Corporate Communications – Where Do You Start?

Elsewhere on this blog, I’ve talked about Corporate Religion, and – rather foolishly, perhaps – I said I’d have a go at explaining what it is, what it means and how important it is to the corporate communications professional attempting a new project or assignment. I’d warn you right now that it’s not very funny, or terribly uplifting, so if that’s what you’re here for a) get a new career and b) log on to one of those nonsense social networking sites. Watch a video clip. Exchange some banter with some oddball in another part of the world. Think about nothing.

You see, for any communications strategy to work, there has to be a central message (sounds simple, eh?). A message that everyone – CEO, accounts department, sales guys, post room, IT – not only understands and can articulate but also, to a greater or lesser extent, believes in. (Getting more difficult?)

This is the corporate religion and it is in addition, on top of, if you like, the individual messages that you, as a communicator, define and promote every day. It is the essence of the business/organisation/brand/personality and, from personal experience, it is something that very often (all too often, in fact) doesn’t exist. It’s very easy to find out whether your client, or responsibility (if you’re in-house), has a corporate religion. Find the most senior person you can (now would be good) and ask them what it is that the business/organisation/brand (etc etc) means. Actually means.

If they hesitate – even for a second – they’re lost. How on earth can the value of an organisation be promoted effectively (and that’s what we do, people) if it doesn’t understand itself?

So – Corporate Religion. How is it defined? Simply put, your corporate religion should be at the meeting point of three things (and in no particular order:

1) What other people think about you

 2) What your people think about you

3) What you think about you

(For ‘you’ read company, organisation or brand, for ‘other people’ read suppliers, customers and opinion formers, for ‘your people’ read employees and partners and for ‘you’ (again) read the directors of the company, organisation or brand.)

Somewhere, in the middle of all of this, is your righteous truth. Your corporate religion. I’m not going to tell you how to do this – OK, I’ll give  you a clue – attitudinal research – but the principle must be obvious.

OK – this requires an enormous amount of strength. Not everyone, in fact maybe no-one, is going to like what this throws up, but if you stick with it, what you end up with is an almighty reality that works on numerous different levels:

1) Allows you to communicate on a level with your people and bring them along with you

2) Allows you to communicate with the outside world in a genuine and dispassionate manner (no hyperbole, less spin – better reaction)

3) Allows you to shape the future of the business/organisation/brand

It also binds together the communications disciplines – external and internal – under one banner. No risk of something being said internally that you wouldn’t want said externally. Which happens. Oooops.

No entity with a communications function should be without this, meaning that every entity should have done it, or be prepared to do it. It is not optional, you cannot make this stuff up and if you want transparency, expediency and agreement (from stakeholders) then it’s the only way forward.

Fuller Smith and Turner (London pub owners and brewers) reported their results recently and Michael Turner (the chairman) said (paraphrase) ‘we’re about style, not fashion’. This is the sort of thing we’re talking about – something that anyone involved with their busines can comprehend. A real truth, that runs through the whole of their business.

It might just be, of course, that Michael Turner is a genius……….

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