In Conversation with Kristin Hays

Kristin Hays is the Chief Communication and Corporate Responsibility Officer at Sabre. In an interview with Reputation Today, she speaks about how communication strategies need to align with business objectives, role of ESG / Sustainability in the travel tech industry and the global landscape of corporate communication in the travel tech industry among other topics.

Reputation Today: How do you ensure that Sabre Corporation’s corporate communication strategies are aligned with its overall business objectives, especially in a rapidly evolving industry like travel technology?

Kristin Hays: At Sabre, our Global Communications team focused on both internal, strategic and team member communications, as well as external PR and brand communications.  We support the company’s efforts to communicate its strategic and financial priorities to the company’s three core constituencies:  customers, team members and investors.

In addition, we at Sabre recently unveiled the refreshed employer branding with a new Sabre story, a new design element, and several internal campaigns to reinvigorate the company’s winning culture.  The refreshed Sabre story begins with the company’s vision, it’s purpose or value proposition, and three core commitments or pillars that drive the behaviors that help the company achieve its north star. The design element is a double angle bracket we call “the Shift” which is derived from code and symbolises movement, progression, or moving to the right.  It represents the culture shift and momentum we are building at Sabre. It also symbolises Sabre’s ongoing commitment to propelling innovation, collaboration, and partnership to build technology that enables travel globally. The shift symbolises the ongoing technology transformation and our dedication to shaping the future of the travel industry.

Global Communications at Sabre is tightly aligned to the business, and our strategy addresses where Sabre wants to engage with our customers, partners media & other stakeholders.

RT: The travel industry has faced unprecedented challenges in recent years, notably the COVID-19 pandemic. How has Sabre Corporation adapted its communication and CSR strategies in response to these challenges?

KH: Sabre Communications was at the forefront leading communication to employees and external stakeholders where necessary during the pandemic. Flexibility, safety, and a commitment to community well-being were the central themes in our communication, and CSR initiatives have focused on supporting healthcare and relief efforts. Adapting to these changes has been essential for maintaining employee and customer trust and navigating the turbulent times the industry faced.

RT: How does Sabre Corporation measure the impact of its communication and CSR initiatives, and how do you communicate these impacts to the stakeholders?

KH: Sabre has an extensive history of philanthropy and community involvement, which is part of its corporate responsibility approach, which is motivated by a desire to improve the world. Through our global CSR program, “Give Together,” we have contributed $20 million and 300,000 volunteer hours over the past 20 years. This program seeks to improve social and environmental change in partnership with workers, communities, and customers.

Sabre makes sure that all its employees have the chance to participate in community service projects, and they promote posting about these experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

RT: How is Sabre Corporation integrating sustainability into its business model, and how is this communicated to both internal and external stakeholders? What lessons emerge from your experience on how to integrate it across complex stakeholder groups?

KH: Businesses are incorporating sustainability into their business models more and more as they understand how crucial environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects are to their long-term success. There are several ways to accomplish this integration, and communication with internal and external stakeholders is a crucial one. We at Sabre have identified the key factors to integrate sustainability goals into the business model:

  • Setting Clear Sustainability Goals: Set attainable, quantifiable, and time-bound sustainability objectives that complement the business’s broader vision. These objectives may include things like fostering diversity and inclusion, decreasing carbon emissions, or making sure that supply chains are managed responsibly.
  • Embedding Sustainability in Business Operations: Businesses integrate sustainability ideas into supply chain management, production procedures, and product design, among other essential company operations. Using green technology, cutting waste, and ethical sourcing are a few examples.
  • Reporting and Transparency: It is essential to report sustainability performance in a transparent manner. A lot of businesses release annual sustainability reports with information and analysis on their ESG performance, initiatives, and target advancement. Both internal and external stakeholders receive these reports.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Interact with various internal and external stakeholder groups to get ideas, opinions, and perspectives. NGOs, communities, suppliers, workers, and investors can all be considered in this.
  • Employee Training and Engagement: Inform and involve employees in environmental activities. Numerous businesses offer training courses on sustainability, promote employee involvement in volunteer work or green teams, and honor sustainability initiatives with prizes and incentives.
  • Supplier Collaboration: Work together with manufacturers to make sure they adhere to sustainable standards. This entails establishing sustainable guidelines for suppliers and regularly auditing them to ensure compliance.
  • Customer Education and Engagement: Inform clients about their accomplishments and efforts in sustainability. Marketing, product labelling, and instructing consumers on how to make more environmentally friendly decisions are some ways to do this.
  • Investing in Innovation: Make investments in research and development to produce creative solutions that support sustainability goals. This could result in the creation of environmentally friendly goods or services.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Work together to address difficult sustainability concerns with other organisations, industry groups, and non-governmental organisations. Common best practises and knowledge may result from this.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Remain in compliance with national and international sustainability rules, many of which involve ESG factor reporting obligations.

Sustainability is a journey that requires ongoing commitment and adaptability. By effectively integrating sustainability into their business models and engaging with complex stakeholder groups, corporations can drive positive change and ensure their long-term success.

RT: Can you share an example of a crisis situation Sabre Corporation faced, and how the communication strategy played a role in managing the situation?

KH: When the pandemic struck and Sabre’s 9000+ team members were required to work from home, global communications stepped into a primary role of (1) executive communication focused on staying connected to our people; (2) deploying a brand new intranet tool we call SabreSync as the central place to learn, share stories and find information our team members needed to do their best work and continue staying productive; and (3) updating our external facing sites to ensure our customers knew where to find the information they needed to stay connected with Sabre during such an incredible time.

Global communications created and executed crisis communications plans designed to keep our team members connected and focused. We also worked closely with HR and our global site leadership to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our global workforce.  Communications played an integral role during those times.

RT: How has the digital and AI transformation journey impacted the way you engage with your stakeholders? What advice would you give to reputation managers on how to stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these transformations?

KH: The digital and AI transformation journey has significantly impacted the way organisations engage with their stakeholders. Here’s how, along with advice for reputation managers to stay ahead of the curve and make the most of these transformations:

  • Personalisation: Businesses today tailor their interactions with stakeholders thanks to digital and AI technologies. By analysing data, they can comprehend the preferences and wants of each individual and adjust communications and content accordingly.
  • Real-time Engagement: With AI-powered chatbots and customer support systems, businesses may interact with stakeholders in real-time, quickly responding to their questions and concerns, by utilising chatbots and customer service platforms driven by artificial intelligence.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Digital tools give organisations access to enormous volumes of data, which they may use to understand trends, sentiment, and stakeholder behavior. Decision-making and engagement tactics can benefit from this data.
  • Multi-Channel Communication: Through digital platforms, businesses can interact with stakeholders across a range of channels, including social media, websites, email, and messaging applications.
  • Scalability: AI’s capacity to automate repetitive processes enables more effective communication with a wider range of stakeholders.

Advice for Reputation Managers:

In conclusion, stakeholder involvement has been transformed by the digital and AI transformation path. To remain morally and authentically compliant, reputation managers need to embrace data, personalisation, and real-time reactions in response to these developments. It takes teamwork, constant learning, and a proactive attitude to new developments in communication and technology to stay ahead of the curve.

RT: What advice would you give to aspiring corporate communication and CSR professionals in India to navigate the complexities of the industry and make a positive impact?

KH: I would like to start by sharing a quote by Sydney J. Harris: Information is giving out; communication is getting through. When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what? ‘ Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. But that’s not possible. The following guidance will help ambitious corporate communicators and CSR specialists in India successfully traverse the industry’s complexity and leave a favorable mark:

  • Ongoing Education and Skill Advancement: Keep up with the most recent developments in CSR and corporate communication techniques and trends. To improve your knowledge and abilities, spend time by attending relevant seminars, training, and certifications.
  • Recognise the Local Environment: India’s socioeconomic landscape and diversified culture necessitate a thorough comprehension of the local context. Recognise geographical variations and adjust your tactics appropriately.
  • Prioritise effective stakeholder engagement: Develop trusting connections with all internal and external stakeholders, such as staff members, NGOs, local communities, journalists and government agencies.
  • Sustainability Commitment: Integrate sustainability into your company’s fundamentals. Create and put into action CSR plans that support social and environmental justice while also being consistent with the principles of your business.
  • Transparency and Ethics: Uphold strict moral principles and honesty in all of your communications and CSR endeavors. Reputation and trust are fostered by ethical and responsible behavior.
  • Crisis Management Skills: Gain crisis management abilities to deal with unforeseen difficulties. Be ready to address situations that could harm the reputation of your company.
  • Measurable Impact: Pay close attention to tracking and documenting the results of your CSR efforts. Metrics and data assist you in adjusting and demonstrating the worth of your work.
  • Collaboration and Partnerships: Work together with regional NGOs, authorities, and business associates. Forming partnerships can improve your company communications and increase the effect of your CSR programs.
  • Storytelling and Communication: Communicating your CSR actions effectively requires an effective narrative. To include stakeholders and establish an emotional bond with your audience, use storytelling.
  • Adapt to Digital and social media: Make use of social media channels for business communication. You can interact with stakeholders in real time and reach a larger audience with the aid of these technologies.
  • CSR Policy and Strategy: Create a thorough CSR strategy and policy that addresses important societal issues and is in line with your business’s goals.
  • Networking and Industry Involvement: Join organisations for professionals, go to industry events, and connect with colleagues in the sector. Developing a network can lead to job chances, assistance, and insights.
  • Patience and Long-Term Vision: Understand that the impact of CSR initiatives may take time to materialise. Maintain a long-term vision and stay committed to making a difference.
  • Advocacy and Employee Engagement: Encourage employees to be advocates for CSR and engage them in volunteer activities. Engaged employees can be powerful ambassadors for your organisation’s mission.
  • Incorporate social inclusion and environmental responsibility into your CSR projects: Think about the wider effects on ecosystems and communities. Keep in mind that the landscape of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and communication is dynamic, and that success frequently requires hard work, flexibility, and a passion for promoting positive change in the Indian environment.

The responses above are from Kristin Hays as shared with Reputation Today.

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