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What matters most? How leading professional services firms are communicating values

A new report from The BD Consultancy explores how professional services firms can authentically communicate ESG strategies to clients, prospects and their employees. Caitlin Roxburgh provides an insight into the report.

The report, What Matters Most? Communicating values across professional services firms, includes insights from contributors across leading professional services firms at the forefront of communicating positive change in the industry, including AlixPartners, Bates Wells, and Mischcon de Reya.

The report highlights five puzzles facing firms.

Defining values
While there is much more to defining values than talking the talk, firms have put a great deal of thought into the terms they use, from ‘ESG’ to ‘CSR’ and ‘social impact’. Clear definitions ensure consistency across internal and external communications. Terms chosen don’t have to be static, with many firms updating them over time as their values evolve.

Creating a joined-up approach
Ideally, it’s useful to have a dedicated ESG/CSR (or equivalent) individual with overall responsibility for coordinating activity. This individual should work closely with marketing and BD teams to ensure consistency across messaging.

People and HR departments also need to be involved at every stage. Firms report that people starting out in their careers are becoming ever-more engaged with purpose and social impact. Making these issues a core part of your employer value proposition will help you to attract and retain the best talent.

Championing authenticity
The key to authentically communicating your firm’s values is finding the sweet spot between ‘greenwashing’ (where a business invests more in marketing itself as environmentally friendly than on actually minimising its impact) and ‘greenblushing’ (where a business keeps quiet about sustainability efforts due to a fear of backlash, or because they know they are not perfect in certain areas).

Motivation is the first step to finding the sweet spot – doing the right thing for the right reasons, rather than as a branding or PR exercise.

Contributors offered the following insights to help champion authentic communication:

  • Be transparent, ensuring there is evidence and data to back up any claims.
  • Give employees the autonomy to talk about their own experiences, without worrying about saying the wrong thing.
  • Focus on looking forward, rather than being complacent about past successes. The most important message is what you’ll do next.

Finding focus in the data
The number of metrics and sheer volume of data surrounding ESG, CSR, and related activity can be overwhelming. Value-led communications are essential to turn this data into meaningful stories.

Your messaging should focus on the unique strengths, experiences, and areas of expertise that your team or firm can bring to the table and drive positive change. As professional services firms, we’re in a uniquely influential position as trusted advisors to businesses. Consider the wider impact you could have simply by talking to clients and prospects about their values.

Harnessing positive energy
Without a thriving team, it will be impossible to create a positive impact as a firm; people should be at the centre of an effective ESG communications strategy.

As many of the report contributors noted, purpose is increasingly becoming a top priority for employees and potential recruits. By harnessing this energy and building ESG communications into your employer brand, you can create an educated, engaged, and passionate team.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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