It has become customary for reputed companies and organizations to include a statement about their professed and espoused values and policies in their webpages. From Nestlé’s ‘Creating Shared Value’ to Zara’s ‘Mission Statement’ and including ATK downloadable ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Report’, industry giants have been diligent to craft carefully-worded statements we have come to expect in recent years in a concerted attempt to be perceived beyond mere money-making machines as overall contributors to the communities they operate in.
Cynics will be quick to point out that many of the aforementioned documents are little more than perfunctory good-wish lists emerging from seasoned PR departments that almost invariably fail to translate into anything other than tokenistic results. But even we were prepared to concede some value to this proposition, the fact that those statements and mission policies are there cannot be regarded as anything other than a step in the right direction: the public can now hold you accountable when you waste energy resources if your environmentally-friendly policy specifically pledges a commitment to ‘sustainable development’. This simple equation works as follows: the more you spell your values out, the more you are bound to stand by your words and stick to them. And that can only be a good thing… provided of course that your values contribute to the common good!
If values can no longer be publicly ignored by huge corporations, neither should they be by individuals or small businesses. In fact, one could go as far as asserting that values ought to constitute the defining element, the backbone of a personal or small business brand. In a profound sense, our personal and professional lives revolve – whatever our specific circumstances – around the testing and reformulation of the values we hold dear and individuals and businesses build reputations in the mid-to-long term based not only on their financial performance but on the way they consistently bring their values into the work arena. Showing that you care and demonstrating it every day is still one of the smartest policies you can embrace in order to build a trusted community of clients, evangelists and followers that propel you to success.
Individuals and businesses building their brands will find that a strong emphasis on values in their online (and needless to say offline) presence will help them in three mutually-reinforcing ways:
- Differentiation. Beyond logos and mere design and/or creative elements, values make you stand out of the competition in a deeper, more meaningful way and contribute to give you an aura of …
- Credibility. In a highly competitive environment with promises galore, coming out as credible carves a niche for you and your brand and progressively generates increasing doses of trustworthiness that will quickly translate into more leads and opportunities as a direct result of- at least if you are true to your values and uphold them in whatever situations come your way – your earned …
- Authenticity. As human beings we all derive comfort when we come in contact with authentic, genuine individuals and businesses that make us feel safe and put us at ease when we purchase from them. Small gestures like honoring a return policy or admitting that you are wrong when you make a mistake go a long way to make you stand out as authentic in an environment where so many inflate or misrepresent themselves for personal gain.
I challenge you to answer the following questions about yourself and your business as you build up your brand: What are you all about? What are the values that define you? What inspires you to give the best of yourself and to put your talents to the best possible use? And finally: what is the legacy you want to leave behind? By following your inner light and making your values the centrepiece of your career and your business, you will be building on a solid rock that is likely to withstand the many storms hitting our uncertain world. And your community and your conscience will be there to thank and support you all along the way.