Managing a corporate brand isn’t what it used to be

Ingrid Brown

There was a time when creating a corporate brand and managing it was relatively straightforward.

You developed a new identity and a set of guidelines and governed its use across the business. Not so since the financial crisis, which has left an expectation for authenticity and transparency in how you communicate from all stakeholders, including employees.

There is now a much higher appreciation from leadership around corporate branding and the value it can add when it comes to aligning and engaging stakeholders and driving advocacy and reputation. Corporate brand owners are coming to us to explore how we can optimise the role of their brands and apply an inside out approach focusing more on vision and values, sustainability and employer branding to underpin a credible and believable way to communicate and influence stakeholders.

But for engagement and alignment to happen you need to land it across a receptive cultural landscape. For too long the C-suite has been focusing on its promise to shareholders and investors; I have seen this a lot when the CEO has come up from the ranks of finance. But now investors want to know more about the company, its culture and its people; they see that companies with strong cultures are more productive and the brand advocacy they build distinguishes them from their competitors.

Creating a strong culture should be and needs to be a commitment from the C-suite. Sounds straightforward, but I’m constantly surprised by the number of clients who struggle to get endorsement and sponsorship from leadership to optimise their corporate branding activities. If you are a corporate brand owner struggling to get your CEO and leadership to appreciate the value that the brand you are entrusted to build and manage can deliver, here are a few approaches I have seen applied.

Get really good at evidencing the fact that your role in branding drives sustainable commercial value for the business and is not just about creating brand messaging and a corporate identity.

Recently I’ve been working with many businesses which now recognise that a corporate identity only gets them halfway there. Align with the leadership team to cascade the corporate vision and the role your corporate brand plays in driving this; see that corporate values can play a huge role in embedding a culture and use your comms skills to help translate these values into behaviours expected of employees. A more holistic approach to rolling out vision and values is going to drive more long-term value and create stronger cultural alliance than is achieved by simply etching them on the wall in your main reception.

Always be ready to prove and report on ROI by doing these three things.

Progressive brand leaders recognise that ROI and the value from their brand investment comes from doing these three things:

·      Be committed to capturing and sharing insights and data to inform your decisions. We all know we should be measuring and monitoring our brand traction, but are we?

·      Always be ready to take a few left turns and be adaptable to new channels and ways to connect and engage. Bottom up engagement can only happen when it’s two way and interactive. Digital channels are popping up every day, making the landscape difficult to predict. Listen, monitor, listen more and adapt.

·      Communicate clearly to the business that creating brand advocacy and building brands from the inside out creates more value in the long term. Evidence this through the insights you are committed to gathering.

You don’t need to do it on your own – form a coalition and create a movement.

A transparent and authentic approach to communications and engagement needs to happen. I’m seeing coalition groups forming internally between HR, internal comms (IC) and sustainability teams, and brand owners to align the way they communicate, adopt good brand practices and create experiences and engagement that are relevant and meaningful for employees to want to be part of and to share.

Your internal comms team is your new best friend in driving brand engagement and a positive culture.

Where there is a strong culture there is going to be a leadership team that fully embraces IC in its role to cascade and share strategy and direction. IC teams are moving more towards creating engagement and alignment around their comms, and digital technologies are enabling a bottom up approach because they can monitor and measure feedback and engagement across the organisation. Leading IC teams are thinking mobile first and looking at gamification, and apps and content driven through mobile devices means that stakeholders can access content in their own time in their own way. Engage, engage and engage some more so stakeholders experience the brand promise and don’t just hear brand messages.

Creating your own personal brand within the business will build credibility, sponsorship and endorsement.

Finally, it’s worth considering the existing internal expectations and perceptions of what you do and the value you bring. The last reputation you want is of being the person who just spends money with your agencies. It is, however, your personal responsibility as a corporate brand owner to be proactive about measuring success, constantly monitoring perceptions and engagement around the brand you’ve been entrusted to build.

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