Originally written for Blue Focus Marketing and republished here for my readers…

Everything communicates.

Gary Grates, President and Global Managing Director of Edelman’s Change and Employee Engagement Group, reminded the CEOs who were gathered for this month’s CEO Connection Boot Camp of this fact.

We’ve all heard it before but it bears repeating and it resonated quite strongly with me upon hearing it again in that meeting.  Why? 

Because in this digital age of 140 character tweets by well-known brands that get agonized over, and Facebook pages with often carefully-selected photos, it’s easy to become so hyper-focused on what we’re communicating about our brands that we can lose sight of the larger picture: What does the way we serve others as a company communicate to the world at large?

So, as we enter the holidays, which I see as a beautiful opportunity for reflection on our own personal vision and our corporate vision for 2011, let’s step back from the trees and take a fresh look at the forest.

As leaders, ask yourself these questions:

1. How do you communicate the positive things you do?

When you donate money to a charity what’s more fulfilling – sending out a press release announcing you’ve donated with the intention of persuading people to think positively of you, or inviting some of your friends to join you for a day to raise money for that charity, knowing word of your actions will spread in such a way that others are encouraged to get involved?

If you chose the latter, then:

  •  resist the temptation to announce in corporate-manner all of the company’s socially responsible actions
  • get comfortable relinquishing full control of your messaging and even more so with the idea that your customers and fans can tell your stories better than you can 
  • reward your employees and fans for getting involved in the socially responsible activities your company supports and for their commitment to non-profit organizations
  • and make it easy for them to tell their own stories about their experiences and your company 

Like Walmart did with Hurricane Katrina, just show up. Others will notice, you don’t need to announce it.  And the stories that get told just might be magical…

2.  Do you have a Values Statement for your company that you genuinely embrace and for which you serve as a steward? 

Having a Values Statement to which you give lip service in public doesn’t count.

In this new era of multiple generations collaborating for the good of the company it’s more important than ever for a climate of respect to permeate an organization, and for people’s ideas and opinions to be heard and to be valued.

One of my clients recently released a workplace learning study showing what employees in the corporate workforce who represent the 4 different generations wanted to hear most from their organizations.  Responses ranged from knowing that their experience is respected and they are valued to knowing that they would be working with other bright, creative people.  Are you communicating this to your employees?

I recently shared a story of a brilliant CEO who changed the entire culture of his company and tripled shareholder value by involving every single employee in his 1000-employee organization in the development of a Values Statement and then by serving as the head Steward of the organization’s values.  What does your company communicate to the outside world when it comes to values?

3. What is the “bigger idea” that your company and brands embrace?

The first time I met Mack Collier at a MarketingProfs conference he was discussing this question in regard to creating a meaty blogging strategy.  He encouraged the attendees in his conference session to think expansively in regard to the larger idea surrounding their blogs.

Companies and brands need to do the same thing.  They need to understand and immerse themselves in that larger idea, and their communications should reflect it.

What do I mean by this?  Let’s use Starbucks as an example.  We all know that Starbucks sells more than coffee; they sell a cozy, neighborhood community experience.

With this larger idea in mind they’ve embraced the creation of mobile apps to make loyal Starbucks customers’ experiences more local in nature, enabling fans to find the nearest venue and check out store specials.

They’re also promoting local artists and community service programs, encouraging fans and employees alike to get involved and support budding artists.  The importance to Starbucks of playing a role in the larger world community is communicated by their commitment to their Coffeehouse community, complete with music blogs, connecting for causes and idea sharing.

Note that when you’re on the Starbucks website you can’t miss these critical initiatives – they are prominently accessible at the top of the website.

So, what is the “bigger idea” brought forth via your company and brands? Do you communicate this larger idea – not only through your advertising – but also in the way you innovate and evolve to better meet the needs of your customers and the world at large?

I encourage you to ponder these three questions over the next few weeks as you reflect on your company’s vision and goals for 2011.  I hope you’ll use the answers to determine how you’ll become truly irreplaceable and irresistible to your customers in the year ahead!

Please subscribe so you don’t miss a postSubscribe Here to receive posts in your in-box automatically. To receive posts via “READER” Subscribe Here – thank you – I’m honored to have you as a reader!

Photo is Thank You Card for Football Team by Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M.