What do customers say about your brand? What would you like them to say?
How about your brand’s values – have you defined your brand proposition? Does your company culture align with that proposition?
What about the employees? Do they reflect your brand’s values?
If you answered no to any of these questions, it’s time to define (or redefine) your brand.
If you answered yes, though, you’re in the perfect position to leverage your company’s employees to become the face, voice, and experience of your brand.
People are your brand
Make no mistake about it – your brand is more than the product you sell or the service you offer. The people inside your organization are your brand.
Whether you’re a service industry or manufacturer, how people interact with your employees determines how they react, make purchases, and talk about you.
So, how can you improve your brand perception? Simple: humanize.
There are countless marketing automation tools that can track and interact with consumers based on detailed algorithms. Technology has made reaching customers and prospects easier, but it’s also easy to lose sight of a brand’s value and personality.
After all, it’s easier to relate to another person than a robot, isn’t it?
Let’s be honest here, sometimes you just want to speak to someone directly – a real living, breathing human.
Have you seen the commercial BMO Harris Bank is running called “Robot?” The 30-second spot shows a customer service call. The woman on the receiving end assumes it’s an automated call but is pleasantly surprised that her institution cares enough about her recent experience to personally call her.
Every consumer wants to feel appreciated, respected, like a V.I.P. and that comes from the personal touch. But in order to humanize your brand, you have to have the right humans to support the proposition.
Talent is your Brand
Talent is the backbone of any organization.
Notice how I wrote “talent” rather than “employees?” This is a big distinction that has to be made for your employees to feel valued. Regardless of a person’s role or responsibilities, each person brings their own special insights and experiences that shape your brand’s reflection.
Recruiting and retaining that talent is more important than ever as the job market continues to improve and the influx of Millennials continues to rise.
Why are the Millennials pivotal to the job market? In the 1st quarter of 2015, Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. labor force. By 2020, they’re expected to make up 48% of the workforce, 75% by 2025. They will change the landscape by sheer volume, making this an essential generation to invest in.
So, how can you invest in your organization’s talent? I recommend identifying the individuals that reflect your brand’s values and develop their personal brands.
Here’s how you can identify your company’s talent:
- Take inventory of the individuals within your company. What role do they have? Are they well-suited for it? Do this at every level: top, middle, and front line.
- Human Resources can be instrumental in vetting, developing and nurturing talent, whether new or existing and should not be overlooked, particularly the ones that exhibit these key skills.
- Identify top line talent. Who exemplifies your brand proposition within your company? How do they do it? Capture these qualities and use them as benchmarks for the further development of other individuals or as recruiting metrics. Identify why they’re great and go find more people like them.
- Capture insights from your customers. There is no better lens to look at your brand through than the eyes of a customer. Steer clear of only using NPS questions or relying too much on product feedback. You want to be sure to include questions on the experience they have with your talent. Gather their insights through surveys or other means and be diligent about reviewing and applying what you hear.
Pay attention to what consumers share about their experience with your brand across social networks. Respond to them and take action, if necessary.
Your Talent’s Brand is also your Brand
Now that you’ve determined your top line talent to invest in, look at ways to build their individual brands. Here are some things to consider:
- Subject Matter Experts – Identify those that can contribute regularly on relevant industry topics and have them write and/or speak about it. Position them as thought-leaders with relevant, timely information. Broadcast content through distribution channels: vlogs, blogs, social media, newsletters, podcasts, webinars, and (of course) your website.
(Source: NetLine Corporation)
- Titles – Don’t get stuck in the traditional job title rut. Get creative and devise titles that stand out. Let’s say you want to rethink the title for your Customer Service Department. Why not use Brand Ambassador or Customer Success Manager instead? Collaborate with the talent and let them come up with their own titles.
- Promotion – Let others inside your business be the voice and face of the brand. Identify talent that can represent you at events. How can you incorporate them into new business pitches?Do you have individuals with a gift for public speaking? Get them in front of people. Try a webinar series or host a lunch and learn. Often companies will only involve themselves in speaking engagements if someone from the C-Suite does it, but having others within your company represent the brand is equally powerful.In cases where only an owner or figurehead is permitted to present, look at incorporating some of the talent with a video of them doing and talking about what they do best.Example). Post’s Honey Bunches of Oats have mastered promotion. No doubt you’ve seen the campaign focused on two 40-year production workers expressing their pride in their work and their love for the product they make. Now that’s brand loyalty! Do likewise and take consumers inside the hearts and minds of real employees.
- Development – Get others engaged. Organize an internal university with programs investing in their development. Make it fun and collaborative. Peer to peer often provides the best teaching. Involve some of the key talent to spearhead the university with the support of HR or L&D, rather than the other way around. The best training program today is a rich learning experience that taps into interests, passions, and career goals.
- Be social – Find ways to showcase some of the work you’re doing internally to identify talent and help them build their brands. Whether you author an article in a leading publication, share success stories in your customer newsletter, include it on your website or in your recruiting brochure, utilize social networks to share your brand’s human side.
This will win and retain business as well as recruit and retain the level of talent you want and need. Who doesn’t want to do work with or for a company that develops and highlights the talent inside their organization?
Whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, every organization is human to human (H2H). Never lose sight of giving your consumers an experience that is both personal and personable. And always, always remember the talent inside your company is your brand!
Do you have any thought, ideas, or experiences with building personal brands in the workplace? Please share in the comments below.
Michelle Mariola is founder & director of ISH-Productions, a Chicago-based branding and marketing company whose mission is to help emerging to mid-market companies develop their marketing strategies and brand identities.