Communicating Corporate Values After a Crisis
During uncertain times, it’s crucial that C-suite executives emphasize organizational values. However, it’s also important to remember that embodying corporate values is a proactive, 365-days-a-year job. Communicators are essential for conveying this every day.
I recall the story of a senior executive who resigned over tax evasion. The irony was that this executive worked at an organization, which insisted its job candidates provide documented proof of their salary histories before being hired. This documentation inevitably included their tax returns.
These same employees then saw an accomplished individual of immense wealth, power and prestige who, as chief values officer, somehow conveniently forget the corporate value of integrity — which was consistently touted as a cornerstone of the company. The organization assumed that if you didn’t have the integrity to be transparent and honest about your wage history, you couldn’t be trusted as a future employee.
For me, the communications challenge was: After a crisis, how can a company still demonstrate its corporate values to stakeholders? To prevent customers, employees and investors from doubting the sincerity of your corporate culture, here are a few strategies communicators can employ:
• Find settings or events where your organization can prove that it lives up to its core values. Ditch jargon-laced corporate-speak and showcase real-life examples to indicate your company values.
For instance, the Village of Allapattah YMCA Family Center and Preschool in Miami, of which I am a board member, begins all of its board meetings by having someone share a “Y Mission Moment.”
It’s a chance to tell stories about people living healthier, more productive lives because of our programs and services.
Anecdotes that communicate your organization’s values can be woven into speeches, presentations, employee-recognition events or conversations with journalists.
• Use digital platforms — social media channels, e-newsletters, websites — to reinforce your corporate values. Demonstrate an authentic voice. Time your messages well and make sure their subjects represent your company’s values.
• Debrief your teams after communications projects or events. Document any missed opportunities to communicate organizational values that could be included in future projects. Ask team members to apply the values-based lessons they’ve learned to future communications projects.
• Hold strategic partner summits with key stakeholders. Ask them how corporate values resonate in real-life situations based on their engagement with your organization. Determine how feedback from these values-review sessions can be used to better meet customer and stakeholder needs.
Whether your organization is a nonprofit or a Fortune 500 company, prioritizing continuous feedback brings proven advantages. Take steps now to proactively and consistently communicate the importance of your organizational values, before a crisis occurs.