Monthly Archives: March 2011

Brand Unified Theory

Everyone who interacts with your company, whether it’s customers, employees, or job applicants, is exposed to your brand. A brand conveys not just your mission and values but also your attitude and your position in the marketplace.
A single consistent message makes marketing simple. It conveys a sense of purpose to everyone in your company and a sense of identity to everyone outside it. We call it the “Brand Unified Theory.” Here’s how it works for each group listed above.

Employees

If your advertising is saying one thing and your internal communications say another, you’ll soon find that your employees are working towards the wrong goals.
When employees share your core beliefs and values, it informs everything they do. Even if an employee never interacts with a customer, she can still use your brand’s principles to guide her business decisions. Employer branding makes everyone on your team realize that their actions contribute to a goal, and that they’re working not just for a company but for a way of life.

Customers

Some CEOs are comfortable with a basic motto like “We’re simply the best telecommunications company.” But that leaves many questions unanswered: The “best” for whom? Does “best” mean best prices, best selection, or best customer service? Why are you the best? How will you stay the best?
Studies have shown that consumers consider brands when making decisions, so branding becomes crucial when you’re trying to distinguish your product from others. Matching your customer brand to your employer brand makes both stronger.

Job Applicants

In a way, job applicants are both customers and employees at the same time. But you won’t be able to attract the talent you want, and job seekers won’t consider you, if you’re not clear about your brand. A survey of over 1,300 job seekers in the Gallup Management Journal recommends “caring about prospective employees as much as you do about your customers and current associates.” To go further, a study by talent assessment specialists SHL warned that applicants who were treated poorly during the interview process tended to share their frustration on blogs and social networks. Clearly, you need not only to communicate your brand to job seekers, but also live your brand so that they come away from the application experience happy.

The Brand Unified Theory ensures that your customers, employees, and business partners all share a core  belief in your brand. Put the theory into practice and turn your people into your brand’s believers, supporters, and advocates.
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The 4 Words You Want to Hear from your Agency Partner

It’s the most important words you can hear from your agency partner.

It has the power to change your company in ways you never realized.
It has nothing to do with money or deliverables or logistics.

Can you guess what it is?

“I have an idea.”

They may say other words to you, like “solutions.” That’s a good term, but it implies that you have “problems.” The branding world isn’t so binary. If there are only problems and solutions, then what are opportunities? What are experiments?

Did your agency partner mention a “plan”? Plans are fine, but they come after ideas. Planning too early can lead to rigidity. If circumstances change and the plan is no longer valid, do you change the plan, scrap the plan…or try to change the circumstances? Plans often mean a great deal of time and energy and shouldn’t be conceived without your input.

Your agency partner might say they have an “answer.” This can be useful, but the right answer requires the right question; are you sure they asked the right one? And what if the question has multiple answers?

Solutions, plans, and answers are all right, but nothing beats an idea.

An idea has the potential to change your entire company. Weren’t Google and Twitter founded on very simple ideas? Walt Disney’s idea was that an amusement park should entertain both children and adults. Ray Kroc’s idea was that a Big Mac should taste the same in New York as it did in Tokyo.

An idea shows that your agency partner has been thinking about your company. They’ve considered your strengths, your weaknesses, your needs, and your goals. And all those factors have coalesced into something that they’re excited to share with you. It may only be a spark, but it could light a wildfire. After all, single idea from your agency partner can open up new revenue streams, launch the creation of new products, or change your entire marketing strategy.

Ideas are powerful things. Arguably all of human progress has relied on one person creating a concept and then spreading it to others. Flight was once only an idea. So was the car, and the camera, and the computer. The light bulb was such a great invention that it now symbolizes all ideas. America is an idea; it reaches across borders and unites people from many different backgrounds.

So if your agency partner hasn’t said “I have an idea” in a while, here’s an idea:

Find a new agency!

Four Ways to Keep Your Employees Committed to Staying Healthy

How Well Are You Doing Wellness?

Absenteeism costs American businesses around $200 billion a year. Promoting wellness at your company not only reduces these losses but lowers your health insurance costs. You may already have bike racks in your parking lot and healthier snacks in your vending machines, but that’s not enough to increase your workers’ health and productivity. Below are four ways, from low-tech to cutting-edge, to keep your employees committed to staying healthy.

1. Copy Costco

The future of corporate wellness programs is to make them social. Wellness-only Facebook pages allow employees to check contest deadlines, share advice, and give each other encouragement. Costco’s Facebook page is particularly effective in getting information to its employees, answering questions, and posting photos of activities.

Similarly, Facebook Events lets companies invite employees to marathons, health screenings, and other activities. Make you let the world’s most popular social network work for you.

2. Scratch That Itch

Contests can be social, too. For example, though giveaways are fun, they don’t provide a lot of participation.; once you’ve entered, you’re done. The solution? Scratch-to-win cards. The more an employee participates in the wellness program, or the more benchmarks she passes, the more cards she’ll receive. Scratching off cards is much more engaging than a prize drawing, and colleagues can gather around to cheer each other as the employee discovers what she won. If you have workers who play the lottery, they’ll love scratch cards.

3. Game the System

Virtual gaming is the next step, and software tools like Bunchball’s Nitro can apply game mechanics to any campaign, including corporate wellness. Participants can earn points and rewards each time they take a health quiz, practice for a marathon, or for each day they don’t smoke. Games appeal to people’s innate love of status and competition. New challenges and an ever-changing online leaderboard can ensure that everyone participates, anyone can win, and no one ever gets bored.

4. Life Support

Another social aspect to a wellness program is the support group. Biking and running groups get to exercise together, but the workers trying to quit smoking, or eat healthier, or manage stress are often left to fend for themselves. Creating a group lets them support each other and reward each other’s success. A support group could be a half-hour weekly meeting (with or without management), a special site or message board on your intranet, or a public social support site like 43Things.

Consider all these social aspects when you create or redesign your company’s wellness program. From Facebook to games to old-fashioned face-to-face “social networking,” making your corporate wellness program social can keep your employees engaged, productive, and healthy.

Helping You Help Them

Don’t ask me why but it seems that no matter how industrious you are as an HR professional, your success often hinges on the participation of your employees, who, unfortunately, have little motivation to make your job easier.

They’ll drag their feet when it comes to filling out HR materials or completing training – even safety training that could save their lives.

So, direct from the best agency in brand-aligned workforce communications, comes a few professional trade secrets.

Create a clear line-of-sight to “why and when”

First, make sure you communicate both the importance of the materials and the deadline for completing them. The date should be prominent and attached to the materials so the two can’t be separated. If you’re sending materials by email, make sure the deadline is in both the body of the letter and on the materials themselves, whether it’s a PDF, an intranet site, or a spreadsheet. Follow-up with reminders, either in person, by email, or through a public forum like the company newsletter. If there are rewards for finishing early (see below), announce who was won so far, giving motivation to the procrastinators.

You’ll Win with Contests

Nothing persuades like competition. Divide your staff by department or into special teams, or make the contest an individual endeavor. Whoever finishes first, or gets the most answers correct, or has the most participation, wins a prize. Contests with multiple prizes, such as weekly winners or both a “best” and a “most” award, work best; if people know the prize has already been won, they have no reason to participate.

Exhibitionism?

Sometimes exhibitions can be as fun as competitions. If you’re implementing a safety program, ask your staff to designate “the most dangerous place in the office,” along with “the safest place in the office” – based on the safety materials, which they have to read to fully participate. Hold a humorous meeting to decide what to call the new floor safety warden (my favorite was “Captain Safeguard”). Give everyone stickers and let them tag potential hazards around the workplace. You can even add a “contest” element by holding an election to pick the safety warden. Any activity that involves the entire company provides extra motivation for reluctant executives to participate.

Your Staff’s Favorite Radio Station? WI.FM

“What’s in it for me?” employees ask all too often. There are lots of responses that are well within your budget – or even cost nothing at all. The winning employee(s) can leave early, work from home one day, or host an “all-jeans day” for themselves and their favorite colleagues.

Use your company’s “wall of fame” or Employee of the Month program. (If you don’t have one, start one.) Of course, simple public recognition costs nothing: giving the winner a standing ovation at your next staff meeting or posting their achievement on the bulletin board can mean a lot to your workers. Keep the prizes simple- even a pizza, movie pass or Starbucks card can add sizzle to your shtick.

Making success fun makes your workplace more productive and your job a lot easier.