“Character is like a tree, reputation is like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it. The tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln
In our current environment, corporate character and citizenship are crucial to employers creating a connection between consumers, employees and their brand. For a company to feel authentic to new employees, they need to wholeheartedly stand behind their aligned culture, mission and vision and effectively connect that to their work for the good of the community and their audiences. Similarly, customers and the broader public need to see the company is serious about the social good they claim they stand for and that their actions connect back to the mission and business outcomes of the organization.
Every interaction a customer has with the brand—both with the products and with employees—will affect how they feel about it. The more the brand resonates with a customer’s values and emotions, the stronger the tie to the brand, and the more customers believe they share values with the brand. Brand loyalty, then, is a product of how well your employees deliver on the brand promise. Employee engagement makes a crucial difference.
External brands engage customers in three stages, each requiring a unique level of employee engagement:
- Brand Awareness: Brand awareness is the likelihood that consumers recognize the existence and availability of a company's product or service. Creating brand awareness is one of the key steps in promoting an aligned culture, mission and vision and is the equivalent of a first impression. Every employee should be able to remember, convey, and embody the brand’s vision and mission to ensure the first impression is the right impression and reflects the organization’s unique corporate character and values. Inside the company, strategic story development and activation can help employees connect emotionally and rationally to their employer’s larger narrative – and get excited about their individual role within it.
- Brand Knowledge: Brand knowledge is a function of awareness, which relates to consumers’ ability to recognize or recall the brand, and image. This consists of consumers’ perceptions and of associations for the brand and is a culmination of all their experience with it. Organizations need to identify defining moments in the customer experience and how they want their brand to be perceived. These experiences are often created directly by employees, so organizations need to establish the employee behaviors that truly represents the organizational brand and then design operational processes and systems to reinforce those behaviors.
Internally, employers can use a playbook to host message workshops and conduct communication audits so employees can live the aligned culture, mission and vision from the inside out.
- Brand Ambassadors: Brand ambassadors are employees who actively and enthusiastically exhibit desired behaviors of the aligned culture, mission and vision. They are recognized and rewarded for success in delivering the experience. Organizations need to create opportunities for employees to engage with the brand and customers in new and exciting ways so the brand promise becomes a living thing that employees can personify while responding real time to real customer interactions. Gagen has helped numerous companies build strong brand ambassadors among every level of employees, from Navistar to Payless Shoe Source among many others.
Good corporate citizenship inspires lasting employee and customer loyalty. When a company can define that internally, their external messaging will come naturally.
Take time to look into your internal brand and how your culture, mission and vision connect to it. Utilize your aligned brand to help your company stand for something greater and be authentic with its actions of social good.