Be subversive: be observant

>In a post last week, I encouraged would-be brand warriors to be subversive as they build their brand warrior resume, and I suggested five steps to get there. Today, step 1, be observant.

I’ve seen many a newbie marketer jump into her first job feet first, eager to serve. She quickly engages the writing or designing or organizing skills she’s developed in college and plows ahead, following her supervisor’s orders without regard to what’s going on around her. Her only motive is pleasing her supervisor, whether it’s the right thing to do or not. Likewise, veteran brand builders have rolled into a new job head first, snorting like a bull, goring everything in sight. He knows what’s worked in his past he’s eager to make his mark on the new organization, if it fits or not.

I know this because I’ve done it both ways.

I believe a more prudent path would include the following steps:

  • Listen to the conversation – Get yourself invited to meetings and go in with a closed mouth and open ears. Listen to not only what’s being said, but also how it’s being said, and by whom. Take good notes and compare the content to what you read in company newsletters, advertising, annual reports, project proposals and sales presentations.
  • Watch the executives – Observe their public action and speech. Check what they say against the advertisements and the annual report and the website. If you’re in a meeting with them, listen carefully and observe other’s reactions.
  • Engage the sales staff – They are, most likely, taking your organization’s story to the streets more often than anybody else, and they often get ignored by the people responsible for developing the story. Don’t forget the inside sales people: ask to monitor some of the conversations with customers so you can listen to the real language of the transaction.
  • Get out in the plant – If your organization has a product, learn how it was designed, how it’s made, how it’s packaged and how it’s shipped. If you deliver a service, get on the front lines, examine how the service is delivered and watch for non-verbal communication from your team and the customers. Critical brand disconnects are often born here.
  • Talk to the outsiders – Ask your vendors what they think of your company. Talk to colleagues in related organizations. Don’t forget your friends working for the competitors: you don’t have to drop any trade secrets to find out “what do people say about us?” These are often overlooked audiences that can have devastating – or positive – effects on your brand.
  • Document what you’ve learned – If you already have a well known brand promise, match it up against reality and see if it fits. If it does, learn it and be able to say it in your sleep. If it doesn’t fit, start crafting an alternative, but keep it quiet for now.

If you take these first subversive steps – newbie or seasoned pro – I believe you’ll be on your way to being a brand warrior because you’ll know the organization, warts and all.

Anybody out there have some other subversive observing tactics that help you understand the organization better?

Next up: Be connected.

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