Kantar Exchange: The Authenticity Gap

How brands can reach consumers in an authentic way was the theme discussed by our lively, high profile panel at the recent Kantar Exchange event. Here we summarise the key views and discussion points from the session.

The panel was moderated by Helen Dunne, Founder and Editor of CorpComms magazine and included:

  • Dan Healy, FTI Consulting
  • Kate McFerran, LNER
  • Anisa Missaghi, pladis Global
  • Georgina Wald, Fuller’s

The conversation was based around the research in our DIMENSION 2019 study and report ‘Authentic Communication in a Mistrusting World’, where we learn the best channels to reach consumers and which sources consumers trust the most.

The discussion has been summarised below, and you can watch the full video here.

Authenticity is about asking, ‘What do you want to say as an organisation, and is there a gap between that and what you’re doing?’

Dan Healy rightly points out that love them or loathe them, brands like Ryanair are authentic because they do what they say, and vice versa. Same goes for President Trump, he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks except for his voters, and that’s who he is talking to on Twitter.

“The gap is an issue when your stakeholders and employees send a different message than what you’re trying to communicate.”

The apologetic approach may be wearing thin

Georgina Wald shares that at Fuller’s pubs, the communications strategy is to tell the truth and apologise for mistakes when they happen. But she poses that we may be approaching a tipping point when it comes to holding our hands up and apologising: “For communicators I think that’s becoming a challenge… These days politicians can’t apologise quickly enough, and I wonder if eventually that won’t be good enough [for brands].”

To take it a step further than an apology, Kate McFerran shares that at LNER they have reoriented their comms team around the customer. “The social media team sits within the operations centre, so they are sitting with the first person to know about a disruption and can communicate quickly. Sometimes things are completely out of our hands, so we can only provide as much information as possible, but passengers do understand.”

Leadership is key to authenticity  

Anisa Missaghi from pladis Global shared of the national ‘Let’s Talk’ mental health campaign that started internally at pladis with the support of the leadership team. “If the decision hadn’t been made by the leader at the time to invest in the campaign, it wouldn’t have become such a prominent campaign externally.”

Kate McFerran of LNER says that the open leadership at LNER is noticeable and the senior leadership’s social media presence sets the tone for the business. 

Georgina Wald points out that “Ryanair is authentic because O’Leary is authentic. I find it amazing that whenever the yearly results come out, I can’t tell you what the results are, but I do know they’ve opened more routes and that they’re cheaper than anyone else.”

“Humour is fantastic for cutting through and creating empathy”

Positive examples of crisis management were mentioned, including how KFC recently responded to its #chickencrisis with an apology and an image of the branded letters rearranged to spell out ‘FCK’. Helen Dunne highlights that this campaign “won through because it was real and authentic, and it spoke to young people.”

Dan Healy: “Sometimes when you look through what a corporate brand has put on social media, it’s anonymous, sterile and has gone through multiple checks before it’s put out… It loses its impact completely and utterly.”

Comms should be involved at every stage of strategic planning

Anisa Missaghi discusses comms teams’ prominent seat at the board room table: “With reputation management, it lands with comms to know the difference between what people need to know and what’s nice to know. Comms should be there when the strategy is being developed, launched and communicated.”

VIEW the full video recording of the event or SIGN UP to hear about future events through our newsletters. 

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