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Engaging With The Brand From Within

When I returned from the holiday break, I read the article “With firm resolve: 15 resolutions for PR professionals” by Tom Nixon. There were a bunch of great ideas here that I found myself nodding in agreement with and I added several to my plan for the year. But, right off the top, resolution number one struck me as the beginning of a much larger and more potent project than at first glance.

1. This is the year I will finally align my brand’s identity with the brand we wish our company to have, not just that which has sloppily evolved over time.

That’s one of the most important and most ongoing functions of the contemporary company and, to be successful, requires some strategic communications to accomplish.

In their book Taking Brand Initiative (read my review here) Professors Hatch and Schultz wrote about using the company brand to bring the vision of the company leaders, the culture of the company employees, and the images that stakeholders have of the company into alignment. From this perspective, to align the brand identity with the company you “wish to have” requires that you understand and work from the one that “has sloppily evolved over time” because that is the one that your company’s culture delivers, and that’s the one your customers have come to expect.

Shifting the brand is a strategic decision and one that must involve:

  • the leadership and their business strategy,
  • Marketing, PR and Customer Insights, and
  • every employee in the organization.

For the brand to be successful it needs to competitively serve a market-need. Customer expectations have to be met, meaning they need to be heard, addressed, and delivered in a manner that is brand-consistent. And employees have to know how to create that brand experience in their actions. This is just as true in customer-facing roles such as sales and customer service as it is in product quality roles such as development and manufacturing or employee-facing roles such as line managers, HR, IT, and Finance.

To ensure a consistent brand experience for customers, the character and quality of service must inspire the whole company culture and be reaffirmed in each interaction with employees.

As internal communicators, we look at where business leaders have identified the market opportunity, understand what Customer Insights have heard from clients and how Marketing proposes positioning the brand to customers. We ask how employees currently feel about the company and what they understand about the strategy and their role in delivering it. Then we identify the most compelling opportunities in the calendar, in the various communication channels, and in the workplace to involve employees in a continuous conversation. In the end, we want to help every employee build their awareness, understanding and line-of-sight of how to create the brand experiences for consumers that deliver on the business strategy.

Over the past year, Livewire underwent this very process. Our company leadership:

  • asked a third party to contact a selection of our clients and ask them how they perceived us, where they found us most proficient and what we could improve upon;
  • involved experts in identifying and quantifying our market opportunities;
  • created a business strategy to make us the company we want to be and that best serves our clients.

Every member of the company was involved in some part of the effort to shift our culture and operations from one that delivered the old brand to one that delivers on the promise of the new brand while preserving those traits that made us who we are. This included:

  • re-imagining our identity and creating the marketing support,
  • moving our physical location and restructuring our work environment,
  • optimizing our internal organization and reporting structure,
  • improving our tools and processes,
  • adjusting our incentives to support our business goals, and
  • dramatically improving our own internal communications with a mixture of team meetings, group events, an internal blog and a wiki.

So I agree wholeheartedly with Tom’s New Year’s resolution for brand alignment and would add that it is a great opportunity to improve company culture and quality of work. Because as a communicator—and, more importantly, as an employee—I’ve got to tell you, I’m as excited and engaged as I’ve ever been with what the Livewire brand means to me. Which bodes well for the work I do for our clients. Which is cool.

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