Communicators have responsibilities that span various areas of corporate social responsibility. I would argue that the primary role of a communicator typically focuses on managing company and stakeholder alignment to anticipate stakeholder action. Increasing regulation and guidelines have introduced more stringent requirements and heightened expectation for divulging company information. In addition, demand for greater accountability and improved social impact increasingly drive stakeholder decisions and inputs. The question remains: How can a communicator anticipate stakeholder action when faced with an ever-increasing complicated and dynamic stakeholder environment? In addition, what is the connection between transparency, openness and reputation?
Engagement, transparency and dialogue are necessary for leadership in corporate responsibility — and reputation management. It is also important to be open — to criticism and new ideas, but also open about activities and performance. Leaders communicate the good, bad and ugly news and are not afraid to talk to their fiercest critics. Distinguish between the skeptics — who genuinely want to engage and establish a dialogue, and cynics — who enter the discussion believing every action or decision taken by business is based on selfishness. The skeptics are valuable partners.
Communicators are often on point with stakeholder engagement, and these relationships are becoming increasingly important to the company’s reputation. We establish trust, in part by the accuracy of the information provided, and also by resolving issues with speed, clarity and humility. Transparency can shine light on issues within your company and only help the business — and it is the right thing to do.
Frank Mantero, director, Corporate Citizenship Programs, GE Corporation, is responsible for coordinating and communicating the company’s global citizenship efforts, developing and managing the company’s Citizenship Report, monitoring the company’s engagement with stakeholders and leading the company’s presence on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. He is the lead spokesperson for GE-sponsored disaster relief efforts and GE Foundation activities. In addition, he is responsible for the public policy grant portfolio for the GE Foundation, which includes programs on human rights, rule-of-law, climate change and globalization. He received his master of arts in International Relations from the University of Kentucky and his bachelor of arts in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Georgia. He is a native of Madrid, Spain, and is based at GE’s corporate headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut.
Join Frank for his session, “Reputation-building: Integrity, Transparency and Engagement Through CSR,” at the PRSA 2009 International Conference: Delivering Value, November 7-10 in San Diego, CA!