Financial Statements

Financial Statements

I recently joined about 50 Weber Shandwick client relationship leaders (CRLs) – essentially the leaders of Weber Shandwick’s largest and most global accounts – for a meeting designed to discuss the transformation of our profession and how CRLs can leverage Weber Shandwick best practices with our clients. I joined a panel of other Weber Shandwick practice leaders – Pam Jenkins, public affairs; Micho Spring, corporate; William Brent, clean tech; Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross, thought leadership; and Carmen Lawrence, multicultural – to discuss trends we’re seeing in the industry and the implications for our clients. The panel’s Ten Topline Trends included: The”Era of Engagement.”

Perhaps the single strongest trend is a very deliberate and conscious effort to engage constituents in ways that are mutual and interactive, and not just via social networking, although it’s certainly one key enabler. The panel agreed that it’s not only new technology and social media that have changed the game. Perhaps even more importantly, it’s that the mindsets of constituents and consumers have changed. Everyone now wants to be a participant, not just a recipient of information. It’s no longer just a monologue.

Government as a key activist stakeholder and important audience for most clients. We discussed the implications of healthcare reform and financial services reform, particularly the communications requirements, digital being the new grassroots, the need to integrate a public affairs strategy into all communications, and the consequences of greater regulatory scrutiny on a company’s ability to tell its story. Employee benefits communications – both about healthcare benefits and personal finance – will expand significantly in the years ahead, as a result of these reforms.

The 2010 Census will serve as a catalyst for a national dialogue about the implications of the new demographics, specifically for Hispanics and Asian-Americans. Topics we covered included minorities being the new majority, multicultural audiences influencing mainstream trends, and implications for corporate social responsibility and, really, for all global companies. The evolution of”green.” Specifically, the panel talked about the implications of the green movement for virtually all clients and their CSR initiatives. William Brent also pointed out that water is the”new carbon,”and the rising importance of the greening of clients’ supply chains.

The implications of marketing and public relations fusing and how we make sure we retain the strategic lead as these disciplines merge. The reputation of the company and brands will no longer be siloed into who manages which stakeholder (CMOs as customer-centric and CCOs as all other stakeholders including media, investors, regulators, employees, influencers, general public, communities, NGOs-centric, etc). As Advertising Age questioned, is the day coming when internal corporate PR departments will be steering the marketing ship full time and when advertising and communications are one and the same? As companies recognize that word of mouth is more critical to sales than advertising, will PR take charge? Some of our clients already manage both functions.

The rising importance of corporate reputation to success of broader corporate objectives, including products and business units. The importance of the publishing role and driving a compelling corporate narrative (content development) and of being prepared for unavoidable reputation assault (Digital Defense). Crisis preparedness is more important than ever. As Leslie Gaines-Ross pointed out, Andy Warhol once said that, «In the future, everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame.» Today we can say with certainty that «Every company, brand and leader will have their 15 minutes of shame.» Crises – based on fact, rumor or hearsay – will be an everyday occurrence for our clients around the world.

CEOs are the new «content providers.” Despite their low approval rating, CEOs are going to be called upon to humanize the company and brands and to engage. They will be the ultimate spokespeople or advocates and the perfect vehicle to communicate the storyline. Social reputation matters. A leading driver of corporate reputation – in addition to CSR, quality products and services, talent, financial metrics, globality and innovation – is now social reputation or, Social*ID as we call it at Weber Shandwick. How «socialized» are companies, brands and leaders? What drives social reputation/ID?

Have thoughts on these trends or others to share? We welcome your feedback and comments.