Originally Published PR Week, August 12, 2011 (subscription access only)

The old adage, "I'm from Corporate and I'm here to help" is well understood for what it implies: Corporate help is an oxymoron.

It doesn't have to be.

But research indicates that a sizable gap remains between the value Corporate practitioners believe they deliver to their companies and the perception of those practitioners who reside in business units.

Why?

The principal driver of this disconnect is the certainty with which Corporate practitioners believe it is of strategic importance that all employees know of and appreciate the work of the total enterprise, and the equally certain perspective that business unit practitioners believe the overwhelming focus must be on what is most relevant and actionable and, therefore, must be about their business unit.

What to do?

Let me preface five tips I have to share with an acknowledgment of a bias: I believe there is a strong role for Corporate.  But executing it successfully takes equal measures substance and style.

Here are five ways in which Corporate can succeed:

Define your role and earn grassroots support... What's your purpose as it relates to the businesses? Strategic guidance?  Talent management? Leveraging scale to achieve optimal cost efficiencies? Driving big enterprise-wide ideas? What are the needs in the units in which Corporate can make a meaningful difference?

Be high value...Corporate practitioners usually play two roles: one is executing purely corporate activities (e.g. investor relations; executive communications; etc.) and the other requires some level of inter-dependency with business units (e.g. reputation initiatives; CSR; digital strategies; marketing support; etc.).  In this latter category, Corporate ideally is an advisor and co-strategist. To earn its place comfortably alongside the business units, Corporate practitioners must be the best, most qualified practitioners in the company for the niches in which they advise.

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Laura Moore, Vice President of Global Communications at Kimberly-Clark, on the growing trend toward elevating reputation risk to board-level consideration as part of the enterprise risk map.

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Originally Published Risk Management Magazine, October 1, 2010

Click here to download the PDF.

It’s not unusual for companies to generate more demand for their products than they can handle. But when that company was AT&T, which has struggled to meet bandwidth demand of its ever-expanding iPhone customer base, the company got a lesson in how social media can damage a company's reputation.

Though the irony was probably lost on AT&T's management, angry customers acting as an online "smartmob" used the very connectivity AT&T supplied to organize a national protest against what they believed was the company's poor service. "iPhone Nation," led by blogger and activist Dan Lyons, issued the following call to arms of users in 2009: "On Friday, December 18, at noon Pacific time, we will attempt to overwhelm the AT&T data network and bring it to its knees. The goal is to have every iPhone user (or as many as we can) turn on a date-intensive app and run that app for one solid hour. Send the message to AT&T that we are sick of their substandard network."

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PulsePoint Group
August 11, 2010

Oscar Suris, EVP of Corporate Communications at Wells Fargo who recently transitioned from the auto industry to financial services, discusses the keys to success as a communicator in any industry.

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"Your reputation is what you are perceived to be; your character is who you really are,"

– John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach, 1948-1975

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That is a profound statement that has taken on new meaning in light of a string of recent crises that have confronted major global corporations like BP, Apple, Toyota and others.

Is it time for communications and marketing professionals to move from simply managing brand and corporate reputation to more actively asserting themselves -- at a board level -- in the stewardship of institutional character? If not these professionals, then who should assume the role of truly looking at institutional character, not at a transactional level, but at the DNA level of the organization?

 

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The fundamental rules of effective marketing are being rewritten. The rapid evolution of social networking technologies is making it easier for customers to get more precise information. It’s making it easier for them to consult one another, and it’s fundamentally impacting the way they make purchase decisions.

Customer experiences have never been more important. Word of mouth has been put on steroids.

So what does it mean to marketers? It’s the arrival of a new era, where engagement is the new currency that drives customer loyalty. But engagement must be defined as a true exchange of value and not just the act of pushing information. Getting someone to visit your web site is not engagement.

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Craig Rothenberg of J&J, Russell Wilkerson of GE, Anders Edholm of Electrolux, Corey DuBrowa of Waggener Edstrom and Ron Defeo of The Home Depot on the importance of internal buy-in to social media and how to get it.

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PulsePoint Group
September 11, 2009

Check out this profile of management professor Ethan Burris by Tracy Mueller from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas-Austin on why an open, two-way employee feedback loop is vital to morale and idea generation.

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Howard Clabo, Senior Director of Worldwide Media Relations at Applied Materials, on repositioning the company as a leader in solar technology after years of strategically operating in the background for its clients in semiconductor, television panel and other industries.

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Reprinted with permission from O'Dwyer's Public Relations News

 

Bob Feldman, formerly CEO of GCI Group, and Jeff Hunt, a 17-year veteran of Burson-Marsteller, who are now in their own firm, said PR pros must take notice of advice in The McKinsey Quarterly that chief marketing officers might be the ones to lead in refurbishing the tarnished reputations of the financial and business worlds.

 

Feldman and Hunt, now partners in Pulse Point Group, Los Angeles and Austin, say McKinsey's advice is "a warning to communications and PR heads" that they must present the case for PR to their managements or risk being "marginalized."

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