The requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley push to the forefront the need for the corporate communicator’s skills and interaction with senior management and the board. The role and responsibility of those in reputation management are expected to expand further. This is the gist of the Hill & Knowlton article US Corporate Communications in a Post-Sarbanes-Oxley World in their newsletter, All Things Corporate.
A major issue faced by corporate communicators, especially in the US, is the crisis of confidence in big business. Fortunately, the recent Corporate Reputation Watch survey shows that senior executives worldwide are accepting the fact that increased transparency and public information are necessary to help regain public support. This poses the following implications for corporate communication directors:
- They need to build a “corporate personality,” establishing the qualifications and perspectives not only of the CEO but of the entire “executive bench” to humanize the corporation and present the individuals who make corporate decisions. It helps that executives are currently more concerned about corporate and individual reputations and are more likely to be publicly vocal. In relation to this, it is also important to ensure communication between and among the CEO and board members so as to keep a unified corporate stand.
- They need to mobilize employees as ambassadors for the company and its positions since a recent study has established that word-of-mouth from family and friends is a more common source of reputation than mainstream media, specialized media or the Internet. This requires that employees know and understand the company’s mission and vision to be able to communicate these effectively.
- They need to make transparency and governance reform integral in their communications, such as in annual reports and company websites, citing not just compliance but, more importantly, instances of going above and beyond the requirements of law. It is necessary to show how the company is better at governance than its competitor and how this translates into better performance.
- They need to integrate corporate social responsibility initiatives into their communications and community outreach activities, as when the company links with causes closely reflecting its core competencies and strategic business goals.
Hill & Knowlton stress that “the more specific we are as communicators about the particular virtues of our companies, the more receptive our stakeholders will be about really listening to our message.”
All these raise the stakes for corporate communicators. It shall also do much to improve the reputation of and gain respect for the much-maligned corporate reputation managers.