Most professional development evaporates soon after the recipient leaves the room because they don’t know how to apply what they learned in their own situations. I realized that again last week after hearing Mike Wagner’s “Own Your Brand presentation” at an IABC/Iowa chapter meeting.
One veteran communicator told me after the meeting that his company “was all about brand.” He worked for one of the large insurance companies in Des Moines so I asked him if he felt his company’s brand was different, inviting, relevant, and truthful, and if he and his co-workers knew how to live the brand daily. His eyes dimmed slightly when he realized the answer, and told me, “your right. We aren’t about brand”. His chinned dropped and the smile left his face when, after discussing it a bit more, he discovered his insurance company employer was about brand identity, not brand management.
As he walked away, I wondered what I could have told him to help him and his co-workers. I wanted to give him the steps to being a brand warrior. After further thought, I suggest communicators become subversive, and take these steps to make their organizations truly brand-driven:
- Be observant – Make sure you’re doing a lot of walking around your organization, talking to co-workers including the executives and the front-line staff. Talk to sales and production people. Review the mission/vision/values statements and annual reports. Begin to define your organization’s brand. If they already have one articulated, learn it.
- Be connected – Start conversations with the executives and the front-line staff; with the sales team and the production crew. Talk with the guy in the mailroom and the gal at the front desk. Begin to refine your organization’s brand message and build relationship with those who are in a position to easily communicate it.
- Be vocal – Try the brand promise out on co-workers, on managers, on customers. See if it is comfortable with everybody, if they can live it. If you get push back, probe a little deeper. See if it’s because that employee can’t live up to the brand or if the company can’t live up to the brand. Only by trying out will you determine if the brand fits, if it’s authentic and believable in the marketplace.
- Be courageous – Once you’ve defined the brand that fits, start using it to drive your communications and to drive your action. Hold others accountable when their actions conflict with the brand – even those above you on the organizational chart. This is how to build your personal brand. Let people know that you’re a brand warrior!
And be ready to bold if the brand is not embraced by others. If your organization doesn’t want you, others do.