Remember when we dug deep into brand reputation and its importance in our previous episode? Well, today, we’re taking it a step further as part of our reputation and insights series this month. Buckle up because we’re exploring the captivating relationship between brand reputation, Gen Z, and the power of honest communication. And include 3 conversation starters to have honest and transparent communication around ESG.

In today’s fast-paced and socially conscious world, brand reputation has become a crucial element for an organization’s success. The incredible influence of Gen Z, the demographic cohort that follows Millennials, is shaping the reputation landscape.

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Full transcript (unedited)

Now, here’s where the challenge lies. Brands are constantly striving to be authentic and connect with their audiences. However, navigating this terrain can be quite demanding, especially when certain business processes seem outdated and out of touch with key audiences.

One of the key factors here is that Gen Z, the demographic cohort that follows Millennials, really values the alignment between an organization’s internal beliefs and its outward image. As a comms purist, this is music to our ears, right? because Gen Z consumers and employees are passionate about supporting brands that embrace social values and strive to make a positive impact.

But here’s the catch—organisations need to effectively communicate these values in order to meet these expectations, and this can be tricky for some to be so open and honest when the comms team doesn’t potentially have access to the information or have a seat at the senior table where decisions are made.

Over the years, there has been a significant shift in the drivers of brand reputation, as highlighted by the brilliant Brand tracking expert, Steve Leigh at Sensu. While factors like product quality and customer service still play a significant role, there’s now a growing emphasis on diversity, social impact, and strong employer branding.

One of the key factors that has impacted this is ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) issues as organisations are expected to be open about their practices and policies, continuing the legacy of CSR. Gen Z, who are known for their social and environmental consciousness, want brands to proactively and transparently address ESG matters. By honestly engaging in these conversations, organizations can build trust and credibility with both Gen Z consumers and employees and thus positively impact reputation.

The four key aspects of ESG practices are; equality and diversity. And I’m not just talking about maintaining a percentage across the business. We’re looking at diversity all the way up the organisational ladder. Sustainability is all about implementing environmentally friendly practices throughout the supply chain, reducing our carbon footprint, conserving resources, and rocking those recycling initiatives. Last but not least, we’ve got good governance, which means ethical and appropriate decision-making in today’s ever-changing world.

For instance, in the built environment sector, investors are highly interested in projects that have a positive ESG impact. But the supply chain poses a huge challenge in that respect—those long chains of subcontractors involved in massive construction projects can have any number of policies that need to align. But there’s a golden opportunity for those companies that get it right and commercial advantages await those who do.

So it’s absolutely essential to align with Gen Z’s values and expectations, not only in our communication but in every aspect of our business. Think of this as the new and improved version of the ‘daily mail test.’ Instead of asking ourselves what the older generations might think, we now ask ourselves, “What would Gen Z think?”

Conversation openers to discuss how to manage brand reputation impact through honesty and ESG route with Senior Management include;

  1. Do your research, presenting facts about retention and links to profitability 
  2. use the corporate risk assessment document to present ESG in light of the company’s reputation and the values its leaders wish to project and preserve.
  3. Many senior leaders and leadership teams are highly motivated by the desire to leave a legacy. As such, I would ask them individually, then collectively, “What enduring imprint do you wish to leave for the future of the organization, for society and for the planet?”

To conclude, brand reputation, Gen Z, and honest communication are inseparable in today’s evolving business landscape. Organizations must effectively communicate their social value, adapt to the changing drivers of reputation, prioritize honesty and transparency in their communications, and align their internal practices with Gen Z’s values and expectations.

By doing so, organizations can build a strong brand reputation and forge powerful connections with the influential Gen Z demographic. And the cherry on top? This can lead to tremendous commercial advantages.