The year has started on a political note, with the second Women’s March coming up Jan. 20 and the recent Oprah moment at the Golden Globes. By most accounts, 2018 will be a year when marketers that normally would have avoided social and political statements will have to make them under the guise of “brand purpose.”
Brand marketers can learn a thing or two about connecting and the loss of public trust from politics, said Steve Schmidt, vice chairman of Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. Speaking at the recent Primal.Live industry workshop, Schmidt, a seasoned political operative, told marketers about the fragile state of trust, and how to stop its slide.
There has been a collapse of trust in institutions across the country, said Schmidt. Every organization—business, government, clergy, media and more—has lost public trust in the last 20 years with the only exception of the military, which has seen public trust rise.
“What we see is a deconstruction in this era. Through a series of corporate malfeasance, bad behavior—individuals behaving badly (and) institutions performing somewhere from incompetently to malfeasantly—we’re seeing a devolution to the place we are today,” said Schmidt, a former campaign advisor to Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Bush and others, and the chief strategist of the McCain/Palin 2008 ticket.
“The country has come to a point of view where the truth is subjective and trust is the rarest of all commodities to build an enduring connection,” said Schmidt. But “that connection can be wiped out in an instant,” he warned
“Your trust and authenticity with the brand is your most precious commodity. You lose that, it all goes. It’s incredibly fragile,” said Schmidt. Authenticity is a rare currency, he noted, sharing a campaign story about then-California Gov. Schwarzenegger.
Communications professionals need to learn to speak to people at their level and stop talking only to each other, said Schmidt. They need to connect in the audience’s terms and excise industry jargon from their vocabulary, he said.
With the new social platforms and more digital channels, transparency for brands is not a choice, noted Schmidt. “Anyone with any big company, anybody working with a big brand, is somewhere … doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “The chances of being found out are inexorably higher today than 10 years ago.”
Schmidt will be among the speakers at this year’s South By Southwest festival, and Velocitize will be there, too. Stay tuned for more announcements!