Tag Archives: leadership in business

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.

 

 

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”.