Image from ‘Creative Community’ collection by Death to the Stock Photo
Recently I’ve been writing about the future of business and marketing: being more human. In my introductory article I unpacked the trend towards ‘humanistic marketing’ and in Part 1 I discussed the use of company values to work towards a more successful, ‘real’ brand.
An important part of creating a meaningful ‘human’ brand is in the company culture you build. There are many writers more experienced than I in the theory and practice of positive work culture, so what I want to focus on is brand consistency across team members representing the company.
Say you’ve recently reviewed the company values statement, an important part of the business brand, and discussed to what extent these values are being lived out by the company. Perhaps you’ve identified the value of being real people your clients can relate to and access easily for a conversation. You’ve decided this is a key message you want your brand to project. Your marketing department is reviewing your website, social pages, company publications and shop front to assess if this message is being carried across the surface of your branding.
Note, I call it the ‘surface’ of your branding. The website, marketing materials and general ‘appearance’ of your brand are extremely important for making the right impression. I’ll get to the topic of online branding in my next article – however, without a foundation of consistency in brand messaging in terms of ‘real life’ – your business processes, staff training and staff culture – your brand cannot be effective. It’s the substance behind the first impression and it’s what ultimately builds and maintains your reputation.
When looking at training staff to your brand values and supporting that training with a company culture congruent with those values, there are various areas to consider. In the example above, you may communicate the value of ‘being real people’ by taking time to get to know and share new team members’ personal interests and projects. You may encourage and model casual, ‘everyday’ language and humour in the office. You may set up positive, supportive and personal language when speaking about clients. As a director or manager, you may schedule weekly time to check in with each of your immediate team members to see how they are going and find out what concerns or ideas they may have. And going back a few steps: you might look for people who value human relationship and concern for others when you’re hiring new staff.
But what things need to be kept an eye on that extend from what you do in the office, but still represent company culture? Where do you need to set up some expectations to ensure individual team members consistently represent the brand? Consider the following areas:
- How people speak, dress, behave when out of the office but are still in ‘work mode’ (e.g. going to see a client, attending a networking or training event)
- Email exchanges with clients, prospects and suppliers (tone, language, accuracy in writing, clarity, detail, follow-up plan)
- Quality and accuracy of content on team members’ LinkedIn profiles
- Professionalism of team members’ profile photos on company website and LinkedIn profiles
- Content of conversation and language being used by team members on their personal social media pages (e.g. Facebook)
- Content of photos and videos team members post online
- Privacy settings and reach (connections and beyond) of team members content on social media
- Other public or relatively public (which is most things these days!) online behaviour of team members e.g. in Facebook or LinkedIn groups
Of course, you cannot and should not try to control individuals’ personal online behaviour, but you can:
- communicate an expectation of awareness that individuals also represent the company they work for
- organise a staff workshop to set up appropriate LinkedIn profiles and photographs
- organise staff training for using LinkedIn effectively to build relationships that assist them in their professional role at your company
- educate your team, using an expert speaker or trainer, about the extent to which the social, personal and business realms have crossed over in the online space, about the implications of certain types of online behaviour and about just how public their posts really are
- book a workshop where team members can explore their ‘personal brand’ and how their individual interests and values align with the company they work for – and how to represent that in their online and real-life activity
- organise a staff training on writing effective emails to clients, prospects, suppliers, other staff
If you establish a brand that people are proud to be associated with and want to protect, if you choose team members who align with the values of the company and if you set up the expectation to live those values in the work they do every day – such as being available to talk to clients and treating them like human beings with important needs – you will have created a company culture that represents a positive, ‘human’ and meaningful brand that clients want to work with.