‘Are we proud of our policies?’

Further to this post, I was listening to Evan Davis’s business talk show The Bottom Line on R4 last night (‘Cock-ups & Conspiracies’), and as is usually the case heard something that made me sit up and think.

The guests were talking about transparency in business and the impact that new technology, social networking, the internet and shifting moral values have had on how companies need to communicate with their consumers, staff, investors and other stakeholders. So far, fairly predictable. But then one of the guests said that there was a question he always kept at the forefront of his mind: “Are we proud of our policies?” (About 23:00 minutes in if you’re looking for it in the podcast.)

Now if one were to focus slavishly on ‘policies’ this would be a rather narrow and not very creative view.

But it made me think — especially in light of the recent passage of the Public Services (Social Value) Act — that there is a bigger and extremely useful point here which can be applied in all sorts of marketing and ‘messaging’ contexts.

Any business has to scrutinise itself to determine the messages that should be core to its marketing — to the story it tells prospective customers and others about what it does. Sometimes we look for success stories. Sometimes we remind ourselves to focus — as the marketing folks tell us to — not on the ‘features’ of the goods and services we sell but on the ‘benefits’ these offer the customer. And sometimes, in desperation we send round a hurried email circular to staff that says “What have you got that should go in the next newsletter?”

But when last did you ask your staff team: “What are we proudest of?”

This apparently simple question taps into powerful feelings in a way that “what are our success stories?” somehow doesn’t.

So next time you are reviewing your marketing messages — whether for a new marketing campaign, items for the latest newsletter, or things to cover in your next e-bulletin — perhaps the question to ask people is: “What are we proudest of?”

Try it. I bet it produces more creative — and more heart-felt — responses than you typically get.

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