Guest blog by Ulf Gassner, Managing Partner of CONCEPT X
My impression: “Having an attitude is easy until you have to prove it …”
But first of all, let me do a clarification on definitions, because that has become our first responsibility in the communication world nowadays. Too often we believe we talk about the same thing, which is not quite the same thing after all.
Purpose –a buzzword in marketing language– means aim, intention or designation. Behind it lies the philosophical question of meaning.
This also applies to the meaning or purpose of a company, institution or destination (geographical) for which I work or from which I intend to buy products or services. Choosing the right one goes beyond the quality of those products and services, and the price/performance ratio.
Attitude goes hand in hand with meaning and purpose. The attitude towards the questions and challenges of our time. How do you position yourself as an organization? Therefore, the meaning and purpose of a company, institution or destination must reflect in its attitude to the big questions. Sustainability is just one example. If I have a certain attitude and thus pursue a certain purpose, then this becomes part of the organizations’ identity.
And this is where the real tension test begins, at last!
All of us, both as private individuals and as organizations, will most probably consider ourselves as having an attitude. We usually take a stance and show attitude, e.g., for the need of sustainable actions.
However, do we really act consistently? Do our words correspond to our acts? I say no, both for myself and for the majority of people, companies, institutions and destinations I know! In this respect, the attitude is simple when it comes to words. Consistent deeds are incomparably more difficult. But we are all looking for a deeper meaning, a meaningful purpose.
Do you already have a clear answer for yourself? One that does not begin to crumble in the superficial debate and whose evidence also stands up to critical scrutiny? If this is already difficult for a private person and individual human being, how is it like with organizations, the union of many individuals, not to mention whole destinations?
So, what does that mean for entrepreneurs and leaders?
In order for an organization to take a stance, it takes the leadership level to decide to embrace this challenge and its related process. But it cannot be imposed “top down”. The leadership can formulate guidelines, set a direction. But the filling in of the content, the fine-tuning, the exact definition can only happen “bottom up”. And the bigger the organization becomes, the more urgent this task is. If this does not happen, then the internal team (and consequently, of course, the client) won’t see the sense in the organizations’ stance. A paradox, with the result of untrustworthiness and replaceability.
What can we deduce from critical questioning? We are all on a journey, in a transformation phase. In search of orientation and support. And that’s a good thing, even if we may not yet meet our own standards, we have to work on improving our own actions and accept that this applies to everyone. Hardly anyone is perfect, not even organizations. It is a process to face the challenges of the time. Aspirations are growing fast, so we need to adapt.
Deciding on a brand positioning once and sticking to it is hardly possible over a longer period of time. The directional decision probably remains the same, but the detailed adaptation happens faster than in the past. The previous “fig-leaf” of CSR has become an essential part of an organizations’ identity.
How do we succeed in making this a natural part? By simply doing it and doing it simple!
In that way, we have to grow with our aspirations as an organization. This requires much more communication than in the past, starting with internal communication. This is the only way to achieve identification for the individual person in the team. And if we are on the path together, we will also succeed in consistently proving our stance, not only through words, but through actual deeds.
We are in the decade of communication. The communication of your organizations’ identity is therefore more than ever a decisive economic success factor. Discovering this, developing it further and using it for communication is both a challenge and an opportunity of our time.