“Culture eats strategy, feed it well”
The impact of people and culture on an organization is only as good as the strategy is sound. Without clarity of purpose and direction, even the best-funded, best-intentioned companies can founder. Improving culture and developing people are efforts that are intrinsically tied to business and brand strategy, but which comes first? The culture or the brand strategy? Don’t we need a receptive audience of high-morale employees who love their jobs before we introduce a new brand direction? This is a common misconception. Culture is fed with strategy. Once fed, culture can feed strategy but you have to begin with clarity of purpose and a vision for the future.
Once you’ve done the hard work of building out your brand strategy, it will be time to roll it out to the organization at large. We’ve previously shared our process for activating a new brand position throughout the organization but today I want to focus specifically on the troops, the ground floor workers, the public face of your business. How do you get them on board with your new brand position once developed?
Employees may be aware that a new brand direction is being developed and will have questions. What does this mean for my job? Will I lose my job? How can I contribute to the new brand? What does this mean for our customers? The earlier you share the purpose of the work, the more you avoid stories being created about the project in the absence of the truth. Successful businesses evolve and to do so successfully requires strategy work. Let employees know that they will be a critical part of the process as it progresses. Communicate often and clearly. Work like this is a marathon not a sprint and so will require regular updates about the progress. We find that the more we share examples from within the company of how individual staff members are aiding in the progress of the work through their actions, the better the understanding and adoption of the brand direction.
As soon as the new brand position has been approved at an Executive Leadership level, it’s time to engage the rest of the employees. When we do this, we divide the employees into different groups, first by business unit and then by level (Directors/Managers and Staff separately). During these meetings, we share the insights that have brought us to this hypothesis for the brand. We share why now is the right time to proceed in this direction and what we think the outcome will be for the business as a result. We then ask the teams to consider what this means for their particular areas and roles. What do they see needing to change? What operational challenges or opportunities do they see with this new brand position? By having them contribute their thoughts and concerns, you are demonstrating a clear intent to have them be a meaningful part of the growth of the business. Typically, these meetings end with us giving homework on the brand and their areas as well as providing them access to further collateral and information to support the new brand direction.
You’ve now developed a new brand position which has been approved by the leadership team and vetted by directors, management, and staff. The next crucial phase of brand activation is the public roll-out. We find a touchpoint analysis to be extremely helpful in determining what the footprint is of the brand – who will be affected, who is touched by the brand, who will experience big change, what operations need to be aligned? To aid in the smooth rollout of the brand, empower your employees to live the brand. The difference between good companies and great businesses is how well they live up to their promise as opposed to simply making claims. Employees should be allowed to interpret the brand purpose and position to make decisions, which, as long as they align with the purpose, should not be criticized or punished, but evaluated with the team member as they are made so that all parties can understand how the brand is being interpreted while simultaneously discovering new and innovative ways to live up to the purpose. We’ve learned to never underestimate the ability of staff to innovate when given a set of guidelines to work with.
Great brands are not developed in a silo within the organization or by consultants or agencies on the outside, but rather it is a collaborative, facilitated effort by all stakeholders to build the future together.
If your company struggles with culture issues, poor sales or a lack of understanding by customers as to what your business truly offers, then you may lack a clear Purpose translated into clear, meaningful messages. We’d love to help. Contact us here.
This article may be reprinted when the copyright, link to article and author bio are included. ©2015 Storyforge, LLC. Please contact us for inquiries.
Barry Chandler is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company focused on helping companies discover their purpose to allow them achieve their vision, build preference and drive margin. Barry has been building award-winning businesses since launching his first company in Ireland in 2003. His last company, a digital marketing agency, was acquired in 2012 by a California-based publicly traded entertainment company which then hired him as Chief Marketing Officer. It is his belief that the greatest brands seek to change the world, improving the lives of their associates, partners and customers.