(click for all of Ira's posts)
(click for all of Duane's posts)
(click for all of our posts from guest authors)
- Body Language and Gestures,
- Career Development,
- Customer Service,
- Elevator Speech or Mission Statement,
- Human Behavior,
- Marketing Communications,
- Messaging and Content Development,
- Networking and Relationship Building,
- Professional Speaking,
- Sales or Outreach,
- Series - Presentation Reviews,
- Social Media,
- Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship,
Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.
How would you characterize the culture of your organization? Is it consistent with how you want your customers, members and other stakeholders to perceive your brand?
To help you consider these questions, let’s consider these conversation starters:
• How well can your employees articulate your core message (i.e., their succinct answer to “What do you do?”).
• Are your employees passionate about your business? Do they like coming to work each day?
• Is your organization one where you celebrate your employees? Do you recognize, value and appreciate them?
• Do you encourage your employees to take risks, innovate and try new things?
• Do your employees treat one another with courtesy, integrity and respect? Are your suppliers treated the same way?
Your answers to these questions help to describe your organizational culture. More importantly, they provide customers, members and other stakeholders with a window in which to preview their experience with your organization.
If I were to look through that window, what story is your organizational culture telling me? Is it one I would like to be a part of?
For other insights on organizational culture, please see:
• Employee Retention: People Leave Managers, Not Companies
• What Makes Your Company a “Best Place to Work?”
• Accelerate Growth and Innovation - Encourage a Culture of Risk-Taking
What tone and voice do your employees use to communicate with one another? It is the same voice – words and phrases – they will use when speaking to your customers. It is the same tone -- how they say what they say -- that will become the personality of your brand. You and your employees are your brand.
One of the biggest challenges facing any brand today, particularly in the world of social media, is finding and articulating a proper tone and voice – one that is genuine, unique and compatible with your target audience. The power of social media is such that people will see through and expose brands who pretend to be something they are not. If you put on a mask, people will see through it.
How, then, should you address this challenge? For starters, choosing the right tone and voice is more than just an exercise in window dressing. Every message you share verbally, in print and online should look and feel as if it came from a single source. Your tone and voice should be consistent throughout. And it needs to be the right tone and voice.
Engage your employees by spending time with them. Look across the organization for people who are good in front of customers (hint: you may need to look beyond the sales and marketing department). Identify those who can speak and write conversationally in a way that is genuine, unique and compatible with your target audience. Look for people who are social, authentic and transparent – people who your customers will trust. These are the people who should be articulating the tone and voice of your brand.
After all, when it comes to tone and voice, you and your employees are your brand.
When it comes to online conversations about your brand, marketers will fall into one of these two categories – those who see the glass as either half empty or those who see it as half full. The "half empty" are the people who monitor online mentions for brand antagonists while the "half full" are those who mine online conversations for brand advocates – regular folks like you and me who are passionate about your brand, who had a great experience with it and who want to share it with others.
While the “half empty” crowd will focus its efforts on controlling or suppressing what others say about your brand, the “half full” group will allow people to say what they want, when they want and where they want (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, etc.). While there is an obvious risk to letting others tell your brand’s story, I believe people who are trusted and otherwise empowered to speak on your behalf will generally want to support you and your brand.
I know from my own sales experience people buy from people they know, like and trust. Brand advocates, because they are people who are known, liked and trusted by others within their social communities, have the ability to positively influence your brand’s reputation, increase name recognition and awareness and, ultimately, drive sales and customer loyalty. Their followers want to hear the stories they tell of how your products and services impacted their lives.
What kind of marketer are you? Is your glass half empty or half full? Is your brand harnessing the power of social media to identify brand advocates who can tell your story?
Is your association, business or government agency using social media as part of its marketing communications mix? If not, it may be time to consider social media as an additional element of your overall integrated marketing communications strategy.
An integrated marketing communications strategy uses a mix of different media – social and traditional – to help create a customer experience that is consistent with the tone, voice and character of your brand. The mix your association, business or government agency ultimately decides to use, of course, should depend on the preferences of your target audience.
In my experience with both social and traditional media, more traditional tools like direct mail, email and telephone tend to be more effective when the brand initiates the conversation. Traditional media like these allow for privacy, personalization and greater content sharing. They are tools with a proven track record of success in driving contributions, sales and other results-driven metrics.
Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are public forums where anyone can initiate the conversation. These forums are places where members, customers and users can share experiences (good and bad), vent their frustrations or otherwise engage communities of like-minded followers. Aside from the relationship-building opportunities afforded to brands who engage their audiences by responding, these channels provide brands with a higher level of brand recognition and awareness.
For more insights on branding and social media, please see:
• Klout Perks: Building Brand Awareness One Influencer at a Time
• 5 Insights on Marketing Your Brand in Social Media
• Is Your Brand Social?
Last week, I wrote about the brand promise of a summer swim school, where the brand promise, or positioning statement, was “Teaching the confidence that inspires moments of triumph.” I also mentioned how important it was for the brand promise to be believable (i.e., the evidence you provide to your customers that you can deliver on your promise).
Before you make a brand promise, be sure you can identify at least 3 true and credible reasons to believe. Also called brand proof points, these reasons to believe should be based on fact and are a key element of the brand positioning statement.
Your reasons to believe can include a statement of quantifiable and verifiable results (e.g., "75% of our students go on to swim competitively in summer leagues"), effective images (e.g., photos of actual students competing in or winning events), evidence of past success (e.g., a display of trophies and awards earned by your instructors, as well as current and former students) or testimonials (e.g., “…gave me the confidence I needed to improve my time enough for a first place finish!”).
Brands that do this well provide their customers with true and credible reasons to believe. The proof points they provide are the basis for customer decisions regarding initial purchases and continued loyalty to a brand. On the other hand, brands who fail to provide such proof points are effectively providing their customers with…you guessed it…reasons to leave.