Peter Gilheany, Director of Forster Communications, says 2014 must be the year when companies help their stakeholders to live their lives more productively, purposefully and enjoyably – and sets out how.
2013 is unlikely to go down as a banner year. It will be remembered more for grind and ongoing challenge.
We’re due a good year, and it is within our power to make sure 2014 is one. With effort, this could be the year when “could and should” become “are and will”, when organisations from micro-enterprises to billion dollar corporations show us that business can help to solve some of the challenges we face.
We can make this the year when progressive businesses understand and empathise with their customers and stakeholders enough to want to help them live their lives more productively, purposefully and enjoyably; to rekindle their own purpose as organisations; and simply be better, as businesses and agents for positive change.
There are a huge number of opportunities for businesses to do exactly that, 14 of which we at Forster Communications have corralled in our Guide to Better Communications in 2014. Here are just two to start you off:
Authenticity – Being yourself
We often talk about brands having a personality. Brands often forget that, to be effective, a personality needs to be expressive. Can a business show sorrow or remorse? Can it show joy, be extraordinary, more human? Why are simple human behaviours so often absent in corporate cultures?
Smart brands like Somersby Cider realise that consumers want brands to have character and authentic personality.
If an organisation has a heart, it’s people that make it tick. To create a culture where individuals remember to bring themselves to work, rather than leaving their personality on the doorstep – that would be a visionary goal for any company.
John Lewis are the past masters of giving their staff the freedom to be themselves while always remembering they are wearing the badge of their employer. You can start simple and universal – get your people talking about the weather.
Foresight – Selling vision
Long-term planning has never been a strong point of the UK’s society or economy. The longer we live, the less we want to think about not living. Today, every brand claims to be green, responsible, human, sustainable, honest, transparent – but most are playing ‘catch up’ compliance rather than really looking ahead. Where are the visionary brands and how do we recognise them?
To take just one example, not enough people are planning to get older. Growing older is still a mystifying experience. There is so little guidance from organisations offering products and services. It can lead to people leaving their planning for older age till too late. Let the businesses that are communicating more proactive attitudes and approaches to ageing and later life step forward. All kinds of companies can work with and learn from people in later life. As the New Dynamics research initiative shows, good design can contribute to the wellbeing of older people.
Many businesses have vision statements but many sit gathering dust on shelves. Make it part of your communications on a regular basis, report against progress, invite opinion on how you are doing, announce milestones and forks in the road. It will lift your communications out of the everyday, the specific and the mundane and put your purpose front of mind for all.
Let’s make 2014 the year of feel good.
Peter Gilheany is Director of PR at Forster Communications