Corporate America’s got a big image problem: Most Americans think big business is flat out corrupt. This is a serious issue for corporate communicators and their agency reps who are stuck with the increasingly (and perhaps deservedly) tarnished hubris of their companies.
Renowned pollster Frank Luntz addressed the Greater Washington Board of Trade on Wednesday morning on his most recent book Words that Work (check out Writing Blogger’s review). Luntz spoke in great length about some of the issues facing corporate America, specifically how detested companies are in America. He said it’s worse now then when the Enron and Worldcomm scandals emerged. Here are a few gems for you:
- 75 percent of Americans have lost faith in corporate businesses over the past two years
- 61 percent are angered by bloated CEO salaries
- One third have no faith that American businesses will do the right thing
This is not excessive thinking, rather poll results. Here’s some of today’s blog clips that back up corporate America’s negative image:
- Pa Pundits says, “…a letter thatâ€™s been circulating recently. It is reportedly written by the President and CEO of The Hershey Company, regarding their recent decision to reward their employeeâ€™s hard work and loyalty by laying off about 600 employees.”
- From Ad Pulp, “…lack of discipline, ease of entry (into areas like online video), myopia and asking the wrong questions all play a part in corporate America’s inability to solve the Web riddle.”
- Concrete Jungle adds, “Trends, copies, clones, tools, another victim of corporate america. Sometimes you wonder why you belong to a particular segregation in life.”
You get the point. Corporations need to wake up and smell the coffee. Americans want to work with socially responsible corporations, not companies that hurt Americans for the sake of making their quarterly profit margins, or jacking another $10 million on to the CEO’s bonus.
Luntz aptly pointed out that there’s likely to be a trust resulting backlash to American corporate behavior. As communicators, it’s our job to steer these companies through the troubled waters, at least those that have enough guts to do it.
Our pollster suggested businesses need to spend 90 percent of their time doing good, and the other 10 percent communicating it. I have some other suggestions. How about a little more transparency in communications? One reason why people don’t trust companies is because they never tell the truth, instead, they only market their products. It’s Always About Sales. Let us see who you are! Americans want to do business with people who are part of our communities, not entities that exceeded quarterly profits. We need to bring relationships back to business. As marketers that means adding a human aspect to our communications.
Afraid of blogging? That maybe one of the best ways to open your image to the public. Yet corporate bloggers are afraid to be human. A tragic error.
Better yet, perhaps a company like Exxon Mobile should consider a public donation of excessive profits to charity, and CEOs whose companies are facing layoffs should penalize their executives with less pay. Invest in the community and let everyone know about it. Do something, but do it differently.