Communication Director Issue 03 2016

Page 26



t is no secret that businesses are challenged almost on a daily basis by the pace of change happening in their environment. Market disruptions, new regulations, economic crises and recoveries, changing lifestyles and consumer habits are just some of the things that require them to be a lot more agile. On the other hand, there have never been greater expectations on business to create longterm value for society and act as a driver of positive change. In that context, the challenge of the communications function is to ensure business stays relevant to the people who enable it to exist and perform: stakeholders. How? By understanding stakeholders’ expectations, aligning corporate strategies and behaviours to these expectations, and engaging stakeholders on the evolution of the company. This process enables companies to align their interests with those of stakeholders, to reach a point where they are recognised as a meaningful contributor to society. This is what we call social acceptance. But how are organisations performing along the steps that can unlock social acceptance? Black Sun, in partnership with Communication Director, have mapped a ‘social acceptance journey’, and asked over 200 European communication professionals about their role in helping organisations build better relationships with society. Our findings show that social acceptance is considered a driver of business performance by most communicators, but not all organisations have the right steps in place to enable it.

Building the case The starting point of the social acceptance journey is about gaining clarity on the rationale. Why should social acceptance matter? We found that 86 per cent of European communications professionals consider social acceptance as a driver of business performance. When

F E AT U R E D I N E U R O P E A N C O M M U N I C AT I O N S U M M I T 2016

asked whether their CEO shares this opinion, 76 per cent agree. The perceptions gap is minor, but still indicates that communicators need to better explain the business case for building long-term trust with society.

Understanding stakeholders Gaining social acceptance requires a deep understanding of stakeholder needs and expectations. How good are organisations at hearing them? More than eight out of 10 European communications professionals think their organisations have

a number of communicators struggle to turn these multiple data streams into insight. As one head of communications from the banking industry explained: “We have a huge amount of data coming from contact centres, social media channels, our end of year survey, our brand survey... We have an issue on how to aggregate data, visualise it and translate into actionable insight.”

Aligning to stakeholders To gain social acceptance, organisations need to embed the needs and expectations of stakeholders in their communications, strategy and operations, as well as in the behaviours of their people. How are organisations performing in this area? We found that stakeholder expectations are being used to inform communications strategies (73 per cent) more than business strategy (69 per cent), and corporate culture (46 per cent). Stakeholder feedback needs to not only inform the way an organisation speaks about itself, but also how it behaves,

“Social acceptance is considered a driver of business performance by most communicators,.” clear knowledge of who their key stakeholders are, but less than half of them (49 per cent) collect their feedback in a robust and systematic way. Having developed stakeholder maps, communicators need to gain a better understanding of how stakeholders perceive their organisation. Customer surveys, reputation audits and employee engagement data all provide vital sources of information and can be used to shape communications and business strategies. However


both as a collective entity and as a sum of individual employee behaviours. Communicators need to better translate external stakeholder expectations to internal audiences in order to ensure they affect actions as much as words.

Engaging stakeholders Building and maintaining social acceptance requires organisations to create


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