Tell your magical brand story

dreamstime_m_13770729

If you are asked to describe your organisation to someone, in 2-3 sentences, how do you go? How will your employees respond when asked to do the same?

In some ways, branding can learn from the science of Anthropology. One of the primary ways we make sense of our world is through story telling. Stories are the way relate to each other and the way we make sense of who we are and what our place in the world is. Stories are shared in every culture as a means of education, entertainment, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values.

The same is ultimately true of brands. Brands are the stories that unite us in a common purpose, within the organisation, and connect us with the people we serve on the outside. Brand stories give meaning to who we are, what we do and why we do it.

The stories we tell inside our organisation, to our employees, shape the way they feel about the organisation and therefore shape the way they interact with clients and customers. The organisation’s brand stories become a key driver of employee engagement and a key driver of the business. If an organisation has a long history or a history steeped in tradition, this forms part of the brand story. Conversely, if a business is relatively young, but has experienced success early, this too will influence the story.

I encourage leaders to be very strategic about the creation and telling of the brand story. Think about the impact of various events along the way. If the organisation has won an award, or a number of awards, it’s just as important to keep celebrating internally, as much as it is to promote it externally. If employees feel proud of where they work, they pass on this positivity to clients and customers. Leaders can be very strategic about the words they choose, as well as how and when they choose to relay the brand story. It should start before the recruitment process. Employer branding becomes part of your overall brand strategy, so potential recruits know some of the story before they apply for a position. Then, when they do apply, they learn more of the story through the recruitment process and even more when they begin employment.

The brand story is continually evolving and, as the organisation grows, more chapters are added. Leaders should take every opportunity to reinforce the brand story and provide positive connections to it. Marketers and internal communication professionals should place the brand story, and the creation of brand loyalty via the story, at the top of their list of priorities. Brand stories should be created by skilled communications specialists and delivered via internal communications channels. Leaders deliver consistent messages (i.e. the same story) as part of the overall communications plan.

Disney is probably the best example of an organisation consistently telling its brand story, over many many years and with deliberate authenticity. Disney has developed its brand essence over the years and delivering a ‘magical’ experience is ingrained in their culture. They also continue to tell the story of Walt Disney and his mantra “We create happiness by providing the finest in family entertainment.” In fact, Walt Disney’s take on defining a company culture was based entirely around creating a genuine shared purpose that people would be proud to support*.

Create some of your own magic, by creating, refining and consistently telling your positive brand story, inside and out. You will create a culture within your organisation that will not only last, but become the very thing that leads to brand loyalty in your clients or customers. Engaged employees, working with a shared purpose, created and supported by the brand story, will provide a positive experience for clients and customers again and again and again.

*Source: “How Disney Creates Magical Experiences (and a 70% Return Rate)”, Gregory Ciotti. http://www.helpscout.net/blog/disney-customer-experience/

Internal cheerLEADING™

How do your employees become brand ambassadors? How do they speak the language of the business at every single touch point, in unison, naturally and comfortably, believing in what they’re saying? How do they “live and breathe it” and feel passionate about it. In short, you need to develop a team of internal cheerleaders. Cheering for the organisation and cheering for the brand. They need to love what they do and be happy to tell everyone about it.

There are many different ways to engage employees, but the trick is aligning brand messages. The best way to do this is to create an internal culture which is synonymous with the external brand. Google do this extremely well. Google is the number one cited organisation for corporate culture. Google employees are called “Googlers” and being an employee means being “Googley”. This infographic illustrates their philosophy.

Google-Company-Culture-Infographic-1024x912
Infographic: Corporate Culture Mindset via HumanResourcaMBA.net

At Google, culture is guided from the top. The leadership team drive the internal employee initiatives. If they don’t believe it will add to being ‘googley’, and achieve results, they don’t do it. They also have a very solid foundation of trust. Trust in employees, trust in leadership and trust in the culture. Of course innovation is key and employees are encouraged to fail and try again.

A few things Google does:

GOOGLE’S BEST PRACTICES FOR BUILDING CULTURE

  • Engineers are ½ of the organization. Engineers like to “do cool things.” After one year, an engineer can bid to work on anything they want to. “Popular projects” get more bids, less popular ones don’t. Project leads have to learn to sell/pitch their ideas to appeal to engineers.
  • “Innovation from Everywhere.” Innovation is expected at Google, in every segment of the business. You can use 20% of your time on anything – people vote and pledge their 20% time to projects that are seen as promising or cool. It’s “a license to pursue your dreams” says Marissa Mayer. “If I don’t have a good 20% project yet, I need one. It could negatively impact on my review.” Half the new products and features launched by Google are said to come from work done under the 20% rule.
  • Google is constantly building “dog food teams” – the groups who work to make all products better.
  • Google products are always in Beta. It is a Silicon Valley punch line that Google products stay in beta forever. Mistakes are celebrated. There was a product launch in 2009 that didn’t catch on – a big failure, externally and internally. That product launch team was celebrated, given a bonus, AND given a Founder’s Award (prestigious). Eventually that workstream rolled into what is now Google Plus.
  • TGIF – every Friday, Larry and Sergey stand on a stage and answer ANY question. People log on and ask and then vote on the questions they most want answered. They go through the screen and take every one on, candidly. It is common to hear someone say “I think you made a mistake with _______.” And they will come back with “Here’s why we did it.”
  • “Hiring is the most process-driven thing we do.” (Shannon Deegan, VP of HR). They have 2 million applications for 500 jobs. The screening process is rigorous – they will leave a role open a year if they don’t find the right fit.
  • All people decisions at Google (in fact, all decisions period) are based on data and analytics. Google VP Marissa Meyer once said “If a Google employee is meeting with Larry and Sergey to talk about users’ needs, they’d better come with more than their own conclusions – they had better come with data. Their immediate question will be “How many people did you test?””
  • Nooglers (new to Google) are given lots of on-boarding support. They are taught early on:
    • It’s fun to work here – have fun.
    • Think big and take risks.
    • If it’s broken, fix it or find someone who can.
    • Invent solutions not yet thought possible.
  • One of the most-asked questions at Google: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…..”
  • We take employee surveys very seriously. There is a 90%+ response rate (very high compared to most large organizations) and most people elect to reveal their identity, although they don’t have to. Recent changes from surveys:
    • Make it easier to find a mentor
    • Simplify internal mobility (transfer) process by making it transparent and user friendly
    • Provide more tools to help Googlers define, articulate, and plan for career development
    • Reduce bias during performance reviews
    • How closely does employee perception of the value of benefits, match reality?
    • Is employee networking valuable to the organization?
  • Create internal agility by putting in place only as much structure as absolutely necessary. Managers are RESOURCES not bosses. They work FOR the team.
  • Give people the tools to make innovation easy: New computers every 18 months. Also, lots of server space, 24 hour help desk, Radio Shack on-site.
  • Peer bonuses – anyone can log on and give someone a $200 peer bonus, no approval needed. (the person just cannot be in your direct team.) We have never seen it abused.
  • Everyone at every level gets stock on the day they start, which vests at one year.
  • Teams are responsible for the culture globally – all offices watch the Larry & Sergey TGIF chat on video and are accountable to create an office that “feels Googley.”*

I love these best practices, but what can we learn from them and actually implement in our own organisations? On top of trust, other key elements include staff benefits, rewards and recognition, bonuses, responsibility and accountability, on-boarding support, leadership, communication, and a flat organisational structure.

At the core of it all though are Google’s values or what they call ‘being googley’. I think this is the real key. Their values are ingrained, intrinsic to the organisation. It’s an expected way to behave. You don’t get a job there unless you behave this way and you certainly don’t keep your job if your behaviour is anything but ‘googley’. The meaning of being ‘googley’ is well communicated and staff can articulate it. It’s what makes Google Google.

I think you have to start with your core values. How you want your people to behave. Every single person in the organisation needs to subscribe to your core values and be engaged with them.

I think if we concentrate on defining ‘googley’ for our own organisation and focus on being ‘that’ everyday, through everything we do, we can build a team of internal cheerLEADERS™ and build an organisation achieving real success.

*Source: “THE REAL SECRET OF GOOGLE’S CORPORATE CULTURE” corporateculturepros.com.

 

Achieving Brand Alignment Through Your Employees

Sasha Strauss talking about the theory behind this work. Aligning your internal messages to your external brand messages. Creating the story for your employees, so they are all talking about your organisation in the way you would like them to. Ensuring they are engaged with your brand, proud of the firm and proud of the work they do for clients.

Enterprise Social Networking

After implementing a targeted plan for increasing brand awareness externally, and a targeted recruitment campaign, we then developed, launched and implemented an internal branding campaign, designed to engage employees with the HLB brand and assist our firms’ overall employee engagement strategies. The campaign, called ‘Team HLB’, assists each member firm with employee engagement initiatives, and the key messages are extensions of the key messages used in the recruitment campaign and the external brand awareness campaign, and centre around teamwork and great people delivering great results.

We needed an internal communications tool to better communicate and collaborate across the Association. So, our latest internal communication initiative, and possibly the most radical ever for our organisation, was to implement an Enterprise Social Network. If you are unfamiliar with these, they are basically an internal social media platform, designed to increase communication and collaboration across an organisation. They use the best bits of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – all designed for internal use.

Enterprise Social Network
We were seeking a system to enable collaboration and open communication across the Association. Because of our structure of independent member firms, we needed something to enable member firms, mostly our national divisional and industry groups, to converse more effectively and efficiently. We would like to see an increase in conversations and knowledge sharing at all levels of the Association, breaking down the traditional barriers of geography.

One of the Association’s major goals is:
“Fostering Improved Collegiality & Knowledge Sharing”
We decided that an Enterprise Social Network could help us do this.

We have bought and implemented tibbr www.tibbr.com

The main drivers of the project are to increase internal collaboration and communication between national divisional (service lines) and industry groups. The partners in these groups currently liaise via telephone conferences and email. Any documents are shared via email. No communication formally occurs between staff at lower levels. As a result, communication is disjointed.

Through an Enterprise Social Network, we want to accelerate innovation and spread of ideas, break down geographic and time barriers – speeding up communication information flow, and fostering improved collegiality and knowledge sharing. It’s also for increased visibility of our leaders, mostly our Association Chairman and the Executive Committee.

We have seen some really positive results in the first stages of our rollout.