By Bill Coletti, CEO, Kith
- Impressing your stakeholders is the most important aspect of reputation management
- All of your stakeholders fall into one of three groups: Communities, Customers or Critics
- Understanding the needs and motivations of these groups will allow you to create messages that impress
Believe it or not, no matter what the purpose, industry or size of your organization, you should all have the same goal: impress the people that matter to you. You may have a different stated purpose, like selling a product or offering a service, but in order to do that, you have to impress your audiences. Not only that, you need to impress them in an authentic way that is replicable, smart and most importantly, in a way that is focused on the readers needs and expectations. In order to accomplish this, we at Kith believe all of your stakeholders fall into one of three groups: Communities, Customers, or Critics. Or as I like to call them The Three C’s.
Before we dive in to how and why you’d categorize your stakeholders this way, I think its important to talk about why we’re looking to impress in the first place. You’re looking to impress your stakeholders because it is a pillar of reputation management. We at Kith designed this functional definition of reputation:
Reputation is what people expect us to do next. It’s their expectation of the quality and substance of the next thing we produce, say or do. The impression left on stakeholders by your actions and their evaluation of those actions over time earns a company its reputation.
Your reputation is earned by the impression you leave on your stakeholders, so impressing them should be a key aspect of your reputation management. To get started, you should first understand what is meant by impress.
Impress is defined as to affect deeply or strongly in mind or feelings or to influence in opinion. When I think of impressive, I think about Mt. Everest. At 29,029 feet, it’s the world’s tallest mountain above sea level. Hundreds of people from dozens of countries attempt to summit Mt. Everest every year. There’s a reason people describe facing a particularly difficult challenge as “like climbing Mount Everest.” Each of your organizations has its own Everest—a scary or challenging situation.
When I think about an impressive tactic by a corporation during a critical moment, I think about Samsung. Samsung has had a rough go of things lately with their Samsung Galaxy Note7 battery explosions. Overcoming a challenge like that could be compared to climbing Mt. Everest. In November 2016, Samsung took out a full-page ad in major newspapers including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today featuring a letter from Samsung’s CEO. Read our blog about it here. The letter from the CEO was impressive—it demonstrated transparency and strong executive leadership. Even when you’re not facing a crisis, its up to your organization to impress audiences, because those impressions ultimately become your reputation.
You now understand why you need to impress, but who should you be impressing?
Your stakeholders are those with an interest in or a connection with your organization. You’re probably familiar with a stakeholder map and likely have one specific to your organization. Beyond those buying your services, stakeholders can include trade associations, government officials and regulators, company shareholders, employees, industry leaders and media.
All of the groups on your stakeholder map need to be impressed. Their impression of you shapes your reputation, which should be one of your most valued assets. You can develop that reputation by impressing your stakeholders. The first step to accomplishing this is by breaking this stakeholder map into three groups: Communities Customers and Critics. At Kith, we believe that understanding these groups’ expectations, being aware of their needs, and engaging them will create a clear roadmap for what to do next, whether in crisis or when preparing in advance.
COMMUNITY: The first C is Community. The definition of community is self-organizing through interest; a cluster of common interests that arise from association. For you and your organization, think not just in geographical terms and common interests. Communities get something from the enterprise, like a job, tax revenue or visibility. Your community includes your employees, your surrounding geographical community, your competitors and your trade association.
CUSTOMERS: Customers is the most obvious group you need to be speaking with, as they most visibly impact your bottom line. Customers are defined as a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business. Customers give something, and they have a choice when and where they choose to give their money. Customers’ needs must be met if you wish to generate revenue or grow your organization, which I think we can all agree is a top priority for most companies.
CRITICS: The final C is critics. A critic is defined as a person who expresses an opinion of something, either favorable or unfavorable. Critics say something. They’re observers or outsiders, and they will make their opinions known. Your organizations’ critics will vary. Your critics may include the media, an NGO, or an angry internet mob. This group’s impact can create turmoil for your employees, customers and your bottom line.
Do the Three C’s mean you need to be all things to all people? No, that’s unrealistic. What the Three C’s do is boil every group down to the smallest common denominator, making your communication efforts more manageable. Regardless of how you speak with these groups, you’ll want to do so authentically. So how do you do that?
COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR THREE C’s
When creating your messages, you should ask yourself or your team the following three questions about your Three C’s:
- What are they afraid of? We’ve found that fear is a driver of a lot questions in critical moments. Understanding what your Three C’s are afraid of will help you create messages that assuage those fears.
- What’s in it for them? People are inherently concerned with themselves. It should be clear from your message how they’re impacted, and how they could stand to benefit or be damaged from your action.
- Why should I care? This question goes back to the of reputation management. You should care because impressing ultimately shapes your reputation.
These questions set the stage for a level of understanding with your key stakeholders and their expectations. When any of the Three C’s are left with unmet expectations, the problem can escalate beyond a simple dissatisfaction to a major dilemma for your business.
How can you put into practice what you’ve learned here today?
- Stop and think
First, you can stop and think about the three questions (What are they afraid of, what’s in it for them and why should I care) and how they apply to your stakeholders.
- Talk to your team
Pull your team together and asked them: Are we addressing these needs for our Three C’s? Is there a way for us to better meet their needs?
- Create simplicity
As a leader, you can focus on making messages one good message that works for all three C’s. Creating this simplicity and clarity should be a goal.
So remember: It’s up to your organization to impress audiences, because those impressions ultimately become your reputation. By enacting the practices outlined above, you will be able to design effective messaging that meets all your stakeholders’ needs.