An Authentic Brand is not something that sits on the surface of an organization to make it attractive. It comes from the roots. If you understand that, you’re more than halfway toward nurturing an authentic brand that truly connects with your employees. And a brand that connects with your employees will also connect with clients. Here are six questions you should ask yourself when assessing your brand’s effectiveness.
An Authentic Brand has Clear values
These are not your success stats or fiscal goals (though there’s usually a relationship there!); these are the principles that allow your organization to make a difference in your industry, maybe even in the world. Are your core values real, accurate reflections of your company now and where you want to be 20 years from now? Do they contain identity and vision? Would they be easy for an outsider to spot? Are they easy to remember? If you’re clear on who you are, and you believe it’s impacting the world for good, then you can communicate core values to your team with conviction and winsomeness. This communication should be done consistently, from the pre-hire process to your upper management and C-level directors. The first person who needs to be truly sold on your brand is the one working behind it.
Are your employees clear on your core values?
Could each person in your organization give a clear elevator pitch for your organization? Could they list three to four adjectives describing your ethos, and point to your goal as a company? For example, “Centerspace is fun, hardworking, and health-conscious, and we want everyone to be able to share in an affordable green lifestyle.” Being able to do this brings a sense of unity and shared mission as a team, and enables your employees to communicate the brand more quickly and naturally to clients and prospects.
Do you check in with them?
Simply showing a bunch of brand-teaching videos is not your solution here. Education is one aspect of getting employee buy-in, but it is your very first step. The rest of the way, they have to walk with you. Your employees are grown-ups, they’re professionals, and you want them to have a stake in what your organization is doing together. In fact, their personal stake is vital. Do your employees believe they can represent your brand, not just for a paycheck, but with personal and professional integrity? To keep the answer to this one at a vibrant “Yes!”, especially as you grow, you will have to keep in close touch with employees and how company culture is hitting the ground. A brand should have enough integrity to reflect the reality of your organization as it unfolds under the care and creativity of your team. The point is, whether the dream originally came from your CEO, or vision casting was a collaborative effort from the start, if you and your whole team are in good communication, your brand can stay authentic.
Do your employees believe in your brand?
If there are gaps between what your brand promises and what it actually performs, or gaps between how an employee would describe your brand and how they have actually experienced it, you will lose your employee’s confidence. In the long term no one can support with integrity what they know, at some level, to be untrue. Employees have to believe in your values, as well as experience your organization consistently living up to them. It’s an added bonus if your values are so winning that employees find them personally inspirational as well. Principles from the brand can spread to other aspects of their lives. Strong, embodied core values build an authentic brand and can translate into any aspect of life.
Do they feel they’re a good match for your brand?
Employees who believe in your core values find a sense of mission and belonging in their work. It’s a special “something” that clients pick up on. Sometimes, though, that match doesn’t stick. It might indicate the brand needs tweaking, or communication between leadership and employees needs to improve. But sometimes it’s a matter of personality. Between two equally good and well-qualified potential hires, one may be a better match simply in terms of their ability to genuinely identify with who you are. Someone who would not self-describe as “fun” is probably not going to be happiest or able to give their best if “fun” is one of your core values. This is an aspect you want to consider early on in the hiring process.
Are you giving employees ways to live out your brand?
Finally, you need to give your employees concrete opportunities to authentically experience and express your brand’s values. If your company policies — for example, on quotas, town hall meetings, how or if you give bonuses, whether and how certain kinds of creativity are rewarded, etc. — do not match up with your values, then your brand is neither authentic nor consistent. If work-life balance is one of your core values, for example, do you find yourself giving promotions to employees who tend to overwork? If creativity is one of your core values, is your architecture and your employees’ office spaces conducive to thinking and creative expression, or stuffy, stressful, or unattractive? Other places to consider honing your brand’s integrity is in uniform policies, cycles of work and rest, PTO, and employee support services. Make sure your corporate policies at their most nitty gritty reflect your identity and highest ideals. If they do not, your employees cannot authentically connect with your brand.
Milestone and recognition awards are also a good way to build trust between employees and the brand they serve, as are swag bags with high-quality, logoed promo items, just for a fun treat.
You can create an authentic brand. Even if it starts top-down, it’s not a top-down enterprise at heart. And it’s not about following the right tips to get quick results. It’s about digging deep, conducting business with integrity, and about respecting the human beings that make or break what together you’re able to accomplish.