Hill+Knowlton CEO: Craft Your Business Image Using a ‘Moral Compass’

September 5, 2018, 4:41 PM UTC

Corporate America always wants to put its best foot forward. Who doesn’t want to work for a company worth admiring? Who really wants there to be a disconnect between a company’s marketing and its reality?

No one, of course. But it happens—and that’s where public relations companies come in. For one, Hill+Knowlton, the best strategy for a company to gain public trust is through transparency. According to CEO Jack Martin, constructing an honest corporate image first starts with looking to one’s moral compass to articulate a set of values.

It cuts both ways, too. “Clients want to deal with consultants that approach partnership with integrity and morals,” Martin says.

How to get there? The first step is listening to your employees. Hill+Knowlton has more than 3,000 worldwide, Martin says. “That’s where we spend most of our time,” he says. “Employees are our asset—a wonderful group of people that make up the company.”

The second is listening to your clients, Martin added. And the third is, in hindsight, obvious: Listen to the public. People outside the corporate walls can help inform you about what’s going on in a rapidly changing world—and crucially, who to trust.

A policy of transparency, of course, means that the best corporate image comes from corporations who are, well, the best behaved.

I have a favorite saying: ‘What kind of person are you when nobody is looking,'” he says. “It transcends any particular business plan or strategy.”

Watch the video above for more from Fortune’s interview with Martin.

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