How a great company culture can bolster your public image

Your PR staffers are often the first to detect a culture problem. Here’s why you should empower them to do something about it.

How culture drives perception

Company culture affects almost every department in your business.

According to Harvard Business Review, culture is what drives employee decisions when management isn’t around. These decisions reflect on your organization and can either attract more employees, more customers and more business, or push them away.

Why PR pros are culture experts

Though you might expect top-level management or even the HR department would be the first to blow the whistle when it comes to corporate culture stagnation and corruption, it has been shown that a company’s PR department does the best job in spotting holes in company culture and also in fixing them up.

Because it is the PR department’s main duty is to keep the company image pristine, communicators get lots of feedback from external sources who often ask difficult questions regarding company strategies and policies. This allows them to conduct their own internal PR audits within the company, which opens the communication lines between company leaders and employees and allows them to get rid of parts of the old culture that are not working, strengthen the parts that are, and incorporate new values that are more in line with the company’s overall vision.

When a crisis brews from poor company culture, it is always the PR department which has to come and clean up the mess. Why not give them some authority to spot potential crises before they have to clean it up in the public eye?

How to empower PR pros

A PR department can help create and maintain a good company image, but the company itself should proactively implement strategies to help.

Here are four important measures any organization can use to boost culture and thus create a better working environment and brand image:

1. Lead by example.

Tactics like slogans, speeches and incentives may inspire employees to work and behave at their best but if the company’s leaders do not play by their own rules, any boost to the company’s culture will be short-lived.

There are four areas where management must uphold the highest standards to preserve a company’s culture: harassment (any kind), violence, theft and discrimination.

2.  Invest in feedback.

Acquiring feedback from employees is essential for analyzing current office culture.

Some of the general questions which can be asked during meetings or through company surveys include:

  • Do you feel that your opinions matter to the company?
  • Do you feel like there are open lines of communication between you and upper management?
  • Do you feel appreciated?
  • Do you feel like your work gets noticed?
  • Are you overworked, but underpaid?

Gathering feedback from employees must be done regularly (more than twice a year) in order to gauge the state of the company’s culture. It is not necessary, however, to continuously hold company meetings to gather employee feedback.

Investing in feedback-gathering technology and tools is a great way to gather employee opinions on a consistent basis and so spot any problems with the current company culture before they became a major company crisis.  Anonymous employee feedback forms on a company website are an example.

3. Make sure new hires are a good fit.

One of the most efficient ways to maintain good company culture is to hire people who fit the current company culture. Employees represent the company they work for even when they are not at work. Hiring someone who does not fit the company culture is not only a waste of time and money but can bring the morale of your entire organization, which ultimately damages the company’s overall image in the eyes of employees and customers.

To see if a potential candidate is a good fit, bring them on for a week-long trial period.

4. Align your brand with company culture.

Company brand and company culture need to be aligned to deliver the right message to both employees and customers. Overall, an organization should operate with integrity and avoid denying basic human values. As long as the culture and brand messaging share the same common vision and goals, the entire organization will move ahead in harmony.

For example, if a company culture is focused on productivity but your brand positioning emphasizes customer service, there will be conflict within the organization and between the employees and the customers. As company employees seek to increase output and sales, the brand’s image becomes tarnished as a top-notch customer service provider.

Corporate culture and public image should not be seen as two separate things. Company culture shapes the direction of a company and communicators share the result to the public.

Creating a strong corporate culture based on a unified vision helps the company run smoothly and helps to build trust and influence with consumers.

Jen McKenzie is an independent business consultant from New York.

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