There are many ways to talk about the same business challenge we all face in today’s connected world. This collective challenge is how to maintain control of your organization’s brand and your marketing message when you are relying on a countless number of stakeholders to deliver the message for you.
Organizations are often siloed, frequently with conflicting priorities. Oftentimes, a brand or marketing team owns the central marketing message, while a corporate communications team owns the message to employees, sales teams own the message to customers, and human resources owns the message to prospective talent. Does this sound familiar?
When companies are structured in this way, it often makes it challenging to instill ownership and a sense of responsibility for the brand across so many groups.
Here is a situation that I have seen many times.
A new product is launching within a company. The brand or product management team is responsible for the launch, which includes educating internal and external audiences about the new product. Because the product team doesn’t own the various channels they need to use to communicate their message, they collaborate with the key groups that own those channels. Typically, this is a mix of sales teams, corporate communications teams, HR groups, distributors, and public relations teams. These groups typically put together a launch plan and get to work on distributing the workload across the various teams, usually with the bulk of the burden being carried by the product team.
The big day arrives, and the launch plan is executed smoothly – employees are rallied, the media is engaged, sales teams receive new messaging, everyone gets some new branded swag – and launch day is soon just another checked box on everyone’s to do list.
If you have experienced this situation, as I have, you might be thinking…what’s wrong with that?
What I have learned through my experience is that there is a gap between these traditional programs and employee’s own individual interests. Why is this important? Because every one of your employees has a personal brand – and their individual brands matter to your business success.
Not only that, your employee’s understanding of your corporate brand, your mission, the products or services you offer, and your organizational culture all matter to your business success. This becomes an issue when you are trusting that your launch program was effective and that all your employees now fully understand the product message, what is expected of them, and how to execute on your organizational goals.
What is missing from these programs is a focused effort to educate and empower employees at an individual level. Every one of your employees has the power to build your brand or destroy it. This is because how your employees manage their own brands – their communication and people skills, their image, their social media profiles – matters to your business.
For organizations that spend millions of dollars a year on marketing and advertising, employees are a brand asset, as well as a reputational risk, that should not be overlooked. This is because your employees must understand your marketing message; accept your culture; care about your mission; feel prepared to deliver your message; and, feel incentivized to deliver on your brand promise to customers. And they need to feel motivated to do all of this for you while also doing the difficult work of identifying their own professional goals, remaining focused on their individual performance, and ensuring that they are investing their time and energy at an organization that is best aligned with their needs and lifestyle.
When I talk about empowering employees at the individual level, I am talking about not only educating employees on your organizational brand, mission, and values; but taking the time to help employees understand the power of their personal brands. When you help employees identify their own mission, vision and values, and coach them through the process of aligning their values and goals with your organization’s, you help them connect the dots between organizational value and their own. This helps them understand how they can contribute value at the individual level in a way that is meaningful to them.
It’s common these days to see organizations trying to answer the big question for employees – “what’s in it for me?” Why not take some time to help your employees understand the value they offer and why that matters to your organization’s success?
If you have responsibility for financial performance or other business metrics at your organization, I hope you’re thinking about this issue. Personal branding is a valuable professional development tool for individuals at all levels of their careers. But it is also a valuable brand management tool that can help organizations engage their employees, empower their sales teams, educate the marketplace and mitigate risk.
Personal branding is not just a concern for your employees. Making sure that your employees effectively manage their brands is just good business practice. When you think about your business in this way, you must take the time to ensure that every one of your employees understands your vision, your mission, and your brand values.
If you’re interested in managing your brand with the help of your employees, here are a few steps to get you started:
- Evaluate the current situation within your organization and identify any potential gaps that should be addressed.
- Take the time to engage the different groups who have ownership of the brand to discuss the value of personal branding at the employee level.
- Create a personal branding marketing strategy for employees. Identify opportunities to coach them on developing their own personal brands. Create educational elements to ensure that they understand and have embraced your brand at the organizational and product levels.
- Provide training programs that allow front line employees to practice your marketing message, as well as their own. Be sure to offer useful feedback to help them improve their delivery.
- Create metrics to help you demonstrate the value of these programs to your various constituents.
- Track your organization’s progress. Survey clients and prospects where possible. Build evaluation criteria into your employee assessments that motivate employees to effectively represent your brand.
- Be sure to properly incentivize and reward your employees.
- Share what you learn with others. Help more people understand how to effectively create personal branding strategies for their employees in their own organizations.