This month, I began a new webinar series entitled “Back to Business”. This is our thinking from a branding, marketing and communication perspective on how you should be approaching the uncharted waters of business in this season of COVID, political change and economic uncertainty.
NOW IS THE TIME
Our first webinar focused on getting your “internal house” in order. The current business climate is already full of change, as companies continue to deal with remote work, social distancing, changes to their sales cycles, etc. They are also having to deal with a shifting competitive landscape, new customer expectations and a market that seems to change daily.
In spite of all this external change, we are telling our clients that now is the time to make those internal changes you have been thinking about. It may be a rebranding, it may be adding new services or products, or it may be finally getting your social media strategy together. Whatever it is, now is the perfect time to make it happen, so when the dust settles you are ready.
Many people are waiting for some sort of clean break to “return to normal” but what is happening is a gradual weeding out of old practices and the rise of new. I heard it described as not a switch but a dial. Like the proverbial frog in the pot who doesn’t realize the water is slowly getting hotter and hotter until it’s too late, many may be too late in realizing the change has already happened and they missed the opportunity to use the “downtime” to make needed updates. For more insight about the “New Normal” check out Jenny’s blog here.
FOUR AREAS TO CONSIDER
In my webinar, I covered four areas where your internal audience intersects with your brand and how to leverage those areas to increase alignment throughout your organization. Of course, in light of the current events, we also talk about how to look at these areas with your internal team to assess if they should be updated.
- POSITIONING – Positioning serves as the foundation for the brand, as well as all marketing and communications activities. The intersection of knowing who you are and what you offer along with understanding your audience, competition and market drives your brand’s positioning. Three of these are external and are understood through research and experience. But the first part, knowing yourself, begins closer to home. Our team recently went through a cross-functional management exercise to help us clearly understand what we offer that is unique and how that affects our customer value and bottom line. While not solely a brand exercise, our work did much to inform our positioning. As we looked at the results, we were able to identify updates to services, and a realignment of our purpose with a focus on strategy. This in turn helped to bring our team together in a common understanding that relates heavily to changes we are making in our brand. As you reach a clearer understanding of who you are as an organization and as a brand, you are able to more effectively position yourself in light of your audience, competitors and the marketplace.
- PROMISE – Your brand promise is at the heart of telling your brand story. Understanding your mission, vision, values and promise is crucial for bringing your teams into alignment. Too often, pragmatic management types will skip over what they see as “marketing speak” not realizing the value and power it has for engaging and unifying your teams. Far from fluffy, an understanding of the ins and outs of your brand helps your team have a common sense of purpose and prioritize and make decisions that are in line with your values. Your brand promise is key in contributing to positive Employee Experiences (EX) and in the retention of top talent. Finally, it ensures that your team is “talking the talk” when working with your audience. Telling your story comes more naturally when your team really understands the brand, not just a memorized list of phrases. Right now, as you consider realigning your teams to your brand promise, you also have an opportunity to realign your brand promise to your audience and the marketplace. A brand workshop is a perfect way to do this. This is a journey we have led many of our clients through, sometimes only minor tweaks are needed, and sometimes the team discovers inspiration for an entirely different approach. Gather key decision-makers and trusted team members together to discuss, evaluate and potentially shift these statements, and then create a final presentation to your entire time. It’s a fantastic way to bring your team on board.
- CULTURE – Culture may seem like a soft and nebulous thing that is only embraced by creative and dot com organizations, but the power of having a strong company culture that is tied deeply into your brand should be on every HR exec’s radar. According to tech publication and blog Built-In, companies with winning organizational cultures have 72% higher employee engagement ratings than organizations with weak cultures. The higher the engagement, the more likely you are to experience greater retention, better customer experience, and an improved brand image. It also affects your bottom line. In fact, Built-In notes that 77% of U.S. employees believe a strong company culture enables them to produce their best work. That your brand and culture go hand in hand should be obvious, but too often that’s just simply not the case. The assumption that “our team knows our brand” leads to it not becoming a driving force in your culture, but something relegated to the sidelines — allowing other cultural markers (good and bad) to creep in.Now, more than ever — paying attention to your culture is critical. More and more people are working remotely (or in an office with social distancing) — a trend that is likely to continue for some time. When stay-at-home orders happened, most businesses approached it as a temporary solution, and so did nothing to think about how it would affect their culture. Now people find themselves trapped in functional silos. Gone are the watercooler discussions and banter which was the heartbeat of your company’s culture. The fixes can be simple (virtual happy hours, employee swag and care packages) or an entire campaign. We’d love to talk to you about how to leverage your brand for company culture.
- SUPPORT – The last area we explore in our webinar is support. Namely arming your team with the tools and communication they need to be effective and feel prepared. Again, with so many team members working remotely, the questions and communication needs have been multiplied and it is best to meet those head-on. The first step is to create a comprehensive internal communications plan. This helps you get all your ducks in a row and cover all your bases. In the webinar we cover in more detail what a plan could look like, but here are 7 aspects of a good plan: Make sure your plan is Controlled, Clear, Correct, Current, Consistent, Complete and (In) Character.It’s important your plan delivers correct, up-to-date information in a regular, predictable format that is on brand and supports your culture. Our team can assist you with developing a strategy that is woven through your short- and long-term internal communications plans, and create templates that make consistent execution much easier.
In supporting your teams, your internal reach and frequency is important. Having a trusted place for up-to-date and current information will do much to keep your team functioning. Additionally, there are several tactics that can help keep it going:
- Weekly or BiWeekly eNews — everyone will know that an update is coming and look forward to the latest news and information.
- Employee Microsite or Portal — if you don’t have one already, this is a great way to have all the information in one place and a good hub for company culture.
- Brand Videos — inform and train your team with videos. These help people feel connected and are easier to consume than a long read.
- Department Playbooks — your teams want to know what to say and how to act in the new normal. A digital playbook on their phone will give them the info they need right at their fingertips.These tactics and more are great ways to support your team during this time.
As you continue to adjust to the uncharted waters, take a look at your internal teams and make sure to leverage your brand to increase internal engagement, effectiveness and impact. For more details, watch our webinar, or let’s set up an appointment to talk about how brand & communication can help you lead your team through this time.