Despite being a professional peddler of words, I agree with everything Alison Inman said about housing organisations’ mission, vision and values in her recent Inside Housing column, ‘Let’s ditch the navel-gazing and stick to the basics‘.
In the piece, Alison points out just how much time and effort providers put into defining themselves in black and white.
“We go on and on with increasingly complex – or, even worse, ‘edgy’ descriptions of purpose, mission, vision, values, objectives… the list is endless,” writes the Colne, Saffron and Tpas board member, and former president of the Chartered Institute of Housing.
While organisations’ stated values are usually very similar, continues Alison, their service delivery can be massively different.
What matters isn’t what they say, it’s what they actually do. That should be delivering quality homes, looking after existing ones, engaging with tenants, and treating people right.
However – and this is where the PR bit kicks in – successful mission (what an organisation is there to do), vision (what it wants to achieve) and values (the way it will conduct itself while getting there) focus minds. They can also have an empowering effect.
Public statements about an organisation’s vision can become self-fulfilling prophecies, not least when they’re used to shape an organisation’s strategy or corporate plan. This is particularly important post-merger.
A well-thought-out organisational strategy makes successful comms possible. PR best practice is for PR objectives to be aligned to organisational objectives.
When we at See Media are working on comms strategies on behalf of clients, we focus only on reaching key stakeholders. These are individuals whose actions will help fulfil the organisation’s objectives. It’s completely pointless to carry out PR work just for the sake of it.
Whether we’re pitching a comment piece or securing a speaker slot, entering an award category or writing a press release, we’ll be communicating a client’s key messages. These will communicate their mission, vision and values.
To be effective, these messages absolutely have to ring true – they must be backed up by evidence, statistics, anecdotal outcomes or case studies.
Statements of intent are empty words unless they are used to bring people together and support positive action.
Whether or not an organisation’s mission, vision and values are meaningful comes down the emphasis placed on them by an organisation’s leadership team, as well as its managers.
Unless team members represent their employer’s professed values throughout their day-to-day work, the words published on an organisation’s website won’t mean much to anyone.
Attracting new team members
Stated values that chime with those of potential new recruits can attract talented individuals to an organisation. This is especially true for organisations emphasising attitudes and behaviours over experience in order to build a more diverse workforce.
Before they apply for a role, the type of discerning individuals you really want as colleagues will most likely try to track down evidence that their potential employer practices what it preaches.
Building stakeholder relationships
When See Media carries out stakeholder engagement surveys for clients, we find that individuals form their opinions of an organisation based upon their interactions with one or two people.
The fact that the people with whom housing providers need to build relationships – including MPs, councillors and local authority heads – tend to base their opinions of an entire organisation on their dealings with a handful of people proves just how important the adoption of organisational values really is.
Alison Inman is absolutely right when she writes: “Surely we shouldn’t need a corporate rebrand to tell us to be kind, or to treat people with respect.” These are, indeed, part and parcel of being a decent human being.
But not everybody is decent human being – and if a stating these most fundamental values can help build an organisational culture where being anything other less than kind and respectful is impermissible, then I’m personally all for it.
From a PR point-of-view, knowing what an organisation professes to be about, and then being able to marry this with what its people say and do, enables the See Media team to focus on what is important.
We can then deliver truly constructive communications – telling genuine stories to targeted audiences, furthering clients’ objectives and adding real value.
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Lydia Stockdale is a PR Director at See Media