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Diversity Branding: Build Credibility, Close the Deal

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“My job as a communications professional is to enhance the brand, to protect the brand and to make sure that when someone sees the brand around the world that they get images, messages, feelings about my company called IBM,” said Jim Sinocchi, director of workforce communications at IBM (No. 8 on The 2010 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity® list). 

“I can’t tell you how many deals were closed when we started to talk about diversity,” he said.

“What do you feel when someone says Disney?” Sinocchi asked. “Happy … warm, rested, entertained. And when you see the DiversityInc brand, you think credible … truthful … serious.”

At DiversityInc’s learning event last week, Sinocchi’s straightforward talk on effective external branding left the packed room of more than 200 representatives of federal agencies and companies at the earlier stages of diversity management ruminating about their organizations’ images.

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Sinocchi noted that his job has changed dramatically over the past few decades. While corporate media in the 1980s used to involve sending out press releases, “communications in the 21st century means cultivating and influence. How are you influencing clients, partners?” Sinocchi queried the audience.  

Here are other key questions organizations should be asking themselves:

Are others talking about your brand? This is critical because it develops character, trust and credibility of the brand, explained Sinocchi. The reason: When others put their own reputation on the line to say positive things about your product or service, that’s far more powerful than any self-endorsement.

What are they saying—and what do you want them to say? Try to take control of your organization’s message, he advised. Here, diversity and inclusion play a vital role in the communications strategy. Diversity, said Sinocchi, allows others to see a positive side of the company and helps balance bad news with good. “The dark side of the business is things can happen to companies … and perception is sometimes worse than reality,” he conceded.

Are your messages hitting targeted audiences? And do these audiences see the benefit? Once you determine who you want to reach, you need to ask: “Are my messages relevant to the markets I serve? Am I reaching in to their value system?” he asked. If a company’s message isn’t resonating with its key markets, “it’s meaningless.”

Are you leveraging diversity? “When we want people to know about IBM,” said Sinocchi, “we leverage the brand to reflect diversity and how we treat our people.” This is important “because it allows clients, investors, stockholders, partners to see another side of the company and how [we] operate.”

Do you believe in your message? Sinocchi noted that this is vital to effective corporate communications.

To determine if your organization is media-ready, Sinocchi suggests asking these additional questions: What are the organization’s success stories? Who are the company spokespeople? How should they handle tough media questions? And, most important, are you connecting diversity to your organizational strategy?

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