Why is it that when organizations, industries or even politicians are afflicted with reputational damage leaders point to one thing to turn things around: the need to better tell their story.
“If only we get smarter about communicating our story and let people know what we do the better people will feel about us” is how the refrain goes.
This then kicks into gear a whole set of communications tactics including marketing and advertising to get the story out.
And all of it is WRONG!
Corporate reputation – brand, image and/or character ( whatever descriptor you choose) – is formed for specific reasons. That is, people experience something very real for an opinion to be formed good or bad. These opinions are shared with the world resulting in like-minded people connecting with each other including media and perpetuating the belief.
Translation: companies, industries and politicians tend to get the reputation and coverage they deserve based on policies, decisions, products, services, etc. Those opinions are formed quicker today given technology and globalization.
So how does one change that?
First, admit there is a reason(s) for why people view the organization the way they do. Is it product or service related? Poor customer service? High turnover? Failed policies? Executive compensation? Low stock price/’valuation?
Second, discern what can be changed or improved. For example, is it a training opportunity with staff to improve customer service? Is it rethinking leadership compensation in light of shifting expectations? Is it a different strategy or directon?
Third, determine where the conversations are taking place and by whom and reach out to gather direct intelligence to inform decision making.
Fourth, employ a Discover vs. Sell approach meaning let people experience the changes in your business vs. shouting at them with a half baked set of ideals.
We live in an age where people react only to organizations and brands that engage with them on a regular and real basis.
For communicators our best advice to a CEO who wants to “re-tell or better tell our story” is to politely and firmly state that “we don’t have a communications problem but rather a business opportunity that can only be addressed through a disciplined analysis of our products, practices, and policies!”