Next year promises to be exceptionally dynamic across America – nowhere more than in North Carolina, where we guide and assist clients with branding, public-relations, and other communication needs.
Change is upon us all – some of it gradual, some of it faster, some of it at light speed. Are you and your business prepared for it? We can help you respond to shifting landscapes, often by discerning how to reshape them, and making it happen.
Take a moment and consider what you’ve learned over just the past week. In today’s world, we are inundated with chatter—from current events to Instagram videos to updates from family and friends. What sticks out? What surprised you, worried you, or delighted you?
Everyone will have a unique and different response. That’s because people are unique, distinct regions of the country are ever-changing, and communities are diverse. Whether you’re in a rapidly growing city or a smaller community learning to transform with the times, one thing is consistent: change.
As a branding and strategic communications agency in the heart of North Carolina, we have had a front-row seat to much change. We’ve seen the urban-rural divide grow to become a chasm. As a purple state, we’ve seen a polarized political climate, yet in the last general election, our state voted for a president of one party and a governor of another, and could well again next year. We have some of the fastest growing cities in the country, yet also some of the hardest-hit towns and rural areas. From our migration of jobs and people to urban centers to devastating coastal storms to an opioid epidemic that has spared no region or community, our state has become, in some senses, two North Carolinas. And yet we strive, struggle, and succeed together. Because of our nationally-ranked universities, our thriving businesses, and our turbulent politics, the nation watches North Carolina.
With that in mind, we’ve outlined some themes and challenges facing industries in our neck of the woods and beyond.
1 The need for speed predominates.
Many of us remember the days when we had to accomplish work through phone calls, meetings, letters, faxes and even waiting for an overnight delivery. It was nearly impossible to conquer a major issue in a matter of hours. In today’s world, technology has changed the game. A crisis can arise and a brand can suffer tremendous damage in a matter of hours thanks to social media. Customers expect the entire world to be available at their fingertips at all times. Businesses try to keep up with demand, and in doing so, require more of their teams. We feel it, too—our clients want long-term strategic plans paired with immediate action because the business environment demands both speed and success, and they have no time to waste.
While speed is critical, errors must be avoided or minimized. Just as a crisis can spiral, so too can unintended consequences. It’s still essential to be thoughtful, timely and ready for the unexpected to affect your brand image.
2 Your outreach to your audience is relationship building, not selling.
Your audiences are closer than ever. Technology also has leveled the playing field. You don’t always need a multi-million-dollar TV ad campaign to make an impact. Instead, you can communicate directly to your audiences on the channels they use most frequently. No, you don’t have to invite them to lunch, but the language you use and the tactics you employ should be more human than robotic, and active, not stale.
Audiences have more power than they used to. For decades, it didn’t really matter how your brand was received—it just mattered that it was out ahead of your competitors. Now, it does matter. It matters how you treat your employees and customers; it matters what you say and how you say it; and it matters that you back up your talk with action that is meaningful and authentic. Being the loudest or the biggest voice in the room doesn’t make you the most trusted – in fact, quite the opposite often is true today. Think back to what messages you remember from the past week. We’re going to guess it wasn’t the glitzy cars ads you saw while watching sports or the news. Instead, it probably was the ones that connected with you emotionally.
3 People don’t trust products, goods, or services – they trust you.
In a world where we are inundated with constant noise, it’s often tough to rise above the din. Over the past several years, we’ve seen our clients—from large multi-national brands to smaller trade associations and service providers—consider community engagement as essential to their success, not ancillary. Corporate responsibility is essential for brands to be successful and trusted in today’s environment. This is why where you operate and how you engage within your community or with your key audiences matters. All this activity creates an authentic and valuable trust of your brand. You can say you’re trustworthy, but unless you are a leader or a brand that embodies and demonstrates that value nothing you say matters. What you do and how you do it matters more than what you say – period.
4 If you don’t work to help shape your regulatory environment, your regulatory environment will shape you.
As change continues to affect business, it also influences government and policy. With more scrutiny of business, there’s more focus on elected leaders to do something about social friction or other conflicts. Brands that veer off course or neglect their communities can suffer. In today’s day and age, organizing like-minded people to drive change is imperative for success. The effectiveness of organizing has led to a rise in the number and power of non-governmental organizations that exist to drive policy change. Though you don’t have to match NGO for NGO, it is essential to build relationships before you need them. Leaders, members of your community, and your audience need an understanding of your industry before you face a challenge. Unless you’ve done the work you need to before a challenge strikes or a crisis hits, it’s often too late to ensure that your brand is prepared to navigate rough seas and stay on course.
Could your company, association, or industry benefit from strategic counsel to drive the change you need rather than drifting at the mercy of the change all around you? Let’s talk.