Vorhaus & Company
lot of very hardworking, honest corporations took heat over the summer as
a result of scorching corporate scandals à la Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and
Now is the time for all honest companies to understand the universal
benefits of classic storytelling, which is the only way to establish
collective trust. Simply providing a standard information flow, with
no point-of-view or value attached, leaves you susceptible to external
interpretation, which essentially is someone else telling your story.
Chief executives need to communicate clearly and honestly what their
company stands for to myriad audiences, including employees, investors,
board of directors, their selling chain and industry influencers, because
the financial numbers mean nothing without the trust behind them.
After all, when it comes to corporate storytelling, truth really is the
- Verify. Before pounding your chest
proclaiming superiority because your company is untainted, confirm
that it actually is. If irregularities do surface, insist they
are handled quickly, honestly and legally. A new government
order requires CEOs to certify the accuracy of their public financial
disclosures. Scrupulous executives will welcome this safeguard,
which companies can use to demonstrate their integrity.
- Be prepared. Routine media
interviews regarding marketing initiatives, earnings or other topics
can be opportunities to provide insight into your corporate
governance. Journalists are apt to take advantage of these
high-level conversations anyway to throw in a question or two such as
"Will there be any surprises from (your company)?" or
"How are you reacting to President Bush's crackdown on corporate
wrongdoing?" Preparing answers to the most likely questions
in advance will help you reinforce your track record of ethical
behavior, financial transparency and commitment to corporate values
that clearly dictate doing what is right.
- Tell your story internally.
Employees need just as much reassurance that you are above board and
solid as the rest of your influencers. With formerly
aspirational companies like WorldCom and Arthur Anderson laying off
thousands of workers, concern over job security is high. This
can interfere with productivity and undermine corporate loyalty.
Now is a critical time for your CEO and/or other internal leaders to
reinforce the company's ongoing pursuit of its business objectives
while at the same time making it clear that unethical behavior will
not be tolerated. Also, as ambassadors to the outside world,
employees will likely be asked if their employer is the next Enron.
Make it easy for them to give an unequivocal "no."
- Revisit corporate values. You may
think your corporate values speak for themselves but will a sampling
of employees confirm this? Create a culture where these values
are reinforced every day and become as second nature as breathing.
To ensure everyone understands its expectations, DuPont posts
"The DuPont Business Conduct Guide" in multiple languages on
its web site. First published in 1989, the Guide "provides
information to guide employees so that their business conduct is
consistent with the company's ethical standards." Clear
guidelines and values are equally important to potential employees as
many job seekers are now conducting ethic audits, attempting to ensure
the company they join will both value integrity and endure.
While the evolving corporate scandals raise
questions of every organization, the squeaky-clean ones will see that this
is really an opportunity to celebrate solid business practices and
philosophies that draw closer its investors, employees, customers and
other important influencers.
Robbie Vorhaus is
president & CEO of Vorhaus & Company Inc.,
a New York-based
public relations firm. He is currently
writing a book entitled,
"Truth, The Ultimate Spin."
He can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org,
or visit the firm's Web site at www.vorhaus.com.
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