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Consumers Increasingly Expect Business to Step Up in a World Where the Stakes Have Ramped Up

August 18, 2019

Research in Six Global Markets Across More Than 30 Industries Reveals Where There are Opportunities for Companies to be More Authentic

ST. LOUIS, August 19, 2019 – Against the backdrop of immigration, trade wars and polarized governments, FleishmanHillard’s 2019 Authenticity Gap study explores what role consumers believe business should take in addressing societal, political and business challenges in different parts of the world.

Consumers expect companies to take a stand on those issues that companies either create, impact directly or control. In particular:

  • Improved data security and privacy topped more than 20 issues consumers ranked as being important to see companies more actively address. There’s an expectation for companies to do the right thing and self-police – 73% of consumers want to see protection practices that go beyond regulatory mandates.
  • 69% of consumers globally say, to be more credible than competitors, a company must talk about its behavior and impact on society and the environment, not just the customer product benefits it offers.
  • Perhaps in response to a growing tide of automation and AI, 77% of consumers globally said it was most important that their employer help further develop their skills and career opportunities.
  • Consumers don’t care about CEOs’ personal beliefs, rather they want them to stick with issues that have an impact on the business’ customers (74%), products and services (72%) and employees (71%). Consumers know companies can’t fix everything, but they expect them to be active on those issues most under their control.

“By identifying what their consumers care about most and where they’re expected to take a stand, businesses can plan ahead, developing an authentic position,” said Marjorie Benzkofer, chief strategy officer and global managing director of the Reputation Management practice, FleishmanHillard. “Our research found that more than half of what shapes consumers’ perceptions and beliefs about a company comes from how its management behaves and how the organization impacts society. Companies that are willing to stand up for their values on issues important to their stakeholders can unlock opportunities and position themselves for success.”

The Authenticity Gap study analyzes insights from engaged consumers in six countries, examining their expectations and experiences with more than 300 companies in nearly 30 industries. The study provides organizations across industries actionable data they can use to shape their brands and business initiatives — uncovering where they’re meeting or falling short of audience expectations in the areas of society, management behavior and customer benefits.

“Our expectations of what companies and organizations should be undertaking is more expansive than ever before. We want companies to be stepping up and speaking up in new ways. In this new environment, it’s too easy for an organization’s brand promise to fall flat, or worse, badly misstep. Smart insights can save companies money and avoid market-share-eroding crises down the road, ensuring they understand the very different, and sometimes conflicting, expectations within each unique audience group,” Benzkofer said.

While this year’s study shows remarkable differences by country, global insights across industries include:

Protecting data and privacy is vital

  • Consumers are hesitant to share their data even when it benefits them – only 41% of consumers reported being willing to have their data collected for greater convenience
  • Consumers are becoming increasingly wary of companies’ use of their personal data, with 63% saying they’re less likely to support companies that use data for their own benefit

What makes a great place to work is evolving

  • Three-fourths of respondents noted the importance of both having a work environment that is inclusive and equal, and a robust benefits program that meets healthcare needs
  • 73% are interested in a workplace that institutes practices that protect the environment
  • 71% want their employer to provide opportunities to use new technologies and innovations
  • Coming toward the bottom of the list of importance was a place with work practices that accommodate a flexible lifestyle, though 65% still say it’s important

Just because it’s important to a consumer, doesn’t mean they expect a business to act

  • Consumers care about affordable, quality healthcare, violence against women and access to affordable quality education, but do not have high expectations for companies to take a stand on those issues
  • Consumers most often expect companies to take a stand on issues like protecting the environment, income and wage gaps, and the minimum wage

FleishmanHillard has developed new strategies to help businesses navigate the current environment, ranging from communicating around new expectations of corporate purpose, addressing emerging trends in talent and transformation as well as dynamic approaches to issues management. To learn more, download the Authenticity Gap Global Report, Authenticity in Action.

The Authenticity Gap study was conducted by FleishmanHillard’s TRUE Global Intelligence™ practice. The survey included a total of 7,364 engaged consumers in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, UK and the US, 18 years of age and older. Engaged consumers represent on average 29% of the population of adults. The survey was fielded online between April 19 and May 22, 2019.

About FleishmanHillard
FleishmanHillard specializes in public relations, reputation management, public affairs, brand marketing, digital strategy, social engagement and content strategy. FleishmanHillard was named Agency of the Year at the 2017 and 2018 North American Excellence Awards; 2017 and 2018 ICCO Network of the Year for the Americas; 2019 PRWeek U.S. Outstanding Large Agency; 2019 Holmes Report North America Large Agency of the Year; 2018 Large Consultancy of the Year by PRWeek UK; PR News’ Best Places to Work in PR 2016-2018; Human Rights Campaign Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality for 2018 and 2019; PR Awards Asia 2017 Greater China Agency of the Year; and NAFE’s “Top Companies for Executive Women” for 2010-2019. The firm’s award-winning work is widely heralded, including at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity. FleishmanHillard is part of Omnicom Public Relations Group, and has more than 80 offices in 30 countries, plus affiliates in 43 countries.​

About Omnicom Public Relations Group

Omnicom Public Relations Group is a global collective of three of the top global public relations agencies worldwide and specialist agencies in areas including public affairs, marketing to women, global health strategy and corporate social responsibility. It encompasses more than 6,300 public relations professionals in more than 370 offices worldwide who provide their expertise to companies, government agencies, NGOs and non-profits across a wide range of industries. Omnicom Public Relations Group delivers for clients through a relentless focus on talent, continuous pursuit of innovation and a culture steeped in collaboration. Omnicom Public Relations Group is part of the DAS Group of Companies, a division of Omnicom Group Inc. (NYSE: OMC) that includes more than 200 companies in a wide range of marketing disciplines including advertising, public relations, healthcare, customer relationship management, events, promotional marketing, branding and research.