Communicators, marketers and advertisers are continually being told to create ‘stories’ that resonate with their target market. They are also urged to engage with social issues and to tackle activist projects of resistance, to develop as ethical brands, to stand out from the crowd.
Most brands are quite terrified of negative stakeholder perceptions, especially when it comes to expressing controversial views. So they tread the safe path and remain the same.
Not Nike. In keeping with its Just Do it slogan and its fearless philosophy of facing sporting challenges, Nike launched its 30th Campaign by featuring brave sports celebrities in its ads.
The most recent Nike ad features the face of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL super star-turned-activist against racism and police violence, with the text “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing something.” And boy, did it cause outrage amongst critics and conservatives, #justburnit became their slogan, urging people not to support Nike, not to buy Nike sport products, to even burn the ones they had.
Just in case you missed the background story: In the USA it is common practice for players in The National Football League to stand and sing the national anthem before an important match. However, following the spate of police violence against black youths and other racial incidents in 2016, some of the NFL players decided to mark their protest by not standing with fists on hearts, but rather to bend-a-knee during the anthem. The purpose was to highlight the racial injustice in the country. President Trump weighed in, calling the players disrespectful and unpatriotic, even suggesting punishment and non-payment of player-activists.
Yes, perhaps Nike shares did drop a little initially, due to the raging debates, but within two weeks they were up again and Nike recorded 31% increase in online sales.
So Nike’s corporate activism – mixing politics with sport – has been vindicated, showing that taking a stand or doing good is good for business. A host of recent surveys and reports proves Nike’s controversial move makes total business sense. Marketing lecturer, Williams says, “Nike wants to be on the right side of history and the right side of its core consumers.” And these happen to be mainly sport enthusiasts and millennials.
A 2017 Edelman poll found “The majority of Millennials (60 percent) are belief-driven buyers,” – they want their brands to take a stand on social issues.
So companies – Just do it! Take a stand.
Global movements affecting company Reputation
Some thoughts on responsible leadership, public activism and reputation
Right now trust in mainstream media, government, business and NGOs is lower than it’s ever been. Organisations have to work extra hard at building trust, loyalty and reputation, and to avoid crises that may cause harm to their operations and reputations.
Management and Leadership changes
In the past, management would decide on its company culture, inform stakeholders and the public what it stands for and how it does its business, sometimes explicitly stated in a company’s vision and mission. Once done, the company would brand itself in terms of its culture and its products. And we, the public, would believe everything it said.
However, over time the public would rate a business on the extent to which its products and actions matched its goals. Too often public perceptions and ratings were ignored, leading to loss of reputational capital, while managers and leaders focused only on the other ‘capital’ – profitability. Today, because of the glaring evidence of crises resulting from public reaction to irresponsible leadership, organizations are being forced to act more ethically.
The public expects organisations (including government) to keep their promises. Individuals want to trust a business they deal with. Their perceptions of and attitudes towards a company must be positive before they can trust it. And business certainly needs loyal customers and stakeholders. No company can afford to ignore the reactions to their behaviours. They do so at their own peril. Managers and leaders must listen and adapt.
Social Media and Advocacy
Meanwhile globally, the rise of social media, and the grassroots engagement it affords, has contributed to the growth of people power. Companies are constantly being watched and evaluated by the man in the street who happily shares his perceptions, based on what he sees and hears in the media. These perceptions gain momentum and can lead to mass action, causing negative outcomes for the businesses concerned. There are so many examples of this, but H&M’s recent crisis over an alleged ‘racist’ advert is one. With the growth of public and employee word-of-mouth marketing, research has shown that advocacy statements by activists and ‘influencers’ on social media are far more powerful in terms of engagement and belief than content that comes directly from the brand or company.
Ethical branding is crucial as companies become aware of the importance of good corporate citizenship, responsible behaviour and transparency in all their dealings with internal and external stakeholders. More than ever before, building public trust is crucial to any business operation and its survival. Managers and leaders must ensure that the company performs well economically, ethically, legally, environmentally and socially, that is, as a corporate citizen.
The King Report, now in its 4th form, is regarded as the ‘go-to guide’ on corporate governance for large companies. Government and SMMEs too would definitely gain by consulting the document. Basically, it highlights key aspects of creating a corporate environment for the 21st century and beyond where corporate citizenship and responsible leadership are key. Only by focusing on its role in society and behaving with transparency can an organization ensure its reputation and sustainability.
KPMG’s name and reputation remains in crisis and in the headlines. We just can’t stop talking about it. So let’s start learning from it. Having been involved in practising, lecturing and consulting in Corporate Communication, I can’t resist throwing out some of my own thoughts on the matter.
Loss of ethics loss of Reputation
In terms of corporate citizenship, ethical branding, responsible leadership, accountability and reputation, here are my offerings:
- For many years now, the King Report has been the go-to document for guidelines on corporate governance, corporate citizenship and responsibility to one’s stakeholders, community, politico-economic and natural environment. Large corporate are obliged to take note and commit to upholding the principles and values contained in the King Report which is constantly being revised to ensure it remains valid, relevant and current.
- Transformational leadership. It’s simple: know what it means. Know the code of conduct. Know how to motivate and inspire. Know the law but act ethically. Know your people and their feelings. Know the truth. Spread the truth.
- Reputation management: Every company –small and large – must plan and manage its identity, its values and its behavior in order to manage outcomes and others’ perceptions of it. Only through critical strategic discussions with all stakeholders, including the media, can a company develop a strong positive reputation.
- Crisis management – Plan, prepare, strategise for negative disruptive events that impact your operations and your reputation. Without a crisis plan you’re doomed. Public sharing is vital for a reputable organization to gain support. Don’t apologise unless you mean it and are prepared to pay the price.
- Corporate culture: Vision, Ethos, Values, Beliefs and Behaviour. Accountability means to take responsibility for one’s decisions and actions and be adaptable to changes in the environment and courageous to stand one’s ground in the midst of potential threats, temptations and challenges. Be purpose- not greed-driven.
Finally, companies should strategise for sustainability. Their strategies must translate into best practice – setting standards and acting as examples for conducting ethical business, based on principles and values of trust, integrity, professionalism, not greed, status and power.
5 Steps to Building Relationships with Social Media
Taken from and Thanks to: Jack Kosakowski – @jackkosakowski1 – “a passionate practitioner and proselytizer in the social selling space” (Act-On).
Stay alert to opportunities. You could make a connection with anyone you meet,
interact with, or run into at a grocery store (you get the picture). Many people you
meet will be potential connections or advocates; if you connect with authenticity
and transparency, on a personal level, you’ll begin to develop a relationship that
may pay off later.
Don’t sell at this stage, just connect and build a network.
Prospecting is a continual process. You meet people and evaluatate whether there
is mutual benefit to building a relationship; if there is, you make a connection. You
should add new people to your prospect funnel continually; just as with the sales
funnel, some will drop out as time passes.
Prioritize vigilantly, and focus on the most promising prospects.
This step is the most important part of social selling. Monitor your social feeds
throughout the day as you’re running meetings, building relationships, and closing
deals. As companies and prospects in your social funnel are communicating, you
will be listening and soaking it all in. This will help you learn what’s important to them.
Now that you have the right prospects and you’ve been listening, you can begin
to engage. Start commenting and adding value to prospects’ social media posts
across various channels. Most companies and professionals don’t get many of these
engagements, so they will appreciate the added ‘bump’ your interaction provides,
as it reaffirms their own presence on these platforms. (Don’t we all love getting a
few extra likes and comments?) Be genuine as you engage and give your honest
feedback. Insincere flattery will cost you the potential for honest conversation
Engagement on social media is a process, and it needs to be done across multiple
channels. As your trust with the prospect grows, your authority in your space will
become stronger. This is a place to separate yourself from the competition.
As you engage, you build credibility.
5. Add Value
Start contributing to the relationship by educating people who are looking for
answers. You’ve figured out what’s important to them and you’ve started to
get noticed. Now you begin demonstrating the value that you can add to the
relationship. Start sharing your content and be strategic about it. If you’ve done
your due diligence in the listening phase, then it won’t be that hard to post content
that you know they will find valuable.
But take care to get it right. You need to make sure that you are adding value – and
first impressions are everything. Your prospect won’t let you waste their time twice.
Deliver the right content, in the right place, and at the right time you’ll get lost in the
crowd – or written off as irrelevant.
Be smart, be persistent, stay engaged, and always add value.
Ethical branding and sustainability trends for 2015 and beyond
There is so much talk of sustainability, ethical branding and how to strategise a company’s CSR programmes and efforts, to make ‘being good part of good business.’
I have found two interesting items on this topic. The first, a delightful, creative and easy-to-understand ‘story’ about becoming a ‘conscious industry.’ I love it. But my question is, who sees it, who is learning from it and who is doing it? This is a resource that should be circulated to every single business in this country. To experience it, visit: www.ogilvyearth.co.za
The other, EthicalCorp’s report on sustainability trends for 2015.
Ethical Corporation is hosting its 14th Annual Responsible Business Summit in May this year at which over 300 executives from across the globe will discuss the future of responsible business.
As a precursor to this prestigious event, Ethicalcorp conducted a survey to assess the current issues and trends in sustainability. What emerged from the 472 responses were the 3 top international priorities in 2015:
1. Embedding CSR
2. Creating a Sustainable Culture
3. Sustainable innovation
30% of respondents stated that sustainable innovation was the most exciting opportunity for their company in the next five years.
Nearly 25% stated that their companies were driven by sustainability. The hope is that this would increase as sustainability becomes more embedded in R&D and permeates through the organisation.
I say, there’s too much talk and not enough will for action!
In his article The acrid smell of dry rot, Theo Botha,partner at CorporateGovernance.Pro, laments the fact that ” Abil, PPC and HCI have been less than vigilant in executing their responsibilities.” This leads to ‘unsound governance’ that has 3 stages to the effects, namely – and I quote:
- Internal loss of trust: this could lead to weak compliance, the ‘bending’ and eventual ‘breaking’ and ‘flouting’ of rules (meaning to treat them with contempt); misuse of company assets, abuse of company powers, victimisation of well-meaning people, loss of strategic direction, loss of capable leaders,
- External loss of reputation: this normally leads to external mistrust, loss of business, loss of funding support, loss of profit, runs on the company, and total collapse, and
- Actions against the company: these could lead to closing of business.
Botha maintains, “it is important to put your finger into the tiny hole in the dyke as soon as possible….So do take care who we elect to sit on boards, and to the positions of CEO and CFO; do ensure that they are remunerated to get to the most preferred outcomes for the company; do ensure that these people act responsibly; do ensure that company actions are in the best interests of all stakeholders; do ensure that shareholders are vigilant (even asset manager-linked shareholders) and act on their responsibilities; and do require management and directors to be held to account.”
He adds: “What do we have at HCI, apart from very many unanswered questions? A damaged reputation, I would submit, probably irreparably damaged. Bad smells (dry rot?) all over. One very unhappy funder at Sabido. One very sad news service at eNCA (the relaunched name for eNews). And now, one ex-chairman at HCI.”
Read more on MoneyWeb…..
REAL Communication Consulting’s Desiray Viney ran a workshop entitled, ‘Must Haves’ for The New Age Executive at Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business this week.
Attended by managers and directors of business, industry and NGOs, it produced much discussion around the qualities, attributes, skills and actions of an effective manager or leader in this volatile, uncertain and fast-paced world.
Participants were asked to work through a given list of twelve (from leading writers) and to select and rank their own Six ‘Must Haves’ for Executives list. It culminated in this list:
- Have the courage and skills needed to lead an organisation in today’s environment – To build the confidence of your people to achieve the impossible: constant improvement, growth against a backdrop of extraordinary challenges and growing stakeholder expectations.
- Know that all people in your organisation are important – make the effort to be in their presence. Don’t be too far removed from those who matter most – within boundaries. People at the “bottom” are more informed and empowered than ever. Respect them. While they need your wisdom and direction, you should draw on their input in your decision-making.
- Ask the difficult questions and have the tough conversations on all levels of the organisation. Know the facts crucial to making wise decisions, and make a conscious decision that knowing the truth, being respected and doing what is right is most important, more so than being liked or avoiding conflict.
- Communicate purposefully! Don’t allow an information vacuum. Give feedback. Muzzle your voice, listen to what others think, and schedule face-to-face interactions.
- Know that values drive people’s behaviour, strive to create a values driven organisation. Remain true to your own values, which should match those of your organisation. Enable people to strive for excellence, and celebrate when they achieve. Have fun too.
- Have a Plan, acknowledging the speed of socio-political and economic change and how these interact and impact your business. The rate of change is very fast and it’s becoming more difficult to predict these forces in society, but you still need to strive to understand them.
Taki Anastasis, Sunshine Bakery’s chief executive, distinguished between the leader and the manager roles and explained how sometimes there’s a gap in their understanding of certain issues and how they communicate their understanding of values and instructions etc.
This workshop raised a number of issues in Business. Clearly, every business is unique and requires leadership appropriate to its operational environment. It also highlighted the need for more research on how local company bosses communicate and implement their vision, values and strategies. Information collected would provide the appropriate data and findings to advance leadership in South Africa.
What Executives Must Have … So much is being written about leadership today. The state of the world and business demands it. We all know we need good leaders in all spheres of life. But let’s explore what good leaders have and what they do…….
In this VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous – characterised by knowledge creation and change, real leaders are those who are aware of the challenges and problems and build coherent strategies and responses to surmount them. (From Jean-Francois Manzoni’s “Breaking bad leadership habits”).
This VUCA world demands that we start doing things differently, that we manage ourselves and our people differently. And we have so much useful, valuable information around us today, all we have to do is study it, synthesise it, create new knowledge from it and then apply it to our own working lives. The value of Emotional Intelligence in leaders and the LEAP principles of Leadership Excellence through Awareness and Practice are examples of this.
Like Samuel Bacharach (Bacharach Leadership Training), I am an academic who believes in the value of utilising theories, debates and studies in the context of business, translating academic ideas into business concepts. Based on leadership research and ideas around Neurolinguistic Programming (taking attributes, characteristics and features from others and transferring them to oneself through mindfulness, learning new skills, capabilities and habits) I have developed my training workshops.
My most recent catalyst has been Toby Moore’s article, Six ‘must haves’ for the new age executive. Apart from the business acumen and sound judgment required of leaders, Moore adds: Visionary, Presenter, Communicator, Technologist, Peer and Champion. I took these leadership attributes or characteristics and blended them with some traditional and some newer concepts to come up with, what I call I-CARE Leadership. And this is the foundation for my next workshop which I have entitled, “Must haves for the new age executive.”
I run workshops with Executives, Managers and Leaders, offering attendees actionable insights and findings to take back to their work, integrating new information and ideas into their behaviour and communication at work. Watch this space for details of my next Workshop: ‘Must Haves’ for The New Age Executive.