The following has been adapted from a January 2012 interview with van Riel in , based on his book “The Alignment Factor.”

Alignment is building long-term relationships with all internal and external stakeholders, those you depend on as an organisation. Where reputation is a means, alignment is an end.

Communication staff are focusing increasingly on building alignment, the degree to which you are able to build long-term relationships with both your internal and external stakeholders. This has two consequences. First, communication professionals need to really deliver, they must initiate dialogue with all those who criticize you most or demand something from you. That’s much more complicated than it might seem, but a good communication professional knows exactly how to direct this process. The second consequence is that you must ensure that both parties actually listen to one other’s arguments, sparking true dialogue.

Criticism keeps you on your toes. If criticism is communicated, you at least have the opportunity to respond to it.

Prof. dr. Cees B.M. van Riel is professor of corporate communication at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, and vice chairman and co-founder of Reputation Institute. He received IPR’s Pathfinder Award in 2011.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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One thought on “Criticism Keeps You on Your Toes

  1. Building long-term relationships may well be defined as “alignment” but to my mind that term suggests the linking together of various elements of relationships, and further suggests a “balance” between the benefits gained by an organization and critical stakeholder groups. As we know, those benefits seldom are balanced in the world we live in given the way power and influence function. And, the notion that “reputation is a means, alignment is an end” seems to me backwards from what I would expect; in the “alignment” process.

    And, the notion that ” a good communication professional knows exactly how to direct this process” may be a bit of an overstatement. I don’t think we can assume a universal understanding of the need to recognize that our communication strategies, to be successful, need to focus on common interests and shared goals, in support of mutually-beneficial, long-tange relationships.

    Moreover, the communication strategy is part of a management effort that supports the goal of a long-range, mutually-beneficial relationship between a sponsoring organization and relevant stakeholder groups.

    In this mix, criticism can serve the very important function of initiating communication if, indeed, it has not already been initiated. And, certainly it can “keep you on your toes.”

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