Saturday, 29 November 2014

Boosting Corporate Reputations With Effective Communications

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place".

- George Bernard Shaw 

Recently, I wrote to some multinational companies  operating in one of Nigeria's most important sectors. By respectfully suggesting some tips they could use to strengthen their communications efforts, I believed they could boost their reputations. 

Now each of these companies has been operating in the country for decades. Most of them have skilled professionals handling their communications/PR programmes and crafting content to reflect their missions, values and corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives. So understandably, they might believe that they have got their corporate reputations 'covered', and would not need to consider ideas from a lone communications advisor/blogger. 

Fair enough, but a mistake. 


Not because I am a 'thought leader' or an expert in communications/PR/branding - honestly far from it - but for one reason: 

I am a stakeholder, a fraction of  a potential customer demographic and a member of the public. 

This sounds simplistic but let me explain: I may be one of those faceless, nameless people who form the sometimes vague group of 'external stakeholders', but there's more. The perceptions of members of this group and actions they could take, would make the difference between healthy profits/returns or financial losses for the multinationals.

We all know how it works:  A good corporate reputation leads to trust in the brand, which leads to increased patronage of the company's products/services, resulting in higher profits for the business. 

The reverse is true. A corporate reputation is often so fragile that when a crisis breaks, and there is unfortunately no established crisis-management system to mitigate the 'shock', a business suffers from a plummeting stock price and/or a loss of market share. 

Since a company is in business to make money, creating and sustaining a sound reputation is crucial for its continued survival.     

Using Communications To Build Trust For Workplace Results 

Regardless of the sector in which an organisation operates, there should be a drive towards improving its image.

Whatever strategies used, it is advisable for a company seeking to improve its reputation to start by nurturing a culture (hopefully already) built on a solid  foundation of trust. Trust at the workplace triggers employee engagement.  Interestingly, a 142-country study conducted by Gallup revealed last year that worldwide, only 13% of employees were engaged at work. Engaged, (or 'tuned on') professionals, do great things for the company -  they do the required work  plus discretionary duties not listed in their job descriptions; they  increase productivity; they protect the brand; and boost the companys reputation.  

At the workplace, trust is a good way to coax employee engagement. Yet companies today do not prioritise it.


Indeed, a study cited by Mashable revealed that only 40% of employees really trusted their bosses. Companies that had a high level of trust among their employees were 2.5 times more likely to be leaders in revenue growth. Moreover, such companies significantly outperformed their peers in achieving key business goals such as customer loyalty and retention; competitive market position; ethical behaviour and actions; financial results; and profit growth. 

The question thus begs to be asked: How could a company build trust at the workplace? 

This could be done by developing a system to ensure that  clear and consistent two-way communication between Management and the employees addresses the concerns of the latter. In order to be effective, this communication stream should be strengthened by timely, factual feedback and consistent actions to remedy lingering issues. Over time, employees will come to trust the communication system.  Happier and more motivated, they willingly become the company's cheerleaders. 

Evidently, getting communications right makes good business sense and helps to boost corporate reputations. Nevertheless, in this interesting infographic  provided by Weekdone, 41% of respondents highlighted a lack of communication between staff and management as the single biggest mistake companies make in managing their employees. This revelation notwithstanding, some of the benefits of highly effective communication practices included: 47% higher total returns for shareholders; 19% higher market premium; and 4.5 times more likely to have highly engaged employees. 

It is thus important to use an effective communications strategy (such as the one crafted by this blog, details of which are explained in the next section), to  ensure that employees accept the project/campaign/change programme that the company seeks to implement, and that they work towards making it successful for the benefit of all.

Using  Communications  For External Parties

Externally, effective corporate communications promote engagement with the public. This engagement should neither be limited to companies publishing press releases,  nor should it be reduced to merely posting links online. 

Today, the usefulness of social media is  not restricted to marketing purposes. When used responsibly by trained executives,  social media fosters genuine interactions with the public and opens conversations with various external groups such as customers, partners, communities, government agencies, citizens, etc. This development helps to build goodwill and improves perceptions of the companies.

Below are suggestions companies could  include in their external communications efforts: 

1) Incorporating social media


While it would have been obvious to people in this digital age to be visible online, I was surprised to see that one of the multinational companies I wrote to, Company X, had a very limited social media presence. Excluding a LinkedIn page and a newly opened YouTube channel, its Twitter feed had been inactive for over a year after a single tweet, and no social media buttons could be found  on its website. 

This development means that its worthwhile CSR programmes buried in some deep recesses of its website are not easily visible, neither can its press releases be shared  to social media platforms. Moreover, its YouTube channel, on which interesting videos are uploaded, would draw in more 'interactions' if only it asked simple questions about the visual content to encourage conversations. More should be done to increase its visibility and to show that it is a caring, responsible corporate citizen. 

In isolation, the case of Company X might be a so-what issue, until I checked out just three of its important competitors and one thing became obvious -  Company X was lagging behind considerably.

Presently, the rival companies have as a minimum, slots on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Its biggest competitor (granted, with a bigger portfolio and greater assets) in addition, has Google+, Instagram, Flickr and RSS feed accounts. But more importantly, all three companies truly and regularly engage on social media. They share useful, informative and inspiring content, roll out contests, ask and answer questions, and celebrate  'followers'. Moreover, these competitors have dynamic websites (compared to the static website of Company X) on which social media buttons are visible - making it easy for the public to share the companies'  information, thereby  extending their influence.

To be fair, one should not compare apples to oranges, but If Company X, an international company, were to be privy to the results recorded by those three competitors - as well as by other  local  companies in the sector that  include social media initiatives in their communications' plans -  it would rethink its strategy. After all, such companies are unlikely to continue to invest in their social media programmes if returns on investment were lacklustre or outcomes of other business indicators were disappointing.  Indeed, valuable uses of social media, as explained by Salesforce Canada, are not limited to vanity metrics such as the number of 'followers' or 'likes'  companies get online, but could be used to measure goals such as customer service improvement, thought leadership in the industry, and how partnerships are used for business development.

Although it is impractical to hop onto every social media platform, there seems to be an unspoken consensus that companies serious about their digital presence should be visible on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Whatever social media platform you choose, it is helpful to keep abreast of what your rivals are doing and then formulate strategies that would allow you to compete favourably.  

If you need more persuasion about including social media in your business plans, these tips would convince your CEO to get your company on board. It might be easier than you think.

For the companies already on social media -  more  engagement  with  the  public is required. Your content should be a mix of company-specific information, industry news and lively interactions with 'followers'. Avoid concentrating solely on your content in order not to appear narcissistic. Celebrate/reward your most loyal customers/clients/followers and let the public see how you value your audience.

Note that companies are increasingly adding blogs to their websites. This move boosts (sales) conversion rates and enhances customer service delivery. Blogs also help to get a better 'pulse' on issues most important to customers/clients/partners, which if not resolved, could negatively impact the companies' operations.

It would become necessary to hire content creators for your corporate blogs, and social media marketing experts for your online efforts, if your in-house staff can neither handle the extra workloads, nor are keen on managing technical aspects of search engine optimisation and social media tracking. But do something more to stay relevant.

Remember that the type of content you share in your social media networks (blog posts, images, infographics,  videos, podcasts, etc.),  is just as important as the timing of the posting (when  your audience is online - specific hours on weekdays, weekends, holiday periods, etc.). You should also consider the methods used in posting (via automated tools, in 'real' time, or a combination of both options). Therefore, do some research, find out what works for you and stick to it.


What should be noted is this: Social media must always be used in conjunction with, and not to the exclusion of, your other communications, marketing  and PR efforts. PR Daily explains this angle perfectly in a cautionary piece about being flexible and innovative in your marketing campaigns.

2) Using the Communications Strategy of this blog 

Once more, I recommend the Communications Strategy crafted by this blog to be used for your key campaigns or initiatives.



It comprises six simple components which when used together,  becomes  a powerful tool for handling communications for both internal and  external stakeholders. The components are:

1) "The What";

2) "The Why";

3) "The Who";

4) "The How";

5) "The When/How Long";

6) "The Crisis-Mode Plan".             

This Strategy helps to fuel a healthy corporate image because of its inherent emphasis on clarity. Each component seamlessly leads to the next, eliminating speculation and misinformation. Companies could customise the Strategy and use it to improve their communication methods. By ensuring that clear, relevant  information is distributed and regularly reaffirmed,  companies would be regarded as credible and would benefit from  improved corporate images.


So while those multinationals I contacted may or may not  take my suggestions seriously, (well you win some; you  lose some), organisations  seeking to benefit from good reputations should view their communications as essential tools for strengthening their brands. 

To recap:

Inside the company

 - Use communications to build trust by developing a two-way communication system that is strengthened with timely, factual feedback and consistent actions.

 -  Apply  this blog's Communications Strategy to ensure employees' acceptance of company's programmes for successful delivery.

For external efforts


 - Include blogs; use varied content and  incorporate social media in your other communications, marketing and PR efforts. Engage regularly with your audience online.

 - Hire experts if necessary to write content, handle technical aspects of social media marketing, and to  track/monitor  campaigns.

 - Adopt  a customised version of this blog's Communications Strategy.  

Doing these things would give you  sufficient fodder to take your reputations to the next level.

And let us take a cue from George Bernard Shaw's quote and not believe the illusion that we have communicated effectively with our targets simply because we have crafted and distributed the content. Instead, we should test our communications and retain only what achieves our goals. Favourable results would then unfold.  

How have you improved your corporate reputation using communications? Kindly share your experiences below, anonymously if you prefer.

Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:  

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Many thanks!  

Recommended reading

Need help in business writing?

Hire me for a writing assignment, some consulting work and/or coaching sessions in formal writing and communications.  

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N.B– First, third, fourth and fifth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via Second image courtesy of Basketman; via Last image courtesy of Ddpavumba; via


  1. Eugene Okpere (Via LinkedIn)30 November 2014 at 11:16

    Nice article.

    1. Many thanks. Kindly forward to whoever would find it useful. Cheers!

  2. Cécile Pompanon (Via Corporate Communications and Reputation group on LinkedIn)1 December 2014 at 13:19

    Thanks and congrats for this solid and synthetic piece!

    1. Thanks Cécile for reading it! Honoured that you, as a communications professional, found it relevant. Cheers.

  3. Sophie Beuscart (via Corporate Communications and Reputation group on LinkedIn)1 December 2014 at 19:58

    Excellent article, well done.

    1. Many thanks Sophie. Would love to hear about specific experiences. Anyone willing to share?


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