Purpose, leadership, storytelling, innovation, Global Sustainable Development Goals have become worn terms in the discussion of the future of the business world. But what concrete meaning do they hold for companies? How can we move forward and create credible communication that helps companies gain the trust of their stakeholders?
We launched our research series “.trust: communicating what matters” to be able to respond to these questions and in so doing guide companies in communicating the most relevant themes of their business and for their stakeholders in an efficient and coherent way.
Published in the Italian monthly Corriere Innovazione, the debut Italian edition for listed companies examined 35 companies that throughout the years have stood out because of their dedication to transparent digital communications. Find out how we selected the companies included.
The scope of this research is to give a meaning to the new trends and provide key elements to take into consideration for effective corporate communication, one that is capable of becoming a tool for the growth of the business.
The analysis is focussed on two aspects that we consider to be fundamental in the creation of trust and communication of leadership:
- Substance: which evaluates the ability to provide a solid and clear vision of the company and their purpose. This aspect creates a common thread between a company’s business strategy, commitment to sustainability, and innovation initiatives. It is fundamental, moreover, that managers and directors reinforce these messages and strengthen company leadership.
- Distinctiveness: which evaluates how companies present their substantive contents or, more precisely, if they are able to create an engaging narrative that draws in their users and stakeholders. Here we consider elements such as the use of stories or case studies that support the messages, the effectiveness of linguistic and visual communication, the coherent use of social media, and the user experience of the website.
.trust measures the credibility and the effectiveness of corporate communications, and how much trust it is able to earn.
Key Findings: how do Italian companies stack up?
The .trust research series is organised around two pillars (Substance e Distinctiveness) that contain all essential elements of business communications. With this approach it offers a new interpretation to understand the placement of each company in relation to their peers and competitors.
This is how we have been able to delineate the four quadrants that synthesise the various different approaches to business communication. Read more about the four communicator types.
About one out of four of the companies evaluated fall into the best quadrant (Narrators), as they are able to balance the presentation of a clear corporate vision along with an engaging narrative.
Amongst these best performers, the sectors that stand our in particular are utility and energy sectors, that include companies such as Terna, Italgas, Eni, and Acea. These are companies that have been consolidating their role in Italy for years and, unsurprisingly, this has gone hand in hand with a clear focus on digital corporate communication.
About two companies out of five are floating on the point in which the axes of the four quadrants meet, this central position is an indication of the fact that the company has embarked towards a certain type of communication without having entirely been able to make the final push towards becoming a Narrator.
It is interesting to note that while there is a strong variation in companies’ performance in Substance, when looking at Distinctiveness points appear to be more homogenous, particularly when it comes to the websites’ quality in terms of navigation and user experience.
Strategy and vision as a guide to communication
.trust rewards companies that have been able to demonstrate how their mission or vision is connected with their business, their corporate strategy, and their overall operational methods. To be credible, simple disclosure is no longer enough, rather it is necessary start with substance: concrete facts and data define a company better that any other broad intention.
Companies that are able to balance communication between clarity of the company’s role and ability to engage the public are those that are most convincing.
Strategically grounding sustainability and innovation
Leading companies have presented sustainability strategies and innovation projects that are coherent with their overall business strategy and company mission or vision.
Concrete examples of initiatives and links to articles and stories are fundamental elements in being able to ground these commitments (for example investments in geographical region of interest, circular economy, and digitisation).
Storytelling: from nice tales to substantive narration
To be more engaging for the general public, companies pass through a phase of presenting interesting initiatives to later achieve the concrete and strategic narration that leaves the reader with a sense of impact, innovation, and transformation. The next step is to be able to speak more about the context surrounding businesses and being able to speak in tones that humanize the company.
Narration a company’s vision, taking on hot topics, and creating an engaging story are the three elements that make up the foundations for successful storytelling.
Key elements for successful storytelling
More than likes: managers as influencers on key corporate topics
For companies that want to take a clear stance and have their voice heard, CEOs and presidents are the flagbearers of company themes, particularly when it comes to social media. Their role within the companies, however, is lacking exposition.
Strengths and weaknesses
User experience in service of the narrative
Gaining public attention is a challenge that plays out on the field of effective content presentation: visual communication, organization of a page’s information (design interactivity and content structure).