Trust is the Bedrock Beneath Every Lead With We Business — Part 5 “A Core Purpose People Can Trust”
This post is the fifth in a series of eight that examines the bedrock beneath every Lead With We business: Trust that builds reputation, culture, sales, and loyalty during a time of crisis.
After remolding our businesses to increase trust, after remaking our brands, and reorienting our marketing in the wake of the 2020 pandemic and all its concurrent civil unrest, and after our outspoken viewpoints expressed in response to all we endured, we can’t go back. We can’t do less.
The timelines on multiple fronts, not the least of which is the environmental one, are contracting quickly. Rising expectations that we will demonstrate daily in the face of whatever comes our way our commitments to the collective, our Proof of Purpose, has been proven out. It’s a permanent fixture now. Get used to it. The compounding of issues will work to our detriment unless we all step up — but collectively, we can tap into this unprecedented opportunity.
As we’ve been discussing in this series, it depends primarily on trust.
When trying to find where to slot your purpose and movement-making into a larger cultural conversation — to solidify trust both internally and externally — you might ask yourself, then plan accordingly:
- Do we have the right mindset upfront? We’re not just doing this to get on a bandwagon, are we? This must be more than a PR exercise, our “marketing” more than a mere sales channel.
- What issues are direct, authentic, and defensible extensions of our purpose?
- What issues do we take a stand on that also align with our portfolio brands?
- How do employees and partners feel about the issues we (intend to) champion?
- Are these issues that are particularly sensitive within our own organization? Why?
- Have we been rewarded or criticized for championing similar issues in the past?
- Can we force-rank the issues in terms of priority? If we had to — and could — pick one overall theme, what would it be?
- Is this conversation grounded in meaningful industry- and world insights? How much and how deeply have we studied the issue, its impact, and have we considered all the unintended consequences?
- Is the bold stance we’re intending to take truly defensible?
- What’s the likely business impact (short- and long-term) of internal and external responses?
- What needs to happen first internally before we can take on this issue? Have we got our own house in order? Are our CEO, CMO, board, and other leadership 100 percent onboard and clear and consistent with their messaging?
- Will we be able to practice internally what we preach? Do we have the resources to really invest in this issue, to “walk our talk?”
- Who is going to be the spokespeople from our corner (the business) of the community?
- What is the right tone to strike in our internal and external messaging that ladders up to our purpose, values, and voice? On the spectrum of advocacy, what’s the most appropriate stance, from positive to protagonist — from “following” to “engaging” to really “leading” on the issue? How well’s our messaging working?
- What are competitors or other brands doing around these issues, and what unique role can we play? Can we fill a white space? Can we partner with one or more of them?
- How do we budget? What fixed and variable funding can we pull from other lines (e.g. R&D, marketing, investments, etc.)? How can we budget to maximize impact? Who are our priority markets? How many can we afford?
- Is our advocacy amplified across all digital and social channels as well as in-store and in our packaging?
- Does/will our storytelling on the issue humanize, i.e., focus on people over product?
- Do/will we educate, engage, and inspire all stakeholders through our storytelling about the issue?
- Do we have or can we develop meaningful impact KPIs around the issue?
- Do we/can we monitor headway and impact in real-time?
- How will we hold ourselves and others accountable for progress on this issue?
- How will we collaborate and leverage partners to drive industrywide shifts, and change societal norms?
For immediate cultural flashpoints, such as civil unrest over some issue, you’ll have to adopt a “first responder” strategy. To respond to unforeseen issues will require layered crisis management, with a clear and well-established purpose as a foundation, and sustainability and good DI&E as table stakes. Then you can add to the foregoing questions, these several:
- Is this issue directly relevant to our stated company purpose?
- Is this an issue that internal stakeholders care about?
- Can we achieve a meaningful and measurable impact on this issue?
- Do we have the resources to make a sustained commitment?
- Will our stakeholders support our participation to help scale and amplify awareness, engagement, and impact — and help grow the business?
Probably the best way to ensure trust in your business is to not make decisions exclusively top-down. Rather, involve all stakeholders. Seems the companies that best Lead With We take advantage of a larger cultural movement toward coalitions and other gatherings of leaders and encourage the public’s rising role as a mass oversight committee, putting pressure on business to get its act together in their (i.e., all our) interest. Take the climate crisis:
One-third of … businesses aren’t even talking about environmental stewardship internally [writes Michael Shank in Fast Company] … especially confounding given that 7 in 10 executives are “feeling pressure from customers and investors to make sustainability a strategic priority” and 9 in 10 leaders say, “consumers will likely hold them accountable for their environmental impact.” There’s clearly demand for it. In short, “My employer” is now the most trusted of any institution — but workers expect CEOs to be the “face of change.”