How Values Help Bridge the Story Gap in Tech PR

By Matt Ashworth, General Manager, WE Communications, Seattle

With questions around trust in companies being pushed into the spotlight, it is time to reconsider what responsibilities we have as technology communicators, and what authentic communication means for brand reputation. The PRSA North Pacific District Conference held April 22-24 in Seattle served as a great forum to discuss this idea.

In the past few weeks, we have seen an extraordinary display of how companies’ communication with users is important in building trust, and the pitfalls that companies often find when they’re tone deaf to what consumers really care about. For example, in the technology industry, we’ve recently seen Facebook and Twitter face challenges in keeping consumer trust in their brands.

WIRED’s Editor in Chief Nicholas Thompson commented in his presentation that the world is changing at a pace that is hard to comprehend.  In these fast-paced times, finding the essence of your brand and consistently interacting with authenticity creates a shared conversation that helps create confidence in and loyalty to your brand for the long term.

In today’s environment, every single technology company narrative, no matter what business function you operate in, will be met with a high level of scrutiny and skepticism. Influencers, for example, are expressing a strong distaste for communications strategies that lack proof and empathy toward how products may impact people and society at large, negatively.

As communicators of impactful brands, we hold great responsibility and need to understand not just our clients’ products, but the people and processes behind the scenes. Scott McClellan, Vice President of Communications, Seattle University, reminded us that communications professionals have the ability to influence organizations to make sure decisions are values-driven. By doing so, we have the opportunity to force deeper conversations that could help companies like Facebook think through their crises.

One way to do this is to be cognizant of how messages are likely to be received by highly politicized audiences. When surveyed, democrats and republicans don’t share many values, but both groups put a high premium on authenticity, conscience, wisdom and serenity. Brands that can identify similarly shared values in their own audience, and then build communications strategies and segment their audience based on those shared values are less likely to run afoul of backlashes and political criticism.

At WE, we’re also increasingly encouraging our technology clients to communicate with mainstream audiences in mind. We see a new responsibility to counsel our clients to add technology messages to their broader company narratives that help link the technical language of the datacenter to the values of the general public. This approach enables our clients to be better prepared to communicate about their technologies to all audiences in the event that their technologies gain mainstream attention.

As Microsoft’s Chief Communication Officer Frank Shaw discussed in his presentation, trust is built in drops and lost in buckets. Companies today have a harder time winning back trust because there isn’t a strong trusted media to help them regain confidence in their brand.

To speak with WE Communications about building trust by authentically communicating what your brand stands for, please contact talktowe@we-worldwide.com.

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