Recent years have witnessed brands’ online presence growing and, implicitly, the drive of Corporate Communication. Supposedly, it should become the main force behind brand-to-audience relationships. But as it happens with even the simplest forms of communication, when noise intervenes, the message is disrupted. You may blame external factors, as social media could not be more efficient at delivering clear messages. But what happens when the disruptive noise comes from the brand’s lack of authenticity and self-interested actions? Can your communication still sustain Corporate Power?
Understanding Corporate Power
In the age of information, it is clear that the relationships between brands and audiences have changed. Multiple brand choices for the individuals in your target market mean numerous chances for them to avoid your message. In your brand’s limited time to convince, your goal should be to develop authentic relationships within the network of choice. Harvard Business Review takes things even further. It implies brands should become the relationship if they wish for greater engagement, differentiation, and loyalty.
The Power might have once belonged to the brand, but nowadays is dictated by the relationship. The authority is involved in enhancing the Power. It shapes the differentiated brand image and designs the messages that reach the network. Hence, your efforts contribute to the brand perception of the audience. But so does your audience’s input and engagement. That is why Communication Power doesn’t revolve around the actions of one social actor. Instead, it grows around three pillars: relationships, co-creation of communication, and resistance to power.
Corporate Communication on Social Media
Keeping Corporate Power in mind, we could not help but wonder how effective Corporate Communication is. And most importantly, we searched for what resides at the core of every network interaction. That is why we decided to conduct an exploratory study to identify the most valuable indicator of Corporate Communication Power (the relationship, the co-creation, and the resistance to power). We oriented towards analyzing CSR Campaigns as we thought these are the ones that reflect the most the correlation between a brand’s identity, perception, and relationship with its audience.
That’s why we studied fifty corporate Facebook pages belonging to the top 100 companies in Romania by turnover. We applied random sampling, choosing each second company in the list. Then selected the research method under research objectives and with the specialized literature.
What is the central strategy behind Corporate Communication?
The first step in understanding the drive behind Corporate Communication was to determine the strategy that builds it. We discovered that Romanian companies use the self-centered strategy to communicate their CSR actions on Facebook since the author of most of the analyzed posts (90.2%) was the company itself. Moreover, most of the endorsers’ posts are shared by the company on its Facebook page. This reveals a weak relationship between companies and their endorsers in CSR campaigns.
To hold or not to hold… Corporate Power?
Considering brands mainly used the self-centered strategy, it was our grasp that companies want to hold power against their stakeholders. In order to understand the concept of power in this context, we restrained from questioning the company’s actions. Instead, we analyzed the stakeholders’ answers and the result of the CSR communication on Facebook. On this account, we took into consideration the three concepts mentioned above: the relationship, the co-creation of content, and the resistance to power.
The relationship between companies and their stakeholders turned out to be very weak because the brand’s focus was self-centered. On the stakeholders’ side, we discovered an acute need for information and encouragement to establish a stronger relationship with their favorite companies. By measuring users’ posts on the company’s Facebook page and the tags relating to the brand’s CSR activity, we discovered a weak level of co-creation. As for the resistance to power, we studied the comment sections of these Facebook pages related to the CSR Campaigns. That is how we found out that there is significant pressure from the stakeholders’ point of view about Corporate Communication on Facebook.
Why do things need to change?
This study took another leap toward proving the need for sustainable relationships between brands and their audiences. Brands primarily use their Facebook pages for market expansion and self-interests and less for reaching the confidence of their stakeholders. Thus, they profess their preference for visibility instead of trust. Stakeholders think the opposite, as reflected in their resistance to Communication Power. The audience wants to establish strong relationships with their favorite brands. Moreover, they expect them to be proactive and anticipative of their needs.
The need for change is more poignant than ever, especially since the expectation that the purpose of businesses should go beyond maximizing profits is becoming more common, according to Deloitte’s 2022 Global Marketing Trends. In fact, 53% of people say they feel connected when that brand’s values align with their own, as concluded by Sprout Social. If you want your brand to be the best, start every one of your strategies and messages with a human-oriented approach.
If you want to explore more on this subject, you can find the original research paper here.