Navigating a Polarised Communications Landscape

By Nikki Wright

In today's fast-paced and interconnected world, communication has become both a bridge and a battleground. The once-unified voices have given way to a polarised communications environment, where differing viewpoints often clash dramatically.

In this storm of opinions, how can businesses and organisations navigate such division and discord? In this blog post, we delve into strategies and considerations that can help companies maintain an even keel.

Be Guided by Your Values

As the Southern Cross constellation guided sailors across uncharted waters, values serve as guiding stars for companies. Encouraging leaders to establish and firmly adhere to company core values will enable them to set a moral compass that can help steer decisions, foster authenticity, and provide a foundation for charting a way through new, potentially tricky, territory.

Avoid Culture Wars

Culture wars have seeped into every corner of our lives and dominate many social media feeds. The divide over social and cultural issues, such as gender, race, sexuality, religion, and identity, was more pronounced than ever during our recent general election. Holding fast to a company’s true values isn't just about branding; it's about aligning every facet of the organisation, from employees to stakeholders, with the values that define it by taking deliberate, impactful and comprehensive action. Companies need to scrutinise and manage who they employ, who they serve, and what message they send, rather than just letting a direction evolve without thought. As an organisation, be inclusive in your communications, avoid culture war rabbit holes online, and focus your communications on how your organisation is being a responsible leader in the areas it impacts, be that health, transport, education, climate change, economy, and so on.

Supporting Diversity to Reflect and Shape Our Culture

In a country with a limited talent pool, inclusivity and diversity take centre stage. Valuing diversity is not about being politically correct; it's about taking a practical approach that acknowledges and values the richness and usefulness of different perspectives. Companies, especially those larger and more influential organisations with the potential to shape the nation's culture, hold a dual role: reflecting as well as influencing societal norms. Embracing inclusivity not only contributes to a vibrant workplace and enables companies to better understand and respond to important and diverse audiences such as customers, stakeholders, and shareholders, but also sends a message of normalisation to our society. Organisations such as DLA Piper and Presbyterian Support Northern, incidentally both of which are led by women, are among those leading the way by normalising diversity and inclusivity amongst both leadership and staff.

Support Change

While no company can be perfect in every aspect of sustainability, some are taking commendable steps in fostering positive change. An example is Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, the Auckland iwi supporting inclusivity within the corporate world. Companies are increasingly realising the importance of partnering with iwi (Māori tribes) and involving Māori perspectives in decision-making, whether that’s to better reflect workforces, critical stakeholders, customer bases or joint business ventures. Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is to be commended for its approachability and the way it facilitates, without judgement and with firm guidance, the first steps into Te Ao Māori for companies that may not have tried this direction before.

Beyond Customers

In this era, companies should remember the audience extends far beyond just customers, as critical as they are. For example, the millennial and Gen Z workforce is drawn to organisations that align with their values and purpose and act accordingly. These young professionals seek companies that are not just profit-driven but socially responsible and committed to making a positive impact. By embracing and promoting a clear sense of purpose, businesses can attract and retain top talent.

Stay the Course

In a world characterised by divisions, fostering inclusivity and staying true to values isn't just a challenge; it's an imperative.

Sustainability is about being there for the long term – not alone, but as part of a thriving network.

By amplifying purpose, and leading with integrity, companies can avoid reactive zigzagging without control, and maintain a steady path through the pressures of polarisation.

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