A family friend called me last week and said, “You should write a letter to Brian Cornell and tell him you want to be a part of his turnaround team.” The advice wasn’t completely out of the blue as I had in fact been picking her brain for career guidance. It was quite a bold idea.
What would I say? And why would Mr. Cornell listen to me? I don’t claim to know more than those who already surround him. What could I possibly have to offer that would warrant a letter directly to the CEO?
I decided there would be no letter. But I did do some digging into the latest Target Corp. news. The headline of this CNNMoney opinion piece bluntly summed up the situation: Target had a terrible holiday, warns of awful 2017. I read some more about the company’s plans to compete on price, remodel older stores and open new ones. I’m curious about the new financial model. And I wonder if there is a way Target could harness mobile to make offline and online shopping work together better.
But something caught my attention in this excerpt from the Star Tribune:
Many analysts were miffed that Cornell and his team did not bring up groceries, one of the biggest factors in Target's slide in sales last year.
What tickled my brain was the emotion behind Yarbrough’s quote. It’s clear the analyst wants more from Cornell. And short of actually delivering a concrete grocery plan, what could Cornell do to instill confidence, share insight and build trust?
Just like Cornell is hungry for anecdotal guest stories during his impromptu store visits, people are eager to hear Cornell think out loud. But an earnings call isn’t the place for it. And, he can’t spend all his time in one-on-ones with the press. Furthermore, any PR efforts to raise his public profile should steer clear of looking like empty shaking of hands and kissing of babies.
Target’s A Bullseye View “Perspectives” does a nice job publishing POV commentary from executives, but it’s formal and infrequent. And unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Cornell is active on LinkedIn or Twitter. I wonder why?
A social media presence is the equivalent of a casual conversation. It’s as simple as sharing an article on LinkedIn with a brief comment about why you think it’s interesting. Even liking an article on LinkedIn is shared with your followers. These actions are incredibly humanizing and go a long way toward building relationships.
So back to that letter I wasn’t going to write and what I would say. Brian Cornell should take a hard look at his executive communication efforts. Not the formal corporate initiatives, but his individual efforts to bring the public along for the ride in this turnaround. And if he hired me to lead this charge, it would be because of my insatiable curiosity to understand people, their motives and, in turn, communicate that understanding to others. Sure my formal public relations background is important but it’s my passion for basic sociology and psychology that makes me uniquely suited for the task.
So, who could introduce me to Brian Cornell?