For many businesses, even in today’s globally connected, online world, a sense of place is intrinsically linked to their brand. Obviously, brands such as hotels, restaurants, business parks and tourism products services sell their themselves as destinations, but other businesses can also find value and purpose by being part of their local community.
Easier recruitment, enhanced reputation and better relationships with local government are all worthy corporate objectives but achieving these requires a considered approach and an understanding of where you can contribute.
Every company has a set of stakeholders; groups of people who have an interest in your business. As well as your staff, investors, banks, customers and suppliers, your stakeholders can include organisations which have a direct influence on your business such as regulatory authorities, local councils and groups which have an indirect influence such as lobbying groups and the media.
Adopting a pro-active stakeholders relations approach is a straightforward way to start controlling your reputation, as we explained in our blog post last year.
For many companies being part of a community is seen as making passive financial contributions. To be engaged in your community needs more than mere money. True commitment can be demonstrated through being a facilitator – perhaps for fund-raising, through being an example to others by sharing best practice and through providing time and skilled resources.
In our experience, although funds are always welcome, many groups are just as excited to receive offers of staff volunteers, office and meeting facilities and sometimes just straightforward administrative assistance.
Some of the resources a business can dedicate to its community should be used for listening. Rather than what can we give – ask instead what does the community need? Switching from an opportunity to broadcast good intentions to being prepared to hear the tough problems is a crucial approach and will help businesses avoid virtue-signalling activities.
Some of the issues faced by your local communities will not be solved with a corporate ‘silver bullet’ response. Appreciating that your organisation might need to make a long-term commitment to being just part of a solution will be a much more effective demonstration of the maturity and empathetic nature of your brand.
As part of your community-led approach it is worth sense-checking your current standing with your stakeholders. On community issues is your expert opinion sought out or are you just asked for money? Do people know your history or just the latest headlines? Do your audiences understand the context in which your business operates?
If you want to tell your story and have a meaningful presence in your local community, contact us and we will help you craft a strategic approach.