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Oct 14, 2021

After a 30-year agency career that included notable stints with Edelman and WE Communications, Alan VanderMolen was named Chief Communications Officer at CPG giant SC Johnson last year. Alan oversees both internal and external communications at SC Johnson, reporting to CEO Fisk Johnson. 

In this wide-ranging conversation with Lippe Taylor CEO Paul Dyer, Alan delves into the importance of trust, keys to revolutionizing sustainability practice, the importance of internal comms, advice for aspiring leaders, and what it was like joining SC Johnson at the height of the pandemic.


Below are some key takeaways from this conversation with Alan. 

Trust is a must. Alan is often quoted as saying, “Trust is evolving into a core competency for business.” From his perspective, today’s brands need to treat the notion of trust with as much reverence and focus as they would typical communications pillars like reputation and promotion. 

Don’t try to change the past. Alan states that “Trust is the expression of how stakeholders believe you're going to behave in the future” and emphasizes how reputation is a rear-view mirror and the sum of perceptions about past performances. From this angle, Alan finds it to be fruitless to try and change past perceptions via reputation management; focusing on the trust you build in the future is a much more fruitful endeavor.

Define sustainability in terms your customers understand. SC Johnson takes sustainability very seriously at both macro and micro levels. Alan believes the key to sustainable change happens at the community level, which is why it's incumbent on brands to communicate sustainability practices effectively in terms customers can relate to. Phrases like “carbon neutral” and “zero emissions” mean a great deal to corporations, but to most people, they’re jargon. SC Johnson leads with concepts like “a waste-free world” and showcases what this means on a community level with initiatives at sporting events so they can remain relevant and relatable to local communities. These are the keys to lasting change as opposed to one-off CSR initiatives.