At Tunheim, we have a mantra that guides our communications work for clients: “Well-understood organizations have the best opportunity for success.” This is particularly true in a time of disruption and change.

There has been a lot written about how much has changed in the past 12-14 months. Arguably, the period between February 2020 and April 2021 has been the most consequential in recent history. We had three seismic events that impacted every aspect of our lives; the pandemic changed nearly every daily norm; the murder of George Floyd, the trial and verdict brought about an ongoing cultural and social reckoning that has forced many of us to face long-ignored systemic injustice and; the 2020 presidential election and its aftermath continues to challenge our system of self-governance. The implications from these events will endure for some time and, despite our collective want to return to “normalcy,” not much will ever be the same.

For business, disruption and change have become the new normal. The economic collapse in 2020 caused severe disruptions and had acute adverse impacts on many sectors. For the businesses that have survived or even prospered, large and small, all have been compelled to adapt and change not only to dynamic economic conditions but also from the monumental shifts in our social and cultural norms.

Successful organizations have historically focused on understanding the stakeholders critical to their success. Today, however, in this time of transformational change and disruption, businesses are faced with an essential imperative; be intentional about ensuring your stakeholders understand you. The risk for being misunderstood can be significant and has the potential to be catastrophic if not managed correctly.

Just last month, Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines found themselves hustling to ensure their stakeholders understood their positions on Georgia’s voting reform law after some troubling headlines. Both companies recognized that a failure to speak out with clarity would not only stain their reputations with important stakeholders but also have the potential for significant impact on their bottom lines.

Major League Baseball made a similar, albeit, a more decisive move. It recognized that critical stakeholders, internal and external, needed to understand its commitment to an important organizational value by strongly embracing voting rights and moved this year’s All-Star Game.

Its not just large organizations that need to be understood. Stakeholders for nearly every size business demand accountability from leadership now more than ever and expect an elevated level of responsibility for establishing a public character that reflects their interests.

Today we see a renewed focus on organizational values and big investments in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) activities. In addition, businesses are placing greater emphasis on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) as well as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). A public embrace of these initiatives has become essential and “must do” investments, not only because they are significant drivers for building and maintaining a reputation with important stakeholders but because they are a necessity for doing business.

My colleague Kathy Tunheim, often says, “businesses earn the reputation they deserve.” At the heart of that truth is the critical need for organizations to be proactive in defining themselves so as not to be misunderstood by the stakeholders necessary for their success. Success is no longer just about profitability and shareholder value. Success is defined by what stakeholders determine it to be.

For the past thirty years, Tunheim has helped organizations define and execute their narratives to ensure that stakeholders understand who they are, what they do and what they stand for. Let us know if we can help you.

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