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Strategic partnerships, PR and reputation management interplay

Strategic Partnerships have become popular in recent years. This is evidenced by research from PWC’s Global CEO Survey which found that 48% of global CEO’s plan to pursue strategic partnerships to achieve increased profitability and growth.


The digital sector in particular thrives on strategic partnerships. As an example Silicon Valley, long viewed as the cradle of tech innovation, owes a lot of its success to a culture of collaboration, strategic partnerships and open innovation.


At a local level, digital business owners I mentor in Northern Ireland are equally hungry for growth. They see Strategic Partnerships and collaboration as an attractive way to achieve that. Often they are right.


For SME company owners and corporations alike increased profit and growth is typically the main driver for strategic partnerships.


However, developing a strategic partnership on a foundation stone of profit and growth alone carries significant risk. I argue that we as Public Relations specialists need to be more involved in the Strategic Partnerships process from the outset. Any Strategic Partnership will have implications for organisational culture, strategic fit, corporate messaging, core values compatibility and engagement.


The value from Public Relations specialists being engaged from the outset is that we can often reduce reputation risk and increase success rate of the strategic partnership. This is key as most strategic partnerships fail to live up to expectations.


Research has found 70% fail over time and less than 10% live up to expectations (Strategic Partnering – remove chance and deliver consistent success 2013, Authors: Luc Bardin, Raphaël Bardin, Guillaume Bardin).


Consequently managing risk and aligning and integrating strategic partnership communications and engagement is business critical. A continual focus on the impact of the partnership on core values, organisational culture and strategic fit as well as profit is vital.


Public Relations specialists need to increasingly transcend and integrate more deeply with all areas of the organisation. We need to continually build strong relationships across divisions of the organisation and grades.


Sustainable and strategically effective corporate engagement demands now more than ever strong integration with Human Resources, ICT, Corporate Governance and Boardroom Strategy.


Public Relations specialists should mentor and support CEO’s and Boards to continually assess strategic partnerships and collaborations through the lens of reputation management, strategic fit and brand authenticity as well as profit and growth potential.


Businesses today are operating in a climate of increasing public scrutiny – more now than at any time in history. Social media has empowered citizens to be vocal against businesses. There is also a crisis of trust that is fuelling the age of brand authenticity.


For example in January 2017 Edelman released their Trust Barometer research. It showed the largest drop in public trust across the institutions of government, businesses, media and NGOs since Edelman began tracking trust levels against this segment in 2012.


It follows that continually generating public and stakeholder trust in any organisation is key. As I see it the one core way to achieve increased trust in your business is through authenticity. Being authentic means living out your core values as a business. And living out your core values extends far beyond the goal of profit. Organisations today operate in a post profit age.


What this means in the context of strategic partnerships and collaboration is that you need to consider from the outset, and through the lifecycle of the partnership, the impact on your reputation, core values, employees, organisational culture and brand authenticity.


How compatible are the core values, organisational cultures and public perceptions of the other Strategic Partners with your own? Is there really a solid foundation of trust between the partners? It is important to get this right first before going ahead. Engagement and building trust cannot be rushed at the expense of profit and growth when it comes to establishing strategic partnerships. Start small then grow big.

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