In the past. organisations had a one-dimensional view of their business compared to current New Economy business approach. The mind set was “Customer is King” – this was the most important business consideration, and central to all decisions. Of course the customer is still king, but business models have evolved from this one-dimensional approach. Companies now view the role of influences on their business in a different light. It is strategically vital to consider all the role-players who have a direct or indirect impact on your business irrespective of the size of the business.
More corporations are investing in their employees as an important business enabler – especially in the case of South Africa, where the nature of business has changed significantly since the early 1990s. Policy changes led to a drive to accommodate a diverse workforce, more representative of the demographics of the country. The introduction of “Top Companies to Work” surveys enabled companies to use this accolade to attract the best talent. It also contributed to their reputation as being serious about employee wellbeing and subscribing to transformation aspirations and requirements.
Successful brands are managed from the inside out. Your employees, as enablers of your business, are responsible for bringing your brand values, vision, mission, personality and business objectives alive at all touch points. They need to be well-trained and empowered to act as ambassadors for your brand with the rest of your stakeholders. They are integral to all business decisions to grow, diversify, retain market share or enhance the reputation of your company. Unhappy employees have a direct impact on the performance of your business.
Companies are also rated and reviewed based on their active involvement with community-driven initiatives to help address the imbalances of the past and to ensure positive change by means of social upliftment programmes. Your employees reside in these communities, so do your customers who purchase your products and services – and in some case your shareholders as well. This illustrates the importance of consistently engaging with each of these groupings with the same message, but customised for each audience. y. Ensure your employee communication is frequent, transparent, simplistic, multi-channel and unambiguous.
Public/private sector partnerships are crucial to address socio-economic challenges and ensure market liquidity and growth. Such partnerships are catalysts for FDI and enhance investor confidence. Constant review of your engagement, relationship and support of Governments’ policies and programmes are crucial to enhance your position with this stakeholder.
Leaders at some companies tend to avoid one or more of their stakeholders, only engaging when there is a crisis or an incident which impacts on the reputation of the company. Yet they think they only want to engage when there is something positive to communicate.
It’s crucial to have a healthy, transparent and solid relationship with the media. Your company can be positioned as thought leaders, which opens the door to be approached by the media if they are looking for commentary on a specific topic or matter. Most editors want to ensure when reporting on your company that it is factual, balanced and accurate, and you have a relationship they may be encouraged to approach you before they publish an article.
A solid and pragmatic Stakeholder Engagement Strategy will benefit your business as a long-term non-negotiable investment. Regular and sustained communication will lead to Brand Advocates who will be loyal, protectors and promoters of your business offering. The customer will always be King, but not the only variable in your business strategy and approach.