Today’s consumers look for two things in brands or companies: authenticity and social consciousness. Companies that don’t behave authentically and in socially responsible ways will increasingly risk their bottom lines. Those that behave well do what’s right. Authentic and socially responsible companies have corporate boards and top management that integrate good governance into their company’s plans through an analysis of its various stakeholders — employees, suppliers, customers, creditors, government agencies and shareholders, big or small.
Doing business with a heart and soul has a new meaning in the increasingly globalized economy, characterized by the interconnectedness of people and nations, interactivity of communications technology, and the increasing number of vigilant advocacy groups and social media netizens. A well-loved, high-profile athletic brand was held publicly accountable for employment practices in its shoe factories in Southeast Asia. An oil company based in Europe that prided itself on being a “trustworthy partner” with developing nations was flayed when one of the governments it worked with turned vagabond and the company did not act against it. An international cosmetic brand was boycotted because of its use of animals for product testing. All of these companies and brands came under intense social criticism following events and revelations that altered the way people looked at them.
More than PR posturing or kowtowing to political correctness, authenticity and meaningful corporate social responsibility engagements are essential to long-term success. Businesses must now contend with a public that is increasingly aware of their obligations to society and expects a level of fairness, accountability and transparency that most companies cannot meet. Good companies must go beyond merely being good. They must have authenticity, which covers the concepts of honesty, uprightness, ethics, and quality integration with society; and a strategy aligned with it.
• Authenticity rules. The basic instinct in doing PR is two-fold: to inform and to influence others to think positively about your brand, your organization and yourself. This is mainstream PR, the end goal of which is to sell and inevitably facilitate one’s survival in a competitive landscape. But competition has gone haywire, what with advanced technology coupled with volatile market psychographics. Hence, mainstream PR doesn’t work as effectively as it used to. This has led to PR revisiting its role in business as a tool for acceptance and appreciation of the authentic self, which is the call of the day — as opposed to well-crafted imaging — and as a way to promote collaboration instead of competition.
These days, words are cheap but companies need to walk their talk — and this is authenticity at its best. The basic instinct of companies actually saves the day for them in a crisis. You go back to the core confronted with it, and you use the core brand to get rescued from a crisis — a situation that calls for shareholders to hold on to the bluest chip — the authentic self. From such authenticity brands are built and reputations are molded.
• Authenticity is sound advice. “If you make a promise, you must deliver” is a mantra that you have to take to heart. Integrity is living the value that consumers expect over the long term,” authors Martin Goldfarb and Howard Aster said. Using communication strategically to link up with your publics with authenticity is vital. You must be able to effectively connect with a significant general stakeholder group or niche clusters. The interests and expectations of these publics are sometimes in conflict, requiring you to strike a balance between what to do first and how to connect your actions to them. More often than not, it is good to always have authenticity and honesty in tandem and to keep them intact when you walk your talk.
• Authenticity begets a good reputation.Why does reputation matter? The answer is simple: It makes you well admired — which most people desire, anyway — and a well-admired person generally commands a greater following and loyalty from those followers. You face fewer risks of crisis as well if you are positively received, and are given greater latitude for understanding by your publics. Public approbation commands respect, and respect can bring you authenticity, stability and “winnability.”
A good reputation built by good communication is key, but this reputation must be matched — if not exceeded — by concrete achievements. As the prophet Silvanus said, “Unhappy is the man whose reputation is greater than his work.” A good reputation creates wealth. When strongly developed and consistently managed, it can generate hidden assets or reputational capital that can give companies a distinct advantage; their products and stock offerings bring in more customers and investors; their job openings attract more quality applicants, and generate more loyalty and productivity from their employees; their clout with suppliers is greater; their risks of crisis are fewer, and when crises do occur, they survive with less financial loss. But to a public that has raised its expectations of companies, authenticity and responsibility to society, being good just isn’t good enough.
Key in the demanding task of building and maintaining a good reputation is a clear understanding of who you really are, putting your words into action, and telling your story. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
While you strive to constantly recreate your image and build authenticity, you should attach your branding star to your publics and proliferate memorable values. At the end of it, you are able to create authenticity, and because of this, your publics want to hear your stories repeatedly, and more importantly, they want to return to you and to whatever you represent regularly.
What sets companies apart during difficult situations are being informed and having a great deal of influence, active involvement and basic instinct. But one can’t inform, influence and be involved unless the instinct is authentic.
PR basic instinct
Since 2007, September has been declared PR month by virtue of Proclamation No. 1367. As such, the Public Relations Society of the Philippines will stage the 22nd National PR Congress on Sept. 24 and 25 at the Hotel InterContinental. The conference is “PR Basic Instinct,” and will feature 10 sessions on authentic PR best practices of companies in the Philippines and abroad, and highlighting interesting perspectives on the ASEAN integration and its impact on the PR industry.
The roster of interesting topics and influential speakers that will show and tell their individual take on PR-related practices and issues include Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who will deliver the keynote address; Maan Hontiveros, CEO and chair, AirAsia Philippines, on “Show How To Keep Calm”; Kenneth Cobonpue, owner of Kenneth Cobonpue Asia, on “Show Pinoy Pride”; Gino Borromeo, VP and chief strategy officer, McCann Worldgroup Philippines, on “Show To Share Happiness”; Kankan Ramos-Lim, executive director for Digital PR, Havas Media Ortega, on “Show How Far You Go With A Good Social Media Plan”; Ron Jabal, PRSP VP Internal and chairperson, Anvil Awards 2015, on “Show How It’s Done”; Prita Kemal Gani, chair, ASEAN Public Relations Network (APRN), on “Show How PR Works In ASEAN Integration And How ASEAN Integration Works for PR”; Stuart Jamieson, managing director, Nielsen, on “Show How The ASEAN Consumer Is Worth The World’s Time And Effort”; Jeannie Javelosa, cofounder and director of EchoStore Sustainable Lifestyle, on “Show How To Connect To The ASEAN Consumers”; Jesus Atencio, president and CEO, 8990 Holdings, Inc., on “Show How Business Can Be For the Common Good”; Jay Bautista, senior adviser, Strategic Consumers And Media Incites, on “Show How To get Away With The Multiscreen Audience”; and Victor Lorenzo, assistant chief of Cyber Crime, on “Show How To Keep Safe In The Cyber Age.”