Spectra 2020, the online conference focused on reputation management, had a keynote session by Margery Kraus, Founder & Executive Chairman, APCO Worldwide, where she addressed the power of connections in enabling purpose.
She believes that to stand by a definite purpose is key for a business, particularly in the current times. Kraus mentioned how at APCO, teams have been advised to look at adapting and adjusting behaviour every three months. She further advised how besides the pandemic, these are also times where there is increased division, acrimony and a sense of hyper-nationalism that can’t be good news for business. It is purpose that will help a business.
Kraus brought attention to a concept from the World Economic Forum a few years ago – every company needs to have a radar and a compass. The radar gives the ability to see ahead and the compass drives businesses to achieve their goals.
“Purpose has become a lot more important to companies. It demonstrates our authenticity and it fosters our relationships with stakeholders. Ultimately, companies with a real focus on purpose tend to perform better,” she said.
Need for purpose
“There is no such thing as a successful company in a failed world,” noted Kraus. If a company wants to be successful, it has to think about society. If society and people don’t benefit from a company, how can it have customers?
Businesses have a role to play in society and the expectations of them are only rising. They need to take the lead in bringing about change, she said.
“COVID19 has highlighted the inequities in our systems. Companies are expected to be engaged in the issues of our times. None of these big problems is going to be solved by governments, NGOs or businesses alone. People look to business because it is very focused on how to get things done. The impact of business on society has probably never been greater,” said Kraus.
Among the trends she observes in the Western markets, Kraus finds investors increasingly looking into a company’s purpose and the way it reacts to environmental, social and governance factors. Besides raising capital, a purpose also helps businesses retain talent and stabilise a happy workforce. Above all, it helps maximise the positive impact, something Kraus terms as ‘reputational equity’.
“I think about reputational equity like deposits in the ‘reputation bank’. Withdraw them if you have a problem or if you’re trying to create an opportunity that the benefit of doubt resides with the company,” she said.
Explaining how companies align around purpose, Kraus used a pyramid framework that APCO calls the 4As:
– Alignment: How people align around what a business stands
– Authenticity: How businesses walk the talk in the times of radical transparency
– Attachment: Becoming the emotional bond between stakeholders and the company
– Advocacy: The actual purpose
The CCO’s evolving role
The role of Chief Communications Officers (CCO) has been evolving now more than ever. It has moved way beyond just pushing press releases and corporate messages to where they need to design meaningful and engaged dialogues, creating a reservoir of friendships and relationships that help build reputational equity.
“We are the first ones in the line of fire on behalf of our organisation. We are hosting dialogues and making informed decisions and this is way beyond spreading information. With the authentic link between the company and the society, we are driving values, interpreting the needs of the stakeholders, creating cross-collaboration and building a network of relationships for the organisation,” Kraus pointed out.
On a closing note, Kraus pointed out how if there ever was a time for better and engaging communication, it is now. “If we are going to bring people together, they need to understand what we are talking about, how it affects them,” she said. Kraus believes that there’s aren’t many problems that don’t manifest as opportunities, even in this pandemic. It (pandemic) has enabled us to think differently and creatively about our own futures and how we solve problems together, she said.