Part I: Branding Emotion, Consistency and Frequency

We buy stuff from people we like, right? We also buy from people who we trust, who build our self-esteem, who validate us, and satisfy a multitude of other needs. So why do we go to stores we hate or use vendors we don’t trust? You probably have numerous reasons but most boil down to having a strong relationship with the brand, even when we have become disenchanted. Understanding what emotions are tied to a brand is not something most businesses think about, yet we should. Every product or service that is truly branded involves some emotion, either in its use, people who represent it, our memories or solutions that work.

I got my first car in the early 70s. For $50 down and $125 a month, I graduated from college and stepped into my bright yellow Volkswagon. For decades, Volkswagon has been the fun but affordable brand, from the flower on the dash to the “Drivers wanted” days of the Passat and beyond. What is that commitment like Volkswagon’s fun yet affordable makes our own brand perform as promised? You probably have a brand truth, the words which often play out in a tagline, a slogan, or some other key message. Are your customers and potential customers aware of your brand truth? People buy based on personal motivations derived from some set of values they hold. These are emotional.

Just do it. Got milk? You can think of a dozen brands in a few seconds. What makes these brands gain remarkable awareness may be that they represent great products, but usually an element of branding cuts through the rest of the clutter we are exposed to every day. A word of caution when you think of your own business though: short doesn’t always mean memorable, clear, or effective. I “periodically hear financial advisors, consultants, and other service-oriented professionals say in describing their business, “I help people increase their revenue.” This may insult the intelligence of their listeners. Messages should come from an analysis of what specifically differentiates how to increase revenue.

Understanding the emotion your brand offers is just one exercise to work through during a weakened economy. You should also review your strategies for brand’s consistency and frequency. It takes more than seven exposures within a short period of time for your brand to make a lasting impression on your market targets. During the recession, if you maintain consistency in branding your brand, your market targets will be that much more aware that others in your industry have cut back or disappeared. It’s like “whatever happened to ….”. It is critical to maintain consistency in everything from brand truth to commitment long after the excitement of a new marketing campaign or promotion dissipates. Too often, businesses change a campaign before they need to or even worse, just never complete the strategies to make an impact on potential customers.

The old saying “don’t start something you can’t finish” doesn’t apply today. Engage everyone to implement the branding plan and understand that it should never be finished. The strategies should have depth and longevity in mind unless something just isn’t working. Start the e-news campaign, the newsletter or the blog with the commitment to maintain it.

Want More Employee Engagement? Get Social for Your Internal Communications

It’s not just your millennial employees who are online all the time. Most likely your employees interact with friends and relatives constantly. It should not be surprising that social media could be a channel for companies to engage their employees in their work.  Could your business become one of them?

Effective internal communications embraces opportunities for employees to share knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas. The traditional channels moving information upward, downward or periodically across departments may seem safer or easier because intranets, internal newsletters, town halls, and classroom training has been used for years, but we live in a different world now.  If you want to build relationships which redefine your culture and create an atmosphere for spontaneous learning, you have to be where your audience is.

Are you willing for your employees to check their Facebook or LinkedIn accounts at work for updates? Will you and your management team be willing to join and interact in an internal, secure social media group where you and your employees can share information?

There are all kinds of social media software platforms, but a lot of them are industry specific or for large employee populations. For example, if you have a 1000 employees or more, you might want to apply to Facebook at Work where you create a work account for the company which is separate from personal Facebook accounts. With a Facebook at Work account, you can use Facebook tools to interact with co-workers. There is also a Work Chat feature, which is similar to Messenger, offering great spontaneous interaction.

However, small businesses need the same kind of functions for work teams or to support an ever-growing need for mobile and telecommunicating processes.

First though, you need to do some analysis. Let’s assume that your organization is not too slow to adopt new systems and is not too afraid of technology.

  1. What weaknesses are you finding in your current communications strategies? Are employees forgetting to communicate to the right people, at the right time, and with correct information? Are you missing troubleshooting sharing opportunities on your products and services? Are you finding that employees are seldom sharing new ideas to improve the organization?
  2. Analyze what kind of communications would best be used within your company’s culture. Which social media do your employees currently engage in for their personal use, what are your current policies, and how would these need to change?
  3. How can you increase your ability to keep employees informed about compliance or business and sales goals through social media? Where do they currently receive information about your industry and the opportunities for their own growth in their positions?
  4. Is your employee training engaging? Could you create more exciting ways to learn small bits of information quickly and at a pace that makes sense for your business environment?

If you can visualize any one of these questions converting into engaging content and employee interaction, you need to read further.

We recommend starting with one or two social media channels to pilot a company or department group. Yes, we have our favorites: LinkedIn Group, Facebook Group, and Twitter. Here is why:

Facebook Groups 

You can set up a Facebook group, which unlike a Facebook page, will only be viewed by the employees you have invited to join. If you don’t want to have your administrator liking employee personal pages which is required for a standard group invite, you can set the Facebook group to be “Invite-Only” Privacy Setting. This means your Group ‘exists’ i.e. Facebook users and your staff can search for it by name, and see it exists, but they cannot see any information in the group. The way to become involved in the group, Facebook users must ‘ask’ to join the Group, and their membership must be approved by one of the Administrators set up on the Group page. By keeping it ‘Invite-Only’, you are protecting company information, and the Administrator’s time is only limited to accepting Group requests by checking that the person is a company employee.

One of the best functions of the Facebook Group is that it provides an easy platform for collecting and sharing images. In a closed group, employee communications could share a wide range of images, create albums (like all those photos from the town hall meeting that never got published on the intranet) and encourage employees to share. If you’re want employees to read a memo or sales report, all members of the group will receive personal notification, and all comments will be shared with notifications in one place. You can also see and track real-time statistics of how many people have viewed any given update, and who they are.

From a training standpoint, imagine real time reminders of timelines, great examples of interactions or additional resources to share can easily be upload as notes or documents which then can be downloaded.

LinkedIn Group

We really like creating LinkedIn Groups for internal communications because LinkedIn is known as one of the strongest business focused social media channels. Your employees may not be using it as frequently as Facebook, but they will gain from the content focused on work with so many resources. Just like Facebook Groups, LinkedIn groups have various privacy settings. It encourages engagement as it retains multiple discussions, with each discussion in the form of a blog post and room for comments from employees. Unlike a Facebook group where all posts are in a chronological order, LinkedIn shows the latest topics being discussed which could push an update on a topic started last week when someone has a new thought to add. The LinkedIn format encourages leadership in building new discussions by all employees.

As employees review external articles from the LinkedIn news sources, clients, and others, they will become accustomed to sharing these resources in the LinkedIn group. This helps to build a culture for continuous learning while giving employees an opportunity to understand each other’s strengths and capabilities.

Twitter

If most of your employees prefer Twitter for their social media activity, you can set up a private group on Twitter through an application called Group Tweet. This is a great tool for real-time updating, and should be viewed as an alternative to email or texting. Designed for brief communications, we recommend using Twitter to support what you are doing in your Facebook or LinkedIn group. Want to survey about a topic for the next meeting? Need a trivia question to kick off a discussion? A Twitter group can allow for quick interactions.

As with any kind of open communications within an organization, there are standards which should be set for behaviors expected in internal social media. Ideally, with the right planning and management engagement, social media can be a positive form of communications in your company.

If your company is using social media for internal communications, please share! We would love to hear how you are using these medias.