Integrated communication ensures brand consistency across all channels an organization uses to engage audiences. It helps keep a business aligned to its values regardless of whether it’s communicating internally or externally or through digital or traditional methods. Every cross-functional team that communicates with the organization’s audiences should know the corporate values and align cross-channel communication campaigns with them.
Infusing values consistently and cohesively creates authentic connections and establishes deeper trust with stakeholders. Customers, employees and partners understand what the organization believes in — and can clearly see how the organization brings those values to life every day through its words and actions.
Brands that live their values through integrated communication
It’s easiest to see the connection between integrated communication and values through real-life examples of brands that successfully infuse them (or, in some cases, unsuccessfully). The examples below illustrate the power of aligning cross-channel communication to values.
Boston Scientific — acting on the value of diversity
Boston Scientific lives its organizational value of diversity through its Close the Gap program. The company launched the Close the Gap program more than ten years ago to give all patients — regardless of gender, age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation — access to quality healthcare. The program specifically addresses racial inequities in healthcare, noting that people of color are underrepresented in clinical trials and Black people have higher heart disease mortality rates than white people. The program increases access to health screening and treatment for people in underserved populations who are at an increased risk of suffering from certain diseases.
The program comes to life through Boston Scientific’s integrated communication strategy. Its commitment to diversity is demonstrated across a microsite, social media, advertising, and public relations. The initiative and surrounding campaign feels authentic and not like a marketing ploy because its roots stem from a deeply held company value of diversity and the program’s longevity speaks to the company’s ongoing commitment.
REI — closing its door to support its values
REI is a popular example of an organization that leverages integrated communication to live its values. The retailer’s #OptOutside campaign encourages customers to spend time outdoors on Black Friday to celebrate and promote its value of environmentalism. REI doesn’t just promote this campaign for marketing’s sake. It also closes its doors to give employees time to get outside. This authentic representation of its values builds stronger brand loyalty and trust.
Nike — a barometer for values misalignment
Integrated communication also acts as a barometer for how an organization aligns its values internally and externally. It creates transparency into the connection between the values the organization talks about publicly and those it brings to life through its communication channels. Internal and external audiences alike will likely call an organization out if they see dissonance between the values the business promotes and how it operates every day.
Nike is a high-profile example of a company called out for promoting values that didn’t reflect the organization’s internal reality. In 2018, a New York Times article revealed a toxic culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at Nike. Less than a year later, the sports manufacturer and retailer launched a female empowerment campaign featuring women who have broken sports barriers. This campaign didn’t sit well with those who knew that Nike was promoting a value it didn’t authentically embody within the organization.
Implementing values into integrated communication
Organizations looking to better ground their integrated communication strategy in values should first assess how well they communicate their values today. Social listening and community engagement are effective starting points for organizations to evaluate how consistently they communicate their values to the outside world and analyze how audiences respond. Content adjustments are necessary if values are inconsistent and misaligned across social media.
Social listening can also enable businesses to keep a pulse on conversations happening around social movements, including racial justice, sustainability, gender equality, voting rights and more. It’s impossible and unnecessary for an organization to effectively participate in every social movement. In fact, doing so can often appear disingenuous and self-serving. Values should, however, act as a powerful guide to evaluate which movements and causes the organization should participate in and support — and which it shouldn’t.
Levi Strauss, for example, had likely been tracking social conversations around gun violence before actively participating in the social movement. The issue became personal to the brand after a customer brought a loaded gun into a dressing room and shot himself in the foot. Levi’s acted in line with its core value of courage by taking a stand on common sense gun regulation to protect its employees, customers and community. Engaging in the gun regulation social movement may feel at odds with the rough-and-tumble brand, but it aligns with its values and mission to stand for positive change.
An integrated communication strategy should be just that: integrated. It should not live on the marketing or brand team but instead be a cross-functional effort. Any team that engages internal or external stakeholders, including HR, legal, marketing and brand, should be in sync. The foundational corporate values system must be layered into integrated communication to keep teams consistently aligned and working toward business objectives.