PR & Cyberbranding: Is This Evolution or Revolution?

I’m preparing for my trip to Puerto Rico to speak at the University of Sacred Heart and then at the Puerto Rico Public Relations Association.  I was pleasantly surprised when my friends at the University asked me to discuss the topic of Cyberbranding at their 25th Anniversary celebration.  I wrote my book, Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy, almost 10 years ago. Today, the principles of branding on the Internet or in the social sphere are still very important to communications professional worldwide.

Back in 2001, I was concentrating on topics that included the myths of Cyberbranding and the best principles of branding on the Internet to build relationships.  Today, the brand is paramount, yet the brand voice has changed to meet the demanding needs of today’s social consumer.  Below is a chart that I put together to show a comparison between what consumers expected in 2000 vs. what they want in 2010.

Source: Deirdre Breakenridge, Cyberbranding and the Social Consumer, September 2010

If you notice, all of the consumer requirements are similar.  In early 2000, I was writing about how consumers wanted to drive and control information and how they wanted to be in charge of their relationships.  Years ago, they required personalization and customization, as well as the feeling that there were humans behind the brand moniker.   Increased interaction, direct answers and easy access were a must.  And, just like today, they wanted to trust the people behind the brand.  However, the major difference is that today’s consumers are able to create and participate in socialized media, which further empowers them to demand their information a certain way, and from only the media sources that they choose.

What’s interesting to note is that as you review the requirements in the chart, it appears that the shift in consumer behavior from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 hasn’t altered that much. Yet, it feels like an incredible shift in the market.  Perhaps, for those brands that were paying attention to their consumer base back in 2000, the shift to social media was a little easier as they were already complying with the demanding consumer.  For those brands that didn’t pay attention to the needs back then, it’s a monumental shift and very difficult to play catch up with the 21st century empowered consumer.

In public relations, part of our responsibility is to make sure that our brands are listening to the public and being responsive to their needs. How have you helped your brand(s) to move forward to accommodate the needs of the social consumer?  Was the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 a gradual evolution for your brand or does it feel more like a revolution?