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The business of communicating values


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The business of communicating values

  1. 1. The Business of Communicating Values (HBR Blog)ROSANNA M. FISKERosanna M. Fiske, APR, is immediate past chair of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).Source: communicate a lot of things. Many love to boast when their revenues soar, or publicize the strategicrestructuring of their organizational response committees (whatever that means). But often missing from a firmscommunications is something absolutely fundamental to its operations: its values.If a company doesnt take the time and effort to communicate its values in a meaningful way, then its like the old tree-falling-in-the-forest cliché: It makes a big splash, but no one is around to appreciate its impact.I was reminded of this while reading David Rocks "The Business of Values" here on Rock outlines threecommon approaches to how business schools teach corporate values: values as ethics; identifying a set of universalvalues; and the recognition of values. He concludes, resolutely, that it "may be time to take the whole business of values,and the values of our businesses, a lot more seriously."Recent high-profile scandals and crises have made it clear that many businesses do not properly or openly communicatetheir values. That has direct and indirect effects on the economy, which is made all the worse by rising fears of a double-dip recession and angst over the state of global markets.Just look at how The News of the World phone-hacking scandal has exposed News Corp. toaccusations over thecompanys values and the efficacy of its leadership. Had the company more openly communicated what it stands for andthe moral compass its employees follow, it likely would not have been vilified so thoroughly in the press. Despitenumerous protestations from Rupert Murdoch and his top lieutenants that the companys values align perfectly with thepublics best interests, the damage has been done. The public is left questioning what, if anything, does this companystand for?Even NewsCorp. purports to have values, but like many other companies it fails to effectively communicate them to theoutside world. Having strong corporate values is admirable, but values without proactive employee communication of theirimportance might as well not exist. A firm might host a company-wide meeting to reaffirm the employee-engagementprogram or to deliver the annual report, but how often have you seen that effort start with a bang and quickly fizzle out aspeople move on with their day-to-day tasks? Employee communications has never been a more important component of aCEOs management toolbox, and we must educate our employees on how to effectively communicate values and makethem resonate. Teaching resource for AMA evening class / Corporate Communications / 23Jan2012 1
  2. 2. What else can businesses do to better communicate their values? A few key ideas to keep in mind:Ask employees what is important to them. Seek their input on how well the companys work, and in turn, itsemployees, reflect their value system. Remember that generalized concepts — even oft-used words found in missionstatements like "integrity" and "commitment" — have different meanings to people from different cultures andbackgrounds.Establish core values across the company, not just within management. If management sets values, who would ownthem? You need buy-in from employees; they have to feel a certain ownership over value creation.Develop a values communications plan. Employee communications has to be at the forefront of your value-settingagenda; too often, executives fail to proactively seek employee input and buy-inbefore values are put in place. This leadsto antipathy and resentment among those employees who dont feel a companys values align with their personal andprofessional aspirations.Live your values. Embrace the corporate values and be mindful of them in every decision you make — both in good andbad times. Never forget that actions speak louder than words.Few companies get every component of "the business of values" just right. Value setting is a tough business, oftenfraught with multiple challenges and divergent agendas. But once those values are set, right or wrong, every CEO wouldbe wise to communicate them and live them as though his business depends on it. Because it just might. *** Teaching resource for AMA evening class / Corporate Communications / 23Jan2012 2