Your Brand is What They’re Saying About You

  • November 2nd, 2010 by Veronica

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Today, brands are defined by the conversations people are having about them, inside and outside of your company. The messages associated with your brand are no longer engineered from your marketing and communications departments, but rather spun from the perception of a fast-growing, digitally literate public. So once your company has moved beyond accepting this fact, how can you actually leverage it?

A few good ideas were proposed during yesterday’s JustMeans’ Social Media, Technology and Change conference. I’ll review the few that resonated most with me, but first I must highlight the theme apparent in (almost) all of them: Listening. This is not a new concept, and is one I’ve often talked about. But it always worth repeating, reiterating its fundamental importance to the success of all brands.

Interdisciplinary Participation

Empowering employees throughout your organization – across all departments – to build strong external relationships can be extremely impactful. It shouldn’t be just the marketing and communications departments that are entitled to speaking publicly about your brand – every employee on staff should be well versed on the company, speaking on message, and bringing their own voice to the table. When messages are coming from the “common” employee (grassroots-esque) there is a completely different – and often more credible and genuine – tone than when it comes from a PR team.

*Here I see a tremendous opportunity for building successful corporate culture: If you’re granting everyone in the company a “brand voice”, you have a vested interest in making sure they’re talking the right talk. In other words, your organization will take the appropriate time to get all employees on brand, across all their communications channels; a situation that is clearly beneficial all the way around.

Organizational Optimization

This is another employee-centric idea that promotes teaching your staff how to use social media tools effectively. If you’ve created a corporate culture that people enjoy working in, the chances are they want to share their positive feelings about it. Enable them to do so by educating them on how to use the most effective tools. If you have people in-house that are well versed in this digital arena that’s great. If not, a third party consultant is a worthwhile investment.

Thought Leadership

Most companies dream of being called a thought leader by their peers, competitors, and consumers – it’s hard to see this term negatively. But let’s consider redefining it, at least a bit. Suppose thought leadership doesn’t necessarily rely on your company coming up with the “nugget” yourself, but rather is related to connecting people with brilliant ideas and fostering a place where these ideas can grow and spread. There is something to be said about being an aggregator of content – especially in the age of co-creativity – and perhaps building the platform where revolutionary ideas are born coins you as the new thought leader.

Shared Brands

There is a rising trend in which company leadership personally talks about their brand. It’s dialogue that is conversational, engaging and seeks response – in other words, it’s clearly not being fed to you from the PR team. There is huge potential in this kind of communication – painting people like CEO’s as approachable and human can go a long way for building brand loyalty.

But there’s a significant risk here, too. There’s the chance that your brand can become too closely associated with any one individual. What happens when this person leaves or shifts careers? What does this say about your company? How big of chunk of brand equity does this person take with them when they walk out the door? These potential red flags shouldn’t put the kibosh on this practice, but they are worth considering and preemptively mitigating (like making sure your CEO uses a Twitter handle that incorporates the company’s name, too).

Online, Offline, Online

There is no distinction between online and offline worlds. It’s about content not channel. As you establish brand ambassadors – the consumers that are spreading your message as credible, third party sources – you can assume that if they’re tweeting about you they’re probably also talking about you over coffee. And this is great: Word-of-mouth messaging should not be underestimated. So what companies need to remember is that online and offline are now – and forever – intertwined. They can’t be separated. So act accordingly.

Image credit: Bindaas Madhavi

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