“Companies need to get on the front foot and think like an activist,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, told attendees at PRovoke18 today. “Companies need to get on the front foot and think like an activist,” John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll, told attendees at PRovoke18 today, after presenting research suggesting that companies need to “Think Small. Go Big.”
The firm’s research, he said, confirms what most Americans instinctively know: “What really is happening is a sense of division and a sense of anxiety. We do an alienation report each year, which looks at how Americans connect with each other and with institutions, and people are more alienated than ever. But many would feel better if they could just have an honest discussion with other people.”
The problem is that 6% of Americans say they are afraid to express true political views with friends and family and 55% are afraid to express those views at work. That makes honest conversation difficult. But companies have an opportunity to make real connections with people, often at a local level.
“Americans want businesses to get involved, and they believe that businesses have the tools. But just as many people are skeptical that big company leaders are only looking out for themselves,” Gerzema said. “Reputation means something different today. It used be ‘we’re big, you can trust us,’ but today the bigger you are, the less trusted you are. Today the most trusted companies are more intimate, they are more authentic. The companies that have the best reputation are smaller, or they have found some way of connecting in a more personal way.” So the top 10 companies on the Harris Reputation Quotient survey this year include companies like Chick-fil-A, known for promoting conservative social values, as well as progressive icon Patagonia. What they have in common, Gerzema says, is that they know what they stand for and remain true to their values.
The message: “You have to get out there and do something.” The firm’s research among senior communications executives agrees: it found that 62% of CCOs now believe the risk of taking a stand now outweighs the risk of taking a stance. “We call that the optics of indifference.” So “smart companies get personal with customers, they take a generic mass market product and make it personally relevant, and they are moving from public relations to public advocacy.”
The ensuing panel discussion presented a number of examples.
Read more at The Holmes Report.