For years we have told our clients that brand is just another word for reputation. And your organization has one, whether or not you know it or work on it.
What makes up your reputation? It’s comprised of how you look, how you sound, what you do, and how you act. Put bluntly: Everyone at your organization and everything they do affects your reputation—your brand. And that means that brand is everyone’s responsibility.
Imagine you work for an organization that delivers meals to home-bound elderly people. Let’s call it WheelyMeals. Your team knows that being successful relies upon protecting its reputation among the generous volunteers and donors it needs to continue operations. So, you’ve invested in your brand, you’ve created compelling messages, and leadership is talking about WheelyMeals in a consistent way. Well done!
But what about other people who play a part in WheelyMeals’ reputation? What about the receptionist, the delivery drivers, and the volunteers? If a WheelyMeals delivery driver rolls through a stop sign, cutting off another driver and ticking him off, that driver’s perception of WheelyMeals is now rolled up into your reputation. If your receptionist answers the phone and is unable to answer basic questions about WheelyMeals or is unfriendly, that becomes part of your reputation, too.
These may seem like small touch points, but we all know how powerful word-of-mouth is and how fast word can spread. And negative news travels faster than good news. What if the driver from the cut-off incident shares his experience with a friend who hadn’t yet heard of WheelyMeals? Now, that friend’s only perception of your organization is a negative one. And, what if, later that same month, WheelyMeals reaches out to this friend as a potential donor? You may still be able to secure his support, but you’ll have to work even harder to overcome the negative reputation you already hold in his mind.
This is why, when Mission Minded completes a branding project, we caution our clients against thinking they’re at the finish line when they’ve actually just begun. We encourage our clients to make a checklist of the actions they can put into place to support their brand. This helps employees think about how what they do in their daily activities contributes to the overall reputation of their organization.
Adopting your brand wholly internally has to happen before you can consistently send the appropriate signals externally. Anyone and everyone who represents your organization, including HR, should not only be able to talk about it in a consistent way, but should understand and embody the behaviors for which you want to be known.
Remember, brand is reflected in everything you do, and that makes it everyone’s responsibility. How can your organization ensure your team members help build and protect your reputation?