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System solutions build success

There is no doubt, certainly communication managers should have none, that associations with the corporate brand are one of the biggest assets of an organisation – they determine not only how we perceive its products but also how we see the organisation itself.

So how to effectively develop the proper associations? Some companies invest millions to build scale; other ones reserve their resources for the right moment. Can these two approaches be reconciled? I say yes – both strategies can bring benefits, just as the hybrid implementation. We must bear in mind however that in the long run a systemic approach to building relationships is crucial as opposed to committing funds to artificial creation of activities.

Associations are about matching at least two situations so that the occurrence of one of them results in the tendency for the other ones to appear. Seemingly a very narrow category of experiencing, it constitutes an enormous value, affecting evaluation of the entire spectrum of the organisation’s operation: the skill and ability to be successful, building relations with partners, the approach to employees, social responsibility or product features.

The most important and at the same time most universal association, which radiates across the whole company, is perceiving it as capable of being successful; an expert in its operation. Attributes, which we assign to the best ones make us perceive them as leaders in other areas of activity. If we view reputation ranking lists we can see clearly that companies, which are seen to be effective, are at the same time considered good employers and good business partners. You may question the actual coincidence of these facts, however companies, which are situated lower down on the lists have no such correlation. This is why from the Public Relations perspective it is very important to implement such procedures in the organisation, which will permit efficient aggregation of knowledge about operational activity. In a traditional competence silo-based model flow of information is usually vertical; staff report to superiors and the superiors set targets for them. Integrating knowledge concerning the organisation is more often than not done on management level. In the dynamic circulation of information, which we experience at present, every delay or omission of valuable information has adverse effects. The ability to react fast increases strongly when we secure flow of information already at the operational level in a systemic way. This is a simple improvement, which does not necessitate commitment of major resources, but will greatly improve effectiveness in the communication department.

Properly building relations with business partners, based on respect for needs and cooperation standards, also does not require a revolution in how an organisation works. The opinions and experiences of partners are often time the main source of knowledge not only for potential counterparties but also for the media. In cases of disputes or a shaken-up media perception of the organisation independent voices are sometimes crucial. With the ability to earlier analyse points of contact between the organisation and its environment it is possible to secure the relationship without the pressure that emerges in unexpected situations – often not leaving any possibility to act effectively. In such case the job of the PR manager should be to define the formal and informal communication channels, which will allow often underestimated opportunities to be put to good use.

Employees form an equally important action platform. Both current as well as former ones are like a litmus test. Not only do they affect productivity but are also the most heeded source of information about it. A mistake along this line will open many areas of risk, such as: uncontrolled flow of information; reduction of effectiveness of the organisation or loss of valuable talents. Internal communication is strongly defined by the organisation’s culture; however information needs of employees are rather uniform. The key area for searching for new opportunities will first of all be verification of areas of concerted action between HR and communication specialists. A valuable direction for sure will be the use of bi-directional tools as opposed to one-way cascade-type communication.

An almost mandatory trend became the growing pressure on pursuing social policy. Supporting chain-of-supply partners, focusing on security or getting involved in a partnership with science is all a valuable contribution to the policy of an organisation. It is worth considering the departure from philanthropic involvement in initiatives towards systemic solutions. Moreover partnerships abroad should also be sought – looking for areas, which permit many groups of stakeholders to be involved. A grant to a local community will contribute a much greater value if it involves not only the local inhabitants but also the creation of a think tank engaging local authorities, representatives of the organisation as well as those directly concerned. In result of a multifaceted commitment of the organisation far greater benefits can be generated.

Products and services are quite unique in their own right. We frequently evaluate them only through the optic of attributes identified with their manufacturer. We do not make an actual analysis of manufacturers of cars or computers; often relying on a yes-no conviction about the potential of a corporate brand – omitting here the statistical ability of a consumer to make a merits-based analysis of features of the product they are buying.

Building systemic solutions, which will permit the potential of an organisation to be used to its full extent, should actually be the key area of engagement of PR specialists. Communication is a unique area, which draws on commitment in all areas of activity of the organisation. This is why when contemplating activity from the grassroots – irrespective of its nature it is worth remembering that the Pareto rule eighty per cent efficiency will be gained by using the entire spectrum of instruments in order to create appropriate recommendations.

Michał Szapiro