THE SITUATION AS WE SEE IT – MORE AUTHENTICITY REQUIRED
For too long now corporate communication has either been about crisis management, or about selling product – neither very authentic – and with not much to fill the gap in between.
The last half-century has been contextualized a fierce and relentless pursuit of profit, and profit at any cost. Malaises of which we are seeing the consequences play out all over the world today.
Somewhere at the origin of this out of control spiral, we began to believe that the purpose of business was to make profit. We lost sight of the fact that a social need became apparent and was ‘asking’ to be fulfilled – Why? To improve the human condition, to add value to people’s lives, to improve, ease or augment their experience in the world… and in doing so, profit was simply a natural outcome.
How far we have moved from that time; to a place where capitalism and market economy have driven a distinct focus on margins and returns and double-digit growth – creating an end-goal that can only ever be achieved in an environment where there are ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.
There is no scope for universal outcomes in this space; not for broad based sustainability, nor the future viability of these businesses themselves. So we sit at a cross roads of conflicting priorities with the perception of either-or decisions that seem an essential part of paving the way forward.
So as the world is slowly awakening from its hedonistic pursuit of exclusive progress, Corporate Social Responsibility has become the language of the last decade; with companies realizing or being compelled to contribute toward the upliftment of broader society; and telling these stories of often inflated impact as a means to build some kind of positive and credible reputation.
But with globalization, information at our fingertips and an evolving collective consciousness, the public is becoming more savvy, more discerning and more demanding of the companies that we work for and transact with.
The result has been an overwhelming resurgence of the need for purpose and meaning; and we are seeing companies across the world respond by re-identifying with their purposes; redefining their values; and reconnecting with a human-centric approach to doing business. And in doing so, the more progressive and enlightened amongst them are not only realizing that peripheral social investment is not enough, nor is it sustainable; but that there is a very distinct business case for operating with purpose, in both obvious and unexpected ways.
This purposeful approach to business enables a deeper understanding of the global transformation required, and the inherent business opportunities that exist therein; and we are starting to see many innovative business models and inclusive solutions that are delivering both profitable returns and societal value in synergy. (Imagine the possibilities where financial and social returns co-create. Seems oh-so new age, when in fact, in basic terms, that is exactly where we started.)
So given this reconnected future-focused business, how can corporate communications be leveraged to further the global growth agenda and the sustainability of people, planet and profit?
The answer lies in understanding the true value and potential of authentic human stories.
As human beings we are wired to engage with and remember stories. Research tells us that stories account for 65% of our conversations; and that such stories can transform our perceptions and shape our decisions.
So what better way to build lasting relationships with authentic and purposeful businesses than through the sharing of their stories of impactful business activity; not only through the felt experience of those benefiting, but also through the passionate voices of those involved.
When we start to recognize the value of any individual experience, and to view these individuals as whole human beings – not simply beneficiaries, implementers and corporate executives but as people whose lives are rich and meaningful, then we are able to see how emotional connection is created through the sharing of that experience; and to realize how powerful that emotional connection is in capturing imaginations, creating moments of value, inspiring action and residing in our memories.
So why is this important?
Without purposeful, responsible business, there will be no sustainable global transformation, no universal development outcomes, nor significant progress on the agenda of people and planet – and a degenerating business environment in which profit will be increasingly difficult to make.
There is no sustainable without business and there is no business without sustainable.
Powerful and authentic communications can help to support, illuminate and amplify this narrative; delivering a bigger-picture understanding of the ecosystems in which we operate and greater clarity around the targeted impacts, challenges and net positive effects.
However, there is also a massive and growing trust deficit between business and the public.
What authentic narratives do is offer the opportunity for business, not to sell product, but to position brand and to build trust and credibility that will translate into habitual long-term value-based relationships that epitomize what will become ‘business of the future’.
On a broader level, this layered communication of honest experience will educate and inspire, delivering an understanding of what is possible and achievable through the committed involvement of well intended stakeholders.
Within this context, strong company narratives creates alignment with the broader economy and society; providing a realistic account of both challenges and opportunities that differentiate a brand; play a significant role in employee attraction and retention; highlight the long-term purpose and values to investors and societal stakeholders; and communicate an authentic commitment to the pillars of economic, social and environmental sustainability.
And whilst there is of course the potential for green-washing, exaggerating and even exploitation, communicating the sincere experience of an individual is ultimately both indisputable and true. This is not to say that everyone has the same experience of their engagement with a particular company, program or intervention, but simply that the positive experience, benefit and transformation felt by someone is valid and valuable and real and important.
We all have skeletons and failures, but we cannot let these stop us from recognizing what is good and right and happening. These stories need to be communicated to inspire more stories of good practice.
And when companies start to feel the core business benefit of telling these stories, not as sidelined communications of social impact, but as fundamental to communicating the heart and soul of the business and the importance and reason for its existence; then these stories will reinforce this kind of business engagement creating a virtuous circle of both of purposeful business and authentic trust building stories to tell.
We are global specialists in telling sustainability stories
We create high-end, top quality communications content on the stories of business-led development and their contribution to the UN SDGs. Our professional team of passionate storytellers are adventurers at heart, embracing travel to get to the root of the story, bringing together local perspectives and global issues that uncover the heart of business and help brands earn their way into people’s lives.
Our networks span the continent and we have produced over 70 stories in more than 20 African countries so we bring a wealth of experience in navigating an array of social, political and cultural landscapes as well as vast sensitivity in the work that we do and a real love for sharing the stories of positive change and inclusive growth.
Our involvement in regional events focused on collaboration for growth around the SDGs speaks to our comprehensive understanding of the intricacies, complexities and requirements for transformative growth and development; enhancing our ability to create content of substance and value for your brand.