Samantha Dickerson

by Samantha Dickerson

Senior Manager of Strategic Communications

Your Company's Call To Courage

  • APRIL 19, 2019
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Have you ever felt truly enlightened? Maybe just a few moments, but it’s nearly an indescribable feeling. It could be an overwhelming feeling of calm and clarity, where you truly feel grounded and light and things seem to make complete sense. If you’ve been fortunate enough to be privy to this experience, you’re also wise enough to know these coveted moments are few and far between - leaving you forever changed.

For me, that moment was sitting two rows back, in a conference room with three thousand other people, as Brené Brown shared her truth as the keynote speaker at the SXSW 2019 conference.

Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame.

Tonight, Friday, April 19, partnering with Netflix, Brené will be featured on the video-streaming platform, sharing a piece of her world and her wisdom.

While the implications of understanding vulnerability and authenticity seem clear for personal intentions, these concepts compile into serious professional leverage for organizations looking to identify and define their differentiators in the modern world of marketing, and evolution of business. Brené, and SXSW, spoke to innovations around the evolution of work and the emerging social issues, such as togetherness and belonging, and how they are growing in need of attention simultaneously.

Along with Brene’s words, SXSW carried a strong universal theme of authenticity, as became evident in our comprehensive analysis of the conference. With an undeniable increase in digital reliance, customers are longing for a true connection, which is no different than those seeking this out in their personal lives. Forward-thinking businesses are looking to embed values around belonging, togetherness and deep kindness, the rooted principles Brené spoke to, helping a business truly rise.

So as a professional organization, what do you need to know to pivot your business, to help identify your company as a leader in meeting employee’s social needs? Here are some of the learnings and ways we at M+A have begun to identify those needs, and create actionable items to address them.

Brene Brown, Speaker at SXSW

Combating the Intimacy Recession
According to WGSN, an international trend forecasting tool, the 2019 intimacy recession, caused by smartphone overuse and the resulting social isolation, is having a profound effect on our health and happiness. A study from Brigham Young University concluded social connection is indeed, a biological need linked to survival, with studies demonstrating a 50% reduction in risk for early mortality when participants had meaningful social connections.

As Brené shared, community and connection is key to a connected and engaged workforce that feel fulfilled and that they belong. Often times, Brené noted people mistake “fitting in” for “belonging”, noting that an individual’s desire to belong is more about “fitting in” versus true “belonging” is when people feel their presence is wanted. Creating “IRL” (In Real Life) opportunities, both internally and externally, for your workforce and your customer to interact and share meaning-making-moments, can help make people feel human again and part of a community. Start by finding an event that you host, or sponsor, aligning with a value you want to bring recognition to, appealing to your target audience, encouraging them to ditch digital in favor of analog engagement to feel truly connected again.

Operating with Values
As a senior communications specialist, with an extensive background in Corporate and Social Responsibility, I can see the value in operating with deep kindness at a company’s core - commonly known as your company’s “values”. Reinforcing my own ideals through the messages I learned at the conference, to truly set an organization up for success those values must be reflected internally before they’re marketed externally.

M+A Architects formally introduced our Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR) Plan in 2018, and since have been nationally recognized, awarded “Best Community Impact”. By consolidating charitable efforts into three identified local 501(c)3 charitable organizations, we were able to make a more noteworthy impact both financially and through volunteerism. Each of the three organizations related back to our core business and value in someway - Dress for Success (gender equality), Habitat for Humanity (affordable housing) and A Kid Again (pediatric healthcare) - affording employees an opportunity to connect with one, or all, of the social platforms.

In an effort to encourage involvement, both to promote volunteerism and offer employee engagement opportunities, the leadership approved and allocated 20 hours of paid community service time, annually, for each of the nearly 100 employees in the firm. Perhaps even more valuable than our financial contribution to these organizations, we have established relationships with our partners and are proud to use CSR as a way to demonstrate our commitment to the community.

Being Human Again
Tying into the point above, data-centric content is unattractive to customers, and traditional qualities based on skill-sets are considered to be expected. It’s no longer enough to advertise what you do. In fact in the landscape of today, potential consumers care more about who you are.

The key? The authenticity algorithm. An easy place to start is by reacquainting yourself with your company’s identified values, and then using those as a litmus test to see if you are in fact living each one out. For the ones you are, those are opportunities to broadcast in a way that connects versus showing off. Using social media platforms, video, and events to showcase and socialize these concepts are ideal, drawing people together in the spirit of the identified value. 

For example, progressive is one of our firm’s six leading values. This is evident through our newly developed Research + Innovation team, which has resulted in our third white paper and pursuit of national thought leadership speaking engagements and efforts.

For the ones that need work, you can use this as a chance to eliminate excuses and face your truth, finding ways to revitalize your commitment to the abandoned core values. The revitalization efforts will organically produce a campaign you can share, both internally and externally, to reenergize the value.

By living aligned with your own company values, you’re able to honor your truth and demonstrate genuine authenticity. Authenticity builds trust, which helps combat the stereotype of a selling-first type of company. Create a human connection with your consumer and employees by creating a shared experience that aligns with your brand’s values to truly draw togetherness.

SXSW 2019, Sam Dickerson and Mark Bryan

Samantha Dickerson

by Samantha Dickerson

Senior Manager of Strategic Communications