In a world where information is a commodity and attention the scarce resource, companies and organizations need to think carefully about how they will stand out in the competition for talent, investment, political support and customer loyalty. It goes without saying that a bold branding strategy is a must. A strategy rooted in an ambitious purpose, conveying the true character of the company and creating an emotional bond with people who matter. Sadly, many branding strategies are unambitious and generic, because what ends being approved is the lowest common denominator among the (often too many) people involved in the process of developing them. A waste of time and money.
All companies and organizations of a certain size will from time to time face critical issues that pose a risk to their reputation and business. Could be due to poor performance, poor governance, poor quality, poor communication, business ethics violations, workplace controversies… the list is long. Moreover, it happens quite often that an organization’s handing of the case ends up as a much bigger issue than what caused the controversy in the first place. Good issues management is about anticipating, assessing and taking action to resolve issues before they materialize. And if a case does blow up, manage it so it causes the least possible damage and learn from it, so the organization ends up better prepared next time. Because there will be a next time.
Sudden incidents threatening people’s life and health or causing serious damage to the environment are a big worry for many companies and organizations. Serious workplace accidents, kidnappings, fire, workplace violence, accidental chemical release, product tampering … Communicating in a crisis is tough because of what is at stake and because one often must make decisions based on assumptions rather than facts. Getting the communication right from the outset will not only help minimize the suffering and damage, but also determine whether the organization is seen as acting professionally and respectfully. Scenario planning, process mapping and thorough training of the key people involved in crisis communication will help build the confidence and clarity needed.
At the core of any successful organization are engaged employees, who are committed to the purpose and mission of the organization and know how they contribute to its success. This requires a long-term internal communication strategy that is closely linked to the organization’s commercial, branding and HR strategies. Successful organizations also realize that what made them successful is unlikely to keep them successful. The need to make changes – be they strategic, cultural or structural – will always be there. What distinguishes the best organizations from the rest is their ability to make changes without loss of productivity and employee engagement. Plain and honest communication is a good start. Without exaggerating the ‘burning platform’ or overselling the bright future that the changes are intended to bring.
The mainstream media and the social media can make or break an organization’s reputation and consequently its ability to achieve its objectives. Any sizable organization needs to make up its mind about how it will deal with both types of media. For some organizations, a reactive media strategy may be fine, for others, it is not an option because they need visibility and story-telling to nurture their brand. And all organizations need to have a plan for how to deal with both types of media when the going gets tough. At some point it will.
Whether public or private, all organizations are responsible for performing their activities in ways that, as a minimum, don’t exploit the world’s human and natural resources and ecosystems. Moreover, they are expected to live both by the word and the spirit of the laws that regulate them and be able to document how they create value for society at large. This is and will continue to be the subject of many interesting discussions among executives and board members. Why? Because societal expectations are evolving rapidly and, contrary to financial performance, there are very few agreed upon standards for how to measure social and environmental impact. What is clear, however, is that all sizable organizations need a strategy for how they will be ‘a sustainable business’, how they will document their performance, and how they will communicate about it in a thoughtful way.