5 Reasons Why Corporate Brand Isn’t Everything, It’s the Only Thing.

Linda Dunbar, Global PR and Corporate Communications Strategist

Much has changed since the sponsorship of Masterpiece Theater by Mobil was considered corporate brand execution. Authenticity and values are now well-established elements of corporate brand but even that is just the beginning. Values are essential to defining who you are as a company. And while stakeholders are looking at values, they are looking for brand connection. Values must be activated to create brand connection, especially if you are consumer-facing.  Companies must live by the values they set out. Especially today when company values are posted on the company website for all to see and a social media crisis can be just a few tweets away at any time. 

In a world where people are seeking purpose, where everyone wants to make a cathedral, not merely cut stone, customers and employees expect more. Armed with iPhone video, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they are going to get it! The journey of creating and living this narrative against an ever-changing backdrop is corporate branding today. 

1) The Corporate Contract Has Changed

The contract between companies and stakeholders, particularly the critical core triad of investors, employees, and customers has changed.

Companies are being asked to do more. As BlackRock’s Larry Fink pointed out in his 2018 Letter to CEOs, “We also see many governments failing to prepare for the future, on issues ranging from retirement and infrastructure to automation and worker retraining. As a result, society increasingly is turning to the private sector and asking that companies respond to broader societal challenges. Indeed, the public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose…Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”[1]

“Doing more” for employees, customers, the environment, society, the global community, requires prioritizing corporate commitments outside of selling a product while tying these commitments to the business in a sensical way. Hence the rise in Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Sustainability & Governance, and Diversity & Inclusion.  All of these initiatives are embedded in values.  Corporate values clarify what are you committed to, why, and how are you going to go about it. A well-crafted corporate brand leverages those values, becoming a critical differentiator.

Other large asset managers like Vanguard and State Street also recognize the need for companies to change their assumptions about how they do business. When BlackRock, Vanguard, and State Street, representing a combined total of over $13 trillion in assets under management, are pushing companies to rethink how they engage, that changes everything. 

2) Millennials Require It

While still only 35% of the US workforce, Millennials are now 70 million strong and their influence continues to grow. It’s not always a good idea to generalize about that many people but – Millennials want to be proud of where they work.  Everyone wants to be proud of where they work but for many Millennials, feeling aligned with the values of their employer is table stakes.  As customers, they make purchase decisions based on “buy-cotting” and supporting the brands they like based on values. Tom’s Shoes comes to mind.  As investors, they want to invest in values and societal impact.  And they choose employers based on values.  If they don’t feel resonance within a few years, they are going to move on.

In addition to being digital natives living in a e-world that iterates to their needs and wants, Millennials have come into a real world without pensions or job security. There is little personal benefit to sticking around after bonus time, unless they want to. They saw their parents get laid off during their prime working years. They saw the Great Recession wreak havoc.  They reinvented the gig economy.  With mythic entrepreneurial options always looming and the rise of personalized expectations around their interactions with companies and products, they believe they have no time to waste working in or buying from a place that doesn’t make them happy every day.

3) What Plays in Vegas Does Not Stay in Vegas Anymore

The barriers between what goes on inside a company and public access to that information are lower than ever.  Having a coherent, contemporary narrative about your company for employees and customers, investors, media, and other stakeholders is a must.  The inside-out nature of crafting this narrative will ensure internal alignment– which is also a must today, particularly when the membrane between what is internal and external is now highly permeable because of technology, social media, and general expectations. The “incident” that happened on the work floor of that remote factory outpost you inherited in the last acquisition can be on social media and go viral within a day.

Increased expectations of company behavior and adherence to company values juxtaposed against dissolving barriers between internal and external communications make a clear understanding of the corporate brand critical.  As consumer and employee expectations increase and barriers between internal and external communications and information drop, companies need to have a clear understanding of their corporate brands.  A corporate brand is a promise to customers as well as a clear, defined set of values for employees to live by.

4) Values Help When Things Go Wrong

Consumer-facing businesses are on the hot seat today like never before. Not a day goes by without some kind of social media or other crisis.  For companies with many touch points across the country or the world, the risk of incident is high when thousands of employees are interfacing with customers and the general public around the clock.

Case in point: The incident at the Portland, Oregon DoubleTree by Hilton between a security guard, a manager, and a hotel guest talking on his cell phone in the lobby. The security guard and manager were white. The guest was black. He recorded a portion of the incident on his cell phone.

The security guard and manager called the police, for no clearly-articulated reason. When the guest told the hotel security guard that he was staying at the hotel, the security guard replied, on video for all to see, “Not anymore.”  The security guard, manager, and police then forced the guest to remove his personal items from his hotel room and leave the hotel.

According to news reports, this gentleman then checked into a nearby Sheraton hotel. The security guard and manager at DoubleTree by Hilton were fired seven days after this incident was picked up on social media, and within 48 hours of it hitting the press.  The hotel issued the statement that, “Their actions were inconsistent with our standards and values. We reiterate our sincere apology for what he endured and will work with diversity experts to ensure this never happens again.”

The fact is, the incident never should have happened. But things like this can—and do—happen every day to major global companies.

According to the DoubleTree newsroom, “Every hotel brand claims to care about guests, so we know that it’s in our actions that we have to stand apart. Real. Attentive. Cheerful. Flexible. Thoughtful. Honest. Caring.” 

“[Our] core mission is to find ways to make each day more rewarding for every person who encounters and experiences a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel.”

The good news for the DoubleTree is that their corporate values were clear.  The bad news is seven days is too long to respond but it could have been worse. Circling back to current, clearly expressed values allows the company to focus on handling crisis within a pre-defined context.  When you know what you stand for and you are committed to it, you don’t have to spend precious time creating, re-creating, reexamining, or questioning your approach to your corporate reputation. You already know what you promised. The right values make it easier to focus on resolving a potential crisis quickly and in the right way.  

The question remains as to whether DoubleTree has done enough. In the case of the Starbucks incident in Philadelphia in which a white manager called the police and had two black customers removed from the store, for no clear reason, the company closed stores across the country for diversity training. In addition, the CEO met with the two customers to personally apologize and made it clear that this manager’s behavior was in no way aligned with Starbuck’s corporate values.

In contrast, Papa John’s continues to enable a toxic culture of its own making due to its unwillingness to grapple with diversity issues that include racism and sexual harassment. Antiquated corporate values like focus, superiority, and constant improvement are minimum requirements to do business today and woefully miss the mark (https://www.papajohns.com/company/). They also demonstrate a lack of aspiration and humanity which is essential to corporate brand now.

5) Activating Corporate Brand Values is Essential to Differentiation and Brand Preference.

Today, competition for employees and customers (sometimes the same people) is intense.  In the current environment, corporate brand is a critical element of brand preference.  Differentiation is more important than ever and vital in preventing commoditization. And in my opinion, differentiation must be emotional, and must resonate.  To quote Carl W. Buehner, “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel.”[2]

In a world where people are looking for mission and purpose, the notion of “personal benefits” associated with corporate brand has emerged.  According to the Corporate Executive Board, a division of Gartner research [CEB], “personal benefits” are the biggest drivers of brand connection. “Personal benefits” drive three times more brand connection than authentic values do.[3]  Today, corporate values are the foundation of personal benefits, not the final destination.

Brand preference is based on perceived “personal benefits.”They are all about self-actualization and include “sense of meaning and direction in one’s life; certainty about one’s life and surroundings, and freedom to control one’s life”. [4]  Interestingly, these benefits look very similar to what employees expected from companies prior to layoffs and lack of pensions became a routine way of doing business. But now, the expectation of “personal benefits” is held by employees and customers alike as the barrier between internal and external communications and expectations continues to breakdown.

What Is the Payoff for Getting It Right?

Getting corporate branding right is worth the effort and yields tangible results.

According to the CEB, creating and executing against a compelling corporate brand promise translates into a willingness by 55% of recruits to switch employers for a flat salary. If the corporate brand resonates, 64% of customers are willing to pay a premium for a product or service.  If the corporate brand can move people from values like “the brand respects my community’s local values and traditions” to personal benefits like “the brand helps me achieve my goals,” 74% of community members and activists are likely to make decisions that are supportive of the company. In addition, 40% of social media users are willing to promote the company if they feel a connection.[5] 

Summing It Up…

Nowadays, customer preference, employee engagement, and shareholder value is all about corporate brand.  Mission, purpose, values, authenticity and trust are the new corporate brand guidelines. If you get it right, you can mitigate risk associated with prolonged crises and create the virtuous circle of happy customers, dedicated employees, and investor confidence that enhances enterprise value.

What do you think?

If this article resonated with you, please feel free to connect with me directly and also comment or share.


About the Author: Linda Dunbar is a global PR and corporate communications strategist, business enthusiast, and lifelong learner. A story telling architect who provides strategic counsel across functions and levels, she has extensive progressive leadership experience in PR, media relations, corporate communications, and international strategic planning at dynamic, top-tier, global Fortune 500 companies.  Her passion is helping companies tell their stories.  Linda has previously held communications leadership roles at organizations including Sterling Bancorp., Dow Jones, Ford Motor Company, the American Institute of CPAs, and Philip Morris International as well as at entrepreneurial PR ventures. She has a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies from Princeton University and a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School, jointly administered by Harvard and Tufts Universities. Linda can be reached at linda@thepurposedrivencompany.com.

[2] 1971, Richard Evans’ Quote Book by Richard L. Evans, (“Selected from the ‘Spoken Word’ and ‘Thought for the Day’ and from many inspiring thought-provoking sources from many centuries”) Quote Page 244, Column 2, Publishers Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Verified with scans; thanks to the librarians of Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah)

[3] CEB Communications Leadership Council, Winning Preference Through the Corporate Brand, November 30, 2017

[4] Ibid

[5] CEB Communications Leadership Council, Winning Preference Through the Corporate Brand, November 30, 2017




Shaping Governance Messaging that Builds Corporate Brand

Remember the Emotional Drivers

Shaping Governance Messaging that Builds Corporate BrandAndrew Blum and Robert E. Swadosh

With the 2017 proxy season well underway, it’s important to remember that what you convey about corporate governance impacts far more than investors alone. It also has the potential to leverage the power of your corporate brand and enhance your corporate reputation. Just ask the scores of activist investors who increasingly focus on issues far broader than operating performance – and do so in real time.

Messaging is key at all times, not just at the Annual Meeting but also during proxy fights and in response to activist investors, like the May 10 move by Whole Foods revamping its board. Developing proper investor messages is not simply about responding to governance issues or updating the same old metrics. Ironically, perhaps the most effective way to create compelling investor messaging is to know what all of your client’s key audiences are thinking.

At the start, understand that that up to 20% of non-algorithmic investment decision-making is affected by emotional rather that rational factors. So in addition to providing strategic communications advice, you are also acting as a de facto psychologist. This is particularly relevant as you help a CEO and CFO better understand the underlying dynamics that move your investors.

One way to ensure accuracy and consistency in company messaging is using the PR quiver in your IR toolbox. Today that includes social media content as well as traditional media vehicles such as press releases and advisories for business and trade media relevant to all constituencies. And don’t think its passé to reach out to key reporters.

Approaching IR communications generally, it’s important to tell your  client upfront that all companies face heightened uncertainty and increasing doubts about the best path forward – especially in an era of social media and humongous amounts of data (both useful and other.)

In fact, all of a company’s constituents – employees, customers, investors, and competitors alike – find themselves in the same web.

Clients need to understand that now is the time to ensure they have a handle on their most important audiences – and in real time.

We as IR/PR practitioners need to help clients evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their efforts by providing objective guidance that identifies the most promising directions for communications strategy, establishes priorities, sets reasonable expectations, and implements positioning and messages that address multiples audiences and similar needs.

How to make it happen?

We recommend using qualitative and quantitative techniques to develop a holistic view of the corporate brand – one that takes into account cultural as well as business and financial factors. This provides significant actionable insights into the attitudes, motivations and behavior of a company’s most important constituencies.

The first step is to establish a baseline: a rolling, qualitative research study that generates rapid response strategic development feedback. It will quickly provide an understanding of how investors, business and trade media, a cross-section of C-suite influencers, and others assess the client’s issue or situation and its longer-term impacts.

The objectives of this study are (1) to gauge the attitudes and beliefs of key audiences about the client and (2) to identify sources of discontinuity between these perceptions and the messages the company is intending to convey.  The research aims to determine the Company’s strengths and weaknesses and whether its messages are clear, credible, persuasive and differentiating.

How often? Quarterly at minimum, typically tied to earning reports; and then attendant to significant events, be they planned or responsive.

At minimum this will help create opportunities. At worst, it may prevent one of those feared “jump off the cliff moments.” At best, we it provides valuable insight into the psyche of your key influencers and decision makers.

 

About the Authors: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at ajbcomms@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms

Rob Swadosh is founder of the Swadosh Group. A communications strategist and trusted advisor to C-suite executives, boards, and corp comms/marketing directors, he has worked at The Dilenschneider Group, Golin, and MWW Group., and contributed to iconic corporate brand transformations including Allstate, IBM, Johns Manville Corporation, and PwC. Contact him at rob.swadosh@swadoshgroup.com  

 

 

 

 




Big Hack Attack: Protecting Corporate Reputation and Brand Value in the Wake of a Data Breach

Editor’s Note: Are you interested in learning more about Reputation Risk Management? Register for PRSA’s Reputation Risk Management Certificate Program https://bit.ly/prsarrm

 

Scott Farrell, President, Global Corporate Communications, Golin

When you Google “top crises of 2015,” included in the top-10 of nearly every list are one or more of the high-profile data breaches of 2015. Chick-Fil-A, Blue Cross Blue Shield, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Harvard University, American Airlines and dating service Ashley Madison are just a few of the organizations that fulfilled the prophecy of former FBI director Robert Mueller III, who said at a 2012 RSA cybersecurity conference, “There are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be hacked.” 

Big Hack Attack: Protecting Corporate Reputation and Brand Value in the Wake of a Data BreachWhile the data don’t yet suggest that the pervasiveness of cybercrime has reached the saturation point suggested by Cisco CEO John Chambers, who echoed Mueller in a 2015 World Economic Forum blog post and said that the two types of companies were “those who have been hacked and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked,” the frequency and sophistication of cybercrime incidents continues to escalate at an astounding pace. 

The cybersecurity industry’s most exhaustive annual study of data breaches confirms this. Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigations Report cited 1,367 definitive data breaches in 2013. In 2014, that number rose to 2,100 and jumped to 3,141 in 2015 — nearly a 230 percent increase over three years. Verizon also acknowledges it’s not likely every breach is covered by its annual tracking study, so the growth rate could be even more impressive.

Breaches are broadening in scope as well, without regard for an organization’s public or private status, sector or size. No organization is bulletproof when it comes to the potential compromise of data. 

A costly situation

The threat is significant, and so are the costs. A recent Forbes Insights report pegged the cost of cyberattacks to businesses at $400 billion to $500 billion a year. But closer to home for the PR professional is the potential reputation and brand damage that accompanies a breach. 

In a survey by U.K. fraud-prevention company Semafone, 86 percent of respondents said they would not or would be very likely to not do business with a company that had faced a data breach involving credit or debit card information. According to a report published by Forbes Insights and IBM, 46 percent of companies have suffered damage to reputation and brand value as a result of a data breach. And senior corporate executives surveyed by Experian Data Breach Resolution and Ponemon Institute estimated that on average, a brand’s loss of value ranged from $184 million to $332 million, depending on what information was compromised.

For the PR professional tasked with protecting organizational reputation and brand value, these facts and trends will trigger more than a few sleepless nights. If your organization has been the target of a breach, then hopefully you were prepared and the communications process was flawless. Or you’ve already learned from the miscues and mistakes that come from not being prepared. 

Crisis preparedness and management

If your current risk assessment and crisis plan do not address how your organization will manage stakeholder engagement in the event of a data breach, put that task at the top of your to-do list today. And while you’re at it, if your crisis plan is more than three years old, or it hasn’t been tested by an actual event or simulation during the same period of time, then it’s time for a refresh. The impact of social media alone on crisis preparedness and management is enough to render even modestly dated plans obsolete. 

Sit down with your chief information security officer and the IT team, along with risk management or other teams in your organization that are tasked with business continuity. Make sure the communications plan is fully aligned with both the IT group’s operational plan for breach management and the business continuity plan. Clearly define communications’ role in both plans so the rules of engagement are clear and don’t have to be developed or negotiated in the heat of the crisis.

Become familiar with the relevant state and federal disclosure requirements for a breach. Speed is critical during a crisis, but everything must be done in the context of legal and operational considerations. 

Finally, add a data breach simulation to your crisis training schedule. And if you don’t test your team or your plan with simulations at least once a year, start now and make a data breach the first exercise. The best plan on paper can’t always account for conflicting personalities and priorities in the war room. It’s best to work those out in a drill rather than in the heat of a data breach when millions of dollars, legal liability and corporate and brand reputations are on the line. 

Big Hack Attack: Protecting Corporate Reputation and Brand Value in the Wake of a Data BreachFundamental communications truths

In a 2014 consumer sentiment survey by Experian Data Breach Resolution and Ponemon Institute, half of all respondents said they had personal information lost or stolen as a result of a data breach in the previous year. That is a 100 percent increase from the same survey conducted two years earlier, when 25 percent surveyed were victims of a breach. 

As data breaches become more common, it is important to keep in mind three fundamental truths:

  • Few people will care about how your organization got into the situation in the first place, so go easy on the backstory. They want to know that the management team is on top of the situation and that they’re going to fix things fast.
  • News of the breach and customer reaction will move at Internet speed, which means you have to as well, but always within the operational constraints of the IT team and legal and regulatory requirements regarding disclosure.
  • How your organization manages the aftermath impacts reputation and relationships with stakeholders more than the breach. Communications plays a significant role in that process.

As with all crises, the way communications is managed at the outset heavily influences both immediate and downstream responses and reactions from media and stakeholders. With that in mind, remember:

  • Initial messaging should focus on the facts. Be as straightforward and transparent as possible. Explain the risks that consumers will face as a result of the breach. Often, what they imagine could happen will be worse than what actually happens. Anxiety drops in the presence of good information. And when anxiety drops, so does negative sentiment about the company.
  • Breaches are measured and their newsworthiness is determined in part by the number of data records, or terabytes, stolen. Resist the numbers trap. If you share a low number, which may be all you have at first, you run the risk of having to increase the number later, triggering another news cycle and the impression that the company really isn’t in control of the situation. Share a high number too early and you may escalate the likelihood of negative coverage and consumer response. It’s best to leave the door open on numbers (while complying with disclosure requirements) until there is reasonable certainty by the experts on the scale and scope of the breach.
  • Tell people what the company is doing to fix the problem and, as soon as possible, outline the reforms that will prevent a similar breach from happening again. They need to see a management team in control and tapping the right resources inside and outside of the company to solve the problem once and for all.
  • Let people know what you’re going to do for them. Often, it’s an immediate offer of identity theft protection and credit monitoring. The sooner customers see that their concerns are going to be addressed, and addressed because the company feels it’s the right thing to do versus what it’s legally obligated to do, the less anxious they are.
  • Finally, don’t underestimate the power of an apology. In the Experian/Ponemon study, 43 percent of respondents said a “sincere and personal” apology would prevent them from discontinuing their relationship with a company following a data breach. That was closely followed by 41 percent who mentioned free identify theft protection and credit monitoring services. The next most-highly cited remedial action — access to a call center to respond to concerns and provide information — was mentioned by only 15 percent of respondents. Clearly, the least expensive option could be the most powerful.

Studies indicate that the time it takes to repair the reputational damage and diminished brand value resulting from a data breach ranges from eight months to more than a year, depending on the nature of the breach. A properly developed and tested crisis communications plan and flawless execution in the heat of the moment are the best ways to ensure that your organization will emerge from a breach with minimal impact on its reputation and relationships with stakeholders, as well as put your company on a fast track to a rapid recovery. 

 

 This article originally appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of PRSA’s The Strategist

 

 




Long Island-based Brand Storytelling Agency Named Content Marketing Firm of the Year by Corporate Insider

CommPro.biz Editorial Staff

Communication Strategy Group, a brand storytelling agency, was named Content Marketing Firm of the Year – USA in the exclusive Business Excellence 2017 list produced by Corporate Insider, an online gateway to the world of business. According to the editors, “Business Excellence 2017 celebrates the success and achievements of the world’s most renowned businesses and individuals.” This year’s list can be viewed here.

“Communication Strategy Group was founded on the power of story and content marketing through brand storytelling to connect and promote business growth,” says Arthur Germain, Principal and Chief Brandteller for Communication Strategy Group. “We are proud to be recognized for our content marketing prowess among the excellent companies in this year’s Business Excellence Awards.”

The 2017 Business Excellence awards display recognition of firms from around the globe. This year’s winners have shown commitment to striving to achieve results, backed by client feedback, which was collated during the nomination process.

“We were simply overwhelmed with the volume of nominations received for this year’s Business Excellence awards. The judging panel had no easy task in selecting the winners, and I personally am very proud of each and every winner. It is always delightful to see how firms all over the world have developed and grown. And it is with great confidence to publish the 2017 Business Excellence Award Winners Guide. I look forward to visiting some of the winning firms on my travels in 2018,” said Arianna Smith, Head of Corporate Awards at Corporate Insider.

 




Miami’s Marc Roberts on Ways To Create Newsworthy Content for Brands

How Housewares Brands Stand Out in a Crowded Market

 

When it comes to creating newsworthy content for brands, there are five different elements. Incorporating each one into a story results in any brand being able to create newsworthy content that’s going to get media coverage, whether from local or national outlets. 

Story Impact

The first element of newsworthy pieces of content is the impact the piece is going to have on the lives of the readers, and the reasons they should care about reading it. This element should be incorporated into the piece as early as possible because in today’s fast news cycle, companies need to grab the attention of the audience in the first couple of sentences. 

Timing

Another important element in newsworthy content is how the piece matters to readers currently. Plenty of readers are already familiar with older information, which means there’s no point in including anything that’s old news in a piece. That’s why each piece of content should be timely and relevant to current events or trending topics. 

Topical

Similar to the last point, all newsworthy content is either trendy or topical – it centers around a current trend or topic. For example, once the holiday season rolls around, companies should be creating stories that center around different holidays throughout the season. 

Conflict

Most people enjoy reading stories that have some sort of conflict in them, and watching how those  stories unravel. That means companies that are able to present two different or opposing arguments in a piece are able to create newsworthy content that’s well-rounded and ready for publishing. 

Human Interest

Finally, everyone loves reading stories about other people, which is why social media platforms are so popular:  they feature content and stories from other people – such as when we have been among the first to accept cryptocurrency deposits on real estate.

This is another important element that companies should keep in mind when looking to create newsworthy content that will  receive media coverage and interest from the public. There are plenty of stories from people everywhere, and it’s relatively easy for companies to find a unique human interest story that’s relevant to their target audiences, that they haven’t heard before, and that they will be happy to learn about.


About the Author: Marc Roberts is a Miami based entrepreneur.




How LifeWorks Rebranded Itself During COVID-19

Lifeworks

 

Get practical, helpful insights from a pandemic-era corporate rebrand case study.

Robby Brumberg, Ragan Communications

A corporate rebrand is never easy. Try doing that during a global pandemic.

LifeWorks, the global well-being solutions business formerly known as Morneau Shepell, faced this issue during the past year.

Rod Cumming, LifeWork’s VP of global corporate and internal communications, recently shared insights and takeaways from the company’s rebrand with Ragan’s Communications Leadership Council.

Here are some lessons from the call.

Creating one vision, one voice

Morneau Shepell, LifeWorks’ former nom de entreprise, has a long history of growth spanning 55 years. In recent years, the company made several acquisitions and became a much more global presence—far beyond its beginnings in Canada. Now, with 7,000 employees, $979 million revenue in 2020 and clients in 160+ countries, the company wanted to position itself in a manner more befitting a truly global operation in the total well-being space.

Following several years of market research, the company made the decision in late 2020 to proceed with the new LifeWorks name. This new name aligned well with the company’s purpose—”Improving Lives, Improving Business”—and its refreshed corporate narrative as a leader in providing digital and in-person solutions that support the total well-being of individuals, and by doing so, helps clients improve their business.

Continue reading here…




How to Create or Build a Brand That Lasts

Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency

I always dreamed of becoming an attorney or actress, but things didn’t quite work out that way. After majoring in acting, my professors said I was too dramatic. As for law school, my prosecutor dad felt I was more of an advocate. My parents said I could only live at home for a month after graduating college. I accepted the first offer I received, working in-house at General Electric. 

At the time, I wasn’t interested in technology. But, looking back, I realized that being surrounded by engineers and scientists helped me decipher complex technology terms. Decades later, I work with clients in a wide variety of B2B sectors, including, FinTech, AI, ML, financial services, blockchain and crypto.

Since the pandemic, business executives like book authors, small businesses and startups founders have reached out to learn how to amplify their brands.

How to Decode Your Value 

Throughout the pandemic, I was struck by all the people who lost their loved ones, jobs, income, and were in-limbo. After thinking about people’s fears, loss of confidence, and mental wellness, I wanted to find a way to help. 

Instead of thinking about the future, look back at your background, life experiences, relationships, and interests to see yourself through a wider lens. You’re not defined by the work you do (or did), your salary, role, age, gender of other self-limiting beliefs. Life is not one long trajectory, but a series of steps you take along the way. 

For example, when you were young, what did you love to do? Despite not being an actress, my schooling taught me about non-verbal communication, how to present and deliver an experience to an audience. I continue to use these skills during guest appearances on podcasts, live shows and at events. 

Even though I never got a law degree, I learned there are two sides to an argument. Beyond knowing your position, understanding other people’s perspectives improves your relationships and helps you learn. While only two examples, they serve to help you think about how your background, experiences, skills, and interests intersect.

Perhaps you only know a little about a topic. If you have a learning mindset, it’s easy to do research, read articles online, watch YouTube videos, and be an active participant. Beyond learning about yourself, you’ll learn about the people with whom you work. 

For example, during a podcast I was on with host, Russ Swanger, he said, “It’s not uncommon for  us to be so involved in our daily lives that we’re unaware of the direction in which we’re going. If we take stock of where we are now, along with our abilities and interests, we can  create a plan and incorporate them into our goals. The Decode Your Value Process and Life Skills Tree is a great tool designed to help you organize, visualize, and understand your values, skills, competencies and experiences to create the type of life you deserve!”

You’re Multifaceted 

During our formative years (early childhood through eight-years of age) we develop our physical, intellectual, social, and emotional foundations. We’re conditioned to think, behave, and perceive the world in different ways. If you tend to look at situations and outcomes in a negative way, you can learn to shift your thinking.

My friend Deirdre Breakenridge and I often share book ideas. One, is “You Are the Placebo,” by Joe Dispenza. In the forward, Joe writes, “You, and every other human being, are shaping your brain and body by the thoughts you think, the emotions you feel, the intentions you hold, and the transcendental states you experience.”

Another way to think about it is what I was told during physical therapy after an MCL replacement on my right knee replacement. My therapist said, “Change a thought, move a muscle.” When you exercise or use focused attention, you can train yourself to concentrate on a specific activity instead of being in your own head. 

Lise Wagnac focused on the skills she learned as a pre-teen and uses them in her work today. She told me, “My major in college was anthropology. But my parents were disappointed since I had planned to become a doctor. Using the Decode Your Value process I realized  anthropologists are like scientists in that they must remove their biases before doing any analysis. Now, I work in blockchain and summarize complex mathematical concepts using the scientific method to analyze data for blockchain investors.”

Be a Leader, Not a Boss

In Dori Ciccarelli’s case, “Despite hiring and working with my team, we didn’t realize all the underlying skills and resources we had. Knowing what our employees care about helps us hone those interests. The Decode Your Value process and Life Skills tree helped us highlight people’s talents beyond their resume value. Often young professionals switch jobs because they feel undervalued. My goal is to ensure my team is inspired, feel like they’re a significant part of our corporate culture and continue to grow.”

Being successful used to be about how much experience and knowledge you had; tied to your skillset. Now, companies are looking to hire people with soft skills like, being emotionally intelligent, honest, adaptable, ethical, empathetic, creative, and more.

I know many CEO’s who are young (late 20s), others who are mid-career and executives nationally and globally who’ve created their own businesses. Instead of single-mindedly focusing on your career, attending events and conferences, identify side gigs that tap into your personal interests. Consider learning something new or pursuing your passion. 

Take Tara Wimbush, “When I was a child, I loved fashion and food, but my family wanted me to get a stable job so I worked for the government doing IT. Throughout the years, I kept thinking about my college years where I double majored in nutrition science and fashion. Years later, I founded an event planning business.

When I was starting my new company, I remember thinking, who can I trust to be honest with me about what I want to do? I contacted Wendy and we spoke about Decoding Your Value, my love of entrepreneurship and baking. Now, I have my own confectionary business.” 

Change Your Mindset

Have your priorities changed because of the pandemic? While some people are gainfully employed, others are stuck. I continue writing about Decode Your Value because I want you to know that you can learn to shift your thinking and find new opportunities. A critical lesson we’ve learned during the past year is life is short:

  1. If you’re unhappy, change your circumstances 
  2. If you need money, find a side hustle
  3. If you can’t afford where you’re living, move
  4. If you want to learn something new, read and do research online
  5. If you feel isolated, participate in online communities and volunteer 
  6. If you feel lost, find a coach or a mentor
  7. If you feel mentally unwell, get professional help
  8. If you’re sad, stressed, or worried, call friends
  9. If you don’t like your home, move
  10. If you miss socializing, see people again

I’m not saying that any of this is easy, particularly if money is tight. But if you focus on what you want rather than what you don’t, your life will change. Perhaps you’ve heard or been told to trust the universe. Maybe you don’t believe in a higher power. Regardless, if you trust in yourself, you’ll find solutions to problems as you’ve done in the past. Think of this  time as an opportunity. 

Despite having used F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote in previous articles, it best represents how I feel and believe you can too. For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”


About the Author: Wendy Glavin is a 30-year marketing communications veteran, a full-service agency owner, a published writer, a technology columnist and a global speaker. Her website is: https://wendyglavin.com/. Contact her at: wendy@wendyglavin.com




Havas PR Middle East Rebrands as Red Havas Middle East

Dubai joins Red Havas’ Merged Media micro-network, spanning APAC, North America, Europe and Middle East 

CommPRO Editorial Staff 

Havas PR Middle East, the Dubai-based agency distinguished by its leadership across luxury, lifestyle and corporate communications, will now be named Red Havas Middle East. The rebrand signals the agency’s entry into Red Havas’ global micro-network of Merged Media agencies, which integrates earned, social and experiential capabilities with content at the heart. This strategic move brings the Middle East team together with Red Havas offices across the U.S., Australia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, U.K., Italy, France and Germany.   

“Welcoming Red Havas Middle East to our network represents a key milestone for the group as we’re increasingly seeing the region become a strategic priority for both current clients and new business,” says James Wright, global chairman of the Havas PR Global Collective and global CEO of Red Havas. “From retail and technology to tourism and hospitality, the breadth of opportunity in the Middle Eastern economies is staggering. We’re delighted to enrich our full-service global PR offering with the expert talent at Red Havas Dubai.”   

Red Havas brings together agencies from Havas’ global PR group with the goal to provide clients greater access to best-in-class thinking and opportunity for seamless expansion into key markets.  

Dana Tahir, general manager of Red Havas Middle East, says, “Red Havas has already delivered on its brand promise as a transformational micro-agency network helping to redefine PR and its value to clients. By rebranding under the Red Havas banner and adopting the Merged Media model, we’re better able to bring the future of PR and communications to our clients—and to kick open the doors of the Middle East and North Africa to Red Havas clients everywhere.”  

Dany Naaman, CEO of Red Havas Middle East, adds, “Established in 2005, our PR team continues to go from strength to strength and has recently announced a range of new business wins with leading global brands. The Merged Media proposition of Red Havas enables us to further strengthen our PR vertical without losing the advantage of integration. Along with the powerful content, social media and data capabilities that exist within our Middle East village, we’ll now bring a more streamlined, efficient and cost-effective solution to making a meaningful difference for our clients.”  

The Dubai rebrand comes fast on the heels of the introduction of Red Havas Health, a global micro-network focused on health to meet increasing demand from clients globally.  Red Havas is part of the Havas PR Global Collective, the PR and communications arm of the Havas Group that comprises approximately 40 agencies around the world and more than 1,300 employees.  




The Power of Words and Images: 5 Things to Know About Inclusive Brand Communications

 

Linda Descano, CFA®, EVP and Head, Corporate Communications and Executive Visibility, Red Havas

When I was taunted for being “chubby” or “fat” growing up, my parents encouraged me to retort that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Years later, I mustered that phrase once more, but this time I only said it to myself when colleagues openly despaired over me being a “fat bride.” One had the gall to leave the business card of a diet doctor on my desk. 

I fully realize the biases that I’ve faced because of my weight, and later, my age, could have been far more damaging had I been a different race, faith, sexual orientation or gender identity. I am a white woman. And yet… I have been told that I couldn’t possibly be a geologist because, as an Italian-American Catholic woman, my options for the future included making babies, making meatballs and growing even fatter. Working in finance for many years, I was reminded time and time again that I couldn’t possibly grasp certain nuances of debt instruments because I lacked an MBA and—horror of horrors—went to a state school for university. And don’t get me started on what I heard as I passed age 40, and then 50. 

While I survived those taunts and have had a successful and fulfilling career, the truth is that words do hurt. They leave invisible scars that fuel self-doubt and give rise to the sort of impostor syndrome that chips away at your confidence and your soul. It takes incredible energy to keep those “whispers” under control day in and day out, year after year, decade after decade. 

And it’s not just words that have impact. We all know the power of images. When I was planning an advertising campaign for a business I led at the time, I made it clear to our agency that I wanted a campaign that reflected all the women we serve. To immerse themselves in our brand, I asked the creatives to attend one of our events. Regardless, every mock-up they showed me featured young, blond, thin white women. And while that demo was part of our community, it wasn’t the majority. I certainly didn’t see myself reflected in their proposed “faces” for our campaign, and neither did my team. 

After we had stomached enough mansplaining by the all-male creative team on why we were wrong, we switched to a new agency and, with their support, ditched the entire “model” concept entirely. In the end, we decided the members of our community would be the faces of our campaign, showcasing our diversity in every way. Not only did our community rally around our approach, so did other brands and communicators, earning us multiple awards. It was truly a career highlight.

These issues have been particularly top of mind for me these days. After a year of landmark protests over the relentless inequity and injustice that people of color face, I decided my response to this year’s International Women’s Day #ChooseToChallenge campaign would be to use my voice and platforms to highlight how each of us can be more inclusive in our communications, whether it’s how we engage one on one with colleagues, friends and families, or how we craft creative and copy on behalf of the brands and organizations we work for.

This became the springboard for the March episode of Red Havas’ monthly “Red Sky Fuel for Thought” podcast. To help us think through the topic of inclusive communications, we turned to Carmella Glover, president of Diversity Action Alliance, a coalition of public relations and communications leaders working to accelerate issues of diversity, equity & inclusion in our profession. We also reached out to my fellow New York Women in Communications board member Brandi Boatner, IBM’s manager of digital & advocacy communications, who is one of my “sheros” and who has spoken extensively to PR and communications pros about the importance of brands being “socially thoughtful” in their communications. After reading the latest Havas Prosumer Report on “The Future of Aging,” I also asked my Havas colleague Sébastien Houdusse, chief strategy officer for our BETC agency, to join the discussion.

You can listen to our 25-minute discussion here— and I hope that you will, as I’m certain you will walk away as inspired and energized as I was. For those looking for the CliffsNotes version, below are the takeaways that I’ll be applying to my communications going forward:

  1. Know where you stand: For inclusive communications to have integrity and authenticity, they must reflect the organization’s values and commitments to DE&I. And no matter how inclusive you make your communications, pledges without action will tarnish your brand and the goodwill you’ve built with stakeholders.
  1. Acknowledge that unconscious bias exists: Being a truly inclusive communicator starts by recognizing that each of us brings some unconscious biases to the table—and we need to consistently evaluate our word and visual choices with a critical lens. Consider tapping colleagues from diverse groups and experiences to review your message for unintended bias. Keep a log or glossary of terms you come across—or perhaps personally have used in the past—that need to be wiped from use, such as “I’ve been slaving away,” “As low man on the totem pole,” “We need to schedule pow-wow,” “I’m so OCD about organizing my emails,” and so forth.
  1. Listen to learn: Inclusive communications is a learning process—and takes an ongoing commitment. Having the right “listening posts” can help you understand your stakeholders’ perceptions of certain words, expressions and images. Additionally, listening enables you to evaluate existing or new communications and content in the context of current conversations.
  1. Be intentional and purposeful: Don’t just focus on what you are going to say, but also consider why you are communicating a certain position or message. Be as open as possible with your audiences. Use neutral language that is clear, concise and respectful to all. 
  1. Images matter: We all know the power of an image, so be sure the visuals you select make your customers and employees feel seen and included—and that your visuals are consistent with supporting copy.

This is a topic I will continue to revisit over the year and welcome those who share an interest in this to reach out with your thoughts and ideas. 


About the Author: Linda is an executive vice president of Red Havas in New York. Linda specializes in providing strategic counsel on corporate communications, executive visibility, issues and crisis management, and Merged Media communications strategies to global corporations and organizations. Prior to joining Red Havas in 2015, Linda was managing director and global head of content marketing and social media at Citi; other roles during her tenure at Citi included president and CEO of Women & Co., the award-winning financial lifestyle community for women, and director and portfolio manager of the Citi Social Awareness Investment program. A PR News PR Professional of the Year and one of Campaign U.S. Digital’s 40 over 40 honorees, Linda brings a unique blend of storytelling experience and investment acumen, complemented by work in B2B, B2C and B2B2C, giving her an uncanny ability to help clients create authentic conversations and campaigns. 




The Growing Threat of Deepfakes to Brand and Executive Reputation

Alex Romero, COO, Constella Intelligence

Fake viral videos, images, and audio clips that appear indiscernibly real are catching public attention in a myriad of ways, as bad actors look to intentionally damage reputations or impersonate key individuals to obtain sensitive data or influence public opinion. Known as a “deepfake,” a portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake,” this synthetic content is created using human image or audio synthesis based on machine learning (ML) or artificial intelligence (AI). Today, the concept and content are tangible, emerging as a legitimate threat to businesses and executives alike.

Moody’s research highlights two alarming facts about today’s digital world: AI is making it easier to damage companies’ credit, reputation, and financial health via deepfakes; and this risk will become harder to manage and mitigate as the AI that enables synthetic media continues to evolve. This means malign influence and disinformation campaigns powered by AI will take more time and resources to definitively disprove. Visit the site www.thispersondoesnotexist.com to see just how far deepfake production technologies have come. The extended time exposure to these types of campaigns is a real threat that compounds the risk associated with deepfakes.

A 2020 Brookings Institution report succinctly outlined the political and social risk presented by deepfakes: “distorting democratic discourse; manipulating elections; eroding trust in institutions; weakening journalism; exacerbating social divisions; undermining public safety; and inflicting hard-to-repair damage on the reputation of prominent individuals, including elected officials and candidates for office.” The risk has been exacerbated by COVID-19. Work environments have transitioned to virtual operations, increasing the risk surface of most organizations and presenting new challenges they may not be equipped to manage – specifically regarding security and crisis response. This new paradigm means more frequent use of digital mediums of communication without the validation and checks offered by in-person communication.

At an enterprise level, deepfakes pose two specific threats: social engineering attacks and public opinion manipulation. Social engineering is characterized by manipulating individuals to perform malicious actions, such as sharing confidential information or providing access to sensitive data. Threat actors can influence public opinion through fabricated videos of executives and other high profile individuals sharing disinformation or making inappropriate statements. Depending on the nature of the weaponized information, this can have far-reaching effects including influencing brand reputation and consequently consumer behavior, in addition to affecting a company’s stock price.

Best practices to prevent such threats include real-time monitoring and analysis of digital media and websites for disinformation. Further, a swift and comprehensive approach to brand reputation management and coordinated crisis response are essential to mitigate the potential damage caused in worst-case scenarios: multiple teams within an organization, from communications to cybersecurity to compliance must now closely work together to anticipate and mitigate such emerging digital risks. Experts across a wide range of fields agree that the battle against the malign use of deepfakes will necessitate the development of advanced security solutions, including threat monitoring and mitigation technologies, along with robust education of employees, stakeholders, and everyday individuals of the risks posed by manipulated audio, image, and video content.

Encouragingly, stakeholders across the digital ecosystem are making strides toward developing methodologies for tracking, analyzing, and delivering solutions that can mitigate the risks associated with deepfakes in the public and private sectors. Some notable initiatives include the Content Authenticity Initiative (CAI) – whose objective is to establish industry-wide standards for digital authenticity verification, assisting in limiting the pernicious effects of deepfakes before they can cause personal or corporate harm. There’s also the Deepfake Detection Challenge, launched by a coalition of partners including Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, among others, in partnership with key academic institutions including Cornell, Oxford, MIT, and UC Berkeley to incentivize and catalyze the development of open-source deepfake detection tools across the broader academic and tech communities. 

Is your organization equipped to safeguard against deepfakes? Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Organization: Is your organization, namely executives and key team leaders, familiar with the most likely crisis scenarios posed by deepfakes – including phishing attacks, potential stock market manipulation, and blackmail or extortion? Are your employees trained and prepared to spot and report deepfakes, suspicious synthetic or manipulated content? 
  1. Technology: Can you accurately identify where, when, and how your brand is mentioned both in the public digital sphere and deep & dark web to establish a basis for mitigation of incidents in real-time? Has your organization evaluated the feasibility of deepfake detection technology for mitigation of threats against your brand, executives, and key individuals? 
  1. Processes: Do you have a cross-organizational incident response plan that clearly details steps for security and communications remediation once an incident occurs? 

Companies large and small must safeguard their reputations and assets amid a digital ecosystem witnessing the proliferation of deepfake technology. Use your peacetime wisely and address the threat of deepfakes today.


About the Author: Alex Romero is COO and co-founder of Constella Intelligence, a company that uses advanced data analytics, artificial intelligence, and proprietary technology to analyze the digital sphere and help protect organizations against malign threats emerging from the digital media ecosystem, including synthetic media such as deepfakes.

 




Combatting Disinformation: Why Your Brand Needs to Understand Its Audience

Dan Brahmy, Co-founder and CEO, Cyabra

News travels fast. Fake news travels faster. Today, brands’ options are nearly limitless when it comes to communicating with their audiences. And in turn, consumers possess unprecedented access to companies and their leadership. Though most brands engage in some form of media listening, savvy communications professionals understand the value of taking it a step further. 

In an online world filled with noise, it can be difficult to discern the real conversations and concerns from the fake. But brands can make the job of detecting disinformation significantly easier, even stopping it in its tracks, by establishing a thorough understanding of their audiences.

Identify unusual behavior 

When you understand your audience’s online behavior, communications professionals are better able to detect disinformation campaigns or online ‘backlash’ in advance. For example, do users typically interact with specific posts at specific times of day? Does the demographic you primarily target typically interact through favorites, but suddenly they’ve embraced re-Tweeting? Have searches for members in company leadership increased seemingly out of nowhere? 

When your traditional monitoring keywords have yet to identify a problem, familiarizing yourself with audience behavior can catch red flags in advance, allowing brands a chance to act proactively rather than reactively. Though a sudden change in online behavior can be a normal part of brand and consumer growth, a keen eye on an audience’s patterns can be the key to stopping disinformation campaigns in their tracks.

Look in the right places 

The internet is a vast place. Consumers can move from Twitter to Reddit to Discord in an instant. All the more reason to understand where your audience lives online. Brands should, of course, be on the lookout for sudden migrations across platforms. But on a more basic level, it is important to understand what social sites consumers engage so they can detect conversations around disinformation and negative content even faster.

More than that, engaging on the platforms your consumers frequent demonstrates a fundamental understanding of your audience and a willingness to meet them where they are. Even though common sense dictates, it still must be said, brands who regularly engage with their base across preferred media channels are likely to pick up discontent among consumers faster than those who do not.

Understand Audience Values 

Most brands can rattle off their target demographics in a heartbeat. It is important to know your audience is comprised of 18 to 34 year old, middle class females with Bachelor’s degrees. But none of that matters if you don’t understand what your audience values, what they prioritize above all else or at least what they’ll go out of their way to make time for. In turn, brands can use ‘values’ keywords to pay attention to general concerns and conversations amongst specific groups of users.

Through the combination of understanding how your audience behaves, where they communicate and what they value, brands can anticipate both positive and negative online moments. Companies who want to stay ahead of the game and act proactively rather than reactively should incorporate thorough audience audits into their branding and anti-disinformation strategies. 


About the Author: Dan Brahmy is the Co-founder and CEO of Cyabra, a SaaS platform that uses AI to measure impact and authenticity within online conversations. Prior to Cyabra, Dan served as a Senior Strategy Consultant at Deloitte Digital and a summer Business Associate at Google EMEA. Since founding Cyabra, Dan and his team have helped brands analyze conversations and unravel hidden insights to identify and categorize disinformation, deepfakes, and the types of accounts they’re coming from (real, bad, or fake). Dan received his B.A. in Business Administration and Marketing from IDC Herzliya.




Communicating Corporate Values

 

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

Consumers are more than happy to support brands and corporations that share their own values, and professionals enjoy working for companies that share their own core values. These two are among many reasons why companies should effectively communicate their values to potential hires and consumers. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of effective ways that companies can demonstrate and share their core values that are both authentic and believable so that the public can take note of what a brand stands for. 

As Alexei Orlov of MTM notes, “A core element of a company’s corporate values is defining the reason why the company exists in the first place – it’s purpose. Plenty of times, people are interested in companies that strive for positive changes, those who have the courage to stand up for important issues to them and their communities.” 

The situation or opportunity doesn’t matter. As long as the company is behaving according to its core values and principles, the public is going to trust the company a lot more. Being consistent demonstrates predictability and creates preference with the consumers. Since values are difficult to deviate from, and they’re not situational, as soon as people realize there is a pattern of good behavior with a certain company, they will understand the company’s values. 

The key element in effectively communicating a brand’s corporate values is having those values reflected in the actions that the brand is taking every single day, the priorities it’s focusing on, and the decisions that are made, especially at the top leadership levels. That way, the consumers and all the stakeholders can really trust the brand and what it stands for. 

Another way to demonstrate a company’s core values is to publicly share stories either about employees or other stakeholders that embody the corporate values. This way, companies can capture the impact of their own values by showcasing how someone connected to the company itself shares the same values and communicates them successfully. 

The brand’s story is a collective narrative of facts and emotions that the company evokes to drive impact and connection with the clients. When a corporation shares the history behind it, the reason why the company exists in the first place, who it is for, and why all of that information matters, it easily boosts consumer loyalty. 

This can be demonstrated through a strong mission statement that’s presented to the public, describing what the company stands for and why those values, in particular, are so important to the company’s ideas of success. When the company truly stands and lives by its own mission statement, it can be echoed through all its actions, decisions, as well as statements from its own customers or employees, which can only further illustrate the company’s core beliefs and values. 

Finally, the last element when it comes to communicating corporate values for companies is testing and taking note of how the public responds to each story the company shares, and then adjusting details according to those responses. It’s important to focus on the facts that people tend to pick up on the most, and really perfect those, and then use them to shape the image of the brand or corporation.


RONN TOROSSIAN - HOW MANY FOLLOWERS DO YOU NEED ON INSTAGRAM TO GET PAID?About the Author Ronn Torossian is CEO Of leading PR firm 5wpr.




Grow Through A Branding Process: Decode Your Value to Reveal Your True Potential

Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency

Throughout 2020, we’ve faced hardships, challenges, uncertainty and learned to “pivot,” focus on “the new normal,” and the “next normal”; terms to make sense of what’s happening in our lives. But, thinking about the what if’s can lead us to contemplate worst-case scenarios, most of which are outside our control.

There are a lot of helpful articles about what we can do to minimize stress like exercising, taking a break from the news and social media, focusing on our health and diet, communicating regularly with colleagues and friends, pursuing hobbies and more.

While activities like these may help you cope, they don’t necessarily address the deeper problem – the need to look within ourselves. When you carve out all the experiences you’ve had in your life, you’re able to look at yourself through a broader lens. The process, I created with my team is called, Decode Your Value.

You may have heard me discussing it in a video or during a live event. Or, if you’ve followed my articles on the subject, you’re learned the importance of looking back to identify your core values, merging your professional and personal personas to seize opportunities, instead of waiting for external events to change.

While recognizing your hard and soft skills is one way to categorize your strengths and weaknesses, Life skills consist of what you’ve learned throughout your life which when you know what they are, you can incorporate them into your brand and your communication.

Recently, I began thinking about how I could illustrate the Decode Your Value method. This sparked a memory for me of hiking in a forest long ago with my family and getting lost. Everywhere we looked was the same; tall trees, colored leaves, fallen branches and rocks. We panicked and didn’t know how to find our way out of the woods.

Perhaps, this is how you feel because of or in spite of the pandemic. To help you make sense of the concept, here’s an illustration of my Life Skills tree below. The trunk represents my core values, the greenery are my notable life experiences and the branches represent how the categories connect:

Here’s a Life Skills tree PDF that you can download and complete. If you need help, please reach out with your questions, ideas or comments. Like a patchwork quilt, create your own life tree and spread the word. Hopefully in 2021, we’ll have a digital forest. 

As we’re nearing the end of 2020, I’ll leave you with one of my most favorite life quotes by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. 

We can make the best or worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”


#SXSW - Wendy GlavinAbout the Author: Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin, a NYC full-service agency. Wendy is a 30-year veteran of corporate, agency, consulting and small business ownership. She specializes in B2B2C marketing communications, executive writing, PR and social media advisory. Her website is: https://wendyglavin.com/. Contact her at: wendy@wendyglavin.com




Tune Your Brand Voice

Jill Kurtz, Owner, Kurtz Digital Strategy

As a marketer, you nurture the voice of your brand. Brands with a consistent voice that resonates with the target audience will achieve the most success.

Sadly, the majority of brands don’t have a clear and consistent voice. Messages conflict. Themes are mixed. You lose the audience because they can’t figure you out.

Here are some things to consider as you tune your brand voice to find the right pitch, tone, and volume to be heard.

Define Your Master Message

We’ve all heard the phrase “sing from the same song sheet.” Does your brand have one? A clear, precise statement defining your identity is the foundation for a sustainable voice that will focus all communications. Your master message should create emotional connections, which are more effective than rational arguments.

Know What Makes You Unique

Saying what you offer is unique is cliche. Demonstrating what makes you unique in your marketing is gold!

Do You

Authenticity is critical. No one can connect with cold, corporate speak. Having a personality and a conscience is paramount. People want organizations to have values. Share your highs and lows. Be personable. Support meaningful conversations.




The Reputation Doctor® Predicts Many Changes In Global Business Before 2021 By Corporate Boards & Private Equity Investors

COVID-19: Implications for Business

Observations from Mike Paul, @reputationdr  – Major changes currently being discussed by global #corporate #boards and private equity #investors in the midst of the #coronavirus crisis include:

  • Searching for younger C-suite #leaders with many years of experience managing large teams of virtual and remote workers with excellent financial results in all industries.
  • Preparing pink slips by end of 2020 for many, older, brick & mortar C-suite executives with poor experience with virtual and remote workforces, poor experience with the digital economy and poor experience in turning corporations around in crises.
  • Hiring more #freelancers with excellent experience in the global #gig #economy.
  • Reducing office/real estate footprints in all countries in all industries across the globe.
  • Investing much more in mobile technology, software and online security.
  • Embracing #diversity and #inclusion for increased profitability, especially those with excellent leadership in gig economies, virtual and remote work experience and excellent leadership ability.

About the Author: Mike Paul is president of Reputation Doctor® LLC. He is a top, strategic, public relations, reputation, corporate communications, crisis management and litigation-support PR expert known worldwide by the registered brand name, the Reputation Doctor®. With over 25 years’ experience in public relations, Mike helps build, maintain and repair the leading reputations and brands of global and national corporations, governments, NGOs, as well as famous people & public leaders in both good times and bad. He is listed among the world’s top crisis PR experts by PRWeek Magazine, called “the Master of Disaster” by Business Week, “Mr. Fixit” by Sports Illustrated and named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior in the U.S. in both 2012 and 2013 by Trust Across America™.

Mike provides global consulting and counseling services to leading corporations, governments, nonprofit organizations and their leaders worldwide. He has also counseled some of the top celebrities and athletes in the world. Some of the clients Mike has counseled over the years include: Citicorp, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, BMW, GM, Toyota, United Airlines, Pfizer, Samsung, Verizon, Timberland, Nuveen, Hitachi, Baxter Healthcare, Manor Care, Dunkin Donuts, Kraft Foods, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Rodney Hampton, Phil McConkey, Mark Gastineau, Freeman McNeil, Kerry Rhodes, Jim Leyritz, Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Aretha Franklin, American Red Cross, FEMA, NEA, the 4As, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Jesse Jackson, Mercedes Benz, Cancer Vixen Fund, Trinidad & Tobago Petroleum Co., The People’s Republic of China, Kim Zolciak, The Soufan Group, Balyasny Asset Management, DMK Enterprises, State University of New York and many others that can’t be mentioned due to strict confidentiality.

Mike is also a global TV, radio and print news commentator regarding all types of reputations in crisis. You’ve seen him weekly on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC News, NBC News, MSNBC, CBS News, CNBC, BBC, truTV, ESPN and Bloomberg TV to name a few.

 




Corporate Social Responsibility for Us All

 

Dr. David Hagenbuch, Ethicist and Professor of Marketing, Messiah University, Author of Honorable InfluenceFounder of MindfulMarketing.org 

By now we all have a story of how the pandemic has negatively impacted us or those we love.  Life has become more difficult for everyone, but for people with disabilities, daily living can be exponentially harder.  One business, however, has made it its mission to meet such needs in an unforeseen way.

Two years ago I wrote about Starbuck’s innovative efforts to serve deaf consumers through a specially-designed store in Washington, D.C.  Among its unique attributes, the store featured an open layout, low-glare surfaces, and employees who knew American Sign Language (ASL).

Even as I, a non-coffee-drinker, applauded the company’s ingenuity and initiative, I could imagine some cynicism about the social responsibility:  “That’s nice, but Starbuck’s is a luxury people can live without.  Who’s meeting the real needs of people with disabilities?”  A former student of mine recently gave me a great answer to that question.

I first heard of Accessible Pharmacy a few weeks ago when that former student, Jason Polansky, told me he was applying to the company for a job.  Jason, who wrote a guest blog for Mindful Marketing about a smart cane and who was my coauthor on a CommPRO article titled, “How Serving Blind Consumers Creates Competitive Advantage,” is completely blind.

Fast forward to a few days ago when I received from Jason the good news that Accessible Pharmacy had hired him to be its Director of Business Development for Central Pennsylvania.  It’s great that the company identified Jason as an ideal candidate for the position and offered it to him.  However, Accessible Pharmacy’s commitment to blind people runs much deeper than its hiring.  Its mission is to make a life-sustaining service safely available to a group of consumers who are consistently underserved.

 

 

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), in the United States in 2015, there were 1.02 million blind people, i.e., who had vision impairment of 20/200 or worse.  Furthermore, 3.22 million Americans had lesser impairment as measured by “the best-corrected visual acuity in the better-seeing eye.”  These numbers are expected to double by 2050 due to an aging U.S. population and more frequent incidents of diabetes and other chronic diseases associated with vision loss.

That’s a significant and growing portion of the population that could benefit from all kinds of products tailored to its unique needs.  As Starbuck’s example illustrated, some business models already have been adapted, but largely missing has been a solution for one of the most critical human needs:  medicine.

People who are blind take most of the same medicine others do, but for individuals who don’t drive, there’s the challenge of traveling to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  Even more significant, blind people can’t easily read the instructions on a bottle of ibuprofen or see that the prescription pill they’re about to ingest is the right one.

According to a 2018 CNBC article, between 250,000 and 440,000 people die each year in the United States because of medical errors, making them the third-leading cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.  Unfortunately, the inability to see the medicine one is taking contributes to those statistics.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”  Medicine certainly is supposed to make people stronger, but wrongly medicating can kill a person, especially someone who can’t see the medicine they’re taking.

Enter Accessible Pharmacy, “a comprehensive, home delivery pharmacy service specializing in the needs of the blind and low vision community and their families,” which claims to be “the only provider of its kind.”

For many companies, asserting such exclusivity is merely a matter of marketing communication, i.e., they simply say that they “specialize” and do nothing to support the claim.  Accessible Pharmacy is different.  Its ‘product features’ back up its brand promise.  For instance, the Pharmacy offers:

  • Patient education and consultation
  • Disease monitoring via teleconference
  • Cognitive behavior assistance
  • Medication regimen management
  • Customized packaging
  • Presorted disposable pill organizers by week or by month
  • Braille and large-print labels
  • ScripTalk: unique RFID tag labels that work with consumer devices to convert text to speech
  • Home delivery of prescriptions, as well as over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements

In researching and writing about corporate social responsibility (CSR), I’ve often considered whether there’s a best way for companies to give back.  Although I believe donation (giving money to worthy causes) and volunteerism (encouraging employees to serve those in need) are both important approaches, the most effective CSR occurs within a business model that marries financial goals with societal good.

 

 

In other words, positive social impact is woven into the very fabric of the business’s operations.  Accessible Pharmacy is an excellent example of such integrated CSR.

Yes, the firm is a for-profit company with income expectations—a fact that might give some people pause.  But should we be wary of Accessible Pharmacy making money by serving blind people?

Of course, there are other ways that organizations doing social good can be funded, for instance by donors and by government.  Such models play important roles in addressing societal needs; however, what happens when donors decide to give elsewhere or politicians elect to underwrite other needs?

The point is, CSR that’s integrated into a for-profit firm’s value chain is highly sustainable.  As long as both producer and consumer benefit, the mutually valuable exchange can continue indefinitely.

When I asked Jason what excites him most about his new position, he mentioned working with people with disabilities and using his marketing background to make a positive impact on their lives.  He undoubtedly will enjoy both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards from his work, as he should.  So should his employer.

It’s very challenging to start and run a successful business.  It’s even harder to maintain one that addresses pressing societal needs as part of its mission.  Accessible Pharmacy does just that, which make it a clear example of “Mindful Marketing.”


About the Author: Dr. David Hagenbuch is a Professor of Marketing at Messiah University, the author of Honorable Influence, and the founder MindfulMarketing.org, which aims to encourage ethical marketing.




Wells Fargo Names Barri Rafferty to Lead Corporate Communications

CommPRO Editorial Staff

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) today announced that Barri Rafferty will join the company to lead the Corporate Communications function. She will report to Bill Daley, vice chairman of Public Affairs, and sit on the company’s Management Committee.

Barri Rafferty - Davos“Barri is a strategic and collaborative leader with deep experience in communications strategy, change management, brand marketing, and business transformation,” said Daley. “We look forward to her leadership as we redefine the company’s culture, voice, and narrative.”

Rafferty joins Wells Fargo from Ketchum, where she was the agency’s president and CEO — the first woman at the time to be the CEO of a top-five public relations agency. Her accomplishments as CEO at Ketchum include repositioning the agency to better adapt to meet the needs and challenges of today’s global and digital marketplace. Under her leadership, the agency won significant recognition, including being the most-awarded PR firm at Cannes 2019, 2018, and 2017.

A strong advocate of diversity and inclusion, Rafferty is a founding member of Omniwomen — an initiative to increase the number, seniority, and influence of women in leadership roles — and she has driven policy change at Ketchum to create a more inclusive workplace. She has spoken on gender parity and unconscious bias at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and Dalian, China, as well as at TEDxEast.

“I look forward to working closely with the new leadership team to help our stakeholders understand the incredible transformation underway at this iconic company,” Rafferty said.

Rafferty holds a master’s degree in corporate communications from Boston University and an undergraduate degree from Tulane University. She was an adjunct professor at New York University and has been a guest lecturer at several universities, including City College of New York, Boston University, and Elon College. She has been named to PRWeek’s “Power 50” for the past two years.




Corporate Identity Kits and Templating: How Communication Professionals Support Small Businesses DTP Departments

Carmelo Cutuli, Of Counsel, Senior Advisor Italy, TransMediaGroup Inc.Carmelo Cutuli, Of Counsel, Senior Advisor Italy, TransMediaGroup Inc.

Corporate identity is defined as the set of elements that represent a company’s image and is part of what is called corporate communication, i.e. the communication of the identity, values and projects of a given entity. Elements such as the company logo, letterhead, website, brochures, signs, social page graphics and others are all part of a visual communication strategy.

As digital printing, social networks and opensource CMS became more and more widespread, corporate use of DTP, an acronym for Desktop Publishing, has been consolidated. Considered as strategic – as long as it does not result in an unprofessional do-it-yourself – DTP offers the opportunity to generate internally communication contents and therefore with greater promptness and control.

PR and Communication professionals working with startups, small businesses, boutique firms and nonprofits, which often have very smart needs but small budgets, are meeting their DTP needs by offering turnkey corporate identity packages at defined costs and times.

This innovative business model is having great success as it allows companies with limited budgets to rely on high-level professionals with years of corporate experience, who, at the cost of established fees, create coordinated corporate image kits for them.

These packages are more cost-effective than tailor-made solutions because they are normally built in a modular way, according to the average needs of the target market category. The professionals who provide these packages also interface with customers in a smart and informal way (Skype, Whatsapp, e-mail, etc.) and deliver all their work digitally, often with record-breaking timing.

Once obtained their kit, customers will have the ability to distribute it to their employees, departments or suppliers, who can use it immediately. Usually, in fact, graphics and templates are created by the professional with sophisticated high-end applications but are delivered to the customer in an open file format, editable by the most popular Office tools so that everybody can easily customize them without affecting the professionalism of results.

Corporate identity, to be effective, must focus on the values and objectives set by the company or the professional. The brand footprint must be simple, distinctive, clean and never exaggerated in design. It must be timeless, a corporate identity must be able to work even after years and overcome the fashions of the moment. If conceived and built with method and strategy, corporate identity generates and conveys a message of coherence and accountability to potential customers and other stakeholders.




Defining What Corporate Communications Means In 2020

Defining What Corporate Communications Means In 2020

 

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

When it comes to building a brand, sharing the right information and messages is crucial. It’s not only important for the brand’s image, but also for making sure that the entire organization is connected within, trying to achieve a unified goal. The new decade arrived with a chaotic start, however, no matter what is happening in the world, corporate communications and communications trends, in general, will always be evolving, which is why the best professionals are good at keeping up with them, and in some cases, even predicting them. 

Additionally, during uncertain times as the ones we’re going through right now, corporate communications, as well as public relations, are practically more important than ever. For the new decade, many experts were predicting that the trending topics of the year, and even the decade, were going to be cyber breaches, enterprise risk management revisions due to global events and other big topics. 

However, with more young people entering the market, we’ve been seeing an increase in demand for authenticity, personalization along with collaboration.

Authenticity

The world is grappling with fake news, especially during this time when everyone’s attention span seems to be shorter than ever. Thankfully, plenty of people are very skeptical of the content that they come across online and have started to question the motives of each person that makes a statement. This is why it’s important for corporate communications to be authentic and transparent, whether the organization is communicating with an external audience or an internal one. Being accountable is the key to building as well as maintaining trust. We’ve seen many corporations fail after getting a reputation of being dishonest, which is difficult to overcome, and it’s also harmful for the internal organization of a brand.

Personalization through Data

The online world is a very crowded place, and it’s too easy for a brand’s message to get lost in all of the noise. That’s why it’s important to have useful data-gathering and analytics tools that are reliable. With enough data, it’s easier for organizations to know the right way to personalize adverts and match customer’s profiles to those advertisements.

Collaboration

With each passing day, we’re seeing that people all over the globe can work on a single project or within a single organization. There’s no need for teams to be in the same location to be able to work together, thanks to the way that humans have started to communicate with each other. 

Additionally, with an increase in the number of young people entering the workforce, the traditional forms of communications are all being replaced with different technologies, which means if organizations want to hire the newest generation of workers, they need to accommodate them accordingly.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is going to be a defining characteristic of corporate communications in 2020, because it is going to be growing at an even faster rate. Since everything is about the customers, who expect to receive relevant content with fast response time, the only thing that can meet that demand is AI.


Ronn Torossian - CEO - 5WPRAbout the Author: 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian is proud of his agencies work in corporate communications.




Women at Work: 5 Essentials to Power Up Your Personal Brand

Stacey Ross Cohen, President & CEO, Co-Communications

Despite great strides made in women’s empowerment and gender equality, women still make up a small segment of top leadership jobs. Successful women understand the power of personal branding.  Personal branding is no longer a luxury – it’s a requirement whether you have your own business or are climbing the corporate ranks. Everybody has a personal brand – – it’s either negative, neutral or positive. And although it may seem personal brands “just happen,” they don’t — the best ones are carefully honed. Here are five indispensable tips to bring your brand to life: 

1) Start with a Plan

Jumping into tactics w/o strategic direction does NOT work. You need to be intentional and proactive. The Discovery phase — a self-audit of your passions, expertise, achievements, values, and goals — is vital for success. But just as important as understanding you is understanding your audience — which may include board members, clients, potential employers, employees, strategic relationships, or the community at large. Define your target audience and arm yourself with intelligence about what drives them to take action. Determine who you’re talking to: consider age, gender, personality and profession. Then, identify your audience’s pain points: how can you solve their needs? What is their preferred channel of communication? Personal branding is not a matter of me-me-me—it’s about your value to others. In order to stand out, gather intelligence on your competition. Who else is doing what you’re trying to do? Why should you be selected for that coveted position or promotion? Why should someone hire your company instead of another? By plotting all this out, you’ll crystallize your competitive advantage and be well-positioned to put your stake in the ground.   

2) Bring Your Brand to Life

Once you’ve crafted a compelling brand, you need to create a powerful portfolio to showcase your value. Ensure your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other online profiles are up- to-date and harmonized — make every word and photo count. You may consider a website, a digital resume, and headshots, to start. You might create other content, too — like customized infographics showcasing your accomplishments. And always ensure you adhere to your Company’s brand standards and policies (if applicable). 

3) Deliver Content That’s Relevant (and Platform-Appropriate)

Think of yourself as your own news channel. Whether you develop articles, blog posts or videos, make certain the content is shareable, engaging and actionable. Humor drives further interaction when used appropriately. And don’t forget the “wow!” headline. It’s all about delivering value driven content. Good is not enough — you need to create remarkable content to capture your audience. Content is more than words; make use of striking visuals to engage readers. And before hitting the “post” button, take a step back and ensure your post is relevant and relatable. Take into account the recipient’s mindset: “What’s in it for me?”   

4) It’s All about Relationships

At the end of the day, your network equals your net worth. Your network should be carefully curated – you want your network to include people who are relevant to your goals.  People do business with people they like and trust. For this reason, it’s important to engage in both online and offline communities. Be transparent: should you receive a negative post or review, address it in a professional and timely fashion. Both prospective and existing clients will appreciate your honesty. Also, invest in networking and actively join committees and organizations (both professional and community) and go beyond just being a member – take a leadership position.  Give before you get, and say “thank you” often.  And always, always remember the simple stuff: a firm handshake and prompt replies to those important emails. 

5) Measure Results to Ensure Success

Your personal brand requires routine maintenance and monitoring to ensure your message is heard loud and clear. You need to assess What is moving the needle? Refine your strategy accordingly. Analytics include info on social shares, back links, page/profile views, favorites, retweets, mentions, and LinkedIn Social Selling index.

It’s important to note that the work does not stop here: as you progress in your career, you need to adapt and refine your personal brand.  But don’t fret: it’s never too late to start! Here’s to jumping in the driver’s seat and powering up your personal brand.


About the Author: Stacey Cohen founded Co-Communications, Inc. in 1997, an award-winning full service marketing and public relations firm with offices in Westchester County, NY, Farmington, CT and midtown Manhattan. Stacey began her career at Marsteller Inc. (a division of Young & Rubicam), where she was responsible for expanding the corporate communications program for advertising executives. She then held senior positions in both public relations and marketing over a six-year period at CBS/FOX Video, then the world’s largest home video company. Under Stacey’s leadership, Co-Communications has been awarded the  Advertising Club’s “Best of Show” (2002, 2010, 2012) sponsored by Gannett, Forbes Enterprise Award (2006), and was inducted into the Westchester County Business Hall of Fame (2008). She was recently named PRSA Practitioner of the Year (2013) in recognition of her professional achievements, experience, and reputation in the profession.  Stacey speaks often at industry conferences.  Stacey is a HuffPost blogger and has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes, Crain’s, Sales & Marketing and other leading national publications.  She holds a B.S. from Syracuse University, MBA from Fordham University and recently completed a certificate program at NYU Leonard Stern School of Business.