Many of us have felt the shifting sands for some time but the Greenpeace, Lego and Shell narrative really does signal the last warning shot.
This world demands trust above all and, alongside that, the right people in positions of power who understand the pressures.
Traditional methodologies are no longer fit for purpose. A younger, more knowing generation cannot be moved in the same way as before.
Legacy industries have to touch the same consumers they once bought. Fifty years ago corporations could hide behind expensive public image campaigns. But now thanks to social media they actually need to connect properly.
This is the first time in modern business when success or failure depends not on what you say, nor even on what you produce, but on who you are.
In days gone by, trust was at best viewed as subsidiary to the all-pervasive focus on better sales and market share demanded by stakeholders.
In the current environment, the degree to which consumer trust influences decisions has never been higher and is clearly rising.
Yet, paradoxically, trust and transactions are independent variables. Only when you view them as such can you fully understand their relationship to true brand sustainability.
PR can no longer shape perceptions about a brand to the same extent because a brand is a conversation happening as much outside a company’s walls as within them.
So it is individual relationships that count. That said, businesses should avoid the tendency to use their increased social reach to try to ‘advertise’ their way out of that responsibility. Behaviour is on public display so customer interaction is an imperative.
Big corporations that have been weighed down by their responsibility to shareholders and legal straight-jackets must be able to rethink these bonds.
It is time to develop a new style of corporate leader and build something more resilient.