con·sist·en·cy [kənˈsistənsē], noun
Conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.
By its very nature, consistency leads to understanding, awareness and loyalty. Ultimately, consistency leads to trust. As an organization, if you’re not being consistent in how you’re communicating, you’re missing the mark.
What does it mean to be consistent in your communications? It means taking a fully integrated approach across your brand – the systems you use to evoke that brand, the platforms and messaging you use to speak to your audiences, even the colours and visuals you use to represent who you are.
For publicly traded companies, it also means being consistent across your investor relations materials, ensuring your messaging is consistent with that of your marketing, your PR and corporate affairs. Did you know that it takes an individual hearing your message seven times before it is absorbed and they are inspired to take action? Making sure key messages are integrated across multiple platforms is what will ensure that your consumers/clients/targets hear those messages, understand them and engage enough times to invest in your stock, buy your products or attend your events.
But that’s not the only reason. Consistency is especially important and critical to ongoing success because everything your organization says has an impact on a publicly traded company’s valuation – valuation being the value the market places on your business as a whole. One comment made out of context by your marketing department or one rogue senior executive saying something that is out of alignment with corporate messaging, and you could see your share price rocked.
Take Netflix for example.
In July 2012, CEO Reed Hastings posted information about Netflix’s performance on his Facebook page. He stated that viewers had consumed 1 billion hours on Netflix in a month, a KPI analysts use to measure the company’s results. Netflix’s share price soared 19 per cent over a two-day trading period. This dramatic increase caught the eye of the securities commission. Hastings argued that the information had already been disclosed on the company’s customer blog a month earlier, but the SEC still pursued an investigation. In the end, Netflix was cleared of any wrongdoing and yes, the company’s shares went up, but the point should still not be lost.
Messaging around this key milestone for the company should have been relayed in an integrated fashion across all platforms and in a consistent manner. That would have ensured that all stakeholders benefitted from the good news and would have avoided the legal ramifications that later ensued.
Here’s another example:
A global mining company with a corporate head office in Canada had a project in a sensitive indigenous area in Latin America. The community relations team was approached by a local reporter in regards to some socio-economic issues the company was facing in the region. Feeling passionate about its objectives, the Community Relations Manager spoke with local media, without informing head office, and provided them with information about ongoing political proceedings, which hadn’t been widely communicated to the market. Based on these incomplete facts, the reporter wrote an article with a negative slant, essentially saying that the viability of the project was threatened due to these proceedings. The company’s share price plummeted and shareholders were left scratching their heads as they were blindsided by the information. Investor confidence was shaken and the company’s reputation gravely affected.
In this example, the consequence of inconsistency of messaging across borders had a negative impact. The Community Relations Manager should have spoken with the Corporate Communications and Investor Relations Managers to devise a response that was in line with corporate messaging and avoided inconsistencies and misinformation.
Moral of the story: being consistent in your communications can greatly impact your bottom line. So what can you do? The first step is to adopt a proactive strategy that identifies spokespeople in all departments, and then empower them with corporate key messages and processes to follow. This will not only avoid volatility and confusion, but will also contribute to creating a more memorable and stronger brand.
Written by Fiona Grant Leydier
Former Manager Investor Relations & Corporate Communications, NATIONAL Public Relations