You can’t think of your audiences in isolation any more. Well you can, but you won’t last long. Your customers are your community; your colleagues are your corporate representatives (even if you fire them like Apple); your corporate responsibility impacts on how your customers feel; your customers get served by your colleagues who have vested interest in your success and theirs. And so it goes round.
But how to make it all tie together? How to get everyone fired up and not fired? How to get each of these audiences engaged in what you do?
On the Other Hand – Sustainable Communication
Unless you want to maintain the classic corporate silos, you can’t think of your separate functions acting in isolation any more. The world moves too fast to let your organisation take separate journeys, at separate times, with separate functions creating separate approaches and separate programmes.
The ‘silos’ that have built up over the years as each specialism gets more, well, specialised, are no longer adding clarity and purpose but are creating dysfunction and slowing performance. I talked about this in Managing Your Internal Customers (FT Pitman) in 1993. Nearly 20 years later the time has come to put a truly engaging strategy into action. And the driver now is not just costs, or performance (or at the time TQM) but it is all of these combined & the economy & the increasing prospect of social discontent, & fight against corporate greed & saving the planet . There is no longer the time to change bit by bit.
We all know the C-Suite generate the Visions, Missions and Values (as words, or in their actions), communication creates and cascades the copy/content; marketing the brand and imagery while HR invents an ‘employment’ version of the brand’ (however divisive), . But why is everyone doing this in ignorant isolation? The power of what we say, what we do and what we look like (my mantra in The Company Culture Cookbook FT Prentice Hall 2002) is that these are best done together.
Plan A – Because there is no Plan B from Marks and Spencer, our Brand Champions of 2011, and stars of our Engaging Brands Report
If there is no Plan B then everyone has to be working on Plan ! That’s where Marks and Spencer got to, in 2008. Now it’s just a way of doing business. But it took the strong will, determination and some strong words from one man, Sir Stuart Rose, then Chairman and Chief Executive, to put together a strategy, an integrated plan and execution for a new way of running the business.
Plan A was/is not a ‘side-show’, not a ‘nice to have’, not a ‘sop’ to give an appearance of doing CSR, not a bit of ‘philanthropy’ as witnessed by Mike Barry, Head of Sustainability M&S, in his TEDx talk. It was not a separate programme alongside the business, but the opposite, an engaging art, an integrated whole. That’s where the ‘one hand’ of creating a sustainable business got together with the ‘other hand’ of creating sustainable communication that would not wither on the vine.
Mark and Spencer were the only company in our study of the FTSE 100 to ‘tick every box’ in our engagement matrix. That’s why we, and the Guardian Awards amongst others, have named them our 2011 corporate Brand Champions.
*Co-authored by Ian Buckingham and Kevin Thomson.