Public relations disasters can come out of nowhere in the corporate world. How can you make certain that no executives will be indicted for enriching themselves at the expense of your employees and/or the public? That no whistleblower will be punished for calling out questionable ethics? That no staff members will have fifteen minutes of infamy due to an offensive social media post? That your business practices will not be featured in a particularly scathing exposé by ProPublica?
While you cannot prevent every possible PR nightmare, you can create an organizational culture that will help shield your company from some of the risks. If you establish a thriving company culture based on your corporate values, your company will be less vulnerable to unexpected scandals. You will attract and retain employees who agree with your company’s values. Your culture will transform your staff from coworkers into a community, the kind of community that looks out for one another. The key is to embody your corporate values.
Here are a few tips for establishing and prioritizing your corporate culture!
1. Be open about your goals.
Don’t be coy. Clearly communicate to your employees that you want your team to more fully embody the company’s vision and values. Ask for feedback and ideas. Be clear with your intentions. Successful change starts at the top and good executives understand that they must lead by example. On the other hand, perceptive employees can spot hypocrisy. Share your goals with your team. They will feel more invested in the company’s culture if they feel they have helped shape it!
2. Embrace your differences.
A company’s culture sets it apart from other companies and any competitors. Think of your culture as another aspect of your marketing strategy. By showing how and why you differ from your competition you are letting your consumers (along with potential employees) know that you believe values are of crucial importance. Describing your office culture in hiring materials (and word-of-mouth) will encourage applicants who fit into the culture naturally.
3. You do you.
Avoid buzzwords. Go with the unique strengths and interests of your brand and your employees. A culture of collaboration sounds great but it wouldn’t be suitable for a highly competitive sales environment. Open communication is ideal but your IT department doesn’t need to explain the technical specifics of a systems upgrade to the marketing team. A weekly “pep-rally” might boost the spirits of customer service representatives but content writers might prefer to spend that time writing website copy.
4. You determine the values you want to embody.
Typically, discussions of company culture revolve around values like transparency, communication, and other lofty ideals. This is not to say that your values cannot include making profits–far from it. Your company’s stated values could nod to making money for the company and for its shareholders.
However, if you choose, you could also include putting some money back into your company, your community, or another cause. Two examples of this corporate largesse are: Bombas, a sock manufacturer that donates one pair of socks to a homeless shelter for every one pairs it sells to a consumer. Newman’s Own, a food company that famously donates 100 percent of its profits to charity. There are other companies that reinvest in employees by covering or reimbursing costs for higher education.
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t change the culture of your entire company. If you are a leader in your workplace, do what you can in your own department. Encourage your employees to embody the values of your parent company. Your office or department could elevate your entire company’s image!