Often the true impacts of technology innovations are not immediately recognized or understood. It took decades for the discovery of electricity to widely impact how we live in a world where electricity and light is readily available. The Internet is no different. Still in its infancy, new social behaviors have already been embraced and adopted, including how job searches are conducted, travel arrangements are booked and social networking through sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
Another not so obvious change involves the ownership and privacy of information, specifically our own identities and reputation. Today it is much harder to have privacy or lead a “secret” life. A recent example is the congressman Anthony Weiner twitter scandal. Another is the photo showing Michael Phelps taking a bong hit nearly three months after he wrapped up a record haul of eight gold medals in Beijing. The list goes on and on. Today’s social media venues coupled with smart phones that all now include cameras have made privacy more difficult to maintain.
This lack of expected privacy has a big repercussion for marketing communications, business plan writers and investor prospectus authors, among others. In just the same way that the truth has a way of getting out to the public, unsubstantiated or exaggerated marketing claims will most likely be discovered or revealed. Today it is critical to communicate with complete transparency. Spokespersons for companies and their products must be genuine. Product claims must be documented and proven.
Third party recommendations have always been important to drive sales. The challenge, however, is that it used to take a bit of effort to find someone who has just purchased the product or service you were contemplating. Often the effort didn’t justify the work, so purchases were not necessarily “qualified” by a third party reference.
Today, a referral is as easy to find as going to Yelp or launching one of the many different smart phone applications with an interactive “rate this” or “comment on this” feature. Buyers don’t expect every review to be perfect … in fact, they might suspect a lack of transparency if every review is perfect. They want to see who had what issues, to then make their decision accordingly to pursue the purchase, or not. The point is that there is now a very efficient, active venue for voicing concern or issues with a product … a “horror” story could take on a life of its own and spread like wildfire.
There is still a role for preparing corporate collateral, but its role should not be to try and “sell” the product, but rather, provide details that a company can prepare best, such as specifications, product performance as well as documentation on what can be realistically achieved.
But, it better be accurate and current, as a fair representation of your product’s capabilities. If not, it is now a reasonable expectation that you will be found out, and you will pay the price with a loss of brand integrity for not practicing transparency in your marketing communications.
Gordon Benzie is a marketing adviser and business plan writer that specializes in preparing and executing upon business plans and marketing strategies. Gordon can be found on Google+.