Over the last 24 years I have worked for more than 75 companies, all while being employed by only two. It’s one of the perks of agency life. And it’s provided great value in that I have had the opportunity of experiencing, first hand, organizational best practices, as well as the impact of disjointed leadership.

 Marketing as a Culture Series: Unbuntu

These experiences provide clarity of understanding in terms of the web of interdependence, which makes up every organization. There is undeniable power in the alignment of the executive teams (Communications, HR, Operations, Finance, Product Development and Sales) to a single brand culture. However, if merely one of those is misaligned, the domino effect is devastating.

In today’s business environment, companies must stop viewing how they engage a customer as a series of discrete interactions and instead think about it from the customer’s perspective: a set of related interactions that, added together, make up the customer experience. (Read more on internal organizational collaboration in this McKinsey & Co. article.)

Through my next five blogs, I’ll explore a “scratching the surface” look at Communications, HR, Operations, Finance, Product Development and Sales, and their role in designing the customer experience.

The South African philosophy of Unbuntu is a concept that acknowledges a community’s interdependence on one another – for both individual happiness and the betterment of the community as a whole.

Unbuntu: I am because we are – Role of Communications

In companies that are succeeding, there is recognition of the shift to the era of engagement. Getting everyone on the same song sheet begins from the top. Consensus among leadership is critical in aligning organizational focus. That starts by asking, “why” the organization is in business, the unique value proposition that drives the “how” of their offering and the fundamentals of exactly “what” the business offers. (See Simon Sinek’s TED Talk for a bit more on the Why, How and What.) This focus is the foundation of the communications platform.


When an organization’s focus is packaged and delivered internally, it provides a higher sense to all employees as to “why” they come to work everyday. It provides the fundamental elements of the Brand Promise, enabling employees across all departments to harmoniously deliver the customer experience at every touch point. It is the proverbial song sheet that keeps everyone in lock step. And it enlightens employees with an understanding of how their role directly impacts the experience of the customer.

Internal Communications

Your reputation depends almost entirely on the customers’ experience, and the individuals that deliver that experience are none other than the employees. It’s fascinating that organizations spend so much time and treasure on shaping the perceptions to the prospective customer and fall short by not training their people to know how to deliver on that perception. In the best organizations, the internal communicators are forging partnerships across silos, building strong relationships deep into the organization and serving as counselors at the highest level on the purpose of communication within the enterprise.


The way an organization communicates with its external stakeholders is more common and widely accepted. No matter how rapid the myriad of channels that can be leveraged change, one foundational truth stands above all: unity of message.

Think holistically and inclusively about all the folks at the table as you establish the Why, What and How of the organization. It’s logical to have the visionary CEO leading the opportunity analysis, the CFO evaluating the market value and the COO considering operational execution. However, it’s critical to include the CHRO who assesses the depth and breadth of talent required to deliver on the vision. And just as critical to involve the CMO, who ensures everyone is considering the unique value from the customer’s perspective and strives to see that the value is lived internally and delivered externally. (For more on who should have a seat at the table, see my blog on managing change.)

It is not uncommon for there to be disagreement behind closed doors regarding the Why, What and How of the enterprise. However, once the leadership emerges to disseminate the organization’s value internally and externally, there absolutely, positively, unequivocally must be a unity of message.

The age-old equation of communication remains the same: internal = external. So let’s ALL join hands and sing “Kumbaya” from the same song sheet. If that’s too warm and fuzzy for you, do it because it will increase market share and revenue, while concurrently increasing profitability.