Collaboration & Consensus:
Do Consumers Feel Heard?

Feb 10, 2023
Collaboration & Consensus: <br> Do Consumers Feel Heard?

How can we build collaboration & consensus in a polarized society?

Polarization, cancel culture, the media outrage cycle, and the spread of misinformation all serve as evidence of the highly fragmented society that we are living in today. Business leaders are often faced with situations in which they can either react to public opinion or remain silent, with each having its respective consequences. How can leaders use communication to create more collaboration, and hopefully more consensus, through encouraging dialogue in the face of public issues & crises?

Do consumers want brands to respond to public opinion? How does engaging with a company impact a consumer’s brand perception? Are companies doing a good job of listening to consumers? Do leaders need to speak up on controversial issues?

Ruder Finn has unveiled new survey findings, identifying how culturally intelligent listening, and engaging people to express their opinions, can help companies better engage consumers in a fragmented world. This research found that leaders and companies need not define a position on a polarizing issue, but they must allow discourse and the sound of all voices to be part of a conversation, honoring both negative and positive views. Authenticity is what’s most important.

Key Findings

Today’s consumer is open to interacting with brands and values the opportunity to be able to communicate their opinion. When engaging a polarized consumer base, it’s most important that brands are listening.

What’s Next: Listening is key to effective consumer engagement

Above all, consumers want to be heard. Companies and leaders can engage consumers by encouraging dialogue.

It’s important for brands to be seen as diplomatic and to hold space for all points of view – leaders will benefit from welcoming all voices to the discussion. True listening demands cultural intelligence and understanding from leaders, which in turn allows them to hear and understand different voices during a debate. Being receptive and showing empathy to a variety of voices will encourage and engage people to join the discussion.

When managing crises in the face of public issues, business leaders should not be afraid to engage with critics or consumers with opposing points of view. Facing these opinions head-on shows a willingness to listen and participate in a dialogue. An open forum de-escalates the polarization of a crisis and can garner positive engagement for the brand.

Although brands don’t need to take a stance on every public issue that arises, it’s important to show active listening by weighing in when an issue resonates with a company’s core values or identity.

Business leaders should consider how to sustain an empathetic listening model both internally & externally through their communications as we look to the future of consumer engagement.


This survey’s sample of 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 16 and above, was surveyed between December 19, 2022, and December 20, 2022. This survey was conducted and analyzed in collaboration with Full Spectrum Insights with the sample procured using the Pollfish survey delivery platform, which delivers online surveys globally through mobile apps, the mobile web, and the desktop web.

The sample was screened based on whether the respondent had engaged with any brands in the last six months with a qualified engagement considered to be any of the following actions:

  • Wrote an online review
  • Contacted/reached out to a brand
  • Boycotted a brand

No additional screening or weighting has been applied to the sample.