16 Apr Putting Values First and Serving with Purpose
Last week, I moderated a panel discussion that was hosted by the Museum of Public Relations, titled “Values-Based Decision Making in a Provocative Environment.” The discussion was both timely and important, especially considering the dynamic environment in which businesses operate today.
The panel was comprised of top thought-leaders in the field of Corporate Communication and Public Relations, plus one retired General Counsel from my long-time former employer, Johnson & Johnson, and a professor of Communication from a major university:
Roger Bolton, President, Page (formerly the Arthur W. Page Society)
Roger Fine, Corporate Vice President and General Counsel (retired), Johnson & Johnson
Joyce Herneghan, Head of Corporate Communications (retired), GE
Jack Leslie, Chairman, Weber Shandwick
Bill Nielsen, Corporate Vice President and Chief Communication Officer (retired), Johnson & Johnson
Michael Sneed, Worldwide Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs and Chief Communication Officer, Johnson & Johnson
Dr. Erica Southerland, Assistant Professor, Department of Strategic, Legal and Management Communication, Howard University
To try to make sense of how organizations can, or should, bring values and purpose into the workplace, the panelists were asked to consider the Premise Statement below:
National political and civil discourse has deteriorated significantly over the past two decades, accelerating in the last two years and, with it, so too has trust in organizations. The very foundation of trust has been, and remains, challenged.
This has impacted not only the role of senior Communication and Corporate Affairs professionals, but it’s also had an impact on society’s views and expectations of leaders and executive management teams inside organizations of all sizes.
The climate for decision-making has been significantly stressed and altered. Expressing values, earning and maintaining trust and demonstrating a clear sense of purpose may be more critical today than at any point previously.
Not surprisingly, all panelists had interesting perspectives, informed both by the character of the organizations or clients they serve (or have served), and by their own internal compass.
A Common Point of View
A shared refrain was that the role of senior-level Communication professionals may be more vital in today’s environment than ever before. Ensuring that the actions our companies (and clients) take are consistent with the character – or purpose – of those organizations, remains one of the most important things we do.
Jack Leslie offered some sage advice when he said, “Shared values isn’t just about doing good things. It’s about identifying social need, and then matching your organization’s unique skill set to help meet or solve for that need.”
In her closing comments, Erica Southerland, from Howard University, implored practitioners to “Explore and discover the truth within your organizations, and then help them express it.”
There also was a strong spirit around the critical role that employees play, and the importance of implementing thoughtful organizational communication strategies. As Michael Sneed put it, at a time of increasing mistrust of organizations large and small, employees are the stakeholder that matter most and which people will trust. As a result, those organizations that ensure their corporate values are expressed by their employees will gain needed trust, and “win” in the marketplaces in which they compete.
In his remarks during our panel, Bill Nielsen said: “It is imperative that public relations and corporate communication professionals are attached at the core of the organization, understanding its business priorities first, and also ensuring they are directly connected to the values of the organization.”
Then, and only then, can we do what’s best for the organizations we serve, and all of their constituents.
An HD video of the panel discussion is now available. I welcome all feedback.