Companies spend a huge amount of time and money on building a strong brand, but often fail to recognise their most valuable brand ambassadors, their people. Building a strong brand, regardless of the industry you’re in, requires a strong connection between the employee’s sense of purpose at the organisation and the brand aspirations of that organisation.
Employee Engagement = Brand Engagement
The equation is simple. A great corporate culture with engaged, connected employees equals a great corporate brand. Even luxury consumer goods brands have people at their core. It’s never just about the product. They generally have a founder or a founding family who cared, and continue to care, deeply about the quality of the product and have created the brand as a lifelong passion. The generally have a story to tell and their employees like being part of their journey.
Organisations with great corporate brands do these five things well:
1. They have a clear brand, vision and values
2. Have employees who enthusiastically deliver what the brand promises
3. Make sure that all activities are aligned to the brand including recruitment, induction, training, communication, reward and recognition, processes and culture
4. Leaders and managers ‘live the brand’ through their behaviour – it’s not just rhetoric
5. They measure brand awareness, understanding and delivery, internally and externally.
The key to all of this is leadership. Leaders who inspire their employees to care about the organisation’s future. Leaders who draw a direct line between the employee’s day-to-day role and the vision of the organisation. These leaders are inspiring the employee to give the organisation their very best. This translates into effort and care with client/customer service, diligent, accurate and efficient administration, care for other employees, and a more energised and innovative corporate culture.
Applied Personal Branding
One of the most common (and most damaging) branding misconceptions is that the personal brand and the corporate brand compete (rather than cooperate). William Aruda says:
Nothing could be further from the truth. The most successful companies help employees understand their personal brands, capitalizing on the integration of these individual traits with the broader corporate objectives. It’s called applied personal branding, and it’s a powerfully simple strategy. It’s based on the principle of personal plus corporate, not personal vs. corporate. When employees are clear about who they are and what makes them exceptional (a process that you can easily implement by promoting self discovery), and they have been educated with an understanding of the corporate brand objectives, they can apply their unique skills and expertise to activate the corporate goals. Think consistency, not conformity, and you’re following the lucrative path of Southwest Airlines and Apple’s Genius Bar. A consistent brand does not emerge from conformist employees. Each individual needs to determine how he or she can deliver on the corporate brand promise in a way that’s authentic, leveraging the corporate identity with what ignites them and makes them exceptional.
I call this CheerLEADING™. Developing internal cheerleaders to be your brand evangelists. This development of the employee’s personal brand can, and should, be done alongside the development of the corporate brand. They are one and the same. Your internal advocates create external advocates and, in turn, create an engaging brand.
Social media plays a huge role in all of this today. Look out for future posts on this.