The language we choose to describe our business and its proposition is paramount to attracting the right clients, workforce, investors and other stakeholders who will be important to our future success. The same applies to non-profit making organisations whose support base is vital to their ongoing objectives and reputation.
In the digital age of online content and social media, corporate reputations need to be protected, developed and shaped with ever greater rigour as information on just about anything and anyone is instantaneously available at the click of a mouse. At the same time there are huge opportunities open to us today to expand and reach more of our client s’ diverse audiences to tell their story and get people engaged with their corporate journey.
Guy Woodcock, CEO of Montpellier Public Relations, draws on his experience of thirty years of client journeys to share the big three questions all businesses should ask themselves and why the answers matter: who are you; what do you do; and, where are you going?
Who are you?
Ironically, more people struggle with describing their businesses than one might think. Going through one’s products or services gets things off to a start, but it’s not the best place to begin.
Spending time developing one’s company vision, mission and value proposition statements is well worth investing time and if necessary third-party expertise in, indeed it’s often the start point for our own work with clients, particularly when working with organisations who may not have relied on external or consultancy support previously.
In other words, identifying in the least number of relevant words why you exist, what you offer that makes you different, and what the world will look like when you have attained or consolidated your desired place in the market.
These should sit at the heart of the public relations story for that organisation, calibrating the map and compass, ensuring that all future communications are true to the intended journey; revealing over the course of the programme of PR activity an increasingly vivid picture of the strengths, characteristics, novelties, progress, achievements and aspirations of the business to its diverse radii of stakeholders: from employees to customers, bank managers to investors, local communities to shareholders, and more. These are the people who, whether we like it or not, are travelling with you on your journey, so like a good pilot, it’s good to be communicating positively and proactively as we journey towards our destination.
Over many years, Montpellier has been deeply privileged to join the journeys of a diverse range of clients, each invariably being at different stages of their journey: hyper-potential start-ups who need to get off the ground with a bang; established businesses that want to step out of the shadows and into the light; scientists with brilliant ideas that will change the world, and many others.
And because we tend to work mainly with independently owned clients in clearly defined vertical markets, most of the businesses are – when we start with them – somewhere in the top three. Ambitious Number Three looking to knock Number One off their perch, or Number One defending and extending their market lead. Whether one, two or three, they are each of them on their own unique journey.
Our task as public relations advisors and practitioners is to arm each client business with the vocabulary and language to drive their messages with the desired impact and accuracy.
So, what DO you do?
It’s a vital question for every business to be able to answer clearly, quickly and in such a way that captures the imagination and interest of stakeholders, leaving no one in doubt as to exactly who they are and what they do. Articulating and then amplifying the value proposition accurately is key.
Sometimes, clients come to us because they are having difficulty engaging effectively with their key audiences and stakeholders, and on other occasions because, although they may already be engaged in some press activity and other external comms, it doesn’t really tie in with the business plans or keep pace with the changing nature of the business or even its strategies. One of the main reasons companies fail to reach or engage fully with their stakeholders and audiences is because their messages have become jumbled and confused over time, or the goalposts have moved and the company’s reputation or perceived standing no longer fits with reality or their aspirations.
Helping a client to articulate their value proposition in the marketplace may require going back to grassroots, stripping away the inessential, encouraging them to revisit their place in the market and then rebuild the communications strategy along with the language and vocabulary that is particular to them and to their aspirations.
Where are you going?
I mentioned earlier the importance of developing a company vision statement, and hopefully an inspiring one at that, as this again will be key to our communications activity, seeding our messages with a positive sense of direction whilst reinforcing in the minds of stakeholders a confident perception of market leadership and authority. It’s Darwin’s law in business; a journey to the top, laying claim to the mantle that is ours and that inspires customers and prospects, existing and future staff, investors and, who knows, future buyers of the business, to engage positively with us in terms that impact on our progress and wellbeing.
Those not so familiar with PR may believe that a few well-written press releases and targeted features will be enough on their own to help propel the organisation. But it’s not so simple. These activities need to be synchronised fully with the company’s stated journey and map, and that links back to the vision statement and, therefore, the business plan.
By Guy Woodcock
CEO, Montpellier Public Relations