A good reputation is vital to success in business and in life. We came face-to-face with this firm belief of Tony Langham, Chief Executive & Co-founder, Lansons as he spoke about “The Role of ESG in Building Reputation”.
Opening his talk, he said that as communication professionals, “building and protecting reputation is the most valuable thing that we do”, and then moved on to his favourite definition of reputation by John Doorley – “Reputation is the sum of what your eight key audiences think of you and feel about you”. It comes from performance (of the organisation), behaviour, communication amplified by a sense of authenticity.
The power of reputation
Quoting Steven Covey – “You can’t talk your way out of problems, you behave yourself into”, he pointed out that our advice to clients should be that communication can solve behavioral problems. Emphasizing the power of reputation, he stated that organisations with the best reputation can achieve multifold things like – they can change their products and services, they can achieve more with less marketing spends, they can both influence governments & enter new markets more easily than their rivals. In line with this, he explored how organisations with the best reputations outperform rivals in myriad, tangible ways In Reputation Management: The Future of Corporate Communications and Public Relations. Here he established with full confidence that reputation management is the future incarnation of public relations and corporate communications.
How does reputation add value? The benefits are varied for an organisation – people are proud to work here and are more productive, motivated, and become brand ambassadors too; marketing activities invite higher sales, quality relationships, efficient customer equation, customer loyalty, positive media; ensures better talent management, finances lead to higher share price, ease in entering new markets and greater influence on the government.
What makes a great reputation? It comes from four things – great products and services, a fantastic culture, a clear purpose and great communication. In his book he has given an apt definition of reputation management – “Reputation is the conscious, holistic, integrated, planned, thought through, dynamic, agile and continuous process of managing reputation. It relies on commitment from the top of an organisation, and must involve measurement and analysis, and coordinated actions to deliver a plan. It involves what organisations do, how they behave (culture) and how they communicate.”
ESG is a way of life
Touching on ESG, it isn’t CSR or charity, but it is a way of life, which is central to organisations we work for and what we do, according to Langham. To spell out, E is environmental (impact on the planet), S is social (relationship with employees, customers and community) and G is governance (corporate leadership standards); and these three elements cover every way how the organisation has an impact on society; plus, depending on how organisations feel, it varies from organisation to organisation. As he specified, sustainability is the DNA of some companies – like Ikea, Patagonia. Talking of environment and climate change all talks head to Greta Thunberg. It did here too, as he displayed a very relevant quote – “We have not come to beg world leaders to care for our future. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not” and “Ïf change is impossible in this system, then maybe it’s time to change the system”.
New challenges are happening all the time. Some companies are confident enough to speak out on social issues. The component parts of E, S and G mean different things in different parts of the world. But, he disclosed that the meaning of ESG will survive even though the use of the term itself may decline; but for now, ESG is the focus of media, people and governments in the most developed countries.
ESG is reputation
ESG is fundamental to reputation and reputation building is crucial. A great reputation means exceeding the expectations of your key audiences. These audiences want to see businesses contributing to a better world, he highlighted. Therefore, the only way to build a superior reputation today is to demonstrate the highest levels of ESG behavior. With great power comes great responsibility – as displayed by tech companies but, to maintain reputation, they also need to be seen as helping governments and societies (as we have observed with Netflix, Facebook, Zoom, Google).
And, “as corporate communications and PR professionals we have to up our game,” he outlined and added that as we have to advise on behaviour and not just communications. “We have to advise on culture, change and transformation. We have to tell stories in words, pictures and moving images as well as any film maker or ad agency”. Most importantly, we need to become reputation managers and not just corporate communications and PR managers.
When Shweta Munjal, Lupin asked what exactly was his personal perspective on the three issues – environment, society, government, he was quick to answer – “I don’t think it will stay forever personally. But for the rest of 2021 to 2022 it will be the biggest thing in my world, while working for companies.” Building integrity through ESG should be the basis for any brand, he said signing off.
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