Digital natives expect more
A generation of people who have never known a world without the internet are now coming of age. These millennials - if we must call them that - are starting their own companies and becoming investors. Rather than spending their spare cash on avocados, they’re actually changing the world.
Not only do these socially aware digital natives expect information on tap, they expect it to become more accessible with every passing moment. So what does this mean for corporate communications?
I’m a big fan of How I Built This with Guy Raz. His podcast interviews founders of businesses as diverse as Instagram, Dyson and Patagonia; exploring their rise to greatness, how they got there and the challenges they’ve faced along the way. It was here I learned about Patagonia’s motto ‘Let My People Surf’, an ethos that runs through the business.
The story behind the Patagonia brand isn’t hidden away on a corporate subdomain. It’s right there on the homepage of its main website: “Our Mission: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” That mission has built a brand people believe in and buy into, generating revenues of over $200m last year.
This podcast piqued my interest. It led me to explore more about the company, its practices and policies, and even its commitment to pledging 1% of net revenues to the planet. In less than 20 minutes, I’d learned a great deal. And where did I find all of this information? Online of course.
Your digital corporate communications can be so much more than revenue figures and your chairman's statement. At their best, they’re a captivating glimpse behind the scenes of your company, with the potential to get everyone excited about your vision and direction.
Another example, Apple may be an obvious one, but it’s a good one. Its investor relations website features everything you would expect, plus links to in-depth content on environmental policy and supplier responsibility, hosted on the main website.
Some argue that Apple’s achievements in using 100% renewable energy worldwide, or moving towards zero waste in manufacturing, are as impressive as its financial results, and even a stronger indicator of the company. It’s certainly well established through their site content, which is as beautifully presented as any of their products.
This information resonates strongly with a generation that wants more than a financial return on their investment, and who are looking at Impact Investing to generate “a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return."
Here’s a third example. In FinTech, Monzo has gone from plucky startup to $1bn+ tech unicorn in three years. It’s done this while remaining committed to transparency in its online content. Going far beyond its annual report, it publicly promotes its extraordinary ideas board and its tone of voice guidelines. This illustrates the power of communicating company culture and brand.
Customers, employees and investors who have grown up with the internet look for detail and transparency from every company they interact with. Those who ignore or neglect them are in danger of being left behind. But for those who take notice and actively engage, the rewards and opportunities are very real.