Saying that a company’s staff is the best ambassador to its brand has become incontestable. After all, who knows more about a business’ product, service, or culture than someone who works there? Consumers usually see the way an employee portrays a company as more credible than advertising or other marketing efforts.
However, the company and its employees don’t always sing from the same song sheet regarding the brand vision (aspirational, often unachievable business goal) and brand mission (how the company will accomplish that goal). In 2013, SLD conducted a study of more than 120 companies from around the world, and found that that there was a substantial lack of awareness around an organization’s brand position outside the C-Level: Only 59 percent of the respondents were able to articulate their company’s brand essence clearly. Therefore, it is hard to deliver the brand promises when internal stakeholders are not aligned towards the same purpose.
Assuring that the staff is engaged with the company’s brand direction is only possible by consistently reinforcing it to employees and providing a well-designed on-boarding program for new hires. Unfortunately, only a limited number of organizations succeed in translating their brand’s unique value proposition into simple and clear messages. Moreover, brand positioning usually targets consumers, and there is little effort to promote it internally as part of employee engagement and on-boarding programs.
Delivering the brand promise successfully
A brand’s positioning should be aligned with the company’s culture and also support the organization’s strategies to achieve its goals. Similarly, an employee on-boarding and training program should not only be task-oriented but also aligned with the company’s vision.
A great example of a company where the staff is tuned in to the brand’s mission and vision is Southwest Airlines. The company’s vision is “to become the world’s most loved, most flown and most profitable airline,” while their mission (which supports their vision) is to “exist to connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.” Although well-crafted, those statements have nothing that genuinely differentiates Southwest Airlines from the competition. However, it is how the organization delivers its corporate purpose that makes them stand out from other players.
Compelling and relevant storytelling plays a vital role in the way that Southwest Airlines communicate their purpose with employees. It starts with the CEO, who shares stories every week of employees who have gone the extra mile towards service excellence. The same recognition is done in a monthly magazine and through many awards. Lastly, corporate videos featuring real examples are used to motivate employees to pursue the company’s vision and purpose.
Another company that has succeeded in translating its corporate culture into outstanding customer service is Zappos. At Zappos, it all begins with the hiring process, which is totally focused on cultural fit. Should the candidate make the cut, the next step is spending a few weeks working in their call center to learn about the customer’s needs, giving the new employee an opportunity to engage in the company culture. After all, one of the company’s core values is to “deliver wow through service,” and there is no better way to experience that than by connecting directly to clients.
Four recommendations to turn employees into brand ambassadors
It is challenging to turn employees into brand ambassadors if the organization does not clearly communicate its mission, purpose and strategic objectives. Once the company has a clearly defined vision, these are four recommendations to transform employees into true brand ambassadors:
1. Investigate: Start by auditing the employees’ engagement in the company. If they are unmotivated, most likely they will not embrace any initiatives to promote the brand;
2. Plan: Outline everything employees need to know about the company’s brand and culture to create assertive engagement and on-boarding programs;
3. Deliver: Clearly and consistently present the brand’s purpose to the staff and ensure that all levels of the organization understand it;
4. Share: Once employees are fluent in your company purpose, provide them content routinely, including news, blog articles, and videos so that they can share with their network and clients.
Employees have a significant impact both on how the brand is perceived and in driving desire towards its products or services. When staff is not engaged, prepared, and aligned with the company’s overall brand vision and mission, companies can hurt their businesses, risking an increase in turnover and jeopardizing the relationship with clients.