Active and Honest Engagement Achieves e-Influence13 years, 6 months ago
Companies must switch from a policy of controlling information to sincere engagement in order to continue to hold people’s attention. By Stéphane Guerry.
A recent Euro RSCG C&O report showed that Wikipedia is increasingly high up in Google results pages when we do a search on a listed company or a CEO.
The key conclusion of this report is that active, honest and sincere engagement by companies is a growing source of influence with web users.
Consequently, companies already find themselves in a system that we can no longer call information ‘control’. From a company’s point of view, it can only prompt information, encourage its publication and support adoption by individuals.
PR agencies and corporate PR departments from now on should work on these three key steps with three new types of action:
e-reputation monitoring and e- influencers mapping
Monitoring, which PR departments already practise, does not only point to a future crisis as early as possible, it also enables us to follow changes in the arguments of the parties involved and their key points. Above all, it must enable us to identify who has real influence on the issues affecting the company.
The next step, which is to determine the degree of influence of each party involved or web source identified, is essential in order to establish the effort and investment required. To do this, the traffic generated is often not available and is not sufficient in any case. The real criteria for evaluating online influence are vitality (i.e. degree of freshness, renewal frequency, reactivity to news), integration with the network (Do other influential players post comments on this blog or website? Do they quote it or comment on it on their own space?) and authority (in the technorati.com sense, i.e. the number of hypertext links to this source)
Once the influential parties have been identified, we must establish a direct, sincere and long-term relationship with them. The key ingredients of a successful e-influencers relationship program are access (i.e. giving access to products or services before launch, to events, to the company itself and to people within the company who are not normally accessible), substance (i.e. always give a future corporate vision with the access), and service (what benefits can we offer individuals whose job is not to talk about you? Does it represent a scoop or visibility? And what advantages are there for their own publics? etc.).
Lastly, never forget that these publics are often very expert (it’s therefore better to have the company’s experts make public statements rather than its directors or PR representatives) and we should note that they are at work during the daytime (i.e. meetings should be held after work).
Such community management has become an essential function for companies which are implementing it at differing speeds. The most advanced have already created new community manager positions.
However, these measures merely reproduce traditional PR systems where companies focus their statements on a certain form of opinion elite. But this is not sufficient in a system where everyone is potentially an influential source of information for his surroundings.
This is why companies will gradually deploy discussion platforms between their various publics and the corporate departments concerned. This is not a digital form of a customer service department but rather a community management platform that turns every individual into a distributor of information on the company. In the other direction, each individual/customer becomes a source of innovation improving products, service or performance, while connecting him directly to the relevant corporate departments.
This is what Dell does with Ideastorm (http://www.ideastorm.com/), Starbucks with My Starbucks Idea (http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/), SNCF with ‘Opinions and Debates’ (http://debats.sncf.com/) and RATP with ‘You and RATP’ (https://www.vous-et-la-ratp.net/)
These systems can only work if several conditions are met:
• New contact people must be identified and named in the company (and not from the company’s PR departments or corporate managers as normally happens for authorized spokesmen)
• The company must accept that constructive criticism will be published
• The company must genuinely undertake to adopt ideas and initiatives from outside individuals if they turn out to be appropriate
However, companies which are already learning about the new forms of external communication (in both directions: listening and publishing!), will be the best placed to convey their future messages to the public. And these companies will probably be the first to contribute to expanding their own Wikipedia entries. But they will do so by following the principle of objectivity and respecting other contributors, i.e. they will do so with sincere engagement.
Stéphane Guerry is head of the Digital department at Euro RSCG C&O.mail the author
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