One: articulate a clear sense of purpose
First, revisit the purpose of the business. The purpose should be inspirational for everyone with a stake in the business. There are very few businesses that do not make a social contribution. You take away oil or banking, the utilities or transport businesses and watch the knock on effect on everyone's lives. The social aspect of a business mission is not a superficial aspect of branding. Within this new sense of purpose is the concept of balance. Increasingly, shareholders understand that managing simply to secure financial results can bite you on the bottom line.
Two: create a workforce committed to your purpose
Articulating your purpose gains you at least two things. First, you communicate a consumer benefit (and win a bit more trust). Second, you stand more chance of achieving that rare thing - employees working together for a common goal. Creating a co-operative culture where employees work together on a shared goal won't happen by accident. A co-operative culture involves a planned approach, employee involvement, the sharing of best practice and common policies and processes.
Three: define "how we do things around here"
People have a lust for a clear framework of how to behave. These are usually called values. The fact is there are many ways of defining how you do things in your business. Shell has their business principles. Southern Sun Group of South Africa has defined its top ten accountabilities to stakeholders. Johnson & Johnson has a credo.
But there are three critical factors:
" your convictions need to emerge from your business
" they need to be genuine convictions and strong enough to remain in place when tested
" and they need to be translated into practice
Four: manage the intangibles
The model of business success has changed. Past financial success only provides one dimension of value. Other factors which can add to the value of a business include a clear strategy, a strong Board, customer loyalty, employee skills, new revenue streams, competitive differentiation, reputation and innovation. If you successfully manage values and value you earn trust.
Five: develop a clear strategy for CSR (corporate social responsibility)
Here's a prediction. In the next decade or so CSR will merge into corporate governance and corporate reputation. For example in the UK, there's the Business Impact Task Force model and the GoodCorporation mark.
You need to define why you want to manage CSR. And that varies from company to company. Drivers include attracting ethical investment, compliance, competitive differentiation, improving reputation or winning customer loyalty.
Six: create a brand with personality
People who win trust are open, visible, engaging and they tend to have their own personality. That personality is diverse. You can see it in the buzz as you walk into the reception of Asda HQ in the UK. You can see it in the amazing ideas of Semco from Brazil who devolve "to the max". And you can see it in the words of Ralph Larsen, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson in its European CSR report for 2000 (that's an invitation to seek them out).
Seven: listen and involve people in strange new ways
Why is this at seven? The first step to win trust is to listen. If a company does not have its finger on the pulse of stakeholder opinion, it doesn't have a feel for its corporate health. And it's not just about good old fashioned quantitative and qualitative research.
The truth is there are a bunch of new ways of engaging customers. We are already seeing more engagement through digital TV. And for the last few years I've been proposing businesses use their access to market to move beyond employee volunteering to customer volunteering for social causes. It's coming.
Eight: manage risk including risks relating to trust
It's bizarre that the risk management or corporate audit departments still focus on financial risk. New corporate governance requirements in the UK and the new Company Law Review know that directors have wider responsibilities. Manage risk effectively and you can head off chunky financial risk like more regulation and legislation, windfall taxes or consumer boycotts. My own conviction is a new discipline will emerge called integrity risk management. It's not difficult. It's applied common sense.
Nine: leverage social change
Businesses still tend to think good corporate responsibility is about managing the footprint of their impact on society. But real progress will be achieved when they use their muscle to achieve genuine social change linked to their business. I see a growth in campaigns which go beyond basic charitable fund-raising or PR into new territory - working on a single cause and campaigns which make a tangible social difference.
It's a difficult balancing act but it can be done in a way which wins trust and leads to genuine social and business benefit. There is nothing wrong with mutual benefit. And there is nothing wrong with business playing a social role.
Ten: invest in communications but make it a dialogue
There are wonderful hidden stories about the contribution of business. Look at the recent social web sites of BT and Diageo. There are many hidden gems in almost every business. But even the best don't invest. They don't invest in communications. And when they do they make several key mistakes:
" they sometimes forget that people are interested in people
" they sometimes forget that good communications are about a dialogue not about an annual report
" and they sometimes forget that we are as interested in future plans as past performance
So: what is this?
So what are these ten steps? They don't add up to PR, corporate responsibility, or branding. So what are we talking about here? Is it a new concept? Could we call it sustainable branding or trust marketing? I prefer business common sense.
And it isn't hair-brained wishful thinking. Many of these actions are taking place today in businesses of many sizes. Also, let's not imagine this is only relevant for companies. This is as relevant for governments and not for profit institutions. It's the way things are going.
Our choice is simple. We can create sustainable businesses which are authentic, aim for balanced results, behave responsibly and win trust because they deserve it, or we can we can step boldly down a cul-de-sac of increased consumer cynicism. Where do you want to be? In the wake or in the vanguard?