Category Archives: Research

Global movements affecting company Reputation

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.       

Public perceptions                                  

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              

Ethical business builds Reputation

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.

 

 

My thoughts on the KPMG reputational crisis

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Corporate governance and CSR – is it for REAL?

What is ‘fake news’?


What is ‘fake news’? And how does it affect us?                                    Fake news 1

Have you noticed how this ‘catch-all’ confusing media term is being used every day? Donald Trump uses it to describe any news he doesn’t like, doesn’t agree with, or that doesn’t come from his own tweets. And although we associate the term with Trump, stories involving ‘fake news’ have been around for a while. But what does it mean in our hi-tech social media world and how does it affect our own interpretation of news and how we respond to it?

Is it propaganda, deception, misrepresentation or just plain you-know-what?

All of the above. One definition of fake news, or hoax news, is “false information or propaganda published under the guise of being authentic news. Fake news websites and channels push their fake news content in an attempt to mislead consumers of the content and spread misinformation via social networks and word-of-mouth” (www.webopedia.com/TERM/F/fakenews.html).

Wikipedia defines it as news which is “completely made up and designed to deceive readers to maximize traffic and profit. News satire uses exaggeration and introduces non-factual elements, but is intended to amuse or make a point, not deceive. Propaganda can also be fake news”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news .

In The Guardian, Elle Hunt explores ‘fake news’:  “Until recently, there was news and “not news” (referring to human interest stories or features). Now there is ‘fake news’, said to be behind the election of Donald Trump as US president. The US election result was influenced by a widespread belief in fake news among Trump supporters. 73% of Trump voters thought the billionaire financier George Soros paid protesters to disrupt the Republican candidate’s rallies – a fake news report later repeated by the president-elect himself.”

Other fake news includes a report that Democratic senators wanted to impose sharia law in Florida, and a false report that Trump supporters chanting “we hate Muslims, we hate blacks, we want our great country back” at a rally was reported as true on election night.

Fake news in SA                         

Fake news 4According to Verlie Oosthuizen, a partner at Shepstone and Wylie’s social media law department, “Fake news – which previously targeted celebrities – has shifted to politics; Donald Trump’s election shows the impact of this growing trend on politics”.

Xolani Dube, from the Xubera Institute for Research and Development, believes what is now termed fake news has been around since the inception of power. “Pre-information age, fake news was called propaganda and preserved in print media and radio. It existed by other names before that. For anything to sustain itself it needs to rebrand, so it is appearing now as fake news, electioneering sabotage.”

Sabotage had allegedly been the aim of the work of an ANC team called the “War Room” in the run up to the local government elections. Allegations that its goal was to create posters depicting opposition political parties negatively, were contained in a court application by Sihle Bolani. The public relations strategist fingered Shaka Sisulu, Walter Sisulu’s grandson, as her recruiter, as did Thami Mthimkhulu, a Durban man who claimed – on Twitter – that he had been sent slanderous posters of EFF and DA leaders to share and “push” on social media.

The proliferation of fake news targeting political parties and politicians is “new-age propaganda” that is not likely to stop and political leaders have to brace themselves for the online onslaught. This is according to a social media lawyer and a researcher, who were responding to allegations that the ANC spent R50 million to spread fake news and pay social media “influencers” to discredit the political opposition. Many commentators agree that as the ANC succession debate heats up, South Africa could expect even more fake news. So be aware….

Should we be worried about fake news?

Social media expert, Arthur Goldstuck, believes fake news completely destroys public discourse and undermines democratic values: “Anyone who participates in this in order to advance their objectives should realise the long-term damage. It ultimately renders everything they put out untrustworthy.” He believes there should be consequences but “until someone is caught and prosecuted, it will go on”.

Hunt says, “These stories – compelling to click on, and with a “truthiness” quality to them – soar on the social web, where links are given the same weighting regardless of source, and particularly on Facebook where there is a potential audience of 1.8bn.”

Analysis by BuzzFeed found that fake news stories drew more shares and engagement during the final three months of the US election campaign than reports from, for example, the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.    The power of this ‘fake news’ is clear.

So, how do you tell what is fake news?

Surely it’s easy to tell fake news from real news   Actually, no.   A recent study carried out by Stanford’s Graduate School of Education assessed more than 7,800 student responses on their ability to assess information sources. Researchers were “shocked” by students’ “stunning and dismaying consistency” to evaluate information at even as basic a level as distinguishing advertisements from articles (from The Guardian article by Elle Hunt).

Soon, Facebook will flag stories of questionable legitimacy with an alert that says “Disputed by 3rd party fact-checkers”. Melissa Zimdars, a professor at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, compiled this list of websites that either purposely publish false information or are otherwise entirely unreliable, broken down by category.

The German chancellor Angela Merkel, pressured Facebook to introduce a fact check button to try to deal with fake news. This is already effective in the US as well and whether Facebook is going to mobilise this across the globe remains to be seen.

“I don’t believe there is a political will in South Africa to put up the same kind of pressure,” said Oosthuizen.  “Trying to prosecute the creators of fake news sites would be extremely difficult. You’d end up chasing leads in different jurisdictions.”

And what can we do to stop its spread?

So we’ve deduced that fake news is intentionally created and can discredit stories and the people in them and lead us to believe that something is true when it’s not. So we need to be smarter at recognising and combating news that is fabricated.

“Share responsibly”, says Hunt, “you are an influencer within your own social network: put in the legwork, and only post or share stories you know to be true, from sources you know to be responsible. You can help shape the media you want, too. Withhold “hate-clicking” on stories you know are designed to make you angry”.

Pay for journalism and news that have real value.

As we draw near to Youth Day on 16 June and remember the student riots, we need to remind ourselves what they were putting their lives on the line for.

We know what drove those students in 1976 to protest. The evidence is clear – Bantu education was appalling, especially when compared to that of whites. Students had to use a foreign language in their studies. Learning and teaching facilities were poor, conditions in the townships were not conducive to learning and teaching. Students were fighting for education and a better life.

While we acknowledge the changes that have taken place politically, economically, technologically and socially since then, we need to start real conversations about real and relevant education. What those students were fighting for may not be what we see and experience today. What type of education do South Africans want? What does the #feesmustfall Campaign envision for education today?

For the past 20 years we’ve been trying to ‘improve education’ in South Africa. Billions of rands have been spent. Many changes, many methods, many structures, many experts have been used, and yet every year we question our education system and make promises and plans to improve it – to no avail. We have SETAs and SAQA setting the standards, we have government promising to produce thousands of artisans annually, we have private ‘educational’ companies and institutions making millions from people desperate to get certificates, we have ‘free’ access to education, and yet we have not managed to educate the youth of this country nor prepare them for the world of work that is constantly changing. Not to mention the number of ‘degreed’ individuals without work – thrown into the world of ‘worklessness’. Clearly there’s a problem.

Education needs a revolution

Education needs a revolution 

So it’s time we take note of Thomas A. Edison’s words:
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Let’s learn from our mistakes and proceed with a strategic plan toward a more favourable outcome?

We must start asking meaningful questions about education if we are to truly address the problems that the very concept and its interpretation cause. Starting with:
What is education? What is its purpose? What is it used for? Do people really want to be educated? What does it mean to be educated? Is education still relevant in a global information society where anyone can access any information that they find useful? And jobs are evolving at such a rate the educators don’t even know they exist, so how can they prepare students?

Some see education merely as a piece of paper for a job-seeker; others see it as a process of developing one’s thinking and leadership qualities; yet others see it as needless rote learning of useless information only to regurgitate it in exams. Nevertheless, the honest responses to authentic probing into education would at least give us as a society a fair idea of what we’re dealing with before we set off on yet another detour. Let’s put our heads together and start that conversation today.

Let's talk about successful education

Let’s talk about successful education

There needs to be another education revolutionthis time in our thinking – for successful solutions to the problem of education in this country.

‘MUST HAVES’ FOR BOSSES REVEALS NEED FOR LOCAL STUDY

 

purpose-driven-leadership[1]

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Communicate purposefully! Don’t allow an information vacuum. Give feedback. Muzzle your voice, listen to what others think, and schedule face-to-face interactions.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Kai Steinfeld, MD of Pfisterer, maintained that “In a global production-based company, having a vision and planning is essential.”Innovative leadership

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.

 

 

My PRISA National Conference Highlights

Some thoughts and comments on the PRISA conference held at Emperor’s Palace, Kempton Park on 9 and 10 June. The theme was “Managing Reputation on our Threatened Planet.”

As a Corporate Communication and PR consultant focussed on reputation management, I felt I had to attend. It would be the place to meet the movers and shakers, the decision makers of PR in South Africa. A great opportunity to network and meet people I could do business with……

But sadly, there were very few private business owners there, and the quasi-government organisations were represented by people unable to talk to me about possibilities. So I didn’t achieve my goal of finding connections for future work.

Regarding the speakers, the line-up on the programme was impressive, starting with Prof Jonathan Jansen, vice-chancellor and rector of the University of the Free State. In his usual irreverent style, he criticised the education department for not demanding excellence, and the general lack of a moral compass in a government that did not know the difference between social justice and transformation, between position and influence and between saying and doing. My favourite line: “Why don’t big business deliver textbooks?”

The very humbly gracious Advocate Thuli Madonsela, accepted the PRISA President’s Award and spoke on the impact of the Public Protector’s work on SA’s reputation.  Not a charismatic speaker, but wow, she spoke her truth, exuding honesty, quiet commitment and brave tenacity. She was so impressive! Best line: “I am a servant.”

Another speaker I enjoyed was Trevor Ndlazi, of the Reputation Institute. Reputation management is one of my special interests, so I was very pleased to hear that “Reputation IS a tangible asset that needs to be managed”!

Paula Fray, a media expert with a focus on development communication, was a very engaging speaker who clearly knows what she’s talking about from years of experience. You can’t beat that.

New kid on the media block, and very popular, is Emma Sadleir, a social media legal consultant, who puts the fear of g-d into you with her stories of how tweets and social media messages, if not monitored and managed, could cause a whole lot of trouble for your company’s reputation.

There were many other good and interesting talks and presentations over the two days, but the one that stands out for me is the presentation entitled “stakeholder interventions” by Nazir Allie, CEO of SANRAL. This is definitely the most inappropriate talk of the conference as it clearly showed how NOT to deal with your stakeholders! PRISA staff must be kicking themselves for such a bad choice! All Allie did was blow SANRAL’s own trumpet, and make it very clear that the only stakeholder SANRAL considers important is government legislators. Very little respect was shown to other stakeholders like the public. He firmly believed that the public must pay for what the government spends on social grants etc. Sadly, Allie has no concept of building and managing his organisation’s reputation. Great pity.

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.

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”.

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.