Building Corporate Character

I was intrigued by a piece that ran in PRWeek recently on the topic of corporate character.  The piece was prompted by a new report, Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy,” issued by the Arthur W. Page Society, a professional group for senior comms leaders.

The report reflects insights and best practices from major brands such as Johnson & Johnson, P&G, Apple, FedEx and IBM. It describes a new model for how enterprises can create a sense of shared belief with their stakeholders.

The ideas behind it, based on modern studies of consumer behavior, make a lot of sense. Its core tenets for engagement are as follows:

  • Belief: Moving beyond “awareness” to forge shared belief with decision-makers.
  • Action: Translating belief into action – for example, to buy a product, invest in a company or accept a job offer.
  • Confidence: Translating success from one’s actions into ongoing behavior.
  • Advocacy at Scale: Turning changed behavior into active advocacy on behalf of the now-shared agenda.

“Engagement” is one of those over-used buzzwords, but the rules do need changing, given we are doing business in this era of social media and instant activism.  PRWeek quotes Page Society President Roger Bolton noting that “stakeholders can very quickly organize and have an impact on a business in a way that is very different than what has ever existed before.”

I had the honor of working for Roger when I was in-house at IBM  – in fact, I pursued a role on his team primarily to have the opportunity to learn from him. That he is one of the architects of this call to action for communicators is not surprising.

The group’s press release talks about “activating every organization’s unique and differentiating character.” Here at Tanis, we call that helping companies find their voice. Working with our clients to capture and project their corporate character in a meaningful and sustainable way is one of the more rewarding aspects of our jobs.

Our team had dinner earlier this week with a potential client, and we were discussing the fallout when executives try to be something they’re not. Corporations can make this same misstep with their overall brand strategy, so it’s good to see discussions among chief communications officers about authenticity.

The report also encourages CCOs to build bridges internally to get all of the organization invested in living the tenets of the corporate character.  With so many social media touch points, the notion of a sea of ambassadors steeped in your corporate values is a powerful one.  Done well, this movement can transcend your own organization to create external advocates – customers, partners, community leaders – who become potent believers in your brand.

Remember the quaint days of “Build it and they will come” ? Today, when they come, they expect a whole lot more.  Give it to them, in a manner reflecting your best corporate character, and you’ve got an advocate for the long haul. Fail to consistently deliver, and you sow the seeds for a more far-reaching brand exodus thanks to the power of social media.