Talk is Cheap: Six Ways to Align Your Actions & Your Words

July 22, 2007 at 12:10 am 1 comment

If you’re serious about being “green,” sustainable, eco-friendly, community-oriented or… [fill in the blank], remember that actions speak louder than words. In a recent survey by Cone, a cause marketing firm in Boston, more than 2/3 of American consumers consider a company’s business practices when making purchasing decisions.

BusinessWeek’s David Kelly pens the “Brand New Day” column online. His analysis of the Cone survey is that people just want to be aware of what companies and organizations support.

Of course, you cannot just “say” you support a cause or you’re committed to a movement or issue – you have to be doing something about it. Your organization’s actions have to show your support and commitment. Then, you have to turn around and do a good job communicating what you’re doing to your core audiences.

Before you start, think about what it is that you want your organization to be known for. What are the core values that should infuse everything from the signage on your building, to your Web site and even your employee-customer interactions.
1. Examine what you’re saying: Do this by looking at all the ways you communicate with your customers, clients, employees, vendors and community. Some common “channels” for communication might include: brochures, Web site, email newsletters, product collateral, store environment, sales presentations, etc.

Looking as objectively as you can at each of these channels. If you were reading/listening/watching these things for the first time, what would each say about what is important to your organization? Is that in line with what you want to say is important?

2. Next, take a look at your company’s programs, products and environment (your actions). Again, remaining as objective as possible, look at your programs as a customer would. What are your actions saying is important to your organization?

3. Spend some time talking to your staff and employees. Does the front-line of your organization know what your organization stands for? Can they articulate your values? And importantly, do they see any discrepancy between action and words?

This might be tough to do without some outside help. Employees may be reluctant to be critical of the company. Finding someone who can serve as an objective third party that can help give employees freedom to speak openly. Or devise a survey of sorts that can collect data anonymously. Of course, interviews provide much more context and often, employees have the best ideas to overcome challenges.

4. Talk to your customers and clients. Conducting informal focus groups or even email surveys can give you a glimpse into how your organization’s words and actions are perceived by your customers and clients. Find out if you’re effectively communication your values and if your customers think your actions support those ideals.

5. Figure out where the trouble spots are and fix them. Is what you’re doing in line with what you’re saying?

Based on what you learned in steps 1 through 4, what do you need to change?

I have two examples, each organization with a different challenge:

Verve client Cafe Yumm! does an outstanding job of doing. With a “triple bottom line” focus, this growing company puts equal emphasis on planet, profit and people. Cafe Yumm!’s challenge is the telling. People don’t know all the great things that it’s doing. They don’t know that much of the interior build-out of the new Cafe Yumm! are biocomposites (things like counters of recycled paper and wall-covers of sorghum.

What people know about Cafe Yumm!, they know because they are fanatical Yumm! eaters, which is terrific. Supporting its actions (which are loud and clear) with words and some creative communication would go a long way to further reinforce the organization’s values.

A previous client-who-shall-not-be-named developed a unique business model that they purposed for solving the nonstop funding scramble that most nonprofits experience. There was a lot of “telling” and almost no “showing.” You’d read on the organization’s Web site about how they are making a big difference, but this information was too much-too soon. There were no happy customers, no success stories – no one saying, “yes! this worked for us!”

In all fairness, the vision that this organization has for changing the landscape of nonprofit fundraising has a tremendous potential and the individuals behind the company were sincere in their motives. But in terms of communication, the words were virtually unsupported by actions.

It takes both to effectively identify, support and communicate your organization’s values.

6. Be transparent!

Once you have figured out if and where the discrepancies between words and actions lie and have made efforts to bring them into alignment, continue to be transparent about what you’re doing. Keep a blog, have an active press room on your Web site, participate in community events and organizations.

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Entry filed under: community relations.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Transparency is Important « Verve In Bloom  |  August 23, 2007 at 4:20 am

    […] When you reveal your company or your organization’s motives, you become accountable to the public. You must do as you say. […]

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