“When we're doing our job well, nobody knows we're doing it.”
This is according to Perry Yeatman, SVP of corporate and government affairs for Kraft Foods and president of the Kraft Foods Foundation, who I had a welcome opportunity to speak to this week.
Everyone talks about reputation as if it's a standalone thing in its own right, but as Yeatman points out, “you don't manage reputation - reputation is the outcome of doing the right things and communicating them well.”
The same applies to communications. It is not something that exists in a vacuum. It must be tied in to real business benefits. At Kraft, that means either contributing to the making of money, or to the saving of money – both especially important in a low-growth, high-margin environment such as the one at the CPG giant.
Of course, brand marketing, CSR, cause marketing, internal communications, investor relations, government relations, and the other elements of the communications trade all contribute to these bottom-line objectives in some form or fashion if they are being done correctly. This is especially true at large CPG companies such as Kraft, where consumers really care about what you say and what your intentions are.
Yeatman has been in the communications business for many years, on the agency and client side, so she knows what she's talking about. She will leave her role at Kraft at the end of September when the company splits into two businesses - the global snacks arm Mondelez, and the US grocery operation Kraft Foods Group.
Each company will retain an integrated corporate and government affairs function under their new structures, with Yeatman's two colleagues taking over comms at the new companies - Nancy Daigler heading up Kraft and Ernest Duplessis spearheading Mondelez.
It may be a conundrum when it comes to things like winning awards at Cannes, but the true value of communications and reputation has to remain largely unheralded almost by definition – for better or worse, that's just the nature of what effective PR professionals do.