Companies now need to use their megaphone to connect people
Four years ago, Donald Trump brought back a communication trend that had been dormant for years. In recent years, we have also noticed this within our own political landscape, where they’re not afraid to talk a big game too. There’s nothing wrong with sharpness and clarity, but apart from that, it’s led to an unseen polarisation. For or against. Good or bad. Companies and Jan Modaal also unintentionally participated in this trend. The assertiveness of the consumer alone, who is ready to pillory a company even at the smallest doubt, has never been so great.
The arrival of President Joe Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris is momentous for a new kind of communication: connecting, healing, empathic communication. Therein lies an unprecedented opportunity for our business community. Fortunately, the days of a company’s marketing department only wanting to sell a commercial story to journalists are long gone. Companies have increasingly learned to communicate as experts: newsworthy, relevant, journalistic. At best, this has given them a lot more credibility, allowing you to bind people to your company and your entrepreneurial vision. But the importance of each company’s own media channels – about which the media itself has no say – has increased phenomenally and offers opportunities today.
It ensures that companies have their own megaphone, which they can use as they see fit. President Trump, who does not communicate through the media but through his own Twitter account, knew that better than any other. He used his personal megaphone over the years like no one ever had before. This is how he was able to further develop his favourite model of polarisation. But what businesses now need to realise is that we can also use that megaphone for the opposite purpose: to connect people, to create hope.
Good examples of that megaphone are the webinars and online debates that companies and organisations have set up in recent months to communicate their message in a well-directed way. It was a way for many to respond to consumer demand, which wants companies to do more than just sell. The public – which we used to call ‘customers’ – has much higher demands than before and expects not only talk, but also a sense of responsibility, good governance, and social commitment.
If Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, invests ten billion in a fund against climate change, that’s a strong signal. But it’s Bezos, the richest man on earth. If, after the first lockdown this spring, we see that three large shopping centre managers in our own country – who are normally each other’s competitors – joined forces to give the public the necessary clarity and cohesiveness, then that is a much stronger signal. It’s the same when you see a local wine shop, a flower shop, a restaurant, and a chocolatier in Turnhout putting their heads together to keep their businesses open in a meaningful way and deliver customised packages to your home.
Without a doubt, these are symbolically strong signals that are noticed by those who need to see them. As a company dare – more than ever before – to share your knowledge and expertise in these times. Involve others, outsiders, even competitors, in your bigger story and opt for cooperation. Don’t look for the polemic; unite the forces instead. Major events in the US also have an impact on Brussels. The time is ripe.