Friday, April 20, 2007

Looks Like They're Catching On

Throughout the semester, we have been talking about the way word of mouth is changing the industry. For many companies, ignoring the consumer-to-consumer conversations is no longer an option because of the profound effect they can have on the company’s image and sales. While traditional methods of marketing, advertising and public relations are still vital, an increasing amount of companies are looking for a way to manage their image in the word of mouth world.
The result? Some of the top players in the marketing, advertising and PR world are catching on and restructuring their range of services to include the consumer-to-consumer driven information. For example, it was recently announced that one of the biggest PR firms in the world was changing its mission from focusing on transmittance of information to the promotion of advocacy among consumers. They recognize that consumers are no longer being coaxed into purchasing decisions by the conglomerates, and that they are relying heavily on their peers to be honest and open in making recommendations.
In the press release following this decision, the company focuses on the three biggest changes in the market that inspired their decision:

1. The media no longer dictates to the people. Instead, consumers have become aware of the manipulative ways of traditional media sources and, therefore, are turning to their peers online to find out the real story.
2. Pull trumps push. With the amount of information being thrown at us from media sources on a daily basis, it is too risky for a company to rely on consumers to receive their message by simply pushing it at us. Instead, consumers are looking for something more. They want to engage with the company, share their values, and have their voice heard. In return, the consumer feels connected with the company and will act as an advocate.
3. New media technologies have increased consumer interaction. With the establishment of an online community, consumers are more closely connected to each other and, as a result, have a larger social network with which to share thoughts and ideas. No longer are consumers simply living in the business world, but businesses must figure out how they can fit into the consumer world.

It is important for the public relations industry to catch on because they manage the way a company presents itself in the marketplace. If the PR industry focuses on creating advocates among the consumer community instead of selling a pre-packaged image, they are focusing on fostering positive attitudes and connections with the public rather than pushing out messages and hoping that consumers will buy into it. Seems like a better approach all around.

Read the entire statement from the company here.
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2 comments:

Andrea said...

I wonder if PR organizations can truly implement a consumer to consumer approach since traditionally their main purpose is to control their image. Since there is essentially no way to control the opinions of others, I think PR firms will be more apt to set guidelines on the amount of involvement they will allow their consumers in repositioning their brand.

Jodi Long spoke to this in class when she mentioned organizations’ hesitation in adopting word of mouth marketing campaigns because it means they have to relinquish some control over their brand image. While it would be great for companies to adopt a more consumer-based approach, I think it is incredibly idealistic and takes a truly progressive organization.

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