multiple channels, occurring non-stop. It is getting harder to control, and in these circumstances and according to these trends, a communication strategy is more important than ever, i.e. a strategically developed and, more importantly, properly implemented communication on all channels and levels, starting from the lady behind the counter and the social media all the way to the fancy TV commercial. It is important that this communication strategy is consistent and clear – namely that it sends out the same key messages and brand values no matter the channel and the mode of communication.
The power of the individual is greater than ever
TV’s reach is still very high; therefore it is logical that clients still allocate the largest budgets for communication via that channel if they want to reach a high proportion of their target audience. However, digitalization and social media have given great power to every individual and every single channel included in the process of communication. If they are ignored, they can completely annul the invested resources and even produce irreparable damage. Trolls, bloggers, online influencers – in other words all those who have Internet access – can nowadays seriously influence the reputation of a brand in different ways, both positive and negative. Regardless of the fact that a TV commercial still has a greater reach, the opinion of an independent individual, a regular consumer or an influencer on an online or some other channel has credibility and in this way it has an equal, if not a greater effect.
Communication without any funny business
It is important to realize and to emphasize that communication cannot include any funny business. There is no hiding and misleading, there is no room for communication under controlled conditions. Much in the same way as people do, brands have to be prepared for the fact that they will be a daily topic of discussion on social media, forums and other online channels at any moment, without make-up, completely stripped bare or during some unpleasant moment when they least expect it. If your brand is communicating and promising that transparency and adaptation to your client’s needs are some of your key values, it is inexcusable not to be present on social media, not to respond quickly and assertively, not to accept the feedback of your clients and users even when it is negative and not to adapt your product or service in the corresponding manner.
We can see good and bad practical examples every day and in different contexts, when we are riding in the tram or going to the supermarket. However, I want to single out one simple “non-digital” situation from an office of one larger financial institution which got stuck in my head. While I was waiting in line, I had the chance to listen to a conversation of a clerk from this financial institution and a client:
- The counter clerk is commenting with her colleague: “I hate these clothes we have to wear, I feel hot and we also look stupid wearing them.”
- Client: “Mrs., your clothes are quite nice. My daughter would give everything to have your job.”
- The other clerk joins the conversation and responds to the client: “Come on, please, tell your daughter that she would not be happy working here. Working here is awful.”
At the same time, we see a perfectly happy, nice and smiling clerk in the commercials of that same company, which in its communication emphasizes a high quality service, an individualized approach to clients and employee satisfaction as their key advantages when compared to their competitors. If they were not wearing the same clothes with the same logotype, we would not even think that we were dealing with the same company. I really found it to be absurd – somebody developed, designed, produced a commercial and paid for the actors and the media, just so that it could be completely disproven by a situation from a real office with a real clerk and a completely different message. The communicative damage would be far greater if the same communication happened on some of the social media channels. It would have a greater reach than it did in reality, when the conversation was only overheard by me, one client and maybe some other curious person with good hearing such as myself. If the communication is not implemented properly and consistently via all channels, from social media and ATL channels to internal communication and personnel who have direct contact with the clients, then it simply loses its meaning and value, ultimately bringing more harm than good because the clients feel cheated. Therefore the credibility of every message on all channels becomes crucial. First of all, it is your duty as a company to internally raise awareness of the value of everyday communication of your employees and of the communication with users and clients in order to properly send the same message in external media.
There are, of course, great examples such as the Dutch ING Bank, which has managed to become a true leader in its innovative and open approach to communication, despite the fact that we are talking about a traditional and conservative industry. They have been one of the first to start communicating on social media and to accept two-way online communication with clients and all market stakeholders (interestingly, without deleting any negative comments) as the backbone of their communication strategy according to the values they are promising. In their case, it is not only about digital, internal or external communication, but about a way of doing business and about a company strategy which truly communicates and lives the values it promises to their clients and all other market stakeholders through every process and manner of action. This is the only efficient way that pays off long-term for every company in the world of continuous communication.
All of us have to make a choice – to adapt our business to the new communication conditions and to use that power of the individual, of the quick market feedback and of the two-way and transparent communication with all key audiences, or to continue walking the line between our promises and reality, hiding behind the sets of fancy commercials.