If you listen to what Jeff Bezos of Amazon says about our brands, you’ll probably agree: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
Your Brand Story
The story part of the brand is important too because the impressions that people have and share about our companies aren’t just fleeting observations– they are stories that get told over and over again, woven into the broader life narratives that people remember and take with them into all of their relationships.
We tend to think about brand storytelling as part of how we market to our customers, but it is something bigger. As customers experience our brand and its products and services, they become our storytellers. It is their experience that becomes our story. We are in a shared storytelling relationship with our customers.Your brand story is the tale that people tell about you because they are uniquely qualified as experts with firsthand experience–your story told by them.Employee Brand Storytelling
Less than half of all managers and 4 in 10 employees know what their company stands for and what makes it different than competitors.
While that is pretty shocking and has clear impact on how well our brand story is penetrating the market. What’s an even greater concern when we look closer at service employees who actually have customer contact, we find an even lower the percentage of brand awareness. Whatever brand story we believe we’re telling isn’t making its way into the ranks of our management or employees.
Most employees don’t know your story.
Brand stories aren’t only created for the outward marketing space with customers, they also originate from the employees’ experience too. It’s hard to repair with paid advertising what begins in the space of real human experience. The GlassDoors and Yelps of the world have made that even more pronounced. And employees who don’t know the brand promise can’t really live it out with customers.
If we look more deeply than just “truth in advertising” for a moment, we can see that the substance of our brand really begins with our employees. What they know and experience and own of our company’s brand story, they transmit to friends, families, vendors and eventually to clients and customers.
Point Your Stories Inward
The marketing part of this equation–formalizing our brand promise, capturing and sharing the brand story–has to happen both inside and outside the company. If we are to overcome the pitifully low number of managers and employees who really get what makes our company special, then we have to be intentional and consistent in sharing our brand story. We have to be just as compelling with employees as with the public.
Lots of companies are failing to take this critical step, and that results in an internal reality that is completely disconnected from what we market to our consumer. The result – a failed customer experience because they expect something that our employees don’t know they are supposed to deliver.
Getting it Right
- Employee shares receive 8X greater engagement than by official brand channels (Source: Social Media Today)
- An employee advocate gets two times the trust of a CEO (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2014)
- Employees have 10 times the social connections on average than a brand itself (Source: Social Chorus)
Communicate your brand story to your employees more effectively:
Get clear on your brand’s promise and story, ensure leadership has buy-in and can communicate clearly.
Make the story catchy and real, simple to communicate, visualize, and repeat.
Make the promise and brand story part of evaluations and feedback from employees–are employees living it out, is the company delivering, and how can we improve.
Look for and share examples internally of employees who are living out the brand promise with customers and vendors – tell stories about your brand story.Be sure to tell stories about employees who are living out and customers who are experiencing the brand.
There is no substitute for making the brand story concrete by helping employees know what it looks like to live it out in the workplace. People need these examples to be effective – they need to know what the story looks like in real life.
Aligning Brand Stories
For employees to embrace a brand story, it has to be true across the board because their experience shapes their perception of the brand. If it doesn’t line up, then the brand story becomes nothing more than a hollow marketing slogan.
To get practical, we should be asking, “What kind of employee experience does my brand suggest. Am I offering that experience to my employees consistently and meeting their expectations?”
Clear brand stories that are embraced and experienced by employees become powerful. Gallup studies show that when we line up both the employee and employee brand experience, we can see as much as a 240% increase in company productivity. Employee well-being, retention, ease of recruiting and even health care costs are also tied to the brand story status within our company.