While the West is still reeling from the divided politics of Brexit and the recent US presidential election, the time is now for brands to revisit their sense of purpose as an organisation, said Aedhmar Hynes, CEO of Text100 Global Communications.
Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong recently, Hynes said brands that are struggling to figure out their loyalties should use their core values as a guide.
“Regardless of the situation…regardless of the politics, if there is any activism or any form of antagonistic situation, at the very basic level, you have to find a common ground,” said Hynes. “In the case of North America, whether or not you support the president, the common ground is you want what is in the best interest for America.”
Under Armour and Uber were two big brands that came under fire over their leadership’s association with the Trump administration. Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank ended up taking a large-page ad on a US daily explaining the brand’s pro-diversity stance after speaking to the press about his admiration for Trump.
“I have some sympathy for CEOs because they are put in a situation, those are their personal views. (But) I feel that in the position of a CEO, you have to really focus on the brand, because you are not just representing yourself, you are representing your employees and the entire organisation,” said Hynes.
While Samsung suffered less damage from the corruption scandal of its chief that was linked to ousted South Korean president, its ill-fated Note 7 model severely dented its safety reputation in the smartphone market.
Hynes does not believe that any brand can come out unscathed from a scandal such as Note 7’s explosive episode, but they can reinvent themselves provided they adhere to a few golden rules from the PR playbook.
“The most important thing is to be in a position to admit fault, to try and correct what has happened because most human beings, regardless of their persuasions, will forgive as long as they (the brands) recognise that they have done something wrong and they want to rebuild trust,” said Hynes.
She stressed that the fundamentals of crisis management remains the same—deciding who is going to be the spokesperson, where the information goes through, what statements to be prepared, who get to make the decisions—except that the time scale is immediate due to proliferation of social media.
“There have been cases where Twitter is an appropriate channel to post a response but because there are only 140 characters, brands might as well say ‘here’s our response…’ and redirect to their home sites,” said Hynes. As brands are more concerned about the damaging effects of fake news, directing response back to the home sites gives brands the room to explain things in their own words, in a more truthful manner.
“Most brands today have their own news platforms, some even have a dynamic news room or blog sites,” said Hynes. “I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily Twitter or Facebook, obviously you have to decide who are your key audiences, where they are and how you can best target them.”
Addressing Text100's global and regional leadership changes announced earlier this year, Hynes said the agency has been working on developing strong digital and social capabilities in terms of acquisitions, news skill sets acquired or hired.
Although London has been designated as the agency’s creative hub, Hynes said more people with creative capabilities are hired across different offices in this region to serve all of Asia. “’Scattered talent’ is a big thing for us as an agency, we tend not to duplicate talent in each office,” said Hynes.
Meanwhile, India remains a key market and Text100's offices in Malaysia and Singapore service clients from across the region including Myanmar and Indonesia. Its Australian division recently launched Hypertext Australia as its consumer division but Hynes said the launch will not be emulated in other markets as the structure of its Australian business is different and Text100's other offices in Asia are already serving consumer clients. Its Hong Kong office, for instance, is working with brands such as Foodpanda, Four Seasons Hotel and Old Town White Coffee.
Hynes believed that Text100’s longstanding focus on tech brands gives it an edge over other agencies. Traditional consumer clients especially are keen in using technology to reach their target audience.
“The one thing to know about Text100 is we still keep tech at the core, we are used to work with companies that are constantly innovating,” said Hynes.“What we are we finding is that we are getting hired by companies that want that mindset, because if you translate that skill to other industries, it is highly desirable.
She pointed out that industries such as finance, automotive and healthcare are getting disrupted by technology and the agency’s North American offices has specific capabilities to work with those clients.
“Let’s face it, I don’t think there is an industry out there which is not disrupted in some shape or form by technology,” said Hynes.