Tag Archives: Starbucks
Mission Critical: No Better Time to Get Naked
November 14, 2012
Storytelling is the foundation for every corporate public relations program. I spend a lot of time working with companies on developing and refining their core stories – or what we refer to as a company’s “master narrative.” Like all great stories, there needs to be a centrally defined focus – a purpose that brings together the main characters and the plot and makes the story all worth telling. The business equivalent is a company’s mission, the articulation of why an organization exists.
At a time when many corporate leaders are battling extreme global competition, evolving regulation and consolidation, articulating why the company is in business should be the easy part, right? Wrong. Surprisingly, I have found that the single biggest stumbling block executives have when thinking about their companies is agreeing on the very essence of what they do and why. Many have the most trouble getting back to the basics and stripping away superfluous language that can water down or even distort the mission.
So who is getting it right? Take a look at a few of my favorites:
Zappos: “Wow” philosophy “to provide the best customer service possible.”
JetBlue: “Bring humanity back to air travel”
Starbucks: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
McDonald’s: “To be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat.”
I list four very different businesses and four very different missions, yet they all have one thing in common: they get at the very essence of why they are in business, simply and cleanly. You don’t need a PhD to understand what they do, who they do it for and why they do it. You immediately get why their people come to work every day and while it’s not to cure cancer, abolish poverty or another of the world’s intractable problems, they are inspiring in their own right.
And why should a company care? Mission statements have been directly linked to greater returns on investment, and return on equity has been found to be more than double in companies with a written mission statement.
Telling your company’s story with a strong mission at the core has the ability to rally employees, inspire customers and keep the company on track when it verges on losing its way. When thinking about your own business, remember that a mission statement is more than words on paper, and often what’s not there is even more telling. Less can be more. Go ahead and bare all!
Is CSR the Key to Sustainable Relevance?
June 7, 2012
When I sit and catch up with my colleagues from all of our practice areas there is a universal challenge our clients are facing: how to be relevant, and stay relevant, amidst the noise. As companies and brands seize the opportunity to use communications to advance their business goals – whether promoting a product, increasing brand awareness, building reputation or attracting the best talent – our 24/7 information environment has turned into a proverbial shouting match of content, news and conversation.
It isn’t enough to matter. You need to matter more.
It all boils down to good citizenship – and it’s the commitment, more than the cause. Creating an authentic culture, from the inside out. Having a social purpose that is more than about making money, but making change and improving lives. That’s what is going to matter over the long haul.
When it comes to using CSR to create relevance, how can you be sure to get it right?
1. Alignment: Your purpose should be aligned with your business mission, and make people feel good about the experience of your product.
There are some great examples of companies doing this well: Starbucks and Chipotle have a similar approach – quality ingredients, sourced with integrity. As I wrote here, Starbucks’ investment in thriving communities and Chipotle’s Food with Integrity platform show CSR integration across every aspect of operations.
There are also a lot of clear misses: Remember when KFC partnered with Susan G. Komen to create pink “Buckets for the Cure”? What was the purpose? Sure, women buy chicken, and women hate breast cancer. But the mission wasn’t aligned with cause.
Using your stores and your customer base to raise money for a cause is a good thing. But it doesn’t automatically make you relevant.
2. Staying Power: Plan to stick with this purpose for as long as you plan to be in business. The ways you do it can change, but the purpose doesn’t.
Nike’s brand promise has been to make their customers the best they can be – whether a professional athlete in training or running to the supermarket. Its CSR programs support that premise. Similarly, Seventh Generation’s cause is to inspire a more conscious and sustainable world. Their CSR platform looks to nurture not only this generation, but the health of the next seven.
To create any significant and long-lasting effects on the planet and communities – and stay relevant – companies must commit for the long-haul.
3. Specificity: Platforms and umbrella branding are good things – it’s a great way to tie together all of the local, regional and national initiatives and give them broader meaning. The danger is when that umbrella becomes so big and broad that it no longer stands for anything. Specificity is what makes programs ownable and memorable.
GE does this well. Their corporate citizenship strategy is framed within two key pillars of energy and sustainable healthcare. Within these pillars, GE has four clear support strategies, tied to their operational sweet spots: infrastructure, technology, financing and capacity building. Much like their business, it just makes sense. But even good companies can fall victim to diluted CSR strategy. Pharma has been criticized for CSR programs that are too broad and sometimes overly conceptual, making it difficult for consumers to see meaningful results and tangible impact.
Identifying what matters – truly – to your consumers and community and committing fully to that cause – that’s what will cut through the noise, and start a long-lasting conversation.
Businesses are expected to do more these days. They must treat employees ethically. They must be transparent with consumers. They must be sophisticated in their CSR programming and initiatives. They must set long-term sustainability and community engagement goals. And they must constantly report on how they are doing.
The list goes on.
Business leaders know that they have to do this. They’ve seen the studies that show again and again that being a good corporate citizen is also good for corporate performance. Even amid tensions from investors and increased expectations from consumers, CEOs are realizing that it pays to deliver on your CSR promise.
Then why is it that so many still do it wrong? Or, even some cases, not at all?
Perhaps they just don’t have the role models.
So here’s one: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who from the start, had a goal to build a company with a soul and social conscience. From a new U.S. jobs program, to comprehensive health insurance for part-time workers, and a focus on ethical sourcing and environmental stewardship, Starbucks has made investing in communities a key element of their brand promise. And it has paid off. Starbucks is enjoying record profits, with Schultz contributing success to the company’s conscience.
Need more evidence that companies can satisfy both consumer and investor pressures? Take a look at what Schultz chose to talk about during his remarks at the annual shareholders meeting last month – the importance of giving back to communities.
If you want to be relevant, tell a great story
October 12, 2011
It may be one of the common denominators that make clients from diverse industries and across all practices of public relations alike. Whether launching a brand, working an issue in Washington, conducting an investor road show or managing a crisis, having a compelling story is a fundamental requirement.
In the public relations business, we’ve always been storytellers – whether you call it messaging, corporate/brand positioning or narrative – it’s all about the story. And the greatest, most iconic brands and companies do it really, really well – Nike, GE, Apple and Starbucks all understand that to remain relevant as you grow and change, having a story that resonates is key.
This piece on Starbucks features the philosophies of noted brand evangelist Stanley Hainsworth, and credits great storytelling for transforming a commodity product into a $4 splurge. He talks a lot about the art of storytelling, and gives us a glimpse into the approach he uses to create an emotional connection with stakeholders. As I read this piece, I was struck with the significant alignment between his priorities and the way we approach developing a client’s narrative at MWW Group…in particular, the emphasis on tailoring your story for different audiences – what we call the Total Stakeholder Approach.
The irony is that while this may be a fresh, new approach for the brand evangelist – it has been core to of great public relations programming and strategy from the beginning.
How do you know if your story needs revisiting and refreshing?
- Any time there has been a significant change in your business – new leaders, new business strategy, new line of business. Chances are you need to rethink your narrative. A more thoughtful approach would have made a big difference for Netflix, and saved them lots of backpedaling.
- Significant changes in your industry also call for a new story – because your old story simply won’t be relevant anymore.
- Shift in strategy or emphasis on who, or what, is important.
- If you are underperforming – in sales, in employee retention, in share price performance – that may be a sign that your story isn’t resonating.
- If it feels stale, out of date or misaligned with your priorities – even if it isn’t impacting your stakeholders yet.
Celebrations and Citizenship
June 15, 2011
Today is IBM’s 100th Birthday….it is also my daughter’s 16th birthday – so it is a big day all around. Unlike the celebration I am planning – which includes a party bus and a jam-packed day (and night) of entertainment, IBM is celebrating their day with service to the community.
This is an important trend in a citizenship movement by major corporations…the notion that service to others is more important than simple philanthropy. Checks to support the arts, medical research and hosting galas are all fine. Indeed, many worthwhile causes couldn’t survive without it. But more progressive organizations are looking at their ability to impact their communities in a hands-on, service oriented way.
For CSR to meaningful, it must be relevant – internally and externally. A service-oriented approach bridges that relevance gap in one simple swoop. Employees who are involved in a hands-on service project feel better about their companies, and feel proud to be a part of them. And demonstration of philanthropy and citizenship is more accretive to reputation than talking about it.
Here are some examples of great companies and brands who bring this philosophy to life:
• Starbucks has partnered with the HandsOn Network, a non-profit that organizes volunteer projects, and has a goal to donate 1 million community service hours from its employees by 2015. This is in addition to the $22.4 million Starbucks distributed in 2010 in corporate giving and grants.
• Disney’s VoluntEARS program allows employees to volunteer for causes of their choosing and aids in raising money for charities that employees support. Disney VoluntEARS assist in more than 2,200 projects through 495,000 hours annually. Employees also raised $1.7 million through Disney’s assistance.
• Intel supports its employees to volunteer all around the world and matches every volunteer hour with a monetary contribution. Intel also uses its employees’ capabilities to establish technology in classrooms in developing countries.
Similar programs from MWW clients – Deloitte’s Impact Day, a massive celebration of the organization’s year-round commitment to workplace volunteerism, and Nikon’s work in local communities both home and abroad contribute to a service-oriented approach.
Relevant approaches to worthwhile causes, which is meaningful CSR.