July 21, 2020

Responding to Events of Our Time

Consumers, employees and investors are paying more attention than ever to how and whether companies are responding to the events of our time. Now is the time for businesses and organizations to powerfully demonstrate – and communicate – the values they hold close.

Many have recognized this and responded thoughtfully and authentically, particularly in the realm of racial justice and equity. But some efforts have been marred by unforced errors.

No matter the issue, in these days of fast-moving developments, it’s essential that you and your leadership team remember the importance of being prepared to tell your own story, including how your company or organization is thinking about and responding to historic demands for change.

As you do so, we offer this guidance:

Prioritize transparency, authenticity and consistency

We know that hollow assertions have never served companies well in the long term, and that’s never been more true. We can’t stress enough the importance of thinking through the issue you are seeking to address by first listening to appropriate and important voices to help define your purpose, vision and values before determining how that translates into how your company reflects – or will work toward reflecting – those values both internally and externally.

Addressing sensitive, important issues head on and with transparency will go a long way toward establishing your company or organization as responsive to your stakeholders and committed to ensuring that your business remains poised for long-term success.

Communicating your values

Once you and your team have established a plan that reflects your values, including an infrastructure that supports it, clearly communicate the details and goals to your board and employees.

Leverage all the communication tools at your disposal while focusing on engaging the right audiences in the right way and places:

  • Engage the broader community via social media.
  • Use blogs and op-eds as opportunities to further explain your company’s commitments internally and externally.
  • Include your action plan and goals in your company’s annual report, giving investors a good source of information.
  • Update your website to include more information, including company statements, for your employees, investors and the general public.
  • Maintain a strong and timely cadence of communications with your board and investors.

Opting out isn’t an option

Social media drives much of our world today, from how consumers interact with your company, to how information – good, bad, and in between – moves at breakneck speed from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to podcasts and beyond. If you’re not prepared, it can be in ways you can’t control.

Put a stake in the ground – even if it’s first acknowledging you have work to do. When you and your team engage honestly, openly and authentically in the hard work needed to fully and consistently address issues affecting society, you will be poised to tell your story – before someone else does.