Tag: internal communication

 

5 Ways to Ensure Employees Deliver your Brand Promise

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A few weeks ago I facilitated a team offsite for a client I’m working with on an engagement project. The location was this really cool art studio in a trendy part of town. As I pulled into the lot, I quickly noticed that the owners must value “green.” There were some vegetated swales and designated parking spots for fuel efficient and “HOV” vehicle parking.  I was instantly lured in and appreciated the respect shown toward the business’ environmental impact…before even stepping foot in the door.

I wasn’t sure what HOV stood for, so it was the first question I asked the young man working in the reception area. His response – “I really don’t know. People ask me that all the time.”

Brand disconnect.

Hmmm….I thought. Was this all for show? Was it the trendy thing to do? Are they just trying to keep up with competition?

About a week later I did some research on their website. It ends up it’s a LEED Silver Certified green building. The rooftop has a solar panel system, and their property features a monarch butterfly conservation waystation, a bioswale rain garden, and a garden of native plants and prairie grasses. Being married to an environmental scientist and having worked in an environmental industry, I know that this level of commitment to green takes an investment, not to mention motivation and passion.

So this was clearly an internal brand alignment issue, which resulted in my brand experience being compromised. I cared enough to do further research on my own, but I’m part of probably 1% who would. Most customers would have stopped with thinking, “This place is just trying to be trendy but has no idea what being green even means” and potentially take their business elsewhere due to a feeling of fakeness during their experience.

Even if it was a false perception of the brand due to this one comment made by the receptionist, we all know very well that perception is reality.

Two important takeaways from this story:

  1. Your employees ARE your brand.
  2. Your employees can make or break your customers’ brand experience.

How many employees are aligned with their organization’s brand?

When asked how much they agree with the following statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors,” 2012 research conducted by Gallup found that only:

  • 60% of executives strongly agreed
  • 46% of managers strongly agreed
  • 37% of all other employees strongly agreed

Maybe even more concerning is that 9% of other employees (non-executive, non-manager) strongly disagreed that they understand their company’s brand promise and brand differentiation.

Why is this more concerning? Because it’s typically your frontline that has the most touchpoints with your customers. It’s the receptionist greeting customers as they walk in, the customer service rep answering your customers’ calls, the entry-level sales associate running a Lunch & Learn webinar about your products and services.

What can I do to align my employees with my brand?

1. Answer: What is it?

First thing first – develop a brand strategy if you haven’t already. Be intentional about what you want your brand to feel like, look like, be differentiated by, etc. Include the following in your brand strategy:

  • Brand platform/positioning
  • Brand personality
  • Brand naming and architecture
  • Brand experience
  • Brand imagery
  • Brand alignment plan (!!!)

2. Embed it consistently into your internal communications.

Plot out your internal channels, create messaging around the brand, and insert it frequently and indefinitely into every employee touchpoint.

3. Reward and recognize brand-aligned behaviors.

Create recognition schemes that positively promote brand-boosting behavior.  This could range anywhere from public “shout outs” to performance-driven compensation plans. Are your employees living your brand? Reward them for it!

4. Onboard every single new employee around the brand.

Even seasonals and temps if they are going to be interacting with your customers. It is highly likely that the young man at the art studio who didn’t know what HOV stood for was a summer temp. Have employees “drink the Kool-Aid” from Day 1 by not focusing solely on policies, forms, and medical benefits, but also on your brand promise. Have them “feel” it first-hand through experiential learning embedded into your onobaridng program.

5. Regularly solicit input from employees about the brand.

Where are they feeling a disconnect? What aspects of it do they feel the closest connections to and why? What are their clients saying? Make it an ongoing discussion, and address needs and/or make changes as warranted.

Oh, and just in case this has been eating at you since you started reading – HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. 🙂

Case Study in Employee Communications: Not-so-average announcement yields not-so-average results

Hoscars2Background

We hold an annual employee event each year called the H’Oscars where we celebrate our successes, provide a forum for learning and collaboration, and recognize the contributions of top talent. This event brings together the entire US organization and some of our international employees in one offsite location for 2-3 days.

It’s one of the most talked about topics amongst employees (and even non-employees who catch wind!), and everyone is always anxious to find out where it is going to take place each year.

An Idea

About two months ago, I received a random email from two employees who had an idea for a video about this event. I could tell they were excited about the concept and had put some thought and creativity into their suggestion. I was grateful they reached out and appreciated the level of engagement and drive behind the request. There was nothing I could do with it at the time, but I tucked it away in my inbox to revisit when planning was underway.

The Announcement

About a month and a half later, we were ready to announce the date and location of our 2013 event. That email I received back in April immediately came to mind.

Our typical approach would have been to share a “Save the Date” at a company meeting, in the newsletter, maybe in an executive blog, possibly a company-wide email, maybe even a video of our CEO announcing the location in our global enterprise online community.

OR…we could hand the responsibility off to two employees with a BIG idea and have them run with it!

We chose the latter.

We met with the employees one time, briefed them on the event, and told them we have two objectives for this announcement:

  1. Share the location and date.
  2. Build excitement.

They took it from there. Below is the result. It speaks for itself.

Regulate

The Results

GA_2Increased adoption and engagement in our enterprise community.

The video was posted to a Corporate News group in our online employee community and also featured in a teaser on the global home page. We saw an immediate spike in visits.

  • Unique logins increased that day by approximately 30% compared to a typical Monday.
  • We continued to see increased logins over the course of three days by approximately 10%.
  • Views on that post were 4x greater than what we typically see on other posts in that group.
  • We received more comments and “likes” on that post than we typically get. Below are a few examples of the comments.

“World changerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrs…… I was rolling… this is awesome.”

“I. Died. This was great!”

“This was hilarious, I literally chocked on my drink, was not expecting that at all! Great job!”

“Too funny.  Just sad I’ll have to miss H’Oscars, esp. if this is any indication of what it will be like this year!”

Redistribution of responsibilities.

Aside from the high numbers of employees who voluntarily “chose” to consume the message; active engagement in our employee community; and the buzz this had generated; we also gained the added benefit of reallocating work typically done by the H’Oscars planning team. No CEO scripts to write, slides to design, or emails to draft.

By bringing “fresh blood” into the task of making this announcement, we also inherently rejuvenated the creativity and enthusiasm that went into it.

Why was this hugely successful?

1. Because employees are smart, talented, and want to contribute.

Do not take their ideas for granted. If you did your hiring right, you have talented team members bursting at the seams to contribute positively toward your business.

Listen to your employees. Outwardly demonstrate your confidence in their abilities. Empower them to take action.

2. Because employees pay attention to their colleagues.

Your general employee population is too far removed from the C-suite and possibly from the corporate communications team (depending on the size of your organization) to feel closely connected to the messages they send. This is an ongoing challenge for corporate communicators and executive leadership. However, they are very connected to the team members sitting to the left and right of them. Tap into these spheres of influence and informal internal networks as part of your communication strategy.

The two employees in this video were “real”, front-line team members with no direct ties to corporate communications, HR, or executive leadership. Get different faces and voices out there every now and then. People like to hear from those they can relate to.

3. Because it struck a personal cord with its audience.

For those of you who don’t know, the background music to the lyrics in the video is from a song called Regulate by Warren G and Nate Dogg that was released in the summer of 1994 and featured on the Above the Rim soundtrack. The average age of our workforce is approximately 32. That would mean that the majority of our workforce was around 13 years old when this song was released. I don’t care what “clique” you were part of in the mid-90’s…if you were a teenager in 1994, this song resonates with you.

Know your audience.

4. Because it was easy and enjoyable to consume.

The average person’s attention span in 2012 was 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000. This presents quite a challenge to anyone with a message to share. If we wanted to generate some buzz and excitement for this year’s H’Oscars, we needed to grab people’s attention and keep it short and sweet. Brief videos are a great channel to use to accomplish this objective.

What new communication strategies and channels have you used recently to engage your employees in your messaging? Please share!