Graeme Trayner sent me an article he co-authored on how businesses can take lessons from the political campaign trail. He's right in making the point that political campaign strategy has found its way into corporate business today. In many meetings today, I hear the words "pivot points," "news cycles," "opposition research," and "opinion research." Incorporation of these political-like strategies and tactics are increasingly important for companies to learn as they try to maintain their reputational footing while being broadsided by slings and arrows from pundits, opponents and errant employees. Trayner points out how the new environment requires company leaders to go beyond winning the news cycle and shift towards a more participatory style, greater stakeholder empowerment, concentration on the right tone, and an outside-in approach to communications. He highlights the need today to focus on winning the "big arguments" not all the arguments all the time. Graeme and his co-author, Julie Andreeff Jensen, make an important point that I wanted to highlight here because it describes how companies must adapt to an empowered base of stakeholders to maintain their reputationanl balance:
"Brands are now very much seen as public property, with assertive consumers feeling a strong sense of sovereignty over what they can and can’t do."
Like never before, the term "stakeholders" is in sharp relief. Stakeholders have a much clearer stake in the brands and reputations of the companies they support and are now the first to object to corporate misbehavior, unfairness or lack of transparency. And they can assert themselves whenever they want now, regardless of news cycle. Reputations are increasingly being torpedoed because consumers want their say in how companies behave and what they do. When that wish is not granted or they are not listened to, companies will regret it and pay the price. The political campaign trail definitely holds lessons for those of us safeguarding reputations today.