I’m not quite sure this is the case in 2021. Over the last decade or so, social media has brought about greater transparency, with regards to companies’ working conditions and how they treat their employees, their pay rates and customer service, etc.
Whilst larger businesses can absorb some of the criticism they may attract, smaller businesses can’t afford to. The power of reviews sites/platforms—for example, Trip Advisor, Google My Business, Facebook reviews, Trustpilot and Checkatrade—can be strong. Customers can find plenty of information about a brand before they choose to spend their money with them, which makes positive PR and customer recommendations very important.
Is it a surprise that The Arcadia Group was one of many brands to file for administration during the pandemic? Was the company’s demise down to its products, its systems, or its chairman…the ‘delightful’ Sir Philip Green who is never more than two feet away from a character assassination? Green has a long history of treating people badly (even customers) in the name of greed; of all the brands that could have fallen, I’m not shocked that one of them is his. His disdain and disregard for his staff and customers was always going to come back and bite him on the backside (not that he cares, as he lounges about on his multi-million-pound yacht…). You won’t be surprised to learn that I vowed a while ago to never spend my hard-earned in any of his shops.
Attracting no attention as a business isn’t an effective marketing initiative, but I find it hard to believe that a plan based on shock value and poor service would be any better. If you’re going to the trouble of sticking your head above the parapet, why not attract good publicity and have people say nice things about you? Seems a no-brainer to me.
Thankfully, companies, in more recent times, have cottoned on to my way of thinking. Many household name brands even have a corporate social responsibility arm, which involves them donating part of their profits back into their local communities or to causes relevant to their business.
Such action resonates with the general public, who are much savvier consumers than they may have been generations ago. A brand’s values can make a real difference to its bottom line, especially when there’s so much competition across every sector.
A 2019 study by Kantar Profiles showed that almost a third of respondents would encourage others to buy a product/service based on a brand’s values and aims. More recent research found that 65% of people would make consumer decisions based on the way a brand responded to the Covid-19 crisis…so there’s a lot at stake for businesses at the moment. It’s likely the general public will be gagging to come out of hibernation and spend their money once restrictions lift—wouldn’t you want a share of that?
‘Doing good’ can cover a lot of things, each of which will carry different meaning to different people. Your attention could be focused on your company’s environmental credentials and commitment to recycling/use of plastic, for example, or on supporting a local charity, sponsoring a local event, providing food to people in need, offering your services on a pro-bono basis, assigning some of your employees to the delivery of a charity project, donating some of your office/retail space to a worthy cause, choosing local suppliers with similar aims to yours…etc., etc.
It would be both welcome and beneficial if such do-gooding activity was covered by the media but be careful—this could so easily go wrong. By all means, invite the local radio/press to your event/initiative in the hope of some positive PR; however, if the public believes that this is your only/ultimate aim, all your good work could be demolished in one fair swoop. If the beneficiaries were to speak to the press/public about your company’s good work, your credibility will be much, much stronger, so let them spread the word.
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