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Business Observer Friday, Oct. 25, 2013 8 years ago

Create a brand-driven culture

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Six ways to get your employees to 'live the brand.'
by: James R. Contributing Columnist

Your people are your brand. It's how they greet customers, answer their questions, prospect for business, and deliver your goods and services. In fact, research reveals that the majority of customers' perceptions about a company are determined by their experience with its employees.

Even if your workers never go beyond the factory floor, you depend on all your employees to keep your company's promise with your customers.

To truly make your brand part of your company's culture, you have to make it personal for your employees. That means translating your brand strategy into their everyday actions. It helps to work with all levels of an organization, starting with the CEO and the board of directors and including the executive level vice presidents, directors, and everyone vital to creating a brand impression — and that is everyone in the company.

It means creating “real life” brand definitions that are relevant and meaningful to all employees. Creating brand definitions is about explaining to employees why being brand conscious matters. It helps them understand how putting thoughts into actions will create lasting brand impressions on customers or other key constituencies. It provides evidence of how business processes and the culture of the company communicate brand messages even if there isn't face-to-face contact with customers.

Branding on the inside is good for business
on the outside

When employees understand their brand better, they're more likely to be engaged with their company and more productive at work. A recent Gallup survey proves the connection between internal employee engagement and profitability: Disengaged employees cost an estimated $300 billion a year in lost productivity to the U.S. economy. Studies like this demonstrate the value of your employees to your company's brand.

To make your brand more impactful, you need to inform, teach and engage your employees so they can understand, and learn how to act “on-brand.” Here are some simple guidelines that can help you go from informing employees about your brand goal to “living the brand.”

Know your internal audience
Understand what your employees need to know, who influences them and how they learn. Consider the different levels of knowledge, experience and sophistication. This will help you best transfer the message behind the brand.

Put a team in charge
A multi-disciplinary team representing senior management, branding, HR, training and internal communications will give you a broader perspective with more insight and guidance. They can clarify the brand vision and drive it forward with consistency throughout the company.

Make a commitment
An employee-engagement program needs top-level buy-in and resources from senior leaders. You'll lose credibility if you start and stop halfway through a program.

Communicate early and often
Information is powerful. Timely, consistent response to project deliverables will keep things moving. Make them a priority: Don't let internal programs take second place to business as usual.

Expect a loud response
Channel the support of dedicated and engaged brand allies to lead those in the middle of the curve. Bring them along, and ignore the vocal naysayers.

Engage your whole company
Everyone must be involved. Branding is everyone's responsibility — from the top down and the bottom up.

CoreBrand's own brand tracking studies began in 1990, to measure and track the impact that brand has on business, including the effectiveness of brand-building efforts and their impact on financial performance. Our studies reveal that companies that consistently rank in the top of Fortune's “Best Places to Work” pay close attention to their brands and informing their employees. And the top-ranked companies know that the more clarity they have about their brand with employees, the more it can lead to increased employee engagement. Assessing employees' perspectives is critical to the process. The results help create a more engaging brand that is both credible and compelling to all key audiences — especially to employees.

When your employees are “living the brand” you'll observe a more intense sense of purpose through out the company. You'll notice that your customers are easier to please and customer satisfaction will be greater. You will also see employee recruitment and retention costs drop because everyone wants to work for a company with a purpose.

James R. Gregory is founder and CEO of CoreBrand, a global brand strategy, communications and design firm headquartered in New York, with offices in Los Angeles and Tampa. He helps clients develop strategies to improve their corporate brands and profitability. Gregory has written four books on creating value with brands: “Marketing Corporate Image,” “Leveraging the Corporate Brand,” “Branding Across Borders” and “The Best of Branding.” Contact him at [email protected].

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