The wedding season has arrived this summer, which means not only fireworks, flowers, beautiful designer gowns, tuxedos and people spending half their salaries on wedding lists, but also pairs of souls bound for life, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health.
For better or for worse is not always easy. Marriages that last a lifetime need an extra dose of planning, a sprinkle of good faith and a pinch of foresight. Just like human beings, corporate organizations make vows to their stakeholders and decide to engage in a long term union, expecting the beautiful and glowing life “à deux,” only to realize it takes more than love to make a marriage successful.
When people are engaged they are eager to show their finest and most admirable qualities and behavior. They are enthusiastic to confirm to their soul mate that they have all the outstanding qualities and the most favorable persona. They are both excited to discover their shared values and beliefs. In fact, they are building their image as the best future husband and wife. They are striving to capture the other person’s heart in a way that ensures they could never think of marrying someone else.
This period of courtship is similar to when a company first enters into a new venture, whether establishing itself on the market or launching new products and services. During this crucial period, the company’s main objective is to build a particular brand image that would ultimately attract its targeted stakeholders. These can include employees, customers, suppliers, investors and the general public. Employees, for example, will only join a company if they can identify themselves with its image. This brand image is the most important asset for the company as it establishes its personality and differentiates it from the competition. A meticulous branding strategy driven by the company’s aspired image should therefore be developed at the first stage of a new venture, serving as the basis of future relationships with different stakeholders.
‘Getting to know each other’ soon leads to popping the question and a marriage proposal to the woman, or more commonly today, the man of one’s dreams. Similarly, a company backed with a meticulous brand image “proposes” to its stakeholders by asking them to invest, be employed, become clients or join the company. For this “engagement” to take place, the man and woman, or in another case, the company and its stakeholders, should share the same values. This is absolutely crucial before plunging into marriage or partnership. Values are what make up the core of a person or an organization. These are the beliefs, principles and standards which they abide by in each and every aspect of life or business.
Having established a set of values and gotten engaged, it is now time to talk about marriage. A couple should at this stage discuss and plan their future together. Two independent human beings are about to take a step forward and make vows to be together for the rest of their lives. These two people in love should now project a vision of their life together. Just like that, a company plans a union with its stakeholders. At this stage, a couple should discuss the potential of raising a family together. Similarly, a company should project how it will stand in the next five years or so, clearly defining its vision and objectives, and then communicating these to its stakeholders. All actions and initiatives that follow should be aligned in order to ensure that the mission is being applied and the vision reached.
When the big day comes, two people become bound for life. After the rosy pre-wedding period and the beautiful reception, real life, with all its ups and downs, begins. No matter how strong love is, a marriage cannot survive or succeed without transparency, a vertebra in the backbone of marriage which keeps a couple together. It is essential to remain transparent about all emotional issues, financial matters and future plans, whether communicating with one’s partner or stakeholders. A company, like a husband or wife, must provide timely and accurate information to its stakeholders and communicate as frequently as possible through two-way communication mechanisms. Open communication is the key to avoiding potential negative attacks and ascertains the company’s credibility.
Another vertebra is consistency in image and substance. One day of “I Love You’s” followed by another day of the cold shoulder makes a marriage rocky. A couple should maintain a level of consistency in the way they deal with and react to each other. Following the same logic, a company committed to its stakeholders should abide by a high level of consistency and avoid any kind of schizophrenia in its image and business conduct. As such, the company should adopt a clear communication strategy which ensures alignment and consistency across all messages.
However, consistency does not necessarily suggest routine and predictable behavior. Communication between a husband and his wife can be translated into various gestures of appreciation. Some of these gestures can cost a foot, arm and a leg while others can be extremely easy on the pocket. One husband can express his love to his wife by buying expensive jewelry; another can opt for the low-cost option and leave small post-its all over the house or write cute notes on the bathroom mirror.
There are innumerable channels that can convey a person’s or a company’s message to a specific audience. These channels can range in price, but the key is to achieve cost efficiency by using the best channel for the particular message. For example, instead of launching an expensive advertising campaign, a company might only need targeted ongoing initiatives like viral videos, round-table meetings, editorials and articles. Diversification in communication helps avoid routine and preserves the impact of a communication message.
On the other hand, no matter how diversified the communication between a couple, all marriages are exposed to crises. These crises can emerge when many small issues remain unresolved and the smallest argument, regardless of its importance, becomes the straw that breaks a camel’s back. A person can avoid these crises by solving all issues before they accumulate and by knowing what irritates their spouse.
Crises in the corporate world can emerge in the same way as in marriage, and can also be avoided by the same crisis management logic. Just like in marriages, crises that are not resolved in the corporate world can lead to a “divorce” and can have damaging repercussions on the company’s image, reputation and financial equity. Establishing an effective crisis management mechanism, just like going through marriage guidance counseling, can address and mitigate crises through effective communication messages and initiatives. Moreover, these crises can be avoided altogether through preemptive measures that primordially consist of a solid communication strategy that can provide a company’s image with a shield of immunity against any potential negativity. Additionally, in the unforeseen and much unwanted event of a “divorce,” a good communication strategy would spare the two parties deep or irrevocable injury, whereby they decide to separate but still remain on good terms.
As psychologist Michael Cavanagh once said, communication in a love relationship is like an intravenous feeding tube that is attached to each partner. The relationship flourishes when nutrients flow through the tube; it turns toxic when poison is fed through it, and becomes anemic when little or nothing flows through it. Similarly, the amorous relationship between a corporate organization and its stakeholders requires just the right amount of “nutritious” communication in order for it to thrive happily ever after.