Need More Effective Communications? Start by Aligning Your Brand with Your Culture
Your company is sending out communications every day, but do these messages paint an accurate picture of your customers’ experience with the company? If your customers see a disconnect between what you say you do and what your employees actually do, then that creates a “credibility gap” for your brand.
When your employees’ actions are in alignment with your brand messages, you have the opportunity to create credible communications that drive action by reinforcing your customers’ relationship with you.
Define your culture
Before you begin defining your external messages, you should first ensure you have clearly defined your culture in words. Are you traditional or visionary? Do you emphasize individual autonomy or collaborative teamwork? Are your people approachable, passionate, knowledgeable or respected? The more clearly you can define your culture, the better you can align the elements of your messaging with it.
Netflix is one example of a company that clearly outlined what it valued. This internal presentation shows how Netflix defined its ”freedom and responsibility” cultural values. The presentation also took the extra step of describing specific behaviors that demonstrated those values.
Define your brand’s voice
How formal does your brand’s voice need to be? Do you speak about your company in the first or third person? How much humor is appropriate on your social media channels?
Once you settle on a voice, stick with it. When companies diverge from their brand personalities, it causes friction. For example, Goodyear, which had established a conservative, century-old brand based around trust, family and safety, broke character when it sent letters marked by sarcastic humor to a pair of young celebrities whose driving habits had put them on the wrong side of the law. While the effort took advantage of a timely pop culture event to share Goodyear’s message, it did not mesh with the long-established brand voice Goodyear had cultivated.
Showcasing real stories about your employees bringing your values to life is an extremely effective way of connecting your messaging back to your culture. Consider this: Facts and statistics alone won’t showcase how your business is delivering concrete, provable results. People respond better to stories that they can connect with - a real narrative around the successes and challenges, rather than a dry case study that only relays the data.
If one of your values is employee expertise, sharing stories about employees’ rigorous training will support it. If you value delivering results that exceed expectations, support that with stories about how you have gone above and beyond for your customers.
Storytelling can become part of your communications platform for your brand. When Liberty Mutual wanted to share how “responsibility” is a big part of its values, it created the ”Responsibility Project” site to share stories about how the company, its associates and partners are acting in responsible ways. What’s even more interesting is that this website format invites others to comment on these stories and share examples of their own on how they too ”do the right thing.”
Incorporate good design
If what you’re putting out is not well designed, people will, at best, not want to engage with it. At worst, it negates your good communication efforts and gives customers a poor impression of your brand. Everything you produce should clearly and consistently communicate your culture and brand message. When you establish your culture, it is helpful to delineate visual guidelines for your employees as well.
Apple is a great example of a company that has thought carefully about design. They’re a computer and technology company, yet they value design, and every aspect of their business – from their commercials to the packaging of their products to their customers’ in-store experience - is designed to support their culture of ”user-friendly innovation.”
Start from the inside out
What if you find that your messages aren’t aligned with your employees’ actions? Get your brand back on track by first looking at your culture.
With a well-defined, cohesive culture, you are on the right path to creating credible, effective communications. Add to that good design, and you have messages that will match your culture perfectly and strengthen your brand.
As President at Savage Brands, Bethany is known for forging powerful connections – connecting people to people and connecting companies with the fresh ideas that make their brands purposeful. In her recent book, "Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line and Build Your Brand on Purpose," Bethany conveys to business leaders the importance of leading with purpose.