Trust, Candor Critical to Company’s Brand

Truth has become a rare commodity, which makes it highly valuable.

That’s the observation from Kelly O’Keefe, the chief creative officer at CRT/tanaka, a PR and ad agency in Richmond, Va.

Speaking to PR professionals, he noted that we often talk about transparency “as if we have a choice, but we really don’t.” Today’s critics are everywhere and their tools – smartphones, tweets and posts — allow for immediate reviews.

“If you take shortcuts and a product fails, not only will we immediately know about the failure, we will know you took shortcuts,” O’Keefe said.

Decades ago, it was the big companies that people trusted, but today it’s the smaller, locally focused startups. “The longer and larger duration (of a company) translates to less trust,” he said. More people trust JetBlue than Delta, for example.

“The company and the brand are one – that’s what the world is moving to,” O’Keefe said. “Consumers want to know what an organization stands for, and this is especially true for Millennials.”

In the past you learned about Crest, not about Proctor & Gamble. Today’s consumers want to know everything, including the company’s values. Knowing what the consumers care about leads to shared storytelling.

It’s even okay to share flaws. “Flawed is the new perfect,” O’Keefe said. He cited Chrysler’s 2011 Super Bowl ad that featured Eminen. “Chrysler ran straight at the truth – the negative comments about Detroit,” he said. The result was a rebound in sales.

Taking responsibility and owning up to mistakes are all part of brand candor.

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