By Jennifer Lucado (@Jennifer_Lucado)
“In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” Or so Tennyson memorably tells us.
In the twenty-first century, I’d say that a young person’s fancy turns to thoughts of holy matrimony. Or at least to the number of weddings on the calendar for the next several months.
As a young person who happens to be a public relations professional, my thoughts turn broadly to relationships, and what makes them work (or not). Being on CRT/tanaka’s Corporate Responsibility team means continually evaluating the partnership opportunities that will bring the highest ROI to our clients, whether on the corporate or the nonprofit side. Much like a good marriage, a solid partnership can last for many years and bring great rewards to both parties. With wedding season upon us, let’s take moment to think through the foundation of a strong relationship.
Compatibility. This should be fairly obvious, but it’s surprising how many people – or companies – don’t think it through. You see some real head-scratchers. The idea of compatibility is slightly more subjective for romantic relationships, but when it comes to identifying the best partner for your business, there must be strategic brand alignment that makes sense on both sides of the aisle. How will your partner complement and enrich the emotional experience you’ve created for your stakeholders? One of my favorite examples of a perfect match is Nike and the LIVESTRONG Foundation. Nike’s mission is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world,” with a note that anyone with a body is an athlete. Both brands are centered on pushing the body to discover what it can achieve and experience life to the fullest, no matter where you are in your journey or what obstacles you may face. The fit could not be better. I love one of their current collaborations, the Nike Chalkbot, which gives Tour de France supporters the opportunity to submit messages of hope and inspiration and see them written along the course to encourage the participants.
Support of Your Goals. Let’s be honest – with romantic relationships, it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and passion. But at some point, to make things work in the long term, you have to evaluate what you want out of life. Your mom wasn’t wrong: you have to have goals. Will your relationship allow you to achieve them?
It’s no different on the professional side. At the end of the day, everything must tie back to defined corporate objectives. ANN INC, the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, is in the middle of a significant campaign to minimize environmental impacts, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent by 2015. The company has established a number of in-store/facility programs aimed at energy efficiency and waste reduction to support the campaign; a recently-announced partnership with nonprofit Good360 provides a platform for stores to donate leftover items from displays and marketing efforts through a database of more than 26,000 nonprofits. The partnership not only helps ANN INC reuse materials responsibly, it extends the company’s reach to more organizations that support women and children, aligning with the full scope of the corporate responsibility platform. Well done.
Experience. We could spend hours discussing how experience impacts a person’s relationships over the course of his or her life. It might get awkward. We’ll skip that particular line of conversation, but from a business perspective, there’s no need to hesitate. A potential partner’s previous experiences can give great insight into the value they will bring. Both parties should be able to come to the table with a solid understanding of the resources they have to offer and the resources they need. They should be prepared to discuss what has worked well in the past – and what has not. Potential challenges should be addressed up front, along with how each partner can be nimble and flexible enough to adjust as needed. And there should be processes and people in place on both sides to ensure that joint efforts are adequately supported. Is it possible that a less seasoned organization can deliver on these things? Of course. Having an experienced partner doesn’t guarantee that a relationship will be smooth sailing. It just starts you off with a more complete base of knowledge from which to draw.
Got any words of relationship wisdom you hold particularly dear? Don’t hold back – share in a comment, Facebook post or tweet.
If you could use some (professional) relationship advice, email email@example.com to connect with a member of CRT/tanaka’s Corporate Responsibility team.