In the dynamic world of public relations and communications, authenticity stands as the ultimate measure, serving as the cornerstone upon which trust, credibility, and long-lasting relationships are built.
As a young woman navigating the early stages of the corporate world through agency life, the ability to discern a company’s authenticity is important to ensure I’m not only working for a firm I can believe in, and for clients who have purpose, but I am able to play an active role in an organisation where all stakeholders are genuinely valued and engaged.
Below I outline three important ways a company can manifest its authenticity: 1) through transparent communication with employees and stakeholders; 2) via a clear commitment to ESG (Environmental Social Governance) initiatives and 3) by demonstrating leadership in commitment.
The Power of Transparent Communication.
Transparency is the foundation of an authentic company. Companies should aim to be true to their word and embrace open and honest communication with stakeholders. This includes sharing information about their products, practices, and values willingly through, for example, financial reports, operational processes, and their approach to public relations. Authentic companies are forthright about their successes and failures, using both as opportunities for growth. Streaming giant Spotify has made significant strides in embracing the power of transparent communications through the regular publishing of its financial reports, user statistics, and business updates for public consumption. An example of this is Spotify’s For The Record podcast series which allows listeners to keep tabs on the latest developments from inside the company. By openly sharing this information, Spotify demonstrates a commitment to fostering trust among its employees, its userbase and investors.
Committing to ESG – Actions Speak Louder Than Words.
Authenticity is very apparent when brands engage with the communities in which they serve. And further, consumers want to know and feel their presence. FedEx (client) has a longstanding commitment to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the United States. In 2021, FedEx announced a $5M donation to a group of HBCUs for the next five years. Following the donation, FedEx wanted to continue support with programming and experiences that would offer students valuable practical experience to prepare them to enter the workforce and help continue to bring diverse talent into the pipeline at FedEx. In collaboration with HBCU presidents, we created the FedEx-HBCU Student Ambassador Program in 2022 and welcomed the program’s second student cohort this year.
Companies that mean what they say demonstrate their commitment through tangible initiatives: authenticity hinges on their ability to transform words into meaningful actions. If a company professes a commitment to environmental sustainability, their actions should mirror these claims. German tech titan Siemens AG is a standout example of action-driven commitment in sustainability backed up with tangible, impact-driven initiatives. The firm’s DEGREE Framework aligns Siemen’s actions in relation to the UN’s Sustainability Goals, highlighting a resolute commitment to decarbonisation, substantiated by an 88Mt reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This exemplifies a clear and comprehensive sustainability strategy and active implementation of it, setting a compelling precedent for the industry’s pursuit of authenticity and real-world impact.
Leading by Example.
One of the most powerful ways to build authenticity is demonstrating real leadership. Microsoft (client) is a notable example here. The company was a leader in not only publicly committing to the responsible development and use of Artificial Intelligence (based on fairness, inclusivity and accountability), it went a step further to communicate and help others outside of the organisation. Microsoft actively shared the processes and policies it instilled for actively maintaining its values. Recognising that every company will soon be developing and/or using AI, Microsoft created AI Customer Commitments outlining how they are committed to share expertise and provide support for customers on their own responsible AI journey. The company then created a book for EU policymakers that outlines the importance of ethical AI and the need for sensible legislation to protect people’s civil liberties.
Microsoft is the first big tech company to think so laterally about ensuring AI benefits society. It will not be the last.
Authenticity should be core to the work we do as communications professionals and as we build reputation and trust for leading companies. It is also crucial to recognise that authenticity is not a static destination, but an ever-evolving journey. As more companies grasp the profound importance of authenticity, they are playing their part in shaping the corporate landscape of tomorrow.
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