The Associations working group of the EACD gathered at Accountancy Europe in Brussels to hear from two experienced association communicators in the cosmetics sector.  

Debbie Hunter, director of commercial affairs at The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association Limited (CTPA), joined forces with Diane Watson, director public affairs and government relations at Cosmetics Europe, to provide insight into the communications strategies of their respective associations to those in attendance.

Both speakers highlighted the importance of guarding consumer trust in the industry – not always easy when it comes to cosmetic products. “A science-based industry battling in post-fact world,” according to Diane.

As explained by Debbie, the combination of rapid information exchange and the potential inaccuracy of this information means “an issue can become very emotional very quickly”.

Therefore, both associations work to be a source of accurate and trustworthy information to counter unfavourable consumer and political reactions to NGO pressure and media headlines.

“If you can be trustworthy that really helps your reputation. Stakeholders come back to you as a point of expertise,” said Diane.

The focal point for all the CTPA’s external communication is consumer information website Thefactsabout.co.uk, which provides scientific facts about the safety of cosmetic ingredients, information about regulation and the industry's perspective on common safety questions.

As Debbie explained, this strategy of direct communications with consumers was a “change in the game plan”, which only came after the CTPA spent time laying internal foundations with its members so the association could move from “reactive to proactive in its communications”.

Not only can consumers find information there but the media now take quotes from the website directly, rather than contacting the association for comment on current issues. While members of the CTPA can also link directly to the “brand neutral” industry perspectives backed by scientific information on the website to respond to “hot headlines”.

Combined with internal association communication services such as media alerts and regulatory issue trackers, CTPA members have seen great benefits in the expansion of the association’s communication. This has contributed to the growth of the CTPA.

Debbie figured that: “Communication costs over the years have been paid back three times with new members.”

Cosmetics Europe underwent a more recent branding change to boost the reputation and trustworthiness of the association. With a new motto in mind, “We personally care”, Diane explained the goal was to: “express the connectivity with people consistently across all different materials.”

As with the CTPA, integral to this is Cosmetics Europe’s new website Cosmeticseurope.eu. Diane said: “Everything related to external communication is on the new website, while the old website framkly could not be considered a communication tool.”

The branding of Cosmetics Europe on the website is designed to make the evidence-based information released by the association accessible to consumers.

“The tech and scientific info is still there but there is a different presentation of this information when people are first encountering it,” said Diane.

With the tools in place, Cosmetics Europe is continuing to work on its aim to ensure trust in the industry is sustainable in the future.

Both speakers presented case studies that showed how associations can successfully engage with external stakeholders while bringing greater benefit to their members using their communication tools.

Debbie had some final words of advice for organisations generally looking to increase their external engagement.

“Unless you bring your internal staff with you, you won’t get buy in when you become more external facing. The whole organisation must own the website not just the communications team.”