Diversity without integrated communication is just marketing  

Sicherheitskonferenz © Michael Bröcker/ dpa

As part of the Munich Security Conference, leading figures from German business met for a CEO lunch at the Bayerischer Hof Hotel. © Michael Bröcker/ dpa

Over the weekend, a photo from the Munich Security Conference circulated on the web that caused a stir. It showed a U-shaped table at which a group of white, middle-aged men were seated for lunch.

The outrage was not long in coming and followed the usual patterns. So did the reaction: They would discuss it in a feedback session and do better next year, promised Joe Kaeser, former Siemens CEO and conference participant.

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Regardless of the supposed or actual embarrassment of this (snapshot) and the obviously little-developed sensitivity to diversity, one would like to shout to the corporate leaders present:

“When will you realize that reputation and the associated communication must be thought of and implemented holistically these days? Why do you refuse to recognize that every step you take and every action you take is public and therefore will be viewed and evaluated the same way in terms of intent and impact?”

Actual intentions are publicly visible and reputationally relevant

Viewed singularly, the composition of the conference is hardly worthy of excitement against the backdrop of the red-hot issues discussed within its framework.

Seen in context, however, it once again paints a picture of the discrepancy between the words and deeds of many companies. They simply do not want to succeed in translating their repeatedly expressed convictions into stringent actions – and above all in communicating these in a holistic and integrated manner.

As a result, many individual actions add up to an overall picture that does little to build real trust in openness, transparency and the actual will to change.

Whether diversity, climate change, economic relations with totalitarian systems or the issue of social justice:

It is time for companies to address social responsibility in an integrated approach of strategy, implementation, and communication. Without this triad, any attempt is doomed to failure.

Holistic thinking required in companies

It is time to realize that communication is no longer a sub-function of marketing that can be switched on and off at will to increase sales.

Communication must be thought of holistically, across all functions of the company.

In many cases, those responsible now also have a C in their title. However, most CCOs are still far from being integrated into the management of companies as an equal management function. This step is urgently needed in the interests of credibility and sustainability.

After all, the proportion of women on German DAX boards has now risen to 19 percent (and the trend is still upward). The same applies to the increasingly frequent appointment of female executives to communications posts.

Let’s hope that this is a serious sign of a genuine reassessment and reorientation – and not first a move by supposedly clever marketing.


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  • Hanning Kempe

    Hanning Kempe is General Managing Director of FleishmanHillard Germany since 2012. He is recognized as an executive communications consultant in all aspects of dialogue management, corporate strategy development, corporate, change and crisis communications and issues management. His main emphasis is...

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