To better understand this landscape, we conducted a study of the Geneva communications environment using our proprietary “Leadership Navigation” methodology. The study explores whether and how companies and organisations in the city and wider region embrace the opportunities presented by a strategic approach to communications and marketing alignment. The methodology comprises benchmarks at three levels of the strategic communications approach:
- Set the course– defining the organisational essence (“North Star”), articulated in mission, vision and value statements
- Navigate– seeing how well ambitions are substantiated by a real action in sustainability engagement
- Communicate– looking at what communications tools and tactics are used to engage with audiences and communities.
To our surprise, we discovered a big ‘navigation’ gap between the ‘set the course’ and ‘communicate’ elements of the study, across both companies and organisations. This gap has big consequences for the effectiveness of communications. Adopting a tactical approach to sustainability and community engagement, or worse failing to engage with these topics entirely, has the knock-on effect of making all communications activities opportunistic and tactical.
We also found that the organisations and companies that are most effective across all three layers are those which are aligned at strategic level. This means that the communications function plays a strategic role within the organisation – a role which is increasingly important in the modern world.
Traditionally, the role of communications team was to align the way an organisation is portrayed externally across channels. Today though, with increasing demands from stakeholders and consumers, the communications role has grown to become a driver of transformation across the organisation. In forward-looking organisations, it is seen as a strategic part of the strategy, bringing the outside viewpoint in, as well as articulating the inside viewpoint out.
In the study we identified the following nine strategies to ensure strategic leadership alignment for effective communication:
Set the course
- Defining an organisational essence that has the power to provide purpose for employees to become organisational advocates.
- Creating a values-driven culture that puts ethical considerations at the centre of the business strategy.
- Adopting a synergetic model of communications management that ties together brand and reputation management.
- Empowering leaders to become spokespeople on wider issues than just the core business.
- Using the SDG framework to position organisational and corporate activities, focused on concrete contributions.
- Enhancing the scope of partnerships and working towards sustainability models as opposed to traditional CSR activities.
- Using communications tools to disseminate knowledge, and to become a knowledge provider for various groups of stakeholders.
- Moving towards creating holistic brand experiences as opposed to pushing customers and stakeholders into the “sales funnel”.
- Looking holistically at the publishing process: targeting, paid support, timing, content formats.