Why PR Firms Must Embrace Shared Values

Guest post by Andrew Grossman of Grady Britton.

You may have read this week about Edelman’s stance on climate change and how it’s impacting client relationships and staffing (read The Guardian story if you’re still catching up).

Maybe you’ve also seen stories about companies like Starbucks raising a gay pride flag or Facebook updating its icons to promote gender equality. These three are simply a sample.

The thread that ties them all together is the fact that shared company values are an important part of doing business today. People want to buy from companies aligned with their own personal values, and brands want to work with other businesses based on the same “they think like us” principle.

So what does that mean for agency PR pros? It’s not enough for us to deliver good service. To keep pace with the industry, we need to be thinking about defining our own company values, reinforcing them in our day-to-day work and making them part of our overall narrative as a brand in order to attract new opportunities.

Define your company values

You can’t simply define an agency point-of-view on climate change or any isolated issue in the news right now, because there will be other key issues. You have to think more holistically about brand, what’s important to you and your clients, how you approach work, how you treat employees, what you stand for and so much more.

These various components come together to form a value system that guides us as part of the brand when we’re conducting business. This becomes the framework for running as a business that doesn’t just benefit financial stakeholders but also our community, our employees and our shared global environment.

Show up with those values

Once you’ve determined which value set your organization will follow, you have to start self-policing and asking yourself whether a given project measures up in order to avoid having clients or the public define it for you. You have to be prepared to difficult judgement calls that could, for example, involve turning down a large project because the work conflicts with the values on which you’ve settled.

Certifications are one way to check alignment and, in some cases, to maintain it on an ongoing basis. We at Grady Britton, for example, have committed to achieving the B Corp Certification, which requires accountability to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance and transparency. It signifies businesses that are purposeful and balanced for good, not just for profit.

[Ed. note: ScoutComms recently discussed the process of becoming a B Corp with us.]

There’s an initial certification process, but the B Corps standard also requires re-checks and audits randomly within every two-year period to not only maintain certification but to improve an organization’s standing and practices into the future. The rigorous standards and requirements of this certification will continue to help us fulfill our commitment to running a successful business that serves our employees, our clients, the community and the environment.

Connect with other businesses based on shared values

This values system can become a part of your overall brand narrative that shows up in new business conversations, when submitting for awards and other publicity, on your website, in social media and elsewhere.

Imagine if you could begin your next new business inquiry started with, “Hey! I just saw that you guys are B Corp Certified. We are too!” This is one of the ways in which that system can help to attract other similar organizations united behind one or more larger causes. Ultimately, the work you do with other like-minded organizations will be more powerful because of those very shared interests and ideas. It’s about not only meeting new organizations that happen to be reading from the same page but also ensuring that they’re a good fit so you can do the best possible work together.

The time for agencies to begin living their value systems is yesterday. As clients continue to play toward shared interests in order to engage their customers on a more personal level, we will likely see them further evaluating their network of partners. In other words, they will be creating a tribe or pack of parties who adopt similar approaches to both business and general outlook on the world. That will mean shifts in agency’s relationships with their clients–for better and for worse.

We have to think of customers as buying not just a product or service, but also the brand behind it and, by extension, that brand’s “pack.” We in PR are a part of our clients’ pack. By defining and emphasizing own shared values–be they social justice, sustainability, or the simple act of living a “vibrant” life, agencies have the opportunity to create lasting relationships with new and existing clients based on a true and authentic values-driven fit.

Andrew Grossman is a public relations account manager at Grady Britton, based in Portland, Oregon. He has a history of helping clients from health care, to travel and tourism, to deep tech, meet business objectives through creative PR and marketing strategies. Follow Andrew Grossman on Twitter @AGPDX.