The program of economic reforms by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti seeks to create the fundamental conditions for a new growth of the Italian economy. The message is quite clear for enterprises that want to win the competitive match, in domestic and international markets: No more defensive and protective strategies, but ambitious targets directed toward innovation and incremental capabilities to better respond to client needs.
In brief, Italian companies must revise their own competitive models and find a new alignment among all business factors. What effect can communication have on a background of worldwide economic and political turmoil? Communication can become a vector of development by fostering attention on corporate reputation.
Ketchum Pleon and AIDAF (Italian Association of Family Business) have conducted a survey on corporate reputation among Italian family business. The results of the survey show that corporate reputation can be an opportunity to create enterprise value.
Generally speaking, the value added of a good corporate reputation is perceived by enterprises across every business area. Around 90 percent of the respondents recognized that corporate reputation sustains corporate development, creates the conditions for partnerships and alliances, helps to retain the trust of investors, and creates economic value.
Communication tactics to promote corporate reputation, based on what family business managers declare, are primarily centered on actions related to revenues, mainly in the communication of products and services, and the cultivation of the brand.
Looking toward the future, products and services as well as the brand remain the pillars of communication. However, corporate social responsibility—social, environmental, and economic—will become more and more a focal point, something to cultivate with more attention than in the past.
The survey included a panel of opinion leaders (journalists, financial advisors, academics) who stressed how Italian family business has to push forward, by taking the route of transparency without turning back. Reputation—as underlined by the Italian opinion leaders—must be deserved, through consistent behavior and actions.
The growth of conscious consumers and the development of a more competitive financial market bring now and in the future an increase in attention regarding corporate reputation for family business. Thanks to the new media, consumers have more tools for evaluating corporations. The new media bring the possibility to know other people’s experiences with specific products and services, and specific companies. Consumers have become more selective. For this reason, corporate reputation is one of the factors in which a modern company has to invest.
The family business can rely on two fundamental internal points of strength: on one hand, a younger generation of family managers who are more open and confident with the idea of corporate reputation; on the other hand, the reinforcement of the organizational structure with the engagement of managers that are not family members.
Which are the features of family business that the communication of corporate reputation can leverage? They are many: the reputation of the family, the value of the history, the community relations, and the particular attention to the occupational stability, even in a time of crisis, when family business tries to maintain the working positions as much as possible.
The generational change in the family business leadership is a moment of truth. It must be done gradually and thoughtfully, with an accurate analysis of the managerial capabilities of the new family generation, an internal carrier plan with a gradual increment of responsibility and scope of work. Internal and external communication must be handled carefully, in order to avoid uncertainty and confusion.
In conclusion, the survey shows signals of optimism and confidence that the culture of corporate reputation will develop and become more and more solid also in Italy. More to the point, corporate reputation can bring an additional competitive edge. Corporate reputation is a requirement in order to grow in dimension and consensus.
Corporate reputation is the new road map of Italian family business.
Cristina Risciotti, is business director, corporate & finance, for Ketchum Pleon Italy