Category Archives: ethical branding

Why a Mission Statement?

Why a Mission Statement?

Part of my work as a communication strategist is to ensure that my client (business, organisation or even individual) plans where it is going and how it is going to get there. Together we develop a ‘blueprint’ that serves to align its business plan with its communication plan so that the overall ‘dreams or hopes’ articulated in the mission statement, are fulfilled.

There are many debates around whether or not a mission statement is worth all the attention we afford it. Some say it’s a waste of time, while others say it represents the soul of the organisation; it is a declaration of intent, the guiding principles for the way a company behaves.

Take a look at Geoffrey James’ article: Mission Statements are a Joke

http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/mission-statements-are-a-joke.html

Then take a look at the article on Holstee’s Manifesto:    

Inspirational mission statement

http://www.inc.com/magazine/201202/a-powerful-mission-statement.html

What are your thoughts on a Mission Statement?

Why brand? Is it only for cattle?

 Why brand? Is it only for cattle? Ranchers and farmers brand their cattle to identify them and depict ownership.           

Branding a company is far more complex and should be addressed in a more meaningful and mindful way, and adopting a responsible, long-term approach is best for the survival of a company and its brand:       

  • Branding is more than just the naming of a company. It encompasses who it is, what it stands for, the people it deals with, its behaviour, its products and its worth.
  • People make associations between the brand name and logo and the behaviour, communication and the actions of an organisation – make them positive perceptions.
  • A brand has to have a purpose that includes doing good in the environment within which it operates.  Some call it “giving back.”
  • Organisations must deliver on brand promises. It’s called ethical branding….
  • Rebuilding trustA brand needs to change according to the demands and needs of the socio-economic and political environments – even involving itself in the moral and social fabric of a country.
  • Develop a genuine interest in the world and its people. In all its operations it needs to develop an ‘others’ approach, not only an ‘us’ approach – an outside-in approach.

According to Thomas Kolster, the key to brand leadership includes knowing that:

  • Sustainability is the new USP                                                                Ethical business branding
  • Sustainability is the new competition
  • Responsibility is the new trust currency
  • Collaboration in a sharing economy will lead the way.

Kolster challenges brand leaders to interrogate the way they do things, and to start implementing “world-bettering” strategies in their brand management.

 

Exploring trends in Branding and PR without men

We ran another very successful PR Boot Camp on Thursday, 20 March. The theme was “Exploring current thinking and trends in Branding and PR.” We covered a wide range of branding and PR information and each participant shared their experience and knowledge on the topic and then got down to actually reworking their own strategies based on their new insights.

Marcel, Lindy and Des hard at workParticipants hard at work

Some of the key questions and issues raised included the ones I’ve listed below and, over the next month or two, I’ll be dealing with each one in a separate blog. However, here I want to focus on the last one: Why is it so difficult to draw local men to PR and Branding workshops?

The PR Boot Camp attracted a group of highly professional participants, including an attorney, two marketing managers – one from a large private hospital, the other from a firm of lawyers – a graphic designer and website builder, a business coach, an owner of companies, a human resource manager, and an online networking business operator. They proved to be a facilitator’s dream because they contributed constantly with insight, expertise and questions. The only thing was – they were all female! We had to ask ourselves, where are the men of Maritzburg?

No rest for the Marketing Manager Boot Camps are hard work

This opened the way for a deviation to an interesting discussion on workplace gender issues. Several of the women there had experienced a sense that some – NOT ALL (no need to get your jockstraps in a knot now!) – men in business still showed ‘traditional’ attitudes towards women. Examples included not taking seriously suggestions on business management that came from a woman; men would pay thousands of rand to go to Johannesburg to attend a seminar when facilitated by a man, while not attending a local one run by a woman of equal calibre; corporate men are generally slow to change or implement new ideas or procedures that are initiated by women.

What IS the reason for these attitudes and behaviours in 2014?

Feel free to comment…………..  while you await the blogs on:

1. Why Brand? Is branding only for cattle?

2. Why a Mission Statement?  Read this article: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/mission-statements-are-a-joke.html

3. Why Ethics and Values in business?

4. How to outplay the Competition?

5. Why Social Network platforms?

6. Why a Communication Strategy?

7. How to brand and market a coaching business?

8. Why is it so difficult to draw local men to PR and Branding workshops?

 

The Media, Marketers, politicians and the facts

Tampa PolitifactsMy monthly copy of The Media magazine arrived this week and, as always, I read it from cover to cover with great interest and curiosity. I love keeping up with trends, ideas and debates in this exciting field.
There are two articles in particular that got me moving – one by Jos Kuper (whom I regard as one of my mentors), the other by Julian Rademeyer. And the one common issue or concern was this: journalists don’t check their facts properly before publishing.

Kuper, who has been a highly respected media researcher for many years, wrote Who do we trust: media or politicians? She was reporting on her latest research findings in a South African study. Examples include: “87% believe that ‘whistleblowing’ is a good idea, and 83% of South Africans believe it is the duty of the media to expose corruption among politicians and business people.” But the negative that emerged is that about 80% of people said “that journalists often harm people’s reputations because they don’t check their information sufficiently.” (www.futurefact.co.za)

According the journalist’s code of ethics, verifying facts is core to the job. However, with news media cutting back on staff, together with the increased demands of producing non-stop content, journalists may be getting slack in the rush to produce. But that is no excuse. The implications and consequences of publishing inaccurate information can be permanently damaging to both individual and organisation.

Just a couple of weeks ago one of the cell phone companies was ordered to change the wording of an advert in which it claimed to the best at something, when in fact it wasn’t. That was an example of how a media watchdog can keep tabs on ‘storytelling’. It could also indicate the company’s attitude of ‘try your luck – even bad publicity is good publicity’.

Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address was filled with facts that were delivered out of context and somewhat misleading. Who checked that speech?

In his article, Getting it right, Rademeyer, the editor of Africa Check, maintains that fact checking is a necessary and growing industry worldwide. Companies like his aim to investigate claims made in the media to check if the facts are accurate. By doing so they hold politicians and business people accountable. For example, when a politician claims that “90% of South Africans have access to ‘clean and safe’ drinking water, does the average reader, listener or viewer believe him? If not, they now can access www.AfricaCheck.Org for the facts.

With an election coming up, I suggest we keep our eyes and ears open for promises made by politicians and check out claims to separate fact from fiction. We must demand accuracy and accountability from our politicians. And, on a daily basis, we should become more critical of seemingly unreasonable product promises too and more proactive in seeking and exposing the truth.
That’s what the media is supposed to do and if they don’t we can do it ourselves.

PR Boot Camp re-scheduled

Are you a business owner wanting to develop your Brand,

communication1

 NGO wanting to create awareness or in

HR, PR, or marketing and needing to become even more effective

You must attend the

Public Relations Boot Camp

Get a new understanding of

  • Current trends in PR and Branding
  • Developing your corporate vision, identity and brand
  • Building relationships with your key stakeholders
  • Strategic planning for a strong reputation.

Date: Thursday 20 March 2014

Time: 08.30 – 12.00

Venue: Chamber House, Royal Show Grounds, PMB

Cost: R 550 per participant

 Contact:  Desiray (Dee) Viney

Good Branding is everybody’s business

 

“No man is an island, entire unto itself, but rather a piece of the whole”

And no business can “make it on its own” or say “to hell with the rest”……..

Strategise your branding
                                Strategise your branding

Every business is an integral part of a community, society, country and the world.  And nowadays a concerned public is watching business more closely and able to scratch the surface of your utterances and actions to reveal the true you. What it finds impacts your business reputation.

A business has to start its branding process by exploring its core values. Yes, values. Today there are powerful societal and political forces at play and these are influencing how the public and audiences perceive a business. If your business shows a blatant disregard for certain labour or environmental principles, they won’t like you, even if your product is top-notch.

Strategic brand communication planning is a must for all businesses. Those who don’t engage in strategizing their brand communication will suffer negative consequences that directly impact their operations, stakeholder engagement and reputation management:

  • Strategic branding gives you a sound foundation based on your beliefs and values.
  • A strategy provides the criteria for defining who you are and what you want to achieve; it finds opportunities to focus on your strengths and reformat weaknesses. It differentiates you from the rest, positions you exactly where you want to be and gives you a competitive edge.
  • Identifying who your people or stakeholders are and what their needs and expectations are, gives you the advantage of direct, relevant and meaningful engagement with them.
  •  A strategy ensures that you plan your communication and your actions to reflect and reinforce your values. The integrity of your business ensures ongoing delivery on its promises and achievement of its goals.
  • Strategic planning is a mindful, purposeful process aimed at long-term commitment to stakeholder engagement and relationship building, and addresses issues of sustainability, good governance, ethical branding and reputation, using these as guiding principles in the business.
  • A strategy works from the inside out where your internal goals are aimed at making the ‘outside’ world a better place for all, and ensuring that the people out there want to continue doing business with you – this applies to both commercial and social brands.
  • Strategy is for a good business, it’s good for business and it makes great business sense.

ethics-1

Employee relations is core to any Business Branding Strategy.

Connect, engage and win together

Connect, engage and win together

Strategic business communication planning should start ‘from the inside out’.  Leaders and managers should begin with a journey to the ‘source’ and purpose of their business, to find the real values that drive them forward to growth, prosperity and sustainability.

Once they’re identified their values and set their goals, the obvious next step would be to share them with the people within the company who, on a daily basis, have to ‘live’ those values and work to achieve those goals.  They have to buy in to them, making the company’s values and goals their own. Their actions and behaviour have to reflect their belief in the company and what it stands for. Some would refer to this as developing a ‘corporate culture’.

However, too often business leaders fail to share and instil the common core values and then wonder why there’s a mismatch or non-alignment between their values and customer satisfaction.

Here are some points on Strategic Employee Relations Planning. It can go a long way in developing a common culture that positively affects and benefits the employees themselves, customers and other stakeholders, the brand and ultimately the company reputation:

  • Business Leaders have to be audience-centric, and employees are the key audience. Leaders and managers have to listen to them in order to be ‘listened to’
  • Internal communication and engagement must be two-way and ongoing to contribute to team cohesion, performance, productivity and profitability
  • Employees must feel supported by management; their individual needs for growth and skills development must be addressed for mutual benefit
  • Knowing they and management have a shared purpose and vision gives employees the desire to achieve the common goals
  • Where there are actions aimed at fulfilling common goals, measurability, evaluation and constant reflection are welcome and valued
  • Rewards for achievement are a motivation to perform and reach goals together
  • Shared values and goals lead to shared responsibility where each employee knows what’s expected of him, as part of the whole organisation.

So it is vital that your Strategic Employee Relations Plan is used as a tool that underpins all your business activities.

Speaking about the corporate revolution….

website people 1There is a corporate revolution going on! Complexity and chaos theories abound, and things have to change. Businesses need to take note of this and listen to the thought leaders’ appeals to start adapting before it’s too late.

As with all change in thinking and behaviour, there comes a change in the language we use to reflect our new beliefs and actions. Here are some of the current buzzwords in business, branding and corporate communication:

Organizational change involves “deconstructing the silos” or structures of business past and means making the necessary strategic shifts to meet the demands of the changing times. One of the most fundamental changes is in the balance of power between consumer and producer.

Power to the people, not corporates – people know more, they have more freedom, more access and more voice. They expect more and want to be treated accordingly. It is people who build brands and reputations, not companies themselves.

Customer is now audience, so-called because people are watching, listening and responding now, not just buying. If this relationship is audience-centred and managed well, the audience becomes your ‘community’ and advocates on behalf of your brand and builds your business with you.

Sustainability and Social responsibility – these concepts focus on conscious decisions and long term commitments to social, environmental and economic issues that affect ALL people, not just short-term CSI campaigns that gain company kudos.

Truth, Vision Transparency, Collaboration? Unfamiliar terms in business? But soft skills are now core skills. Developing these soft skills within a stakeholder engagement strategy means working on BOTH an emotional and a rational level. After all, we are dealing with people who really want to know who we are and what we stand for. And as with all relationships, we need to unpack our true purpose and seek collaboration partners to share it with. So now there’s more use of ‘us’ than ‘them’.

Spin is replaced with real content – spin attracts and lures people into believing what you say, based on the company’s needs or agenda. Relevant content and story-telling engage people and build relationships based on audience needs. It’s an ‘outside-in’ approach that values content marketing, instead of just product marketing, and connecting, not just selling, using conversations about the business and its products and services to build meaningful, long term relationships with the audience.

Ethical branding not just advertising. Every brand has its unique story about what it stands for, not only about its products. And even the products are ethical now. The question of image versus façade highlights exhibiting an identity based on purpose not profit, and mindful actions, not pretty packaging. People trust businesses that believe in what they do and value integrity rather than those with nice appearances and words.

The authenticity revolution? Carla Enslin calls it an evolution – wherein organisations become…. “responsible for creating legacies based on sound social and economic values and authentic practice”.

NGOs a site for PR skills development

Earlier this month a jubilant Department of Education announced the 78% pass rate for the 2013 Matriculants. But hot on the heels of the release came questions, criticisms and expressions of concern regarding the lack of jobs, the skills deficit, and the relevance of a university degree when there was dire need for artisans (who actually earn more than graduates). We all know the problems but what about solutions?

On 9 January Rowan Philp wrote a piece in The Witness entitled “Volunteer or Bust!”
http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=112563

What caught my attention were the following:

• pupils had “fixed and unrealistic ideas” about jobs
• “Young people have to change their mind-set from ‘What can I get from employers?’, to ‘What can I give to employers?’ They should draw up a list of all the employed adults they know – and ask to work-shadow, intern, or just volunteer.”
• gain on-the-job experience, even if it meant no pay.
• there was “increasing concern” over viable careers for matrics.
• the country needed artisans and entrepreneurs.

The matric results have focused the nation’s attention on the desperate need to address the problems of unemployment and skills shortage. For me, the NGO environment is an ideal one for developing volunteers into skilled workers and entrepreneurs over a wide range of activities while building the capacity of communities. I have been involved in CESL (Community engagement with Student Learning) projects and seen the positive impact on young people working with NGOs.

There are so many NGOs with uplifting projects needing staff and funding. In conversation with Michael Deegan, CEO of the PMB Community Chest, he mentioned the need for NGOs to think of new ways of doing things, and to rework their corporate identity, image and communication strategies to create more awareness and draw more donors, corporate sponsors and volunteers.

Clearly the new audience is the youth and so NGOs and charities need to change the perception that charity and community work is only for the older generation. Already the Community Chest has a programme directed at the youth called the “@Generation” to address this. Having young volunteers working in NGOs would go a long way to improve their understanding and perceptions of ‘charity’ work.

NGOs are multi-dimensional too in that they operate on so many levels and with so many stakeholders – from government departments, communities, business, international donors and aid organisations to local educators, women’s groups, healthcare givers and of course the media. Volunteers would leave with a range of skills, abilities and interests to offer the world of business.

So here’s my suggestion for a possible solution:

Volunteerism as “giving to grow” – NGOs, Business and the Community can do it together

We need to develop a volunteer programme whereby unemployed matriculants go into NGOs to work and to train.
The types of skills they would learn is wide-ranging, from office admin, computer, financial and business to project management, government relations and funding policies, procedures and proposals.

However, my sphere of interest and expertise is corporate communication and public relations, so I will focus on NGOs and their dire need of strategic planning in this area. They are also perfect sites for potential learning and development of specific communication and PR skills, techniques and activities which are vital for their existence.
These include: Branding, copy writing, publicity, interpersonal communication skills, CSI – corporate social investment, community relations, media relations, sponsorship, integrated marketing, event management, and so on.

All they need is people to teach them! And funds to pay them.
So my proposal is that business contribute in money and in kind to enable NGOs to implement such a programme by covering the cost of willing professionals like me to deliver skill interventions and deliverables to achieve the outcomes – NGOs performing optimally, addressing socio-economic issues like healthcare, education, skills development, unemployment, whilst simultaneously building citizens, communities and the country.

It’s not impossible. It just takes concerned citizens and business to put their money where their mouths are! NGOs like The Community Chest are waiting for you…….

You’re a Corporate Communication Strategist? But what do you do?

You’re a Corporate Communication Strategist? But what do you do?
In order to explain what I do as a Communication Strategist, I need to first point to a few crucial factors that answer the question “Why do you do what you do?”
1. The world is a different place now. Business is only one part of a much greater system and, to sustain harmony in the world, organisations have to consider their place in and their responsibility to the bigger system. They have to act in a way that enhances the concept of interdependence between economic, financial, environmental, political and social factors. The business arena is ‘being watched’ by activists and thought leaders who are very ready and able to expose companies that cause disharmony; so much so that regulators and governments are responding to the pressure by imposing guidelines and conditions for how organisations should behave if they want to be seen as reputable and sustainable global players.
2. A business is not self-sufficient, it needs all kinds of support from those on whom it depends for its existence. Today, people and consumers know more and expect much more from business. They want to feel that a business identifies with them and their needs, not the other way around, and ‘speaks to’ them.
3. There are thousands of similar products and services out there, so why should people choose yours? What you offer, over-and-above your product, counts for a lot now, and it is involves more than a transactional relationship, it must be real engagement with your people – an emotional connection. Differentiation through communication not products.

A communication strategist understands these factors and reaches out to the business world to develop a deep appreciation of how these factors impact a business’s operations, growth and success. The strategist engages with organisations through communication learning from each other, getting to know the company’s situation and responding to stakeholder needs appropriately to achieve business goals.
Tony Manning, once said, “Organizations are managed conversations.” Every day you and your organization communicate. There is an ongoing flow of information, ideas, opinions and emotions between an organisation and its audience or stakeholders – but is this communication well-planned to achieve its goals? Is it sufficiently strategic?
For corporate conversations to be meaningful and have a positive impact on the company and its publics, they need to be planned, appropriate and relevant. And the messages that come from a company must reflect its personality and its purpose. Developing a strategic communication plan moves the company in the right direction, getting internal and external audiences to buy into its vision, plans and activities.

The plan begins with YOU. Your company’s purpose and vision is fundamental to your success. If you don’t know your company’s purpose or even your own, finding one is your first priority. You also need to identify those with whom you want to share, collaborate and build your company, and then harness the power of communication to get them to work with you to accomplish your business goals.
Many business owners, managers and leaders need a helping hand in developing a clear, consistent and effective communication strategy. That is where the communication strategist comes in: she begins their conversation by getting the ‘boss’ to reflect on the business, its purpose and goals, its strengths, weaknesses and challenges, asking questions like: what is the outcome you want? What stands in your way? How do you overcome these obstacles?
At REAL Communication Consulting, we use well-researched methods to develop a strategic communication plan. We divide the process into ten ‘conversations’ in which you:
1. Identify your purpose and develop a vision or mission statement
2. Develop a corporate identity or brand to reflect who you are
3. Identify specific communication goals that support your business goals
4. Communicate mindfully with your stakeholders to learn what is important to them
5. Find alignment between your perceptions and those of your stakeholders
6. Develop the key strategic messages to achieve your goals
7. Create and deliver communication that speaks to your key stakeholders
8. Clarify meaning to minimize misunderstanding, wasted time, and negative emotions
9. Plan feedback and measurement methods to ensure that communication achieves its goal
10. Develop reflective practices that help you develop your communication expertise.

A communication strategy helps you create a productive communication environment, generating trust and a culture of interactive, engaging and meaningful communication in your organization.
Once your business starts on this journey, it will see itself as part of a much larger system with greater goals for future sustainability, and it will begin considering ways to make not only its business, but the world, a better place.