Today’s launch by the CBI of their report ‘Everyone’s Business’ which was produced in partnership with global Public Relations agency, Porter Novelli and research company Opinium, will be welcomed by many in the PR profession. The findings are obvious to those charged with the daily management of a corporate reputation but the report and its ongoing tracking will be extremely helpful in demonstrating how businesses need to invest in their communications.
The headline grabbing findings which implores companies to stop using jargon is useful, although the other two major issues raised are just as important and maybe harder to implement. Firstly, businesses are encouraged to think and act locally. Hopefully, any good PR team will already have this on their agenda, communicating their client’s stories to the local media. Secondly, the broad topic of external relations, where your PR resource can be part of a team which engages external audiences.
With the backing of the CBI, there is a real chance that government will also take note and encourage greater transparency from corporations. The pressure will increase on business leaders to commit to authentic and genuine communications and recognise that there is nowhere to hide.
After three decades working across several different industries, SRF has often seen corporate intentions become vague and opaque, not just because of the language used, but rather the number of people involved. This committee effect creates conservatism and the addition of people involved in any approval process seems to multiply the fear of getting it wrong. In large organisations, a hierarchy can make it much easier to say no rather than yes, for fear of being reprimanded by a more senior figure.
So again, the responsibility resides with the business leaders, to be brave and bold. To not only communicate well themselves but encourage transparency in their staff. This type of empowerment can be liberating and PR teams (both internal and external) can bring their influence to bear on their client contacts. As a profession, we can use the CBI’s report to show why clients need to build trust but we also need to support our clients as they progress on their own journeys to becoming more enlightened about being open and honest organisations.
PR support should help transform the top of an organisation and, just as importantly, assist with that change across the complete business. By taking a holistic approach and working with other departments such as HR, Finance and others, we can assist with communications, crafting messages which are clear, concise and consistent. We have been trained for this and our experience to date will have honed our skills. We can make leaders bold, managers approachable and front-line staff ambassadors.
This, however, needs a long-term approach and, even with the instant broadcast properties of social media, trust will not be won overnight. Many businesses will bring baggage to their external relationships and transparency cannot be just about what is happening now or in the future. As with any relationship, commitment is crucial and should be clearly demonstrated.
Time for change
Trust has evaporated for many institutions over the last few years and even the media has its own share of public distaste. Truth has always been abused and it remains vulnerable today with fake news and an overwhelming deluge of un-authenticated opinion. Our own society’s, seemingly insatiable, appetite for stories is partly to blame but we can be more honest, more open and more transparent in our communications. SRF is very experienced at giving frank advice on how to present an authentic account.