As the global economy moves from recession to recovery, now is the time to take a critical look at your brand positioning. Does it properly reflect your organization today?
Internally, do your employees still feel loyalty to your brand, or are they among the 60 percent of employees who plan to leave their jobs when the economy improves, according to a November 2009 study by Right Management? And externally, do your stakeholders still believe in and pay attention to your brand, or are customer-facing tools such as your logo or tagline due for an upgrade to increase their relevance?
Unfortunately, the majority of company leaders and communicators do not feel good about their answers to these questions. Out of necessity, their communications efforts during the recession have been focused mostly on managing negative news, including announcements of layoffs, bankruptcies and corporate restructurings.
One of the best ways to reinvigorate your brand is to start with your company’s most valuable asset – your employees. Every employee in your organization personifies the brand – either positively or negatively. Research by Gallup and others shows that engaged employees are more productive, more customer-focused and more likely to withstand temptations to leave.
Here are a few examples of how to reconnect with employees and get them excited about your brand once again:
- Build internal teams of employees who understand and live the brand, and who can relay their excitement to colleagues and customers. Effective employee-ambassador teams can ensure that external stakeholders – from customers and investors to suppliers and the community – have consistently positive experiences with the company.
- Highlight the company’s core strengths. Reaffirm the company’s vision, culture and values. Determine what needs to be further leveraged or emphasized to reinforce the brand to employees.
- Create an ongoing dialogue. One way organizations can increase employee engagement is to have leaders engage in dialogue with their employees to show that leadership is listening and is willing to work to address their concerns. When employees feel they are heard, they usually feel more committed to their organization.
- Reward employees. Recognize and reward exceptional performance. Even though you may not be ready to offer raises or bonuses, non-monetary recognition such as verbal acknowledgment, new title or discussion of career progression can be highly effective.
Engaged and dedicated employees also help strengthen your brand externally. Key questions to ask regarding your external stakeholders include: How do they receive information about your organization? Is the content clear and concise, and does it benefit them? Are the visuals up-to-date and do they complement your company’s post-recession outlook?
Most likely, your brand will need some kind of a tune-up to help sustain itself in a new, re-energized economy and revitalized marketplace. Consider the following tactics to help keep your external stakeholders loyal:
- Update your messaging. Establish clear messages that resonate with your customers and differentiate you from your competitors.
- Examine your current tagline/logo/web presence. Review your key identity elements to see what needs to be tweaked to present a visually appealing message to connect with your external audiences.
- Re-energize your stakeholder interaction. Make sure you know who your key customers, suppliers and investors are. Focus more attention on your relationships through one-on-one business meetings and social gatherings.
- Adopt or enhance your social network presence. Historical patterns indicate that recessions often produce a change in media. During the most recent recession, we have seen the rapid growth of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. These vibrant communication channels are now a way of doing business for many companies. You are conspicuous by your absence if you are not proactively involved in these media.
Strong internal and external communications strategies are critical to maintain the vitality of your brand. It is important to foster an environment of alignment and commitment both inside and outside your organization to stay successful and compete in today’s marketplace.