United Airlines recent issues – refusing to let young girls wearing leggings on the flight, and forcibly dragging a passenger unwilling to be bumped off of an overbooked flight – perfectly illustrate why communications strategists should be an integral part of the leadership team. Every action, policy, sponsorship, celebrity spokesperson and communication (internal or external) matters. A company creates its image and solidifies its reputation with every statement it makes -- verbal or otherwise.
According to an NPR piece in 2016, “Overall, millennials are more demanding, more in touch and more skeptical.” And a Nielsen survey conducted in 2014 confirms the importance of corporate social responsibility to millennials. This generation puts their support – and their dollars – with companies demonstrating social consciousness. It’s not a stretch to extrapolate this to the treatment of customers and the overall public behavior of the brand. People are making decisions based on values.
If an organization works to build a consistent brand and reputation – from the inside out – they are far more likely to be able to weather the storm of the occasional misstep. Think of Starbucks and it’s well intentioned, but poorly executed, #RaceTogether campaign. Starbucks took a brief hit, but was able to rebound because of the reputation it has earned as a socially conscious company. It provides insurance and tuition reimbursement for employees, hires military veterans and ethically sources its coffee. These were not public relations decisions; yet dramatically impact perception of the organization, which is a public relations outcome.
In short, your reputation is at the intersection of corporate culture and public relations. Doesn’t it make sense to involve public relations counsel to consider impacts when developing and evaluating critical business practices?