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“Communicating Character” 

In a world where more information than ever is available to consumers who use it to guide their purchasing decisions, it has never been harder for brands to gain – and hold – the trust of the public.

These factors cannot be managed independently and its intersection is what we call “Character.”When the public evaluates a company it does so through three main criteria: brand (what it says about itself), reputation (what others say about it) and behavior (how it acts). The lack of any of these forces will make it harder for the company to enjoy a solid reputation and long-term financial health.

Character drives perception, sales and loyalty; character inspires people. Building character means telling real stories that make an emotional connection with the public. If brands fail to make that connection they will lose its attention and trust.


Here “content” is king. Brands used to push messages. Now they must communicate character. A great brand is a human story and stories are what “communicating character” is all about.

In this new age of transparency, consumers are hearing about brands’ reputations and learning through the experiences of their peers, rather than crafted brand messages through advertising. This shows not just a growth in interconnectedness, but also a decline in trust in paid media.

It’s necessary to engage the public in a broader story about a brand’s character, sharing its specific commitments for responsible behavior and engaging in an honest dialogue with consumers, who believe that brands with strong character are trustworthy and care about their products and their customers.


They’re looking for the equivalent of a personal connection. They want brands to transparently communicate their efforts to be responsible. And as character is what defines a brand, those who communicate it in a consistent and authentic way cannot only prevent crisis, but will create stronger connections with the public that will ultimately improve their image and financial value.

According to the findings of a survey conducted by H+K Strategies, examining the impact of communicating character on public opinion, nine out of ten people believe that companies need to do more to bring their behaviors in better alignment with their publicly stated values. Beyond that, nearly half of them think that companies’ behaviors are out of alignment with the values they publicly promote.

We must bear in mind that these authentic stories will compete with all the other information consumed by the public. The brand’s character must therefore reach people through all the available media platforms such as mobile devices, laptops and traditional media channels.

In summary, leading companies need to carefully manage brand, reputation and behavior in order to understand that any disharmony in these elements can severely damage public perceptions of their character. And beyond this, we strongly believe that communicating character is an important part of playing offense in today’s business environment, and a way to stand out from competitors. 

Hill+Knowlton Strategies is a leading global strategic communications consultancy, providing services to local and multinational clients worldwide. The firm is globally headquartered in New York City, with 88 offices in 49 countries - including 13 offices in the US. Led by Global Chairman and CEO Jack Martin, Hill+Knowlton Strategies serves as a trusted advisor to clients, developing and executing communications campaigns and business strategies to manage the impact of the public on an organization’s reputation, brand and bottom line.