Reputation Advocacy

May 24, 2007

Reputation Advocacy

Last week we revealed new research on Advocates. The research reflects the radical shift taking place in decision-making patterns and speed-to-action today. Our New Wave of Advocacy is a global survey in nine markets and was conducted with KRC Research.

Reputations are being profoundly impacted by Advocates and what we call Badvocates. The former take action to support companies, issues, causes, products and services. The latter comprises those who detract from companies and organizations. They are likely to spread negative word of mouth and recommend not purchasing products and services. Badvocates make up their minds pretty quickly so it’s important to find them and understand them and most of all, listen to them. Companies that worry about their reputations need to identify their advocates and badvocates and what triggers their actions.

To build enduring and lasting reputations, companies need to engage with their advocates early on in the process. Here are some of the key findings:

Decision-making has accelerated. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents around the world report that they are deciding more quickly to support or reject issues, causes, companies, products and services than they did two to three years ago. Several factors are fueling this speed—people are more informed, have stronger voices, and have easier access to information and experts. People are feeling empowered.

The democratization of Advocacy. Nearly one out of two citizens globally (45 percent) is identified as an Advocate. Advocates take action to support or detract from issues, causes, companies and products, such as making purchase recommendations, sending a letter to a company or elected official, or organizing a protest or boycott. People care about sociopolitical issues to a greater extent today.

High-Intensity Advocates are critical to reach. The most vital Advocates are “High-Intensity Advocates,” who represent a small nine percent of all citizens worldwide. They more actively influence others’ decisions, make decisions faster and demonstrate their support or lack of support more zealously than “Low-Intensity Advocates” (36 percent). The key is to move your Low Intensity Advocates to High Intensity Advocates. What will it take to get your passive advocate to start a petition or start a blog on your behalf.

Badvocates waste no time. We (Weber Shandwick) also found that Advocates contain an important segment of “Badvocates.” Badvocates actively make their dissatisfaction known in a variety of ways and do so more quickly today than two or three years ago. They waste little time acting—76 percent report expressing displeasure within one week. That’s a mighty force to reckon with.

Advocacy is more common in Europe and Asia. Advocates are more likely to be found in Europe and Asia Pacific than in the United States. In Europe and Asia Pacific, Advocates are more likely to be influenced by environmental and social causes than in the United States. Think Monsanto and GMOs. These regional differences present opportunities as well as challenges for multinational marketers who want to build reputation and communicate their messages more broadly to audiences throughout the world.

Both traditional and new media play critical roles in forming Advocates’ opinions. Advocates’ opinions about issues, causes, companies, brands and products are more strongly influenced by the media than non-Advocates’ opinions. Following broadcast and print, online media ranks third in importance of opinion influence among all citizens, globally.

Advocacy plays an increasingly important role in reputation today. Companies need Advocates to invest in their companies, give them the benefit of the doubt, buy their products, spread positive word of mouth and tell people to go work at the best companies. It is how to win the battle for reputation.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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