PR professionals are responsible for messages that are disseminated to the public about a company’s products, services and/or image. We are responsible for giving the public something favorable to think about a brand and tasked with developing effective marketing strategies that influence consumers to take some type of action. But, are we the main drivers of influence on a consumer? Absolutely not.
Studies show that consumers often make their decisions about a particular brand based on reputation, and by reputation I mean word-of-mouth. To put this into perspective, one word-of-mouth conversation has the impact of 200 television ads (BuzzAgent). That’s impactful, and may also be why Chick-fil-A has been extremely successful with its fan base and customer loyalty.
This billion-dollar company has an excellent standing and counts on its raving fans to spread its message to others. And, they’ve been extremely successful in using influence to make their loyal consumers do the unexpected! It’s not every day that you’ll find someone dressed from “head to hoof” in cow attire. However, because “talk on the streets” about the company is mostly positive and anyone fully dressed as a cow received a free meal – who wouldn’t be down for the cause?
Believe it or not, the power of influence lies in the hands of the consumer more than the words of a release or from a spokesperson at a press conference. I’ll let Fast Company illustrate my point.
With its recent launch of The Influence Project, the magazine found a way to create “buzz” about its brand with three simple steps:
- Sign up to get your own personalized, unique URL link
- Use any social networking mediums to spread the link
- Influence people to click on it
After clicking to receive a unique link from the project site, the magazine shared what the gimmick was about. The project was designed to measure how individuals “affect the behavior of those that they interact with” and then display the resulting influence by an enlarged picture on the company site. Sounds like a great way to get people excited about spreading a worthy message, right? Wrong.
Some online influencers were enraged by the social media stunt and many of them have generated much negative discussion, including Radian6’s Amber Naslund, about their disappointment with the “project” due to an assumption that they were really making a difference.
The irony of this project is both the positive and negative effects of influence. Those with influence have the ability to either uplift or destroy a brand. But, I guess that’s why PR pros are necessary; it’s our job to find a solution for all public perceptions.