If you could only pick one word to describe yourself, what would it be? Enthusiastic? Driven? Snacky?
Love it. Now, does the way you work and how you interact with people reflect that word?
It’s a hard question and not for the faint of heart. When we dig deep into how we represent ourselves each day, we may uncover joyful revelations or uncomfortable insights.
Apply this concept to companies and branding, and it is easy to think high level. Marketers know the importance of inserting our company’s mission into its public persona. Strategies could include tailoring presentations and publications to showcase our brand or fitting keywords into every social media post and tweet. Fostering brand identity through marketing is extremely important and often works.
Branding starts with employees
I want to argue, however, that the world will believe in what you say online when your brand is reflected in the feet on the ground—by employees. Your employees, the way you represent to the public, payers, partners, patients, clients, whoever, are the ultimate ambassadors of your brand. They are the ones who will show the world that you are truly “human” or “caring” or whatever adjective you choose to describe your company.
Let me give you an example.
We recently had a client ask if we would describe their brand as “genuine.” It was a bit out of the blue because we were in the nitty-gritty of discussing a complicated project. Later I stepped back and looked at their website and social accounts. I could see where the question originated—they did use words that fostered that image.
However, when I went back to the idea of whether I would organically consider them “genuine,” I decided that yes, I would. And it is not because the company’s publications say so. It is because every single person I have interacted with from that company is genuine. They work hard, show empathy, and are themselves. They are a pleasure to collaborate with, and I never question whether their praise or criticism is real.
Here’s another example.
Another client of ours likes the “everyman” phrase. I know this because I’ve read their branding book. I know this on a deeper level, though, because I’ve read pieces by their CEO and heard him talk. He offers coding advice in comments to LinkedIn posts and poses with a huge smile next to a poster of his company on the street. He speaks from his heart without using fancy language. He exemplifies the brand better than any publication could.
Whenever we discuss marketing with that client, we often come back to “how would the CEO say that,” and it works. He is the brand.
These theories and examples are all well and good, but how can marketers and managers encourage employees to represent the company’s brand?
A good place to begin is to make sure your company’s mission is crystal clear for your employees. It starts with hiring employees who carry a passion for their company, not just their paycheck. It goes from there to how you communicate your mission with your employees, how you foster community, and (a big one) how the higher-ups reflect the brand in their daily work.
Mission needs to run deep through an organization. Once this happens, employees will naturally represent your brand to the public. When the public sees a key phrase like “we care about you” plastered all over your website, they will believe it because they remember Dave or Amy’s efforts to understand and meet their needs.
Messaging and identity organically originate through ground-level interactions with companies—they start with employees. Take that one beautiful word you want to communicate and ensure that is how employees interact daily with the public, and your brand will shine.