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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Executive Insider

Why Your Brand Story Should Start With Employees, Not Marketing Brainstorms

Storytelling is a critical element in building a brand. Corporations regularly push their unique origin stories and tales of perseverance toward the public in an effort to foster consumer connections. However, unless those narratives align with what employees experience, they do little to promote any lasting company loyalty.

When employees struggle to relate to the vision you’re trying to sell, your story can come off as insincere. Over time, internal misalignment can eat away at retention, effectiveness, and profits. As Gallup research notes, high staff engagement can lead to up to 21% greater profitability, and weaving your story into the fabric of your company culture is a step toward getting there. So before organizations attempt to highlight to the outside world what makes their culture special, they need to engage in some corporate introspection.

Unsure whether your brand’s story truly aligns with your company culture? Take the following measures to gauge whether your public-facing narrative resonates in your office:

  1. Seek honest employee input.
    Want to get a feel for how your brand is perceived? Go straight to the people on the payroll. These are the folks who should best understand your company’s story. Creating a brand strategy should be an organic experience, not a process dictated by the C-suite. Rebecca Rodskog, co-founder of management consulting group FutureLeaderNow, warns against what she calls “fungineering,” which is when higher-ups try to install artificial values that have no connection to reality.
    Rodskog recommends taking a page from a company such as Method, which allowed employees to engineer the brand vision from the ground up. Method’s strategy enabled team members to take ownership of the way their brand looked and felt, adding more authenticity to the company’s famously “weird” image. In fact, “weird” became a calling card that helped cement Method’s positioning in advertising and marketing materials. As Rodskog points out, “If [employees] are not involved in some capacity — if they don’t see their fingerprints all over it — they will say, ‘This is not my company.’”
  2. Help employees showcase how they live the brand.
    When team members are aligned with their employer’s brand, they naturally want to help shape and guide its success. They may feel compelled to share how they make a mark on their company and the communities it serves. Give them a platform so it’s a valuable exercise for all involved. Salesforce’s Instagram Ohana Project — “ohana” is a term that means “family” in Hawaiian culture — provides workers with an accessible forum to illustrate the ways in which they make the world brighter, safer, healthier, or just more fun.
    Giving a virtual megaphone to team members encourages them to express their passion for the place many consider their home away from home for 40 or more hours a week. Best of all, their genuine enthusiasm and obvious satisfaction won’t merely impact consumers. It will sell your company culture to talented workers looking for their next career move.
  3. Update office design to reflect stories and branding.
    While your marketers are weaving a winning, true-to-form tale, think about your headquarters. Will it hold up to the scrutiny of visitors? Your office layout and design should be in step with your narrative. Scott Schoeneberger, managing partner at Bluewater, a design-forward technology company, sees many businesses using tech advancements and digitization to help personalize their spaces.

Some businesses “are taking tech adoption even further by combining it with art to create beautiful and interactive media elements that are integrated into a building’s architecture,” Schoeneberger notes. “It’s a means of bringing the facility itself to life, creating a place that employees are happy to enter every day and providing a platform for a next-generation customer journey.” Consider how Wabco Holdings, a parts supplier for commercial vehicles, has incorporated virtual reality elements into its new $20 million headquarters, simulating how its products work. That allows the facility to internally mirror the company’s external commitment to advancement and progress.

Before you generate your corporate backstory, be sure you understand its deeper meaning and relevance to everyone on your team. What your workers feel should match what you tell the world. That way, when it comes to writing the next chapter of your brand, you and your employees can turn the page together.


Written by Rhett Power.
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Rhett Power
Rhett Power, named 2018 Best Small Business Coach in the U.S. — is the CEO of Power Coaching and Consulting. His bestselling book “The Entrepreneur’s Book of Actions” provides daily exercises for becoming wealthier, smarter, and more successful. Rhett Power is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine.
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