Ideas: Culture your communications

Is your PR strategy still fit for purpose? As with people, businesses grow and evolve, and what worked for you 10 years ago may no longer fit the bill. Charlotte Nichols, managing director of Harvey and Hugo, discusses the importance of ensuring your comms fit your culture – and vice versa

Back to basics

Remember the heady days when you started your business? When you had a clear business plan and a carefully-crafted PR strategy? It may have served you well over the years, but as you’ve grown, you’ve changed, and your communications need to reflect that.

While growth and change is undoubtably a good thing, it is vital to ensure that the brand you’re selling to your clients isn’t out of date.

Maybe, as a small start-up, your USP was personal service and a rapid turnaround, but, due to the sheer size of your organisation, that’s no longer the case. You need to make sure your clients know you’ve changed – the gap between expectation and reality is where too many businesses find themselves floundering.

Timing is key

The important thing is not to leave it too late – ideally, you need to launch your new strategy before the old one is out of date, as highlighted by philosopher and author Charles Handy’s Sigmoid Curve below. While business is booming you may not feel the need to revamp your comms, or you may simply be too busy, but it’s vital to take a step back and reassess.

You’re aiming for what is known as the Strategic Inflection Point; defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as ‘a particular time when a business decides it needs to make important changes such as move into a new market or work in a different way in order to stay competitive’. Move too early and you risk losing momentum; too late, and your business is already in decline.

Culture vs strategy

The relationship between your brand’s strategy and culture is symbiotic; one wouldn’t exist without the other and you need to make sure both are singing from the same hymn sheet.

As Peter Drucker, arguably the world’s most well-known management consultant, famously declared: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Put simply, the most well-thought out business strategy means nothing if your corporate culture doesn’t reflect it.

Using ourselves as an example, The Pack culture is largely based around the idea of working hard, but having fun while we do it. We’re not suited and booted, we’re not stuffy, and this fosters an innovative, energetic culture that ultimately boosts the creativity that our clients want.

Creating a healthy corporate culture will reflect in everything your brand does, and, once that is in place, it’s time to work it back into your strategy; first you need to decide how your culture affects your comms, and then you need to communicate your culture to the wider world.

Take Starbucks: its culture began with the idea of creating comfortable, shared spaces for freelancers to work; the coffee was just incidental. However, once it started the coffee revolution, it carried that casual, ethical culture forward and adapted it, focusing on a fair trade and eco-friendly stance.

Start with why

Simon Sinek once said: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, and keeping this in mind is vital if you’re thinking of updating your PR strategy.

The why is the purpose of the business, your mission as it were. The how – your USP, what you do differently – and the what – the products or services you provide – wouldn’t exist without it, so you need to be communicating this to your clients.

It doesn’t need to be anything complex; a quick look at the mission statements of some of the biggest brands in the world shows that a simple why can be enough to build an empire.

And ours? Our mission is to win hearts and minds by telling our clients’ stories – their ‘whys’ if you will. The stories we tell resonate with hearts and minds of their target audiences, helping build memorable and lovable brands.

Which brings us to values; what do you stand for? Is it fairness, innovation, being part of the community?

And what about the future; what is your brand’s vision? We’re not talking facts and figures, more a general sense of purpose and an ultimate aim.

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