“To be perceived as the leader you have to act like the leader. And leaders aren’t afraid of having opinions.” Donal McCabe, Land Securities
You’ve probably found that trying to explain what you think to someone else – particularly in writing – is a good way of clarifying your beliefs for yourself. It’s often said that teaching is the best way to learn!
And being able to communicate your position clearly and succinctly is vital for leadership; no-one is going to follow someone who can’t explain where they’re going, or where they’ve been.
But having opinions in the first place is, if anything, even more important.
Corporate Eye recently interviewed Donal McCabe, Director of Corporate Communication at Land Securities, about expressing company views on the corporate website, and the impact on corporate reputation.
Do listen: the interview covers why Land Securities chose to develop thought pieces for their website (known as Sight line), the way that they went about it and the benefits this brings for the company, including the reaction from analysts and other stakeholders.
The Land Securities Sight line articles are held in the Media section of their corporate website, and are ‘alertable’ – so visitors can sign up for an email alert when a new one is published, without having to check back regularly.
I’ve broken the interview down into bite-size pieces, so that you can quickly find particular points you’d like to hear about, but I’ve also included the whole interview and a transcript.
Part 1: Reputation, transparency and honesty
- Building a reputation on transparency
- Explaining decisions in context
- Asking the unwanted questions
“Most people [in corporate communications] can put their finger on what they like about companies and what they don’t. And I think it’s up to people like myself–and my team–to sometimes check and hold the company to account”
Download: Donal McCabe interview: part 1
Part 2: Taking a stand
- Why set up a ‘thought leadership’ area of the website?
- Blog or opinion pieces?
- How to go about it
- selling the idea
- styles of presentation
- choosing topics and getting agreement
- getting it ‘right’
- Promotion and the press
“To be perceived as the leader you have to act like the leader. And leaders aren’t afraid of having opinions. Leaders aren’t afraid of taking a counter view to a prevailing thought
“It takes a little bit of time [because] these are the views that you’re going to hold for a length of time… It’s a really good discipline, to make you think exactly what it is you want to say, and get the words down”
Download: Donal McCabe interview: part 2
Part 3: Taking a position proves popular
- Popularity – and path – of thought pieces
- Press releases or thought pieces?
“It’s often the CEO or one of the Board directors speaking, or a very senior manager. So…if you were following a company why wouldn’t you be interested in what they’ve got to say?”
Download: Donal McCabe interview: part 3
Part 4: Corporate website and reputation
- Impact of the corporate website on reputation
- Social media and reputation: influence or protection?
- Building credibility through accuracy and substance
“I think that social media is almost designed so that companies like us can’t influence it…people who are very social media savvy are very quick to spot companies who are playing games”
“If you think you can manage [your corporate reputation] and you think you can get it right every time, I suspect you probably fall into the alchemist category.”
Download: Donal McCabe interview: part 4
Part 5: Choosing media
- Things to consider when choosing media channels
- Presenting information so that people can understand it and take a view
“Once you’ve started something it’s very hard to draw back on it, because even if it’s only six people that say “Well, that’s how I prefer it”, you’ve started a relationship”
Download: Donal McCabe interview: part 5
Here’s the whole interview, for you to listen to while baking a cake, or on the train; and the transcript, for those who prefer to read.
Many thanks to Donal for taking the time to talk to Paul.
Who were we speaking to?
Donal McCabe, Director of Corporate Communication, Land Securities PLC
Recruited by Land Securities in 2007 to lead the corporate communications team, he heads the media relations, investor relations, internal communications and events management for the company.
Prior to joining Land Securities he was in senior roles at Boots The Chemists where he worked on the merger with Alliance Unichem and then, later on, the sale to private equity.
He had the good fortune to experience seven years at Railtrack, one of the highest profile and most infamous companies in the UK. Needless to say with the experience gained from handling train crashes, administration, management changes and summits with the Prime Minister it was an excellent grounding in all aspects of PR.