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Corporate Communication in 2018: Emotion Management

Dr.sc.comm. Olga Kazaka
Partner at A.W.Olsen & Partners, lecturer at University of Latvia

Watching the trends that have become relevant in the sphere of corporate communication in 2017 and will affect the success of PR and marketing campaigns in 2018, it becomes obvious that among other things it will be extremely important to be able to manage emotions. The fashion for nostalgia, gaining experience, discussions on emotional intelligence, “post-truth” and fake news gives depth to this simple at first glance phenomenon.

It is impossible not to notice how much nostalgia is in fashion now. My students dress like I once did at school. Nostalgia is observed in a variety of manifestations. It’s no accident that in the format of augmented reality we caught the Pokemons, not some modern heroes. While in Germany there is a huge demand for music recorded on tapes. People are ready to be given pleasant memories of the past, which cannot but affect how we communicate with them. I believe more and more communication campaigns will use this aspect to attract attention and develop an emotional connection with the brand.

The Oxford Dictionary called the word of the last year “post-truth” – an adjective, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” This word that became so significant because of the massive spread of fake news portals and fake news. Today much is said about the need to develop critical thinking, but there is one important nuance. Back in 1975, researchers from Stanford conducted an interesting experiment, suggesting that a group of students read a series of suicide notes and determine which of them are real. Part of the students found a real talent in them – they were able to give the correct answer in 24 cases out of 25. Others were much less fortunate – they rarely guessed correctly. In fact, both groups of young people gave the correct answers in equal proportions. Some of them were simply said more often that their answers were correct, while the second were said to be mistaken, regardless of the actual situation. After the researchers confessed to cheating, they asked the research subjects to estimate how many of their answers could be true. And then there was an interesting aspect: those students who were at the first stage in the illusion of their rightness, continued to believe that they were able to determine the real letters not just good, but even better than their colleagues on average. Participants in the second group rated their abilities extremely critical. Both groups did not have a real basis for such a self-assessment. The main conclusion of the research was that people are not always able to think rationally and are inclined to adhere to their initially formed beliefs.

In their book “The Enigma of Reason”, cognitive scientists Dan Sperber and Hugo Mercier explain this phenomenon by the fact that since ancient times people have been forced to cooperate and win in disputes. And in this case, rational thinking will not always be useful. Therefore, the mind has evolved so that we can cope with this task, and as a result, survive in society. The scientists came to the conclusion that we are not inclined to recognize and notice our mistakes, while we are experiencing bright positive emotions when we find pseudo-facts that confirm our position. This was the basis for such a successful distribution of fake news. Adhering to a certain position, we uncritically believe precisely the news that justifies this position. And, unfortunately, those who really need to develop the ability to think critically, as a rule, do not consider that they have problems with this. It is them who usually think that they think quite straight and critically. Therefore, if the facts do not work, communicators need to learn to competently address not to reason, but to emotions.

Another field where we willingly flirt with emotions is connected with the promotion of goods and services in social media. The annual and extensive survey of 3,500 communicative professionals from 50 countries, including Latvia, The European Communication Monitor 2017 showed that European communicators have become much more likely to note the need to win and strengthen the trust of the audience. This is a signal that it is necessary to put things right in the sphere that is still in the stage of “wild jungle” in Latvia – the cooperation of brands with micro-celebrities (also known as “influencers” and opinion leaders) who advise products or services to their subscribers. This issue is important, if for no reason than because 90% of European communicators call social networks the most important channel of communication with target audiences. This is followed by other forms of online communication (83%), and only then by media relations with online media (82%). I hope that in the coming year the situation in this sphere will become more adequate: the companies will look more strategically at cooperation with bloggers, analyzing the portrait of their subscribers and perceiving such cooperation not as a fashionable panacea, but as part of the communication process, and expecting quite real measurable results from this cooperation. I believe that as soon as this click occurs in the heads of representatives of brands, the financial side of the issue will also be adjusted. Inadequately high prices for mentioning in social media will be replaced by paying for the number of orders, visits to the website and other more up-to-date and objective indicators.

Much attention today is paid to the issue of emotional intelligence. We learn to manage our own emotions, while for communicators it is more important to be able to control the emotions of others. In many analytical articles and studies one can read between the lines that in the future, in addition to technological advantage, it will become increasingly important to be able to find an approach to different people. This is also due to the trend of the society of hyperbolized consumption, in which we live now. Much is available today. Therefore, a new trend is to get not only goods or services, but experience and sensations. People are ready to pay for them. It is important for us to learn how to make them such a gift through our marketing and PR campaigns.