If 2022 was all about “pivoting”, 2023 became all about “values”. By the end of the year, it became clear that lots of brands claimed to have values, while few actually did.
Enter the era of silent quitting, high employee attrition, and a need for change. Now that we’re edging towards 2024, it’s becoming clear that the burnout days of 2019 are making a comeback. Sigh.
Is this the natural cycle of working trends? Or is it a much needed wake-up call for corporates large and small to define, communicate, and actually implement their values? Based upon the conversations WOI has had with brands, communities, employees, and the media, we would err on the side of the latter. It’s not just time to define values in real ways, it’s time to establish what “in real ways” actually means. So, if a brand says it’s “inclusive” – what programs, initiatives, and evidence is in place to build confidence that this is true?
Values (but driven by fear)
If you’re still with us, we know that creating fear around values is counterproductive and unhelpful. It’s this terror that has stopped so many brands from establishing clear values to date. They are concerned they’ll get thrown to the wolves should they put a foot wrong. But in parallel with these valid concerns, a certain whiff of complacency has arisen. There are many brands from fast-growing start-ups to established corporates that claim to have values that, for whatever reason, aren’t being “felt” by their employees, customers, and stakeholder groups.
Why does it matter?
First (the unpopular truth that most brands avoid) – values affect the bottom line and they’re not just about doing the right thing. That’s okay to admit. Pretending not to care about growth and profit is disingenuous and unnecessary. Take Lululemon as a great example of a company that’s believable about their drive to “do great business while balancing wellness for all”. This is a sentiment that’s easy to get on board with. It would be hard to believe that the makers of $200 yoga pants care only for our wellbeing. But it’s easier to appreciate that the brand cares for its own growth and the prosperity of its employees while having practices in place to take care of its (hard-earned) community. It’s transparent and (actually) authentic.
Beyond being believable, having a clear approach to values will mean employees feel engaged and therefore stay and do good work. It’s not rocket science, but it’s important, and it’s (mostly) not happening.
Engaging “the community”
A flourishing community not only begets brand loyalty but also functions as a powerful marketing tool. WOI helps our clients to define, shape, plan, and execute values led PR and communications strategies. We don’t use shame and we work with what you have to strengthen your CSR and values policies to make them tangible. For our clients in Hong Kong London, the United States, Middle East, and around the world, we are here to help deliver ROI. More importantly, and because of our own values, our approach stands up to scrutiny.
Your values checklist
1. Authentic connections
Dig the well before you get thirsty. Think about your audience(s), segment them, speak to them clearly without patronising or making thinly veiled promises. This is about finding your USPs and ensuring your stakeholders understand them. Build human connections and relationships and nurture them (not just when you need something). It works. Be useful and generous with your advice and whatever you can “give back”.
2. Get clear on socials
Rotate your content around informative, inspiring, educational and promotional content. Ensure your promotional content is no more than 1:4. Curated content, timely responsiveness, and interactive campaigns transmute mere followers into active participants. Some golden rules: people don’t want to be sold to on Instagram, they come to LinkedIn for deeper, thought leadership pieces, and remember – the algorithm changes A LOT – so it’s important to A/B test and stay ahead (we can help with this).
3. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
CSR has become its own minefield of sorts. Brands are concerned that if they’re not “doing everything”, they should fly under the radar (which often means doing little). At WOI, we advocate that brands do whatever they can, large or small. Some entities are in a position to make financial donations and lead big-budget campaigns and some simply don’t have the resource(s). Keep in mind that every brand has something to offer – even if it’s free advice, internships, or simple education programs.
4. Bidirectional communication
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, it can sting, but it’ll be your most useful tool to shape your values going forward. Understand your audience, local and global, and localise as needed. The key is listening to said feedback and acting accordingly, taking accountability and fixing issues wherever possible. Here, you build trust, reputation, and loyalty.
5. Local Events and Collaborations
Physical events and collaborations give an opportunity to connect in real life. Yes, events are back – and whether you like them or not, they work. They provide an opportunity to humanise your brand, provide talking opportunities for the community, and make meaningful collaborations (with other brands).
We hope you found this useful, if we can help you – please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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