As Spider Man infamously said, “With great power comes great responsibility – this is both my gift and my curse”. As communication and brand reputation professionals, this sentiment should be at the forefront of our creative and strategic thinking, and our power of persuasion should be used to inspire positive social and environmental change.
This was the overarching message shared at last month’s Public Relations Institute of Australia event Creativity for Good, where I was fortunate enough to hear from four of the industry’s leading creative minds.
It has never been a more opportune time to consider the power of communications and our obligation as corporate citizens to have a positive impact on the world. Last week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released research to show the drastic impact a rise in warming from 1.5 to 2 degrees can have on the planet. While half a degree may seem inconsequential, the effects can be disastrous. For example, a rise of only 1.5 degrees means 10 million fewer people will be at risk of flooding in this century. While a rise of 2 degrees means our coral reefs will be completely wiped out.
Technology has empowered consumers, and a quick Google search provides consumers with unprecedented information, purchasing power, and choice. People are calling bullsh*t on inauthentic brand behaviour and communications, and it is crucial that communications campaigns are underpinned with authenticity, honesty, and transparency to inspire brand love and respect. Just look at the Pepsi and Kendall Jenner advertising disaster as an example of brand inauthenticity leading to a PR nightmare.
So, how do we do this? No brand, or person, is perfect but it is about acting with honesty and integrity and communicating in a more ‘human’ way, including admitting when you haven’t gotten it 100% right. Creative campaigns and advertising can be a powerful force to connect with and inspire your audience. But just a creative idea won’t cut it, your brand must deliver a creative solution to generate awareness and change the behaviour of consumers. To do this, it is essential to involve PR professionals from the get-go to ensure your campaign has longevity, multi-channel appeal, and a lot of money isn’t spent on a short-term, one-hit wonder.
Mike Spirkovski, a.k.a. Spirko, is the creative genius behind Earth Hour, which is now the largest global movement for the environment. Spirko believes we have a social responsibility to do good and that through corporate and social responsibility (CSR), brands can leave a powerful and enduring legacy. He says the brands that don’t prioritise their CSR responsibilities and adapt to social expectations are going to be in trouble. However, he acknowledges that, while powerful, creating enduring ideas is really hard and that collaboration with PR professionals is key to communicating your idea to the world.
The power of communications and creativity was evident when we witnessed the Project Revoice campaign, which used technology to give people affected by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and motor neuron disease (MND) back their voices. Watching Pat’s story took us on an emotional journey and inspired tangible difference, with 100 people being given back their voice every week. We often take for granted how privileged we are to have a unique voice. This campaign was a timely reminder, especially for communications professionals, that being able to communicate is a privilege, which shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Australians are becoming increasingly impassioned about social and climate issues. The weekend election in Wentworth demonstrated that people are ready to vote with their moral conscious and advocate for change. For financial services, this means we need to look beyond the bottom line and employ values-based communications to connect with our audiences. Australian Ethical has been very successful at connecting with its customers based on their morals and ethics. Currently, Australian Ethical has an active social media audience of more than 100,000, which is by far the highest in the super industry.
So, let me leave you with this, CSR initiatives are no longer a nice to have, they are a must to keep your audiences engaged and to inspire brand love. Together, communications and creativity can bring these initiatives to life and help your brand navigate the good times and bad.
Written by Danielle Veivers - Senior Account Executive, Honner