It’s time for corporations to put their corporate governance on top of their priority list.
If they don’t, we (the consumers and clients) might just get powerful enough to use our (social) networks against their ‘profit oriented’ companies. So there’s no time to waste. Now is the perfect time to cooperate with consumers, users and clients who have been related to these organisations for many years.
Here’s why I’m being so explicit on calling out the importance of a well balanced corporate communication strategy.
Since I’ve been studying communications, I’ve been fascinated by corporate communication studies. These focus on the ‘true’ identities of corporations, their reputations and not to forget, their missions, visions and their stories behind the ‘coming into existence’ of their brand or business.
It’s moreover about the ‘right to exist as an organisation for your customers, stakeholders and shareholders’, instead of just the ‘right to exist as a moneymaking firm’. Well… At least that’s the way I partly look at corporate communications when summarizing it quiet dramatically. For I could be writing down thousands of words about corporate governance. Maybe some day I will by writing a book on this subject. Just check out Wikipedia for some more information on corporate communication.
There’s no way someone can ‘create’ his or her own reputation, because others do
I’m surprised about the way professionals I listen to and read from, look at corporate communication. They say things like ‘shaping your reputation’ and ‘creating an identity’. As if it’s possible to build your own reputation… These are ways of looking at corporate communication, which won’t get these professionals, nor the corporations they work for, anywhere.
An individual or an organisation HAS a reputation, the person or organisation itself can’t shape one by itself. Just like everyone reading this blog has an identity, which can’t be changed by him or herself.
We’ll always be depending on others when it comes to having a reputation or an identity. No matter how much we try to be different, or how much money we invest into promotion campaigns, marketing research, personal branding and so on. The same goes for corporations.
Organisations need us as much as we need them
Without us (clients), corporations like Sony Ericsson, Apple and General Electrics wouldn’t exist. Without Apple (for example), many different kind of people wouldn’t be having that awesome Mac Computer. It’s like YingYang. We are connected to corporations once we buy their products and once they approach us, they are connected to us. We want the product to be good, they want it to be satisfying products or services with which they can make money… The ‘approach of the intellectual consumer’ in an honest and satisfying way is a rare phenomenon, since we are not being looked at as intellectuals. But we are becoming more and more known with the quality and the making of products and the way they fit with our needs.
The intellectual consumer
Thanks to the internet we’re getting smarter, we’re getting attention, we’re getting ‘friends’ in a well structured network and last but not least, we’re having the possibility to share everything we’re interested in, happy or mad about. The internet did the same to the organisations and their employers. But there’s one big difference, because organisations find it hard to drop statements, ‘opinions’ and other information which might make them look bad on these social networks, blogs and so on. We, the consumers, don’t seem to have that issue. We are so to say, more free to say whatever we think is wrong about those organisations and their products. While organisations will (almost) never be able to say any general negative word about one of their customers or consumers…
A close approach
Let’s say there’s a huge corporation selling mobile phones world wide. They’re competing with products like the BlackBerry, iPhone and Samsung Galaxy. Although the company had shown quiet some good numbers this year, now they’re starting to see red numbers. They don’t know why, but they suspect it has something to do with the quality of their product.
So the mobile phone company starts researching if this is the true problem. Hundreds of polls are sent out to the users of their phones and after a month or three they got their answer; “We were right, our dear customer does indeed believe our products suck… And thanks to that other question we added in the questionnaire, we got to know that they’ve stopped using our phones after less than a few weeks because it worked so bad.
The corporation decides to do ‘something’ about it, hoping they’ll be able to provide their old users with a phone, that can do exactly what they want their phone to be capable of doing.
Now here’s where I believe corporate communication could help the company to save money and be more effective, without doing the questionnaire, without the thought of ‘competing’ with others etc. Let your customers create your phone together with you!
Yes, it might sound like a ridiculous idea and to be honest, it is! That’s why it’s so innovative, inspiring, motivating and good looking. To put it down simply: it’s the modern way of creating anything, in a nutshell.
Involving your customers in the production process
Making sure this idea will be made possible, we’ll have to be able to convince the strategic management of corporations. The CEO, heads of communications and other important key-figures within the organisations, will have to realise and feel how important it is to make this decision of ‘a close approach’ to customers. Besides, there’s some bad news I’ll have to share with those organisations. For they’re going to make less profits if they do indeed decide, to give consumers influence on what a product should look like and what it definitly should contain. But the good news should be far more interesting to the top level. For when involving their clients and customers right, their corporations will be able to have a long term relationship with their consumers. Which is much more intense, fair and fun! then it was ever before. And that’s what I, as an amateur communicator, would focus on when convincing organisations to reach out a hand. I’d tell them that now is the time, to truly reach out a hand to their customers. And that the possibility is there, to become a modern and maybe even uniquely structured company. Which will definitly attract some attention.
Here’s some suggestions for you, as an organisation
1. Start your own digital platform
2. Invite ‘key-customers’ to the main office.
Let customers, that have been related to your organisation for over five years,talk with the CEO. Make sure he or she feels at home and just talk about things which define his or her relationship with your organisation. And then I get to another suggestion:
3. Start blogging
Post blogs about these ‘interviews’ and give a bit of an insight to how your CEO looks at the topics that have been discussed. Of course visitors should be able to post comments on the articles. Monitor the comments and reflect on them for a few minutes during meetings. You’ll notice it will already start fruitful discussions and conversations at meetings. Meaning there’s a lot to learn from and about your customers.
4. Be honest to be good and tell it