A lesson in the art of vulnerability, or how to click with your ‘date’ using Corporate Social Responsibility.
One of those socially invisible bleached out pachyderms insists that companies should constantly defend a cloak of presented perfectionism. As the corporate communications functions of businesses tentatively emerge, like the first struggling amphibians out of the water from the control and broadcast mentality, we are seeing fascinating case studies and pockets of enlightenment.
Does anybody believe businesses are perfect? Does anybody think they even come close, ever? The countless surveys and reports on reputation and brand perception suggest very much not but also an expectancy to. So why do companies persist in building the perception of perfection into their crafted brands? Humanity is flawed and that’s probably not changing any time soon.
Communications feels like it wants to evolve more toward a content rich path than the more superficial SEO dominated approach, but what if that even misses the the sweet spot? A recent article for TIME magazine suggests that to ‘click‘ with a person (whether that be dating or selling) the key is about emotional openness. Great well written content is valuable yes, but sharing weaknesses is the jackpot. That will be counter-intuitive to many, alien to most, but none the less, it works. I’m sure there will be one or two debates sitting on the commercial sensitivity / brand protection side of the fence, but I know where I advise resilient business of the future to head. If you have a weakness somebody in the big data saturated world of 10 minutes ahead will put it on Twitter.
If you want to sell something to a potential customer then there must be trust. Simple. Would you hand over your hard-earned cash if you thought you we’re about to ripped off? The more trust you can create across the lifespan of that transaction relationship, the easier the sell and the greater the chance of retained business.
Where CSR has come from in too many cases has been to attempt to engender trust through strategically disconnected quick win trust offsetting, i.e. we know that you know we’re not perfect (but we’ll never admit that), so we’ll hand over a tiny amount of our profit margin as philanthropy to ease your conscience to get your business.
Could weakness become an opportunity? Will openness, transparency ever become widely adopted cultures in commercial operations? It without doubt has its place. If you’re looking for leadership examples check out how well Jeff Swartz, then CEO of Timberland handled becoming a focus for a Greenpeace deforestation campaign.