Authenticity in Corporate Communications

Posted on April 14, 2009

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Mark Schumann wrote a great blog post yesterday discussing the role of corporate communications in the context of the current economic environment:

So what can we do as communicators? We can start with the truth. And then edit.

This is not a time to spin, not a moment to fictionalize, not a day to embellish. The only way to credibly communicate during tough times is to imagine how the receiver will remember the message when times are good again. . ..

Mark’s ideas resonate with me, as they very much apply to the work I do with clients in crafting employee benefits statements. Also known as total compensation statements or total rewards statements, these are communications distributed to employees to help them understand the true value of the employment relationship.

The concept is simple enough: show employees the dollar value of their benefits (health insurance, life insurance, 401(k) match, etc.) in order to increase their understanding and appreciation of those benefits. The execution, however, can get complicated, especially if we take Mark’s ideas to heart. A total compensation statement can, if not designed thoughtfully, be seen by employees in a cynical light. In designing a total compensation statement, it’s important to tell the employer’s story while, at the same time, not crossing over into the land of “spin.”

Employee benefit statements can be powerful motivators and morale boosters. But employers should proceed with some caution and humility in order to ensure that the statement’s message gets through to employees as intended.