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[NEW STUDY] Content that Takes a Stand

A research project called Power in Progress is looking at how brands should approach social media and collective power.

The researchers, Velocity, haven’t yet published their findings. But details of interest are emerging; most recently via Forbes columnist David Bloom.

New power generation

Disruption is now an acknowledged market force brought on by the decentralising tendencies of social media and big tech. Velocity’s research indicates that disruption opens up gaps—spaces in which brands have an opportunity to assume ‘a new position of trust’.

Success in this sphere, the report says, largely comes down to brands that ‘publicly embrace positions on social and other issues that may matter to large portions of their customers’.

Win trust with worthy words

So, how can for-profit brands productively take part in public conversations of importance?

In an earlier report, Maya Peterson—Velocity’s senior director of culture and creative insights—recommended three roles brands may play:  

  • Collaborators—involve consumers in developing social initiatives.
  • Builders—give skills and opportunities to foster a sense of agency and control.
  • Cheerleaders—support and encourage underrepresented voices.

Bloom says Velocity actually has nine new roles to suggest. But, he only reveals two: collaborators and signal-boosters.

Genuinely held, corporately cashed

Strong examples of issues-led reputation building include Patagonia’s climate change stance, and the Tim Cook’s LGBTQ rights advocacy.

If you see blurred lines between corporate branding and an executive’s personal beliefs, that may be a strategic ambiguity. A genuine personal angle can mitigate suspicions of cynical exploitation.

Is it merely PR, or a powerful person using their position to promote a cause they truly feel strongly about? If you have to ask, you've already conceded there's something genuine to it.

What’s integrity worth?

Do issues-based content and PR strategies work? They can. They can work very well.

Already, some brands are more trusted than governments. This is especially true among younger audiences whom, Bloom reports, are ‘four times more likely to trust [brands] over politicians’.

But, there are risks. Public gestures can be taken in the wrong way and, as Bloom observes, ‘currents of public opinion flow so strongly and erratically’.

Know your audience, find your voice

Caution can be justified, but fear of censure can silence worthwhile voices.

An issues-based content strategy can be safely embraced, so long as you know your audience and are sincere in your commitments.

This week, we’ve seen YouTube superstar PewDiePie rescind a pledge of $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League after blowback from some of his followers. He may have meant well, but exhibited no genuine convictions.

Power to publish

Velocity is a marketing and content unit within the Viacom media group. In July, Peterson along with Christian Kurz gave an industry presentation at VidCon, previewing some of their Power in Progress research.

Let’s hope they soon publish full details, including all nine suggested brand voice types.

Maybe they’ll distinguish between cheerleading and signal boosting.

Does your brand strategy include any framework to guide brand voice in relation to (or steering away from) social issues?

Copy Transmission is a Melbourne-based agency :: Better Brands. Loud & Clear.

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