A Productive Culture

Creating and maintaining a productive organizational culture is challenging and takes time. A good working environment hinges on the organization’s ability to communicate effectively.

Relative to communication, organization leaders use a few trusted techniques to establish and maintain this positive working environment.

Leaders value employee opinions. Employee feedback is critical in understanding whether the organization is functioning internally and externally in line with its mission. There are several different methods of internal feedback. Organizations use everything from casual water cooler conversation, to employee appraisals, to outsourced surveys to gain insight into employees perceptions of the organization and its leadership. Where possible, leaders who meet individually or in small groups with each employee and foster genuine conversation tend to have more positive results from this exercise. This also is affirms employees value to the organization. Honest feedback in turn gives senior executives valuable information regarding the organization’s strengths and weaknesses. From this information the company can create a plan of action to address issues that arise and need improvement.

Leaders realize a break from the norm boosts moral and lends for greater camaraderie. Providing employees the opportunity to take a walk or have short breaks gives them the ability to reset and return more productive to their work. Having company-wide gatherings such as celebrative events allow employees to engage on a deeper level outside of work and foster friendships. Team-building activities give employees an opportunity for fellowship and friendly competition. These events make the workplace more enjoyable and a place employees want to be.

Leaders seek to optimize their communication abilities. They seek out the best tool for communication within their organization that is all inclusive, yet challenges people to grow. They make sure messages are clearly communicated throughout all departments and constantly evaluate themselves to ensure they are doing the best to use effective communication methods.

These efforts on the behalf of leaders echo throughout the organization and foster a productive climate. Teamwork and mutual trust increase among employees and with leadership. The organization can retain employees and have a positive culture for new people coming on board. Employees enjoy working and the environment they enter everyday.



When Intangible Becomes Tangible

In the business culture, an organization’s top priority is and has always been its bottom line. The profit margin is most important. After all, an organization must have some level of success to remain in existence. With that in mind, every asset is regularly evaluated and measured in terms of its effect on the organization’s balance sheet. These assets are often categorized as tangibles and intangibles. In a business, tangibles include physical property that can be felt or touched such as furniture, business equipment, vehicles, household goods, collectibles, and jewelry. Intangibles, on the other hand, are not physical items, but intellectual property such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.

In addition to being felt or seen, tangibles can be assigned a dollar amount. They can be quantified fairly easily. Intangibles are more of a guessing game when it comes to measuring their value to an organization.

Due to the nature of a business’ focus on its profit by means of quantifying its tangibles and intangibles, marketing for organizations must also adhere to these standards. This means public relations professionals have their work cut out for them. How could they ever assign a dollar amount the business will gain directly relative the services they provide?

A PR individual or team works to influence outside opinion and behavior directed toward an organization or product. Public Relations may encompass several forms of media and communication to build, maintain and manage the reputation of clients. Essentially, PR professionals attempt to convey to the public, all the positive aspects of an organization. The amount of success experienced due to these endeavors is difficult to measure. Nearly impossible. They will most likely never be credited to an increased profit margin.

Some aspects can be calculated. An organization can determine how many times it is mentioned in the media, its website traffic, “likes” on Facebook, requests for speaking engagements, calls, emails, etc. The digital buzz of an organization can be measured and tracked.

“In PR, The ROI [Return on investment] is more about communications objectives and less about financial objectives.” (MJW, 2013) Therefore, PR strategies often fall under intangible benefits. Brand recognition, reputation and market leadership are examples of an organizations PR intangibles. Without investing in research, those are concepts cannot easily be measured. PR attempts to tell consumers how to feel about an organization, relate positivity to its brand and bring it to the forefront of that particular industry. However, rarely can PR really know how good a job its actually doing. There are so many variables involved, complete accuracy could never be achieved.

Although PR professionals may be challenged proving why an organization needs them, it may be easier to let them know why they can’t survive without them. While PR may not directly increase their wallets, choosing not to invest in these services could actually have a negative effect on an organization’s bottom line. Public Relations does so many things that keep an organization from losing steam. They work hard to preserve values and keep the organization always in sight of the consumer. Beyond just promotion, an organization without a crisis management plan is a sitting duck. It may not survive if a crisis arose, without the help of a seasoned communicator.

Whatever makes the point, organizations must accept that PR contributes greatly to an organizations intangibles. But how intangible are they?

In a case study in New England, a business experienced a collapsed infrastructure due to ignored “intangibles.” The long-time CEO of the Market Basket family-owned Supermarket chain was forced out by majority stakeholders. What played out following his dismissal was a “stakeholder revolt that is showing the direct connection between intangible capital and financial results” (Adams, 2014). One thing led to another creating a catastrophic domino effect for this organization.

Adams analyzed the results in the form of intangible capital lost by Market Basket. The first was Human Capital. The company had excellent rapport with its employees. They feared this reputation would end with his dismissal. They walked off the job and even held protests at the stores claiming they would no longer work for the company if he was fired.

Relationship Capital  was the next to suffer. Market Basket was known for its loyal customers. They offered low prices and a wide selection that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Due to the bad publicity and empty shelves due to employee riots, customers were staying at bay and even transitioning other stores.

By this time Market Basket was in a mess. Strategic Capital also crumbled. “The culture, the vision and the business model were apparent to all the stakeholders, except maybe the majority shareholders. Their position was a clear message to the market that values and practices were going to change” (Adams, 2014).

These values and principles once thought of and recognized as intangibles, quickly jumped over to a whole new column. After changes in the board room, without these being considered, they in turn did eventually have an effect on the bottom line.

Adams states that the failure to steward these assets destroys profits and value and smarter companies pay attention to their intangibles.

I was thrilled to come across this article written by Adams. It portrays unfortunate circumstances for the organization, but a good analysis of the events that took place and how what seemed like a simple decision resulted in a major destruction for Market Basket. I struggle to accept that these principles are categorized as intangibles. I think this case study further drives home the point the line between tangible and intangible can be a very thin one. Public Relations and the strategic communication that comes with it is vital to the continued success of an organization.






Everyone is a Communicator

When an organization enters into a crisis situation, immediately the problem as well as its magnitude is addressed, teams are assembled and begin to process the best way to manage the crisis. Usually this involves dealing with the actual incident to stop the problem, then the focus shifts to how best to communicate with the media and public stockholders to minimize damage from the crisis. These steps sound simple, but they can be extremely challenging in the midst of a crisis. They can take place quickly or drag out several days, weeks or months.

One element of communication often overlooked in times of an organization’s crisis is its internal communication. Sure, the CEOs and communication professionals are remain in constant contact, but does it stop there? Crisis communicator Neil Chapman states that everyone in an organization is a communicator. Perhaps Chapman’s most notable work was unifying the crisis response command center for the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He said within the context of this massive crisis, spanning multiple organizations, he felt it was imperative for the entire response team to be on the same page – everyone from the boardroom to those cleaning up on the beach.

The remainder of this post will emphasize the importance of communication within the entire organization and best practices for accomplishing this in the face of a crisis.

Employees are perhaps an organization’s most important stockholders. In challenging and uncertain times of crisis, they should be valued enough to be included in the communication process. They need to know what’s going on and be reassured that better days are ahead for the organization. “It [communication] is essential for the employees to respect their organization” (MSG). When they are knowledgeable about the problem and the solution, they can be more of an asset to the organization. During difficult times, it takes teamwork to get through it.

Communicating with all employees also provides a level of transparency and contributes to a team atmosphere. It can prevent employees from speaking negatively about the organization and the crisis or spreading false information.

Although an organization cannot predict every type of crisis that could possibly occur, they can prepare a general procedure of how to respond to unfavorable events. Planning a framework of communication is exponentially easier to do prior to a crisis. Many times crisis brings chaos and an organization’s response can be much faster and more appropriate if things are in place beforehand. The following steps can best prepare an organization to handle internal communication if a crisis should arise:

Maintain positive work environments and encouraging employee relationships. These two concepts benefit an organization in daily operations but are invaluable resources during challenges of a crisis. Rarely does a true crisis come to a resolution by an individual or one department. It usually takes several internal and sometimes external divisions to resolve the conflict. If interpersonal and interdepartmental communication is in good standing, the organization has a head start in its response.

Establish effective communication platforms. An organization must determine the best way to communicate with employees. In most cases, Email is preferred. Although this may be an effective communication tool, it’s important to have multiple modalities to reach everyone in the target internal audience. Depending on the organization, more traditional methods like face-to-face meetings or conference calls may be necessary. Notification systems such as SMS text messaging could be an important tool in cases of emergency where timeliness is a factor.

CEOs and senior executives must realize that it is likely their messages to employees will likely leak out into external venues. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing, as long as the message is crafted with that in mind. This can actually work in the organization’s favor. Employees will be sharing info regarding the crisis with those around them and likely the world via social media outlets. When an organization communicates effectively with its employees, it has more control over that information being shared.

Identify a Crisis Communication Team and Train Key Communicators. The spokespersons of an organization reflect its values and standards. The people who will communicate with media, stockholders and customers must fully understand their colossal task and its implications. Wisdom and poise is required to carefully steer the organization through the public communication process. This may mean multiple communicators for different platforms. Some individuals may be skilled in TV interviews while others excel in the social media arena. It’s key to have the right people in the right places at the right time.

Develop Generic Statements. Within every crisis plan, an organization should have a few generic holding statements stockpiled. These can be specific or vague depending on the nature of the organization and the predicted potential crisis. Generic statements would just inform the public that the organization is aware of the situation, activating its crisis plan and doing everything in its power to bring the incident to a resolution. These statements are canned and must be adjusted based on the events of the actual crisis at hand. For example, if the crisis involved injuries or death, the organization must immediately sympathize with individuals and/or family affected. These statements are released as soon as the crisis arises and will buy some time for the organization to gather important details to work toward bringing the crisis to an end and deciding the best way to communicate with stakeholders.

Many of these steps not only prepare organizations to manage crisis situations but also benefit in daily communication functions. One of the seven guiding principles of Arthur W. Page’s philosophy is for public relations professionals to “realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people” (Young & Flowers, 2012). An organization’s success could not be possible without dedicated, hardworking employees. A crisis is a time to show value in people and include them in the life of the organization.