Building Your Reputation Task Force
Tracing back to the early days of my career in PR and marketing, I remember a conversation with a senior account executive at my agency. She shared with me her thoughts on the importance of the brand and pointed out one resource she referred to as our “marketing bible.” You may have guessed already … it’s the branding guide or brand style guidelines. Every project started with the brand style guidelines, which we followed carefully. These guidelines were often as thick as a dictionary and covered everything from vision, messaging and voice to accepted versions of logos and fonts.
Brand style guidelines are developed to keep the brand voice consistent across multiples channels, and the look and feel of the brand in tact at every communication touch point. We used these guidelines religiously as brand champions. Branding was important then and it’s just as important now.
Today, brand guidelines are critical and these style guides are still developed for the same purpose. However, when it comes to building your internal brand champions, you need to move far beyond the development and sharing of a corporate branding guide. Getting your internal champions on board with the brand means involving champions in your brand; using brand exercises, training and initiatives that inspire employees to protect, manage and maintain the interests of the brand through every channel and at every touch point.
On May 21st, I’m co-presenting with John Mustin, CEO of Wasabi Rabbit, at the PRSA Connect 14 Conference in Chicago. We’re discussing the topic of building internal brand champions, online and offline. Years ago the “brand police” followed a set of brand guidelines. Now, it’s so much more than just following the guidelines, it’s being immersed in the brand to “Live the Brand.” My part of the presentation will focus on how to get your champions to become more involved and to “Live the Brand” online and in their social communities, how to motivate them to join a reputation task force. The more champions who become involved in the task force effort, the more eyes and ears that are ready and willing to promote, protect and uphold the image and integrity of the brand.
Here are a few simple steps to consider when you are motivating your online reputation task force:
1. Learn new ways to identify champions who stand out in the crowd. These are the employees who don’t always raise their hands, but would jump at the opportunity to be more involved with online communications. Many companies don’t realize that their champions exist in every department and often in the unlikely places. I’ve heard executives say, “Our employees don’t spend much time online and they don’t seem very social.” The truth is … the employees are online and very social, but they are just not social for the company. Of course it’s easy to identify the champions in marketing in PR. However, you have to extend your reach and find the internal ambassadors from other departments.
2. When it comes to online participation, social media policies are great to layout the guidelines for good judgment. More companies are developing social media policies to offer this good guidance. However, a policy can only take you so far. It’s imperative to train your brand champions so they understand the do’s and don’ts and the best practices. Companies go as far as simulating situations that challenge champion understanding and help them to feel more comfortable about social media. Feeling more confident leads to better communication and decreases the chance of employees fueling the escalation of negative issues. Training should be based on champion needs, so it’s important to structure targeted sessions with a core team and then eventually broaden the training to involve more employees (enterprise wide) as your reputation task force expands.
3. Create a place for your champions to collaborate. Building a reputation task force often means connecting champions and motivating them to discuss and learn from one another. There are internal collaboration sites that allow your champions to share, innovate and grow together. From the simple discussion platforms to the more advanced social computing sites for the enterprise, champions are born daily when they have access to information and can gain additional knowledge from their peers.
Today, building champions goes so far beyond the brand style guidelines. Although still an important resource, it’s not the only tool in the toolbox. With so many different channels and touch points with stakeholders you need to expand how your own people look and live your brand.
Believing in the brand and embracing the brand will translate into protecting and maintaining the brand. Invest in your people and they will invest in return. There are champions just waiting to be born; now you just have to involve and inspire them the right way.