Respect 360°: Meet the new CEO

Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Global CEO and Founder, WE Communications delivering a Keynote Address at PRAXIS 2019

Communication is important in change management. Communication is a lot more … it is about true change in the world, and that’s what storytelling involves. “We are living in a perfect storm for brands,” said Melissa Waggener Zorkin, Global CEO & Founder WE Communications as she opened her keynote address at #PRAXIS8, where she spoke about the new imperative factor in every business – 360° Respect.

What do we do as communicators? As good communicators, we tend to drive thoughts. But today, we are in a world where there is chaos, conflict, unification – all of which happens as we’re living in a “wonderful world, but also an imperfect world”. Work is complex today which means things have become more challenging. We have to make sure we build exceptional products and we run a business that is “not mutually exclusive”, with positive social impact. “360° respect – that is the true instrument that gives the right balance to how we behave”, she highlighted. It is “deep respect for our consumers”.

What we see now is a new ‘brand loyalty’. It’s a lot more different than what it was five or three years ago. Consumers have “demanding expectations” and what does it mean for us? It’s all about brands wanting to take a stand, because consumers are demanding that. We have to think of consumer values. In a dramatic comparison, she said, “Let’s think of consumer happiness as a balloon”. It’s inflating and deflating and it’s difficult to respond, but at the same time we need to act on it. As a communicator if you don’t do a good job, the balloon can pop, she warned.

“Communication is a gift we have and it’s the backbone that can lead to understanding. So use your gift of communication to move people to positive action!” she advised.

We have to move, and what are the steps to take? The “Brands in Motion 2019” study takes a look at this momentum and quantifies the change. What does it mean for brands? They have to lead with purpose and personal conviction. We need to build new brand loyalty on 360° respect. And brands have to prove global impact with local action.

There is a lot of conversations around ‘purpose’ and it “has to be a lens and has to be the DNA of the company”. Here she quoted the recent Zomato incident saying “Zomato food has no religion”, so we must build a brand on respect Therefore, we must be “humane to the core”, as it is evident in the Mirinda “Take the pledge” campaign. And, the way to win the consumer over is to work on a global initiative with local action as in brand Dettol’s “Banega Swachh India” campaign, which addressed the rising need of hygiene and sanitation in India.

Leaders have to be mindful of a few things, today. When giving most importance to purpose, they must be aware that with it come consequences, and when there is pressure and when the times are hard, we need to build trust. Brands must unite stakeholders, for there’s nothing more powerful than standing together, she stressed. Believing that personal conviction is big here, she listed out the names of some of her favourite leaders – IT giant Bill Gates, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg,  New Zealand’s Prime MinisterJacinda Ardern – all of whom have created a huge impact, in their unique way. So, business imperative is the new brand loyalty, and what is fuelling that? She believes, without a doubt it’s “360° respect”. Most importantly, leadership not a title, it’s a quality, and that’s what we should look for!

Coming to ‘U’, we – the people, have tremendous power, the ability to change minds, and when there is a conflict, we must have the courage to speak up. “We are all part of the solution and if we show 360° respect, we can stand together!”

Melissa Waggener Zorkin in conversation with Mahesh Jayaram, Dell

In a conversation with Mahesh Jayaram, Director, Corporate Communications, Dell India she opened up on many aspects that she held close. One, that her biggest hero was her family, her daughter. As far her culture code goes, she starts with diversity, inclusion and belonging and her firm belief that “you always have a voice”. About women in the technology space, she feels that women are talented, but they often don’t rise to the top – so, we must do everything to change that ratio.

Being one of the early entrants in entrepreneur space, her message for women was – Follow your dream. Have a voice. Build allies rather than being competitive. Do what you love and do the right thing! When asked whether the rapid growth scares her, she was quick to reply – “I’m not scared easily!”

It’s a fact – we are always on the lookout for quick mantras for success. We want know how and where we can use these mantras to strike success. It was interesting to listen to Melissa’s three success mantras – do what you love; be brutally honest about what you don’t do well and focus on what you do well. “Now is the time, to make the biggest impact,” she signed off.

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Shree Lahiri
Shree is the Senior Editor at Reputation Today and hopes to move from one focus area to another in the editions that will be released this year. Having worked in Corporate Communications teams, she has experience of advertising, public relations, investor and employee communications, after which she moved to the other side – journalism. She enjoys writing and believes the power of the pen is indeed mighty. Covering the entertainment beat and the media business, she has been involved in a wide range of activities that have thrown open storytelling opportunities.

She can be reached at: @shree_la on twitter

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