Brandful – Quick and Simple

Every employee matters, especially when running a small business. A single employee could be responsible for bringing enormous success to your business. Or one employee could bring you down. Why not motivate your employees to work FOR your brand, rather than against it, by cultivating a brandful workforce.

How It All Began

The brandful workforce approach was developed as a practical guide to help business leaders better engage employees with the products and services they help deliver every day. It was informed through my own career journey, working for both small and large organizations, private, public and non-profit.

Most recently, I was in charge of employee engagement at JetBlue Airways. My colleagues at other companies used to ask me: “How do you get your employees to be such fantastic brand ambassadors?”

It wasn’t something that JetBlue purposefully set out to do. It was the result of a successful business. Yet there wasn’t a recipe that others could easily follow. So I took it upon myself to figure it out!

Let’s look at how you can create brandful employees for your business.

Building a Brandful Workforce

Start with your product or service. After all, who will want to promote something that they don’t personally believe in?

One common mistake small business owners make with employees is not defining and communicating the consistent delivery of the business. What does it look like? If you don’t know, then how will your employees? Help them understand the details of your business, your brand and especially your customer promise.

When your employees understand your business, the customer promise and their role in it, they can get to work promoting your brand. In fact, they may even exceed your expectations!

Create Brandful Communication Channels

The next step in creating employee brand ambassadors is giving them the means to go out and promote your brand. I call these brandful channels.

These include tools and resources such as social media, swag, celebratory events, and community volunteer efforts that spread awareness of your business.

Remember: not everyone is going to want to engage in social media, so it’s helpful to offer your staff some other options.

For example, you may have an employee who enjoys the backstage planning of an event.  Or another employee may be athletic and can represent your business in a marathon. The brandful channels approach provides opportunities for everyone to participate in amplifying your brand in a genuine and authentic way.

Recruit Brand Ambassadors

. Some small businesses find it hard to compete for talent with larger organizations.  Yet, as a small business, there are a few areas where you can favorably recruit top talent by accentuating your unique brand:

  • Offer a “jack-of-all-trades” employee experience. Employees can learn and be involved in many aspects of the business, rather than be narrowly focused on a specified role within a larger organization.
  • Provide a family feel and local culture as opposed to a larger, bureaucratic environment.
  •  Give employees the opportunity to make a direct, meaningful impact on business success

Keep in mind that brandful candidates care less about salary (as long as it’s within a reasonable range) than the quality or purpose of the job. If you have to negotiate hard to get someone to accept, it may not be the right fit for your business.

Here’s a quick checklist to help determine if your job candidate is brandful-minded:

  • Do they love or use your products or services?
  • Do they know how to talk about your products or services?
  • Do they have fresh ideas about how to expand or improve your business? (Do they act like “owners,” or do they simply want a paycheck?)
  • Do they give you honest – and helpful — feedback?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then you’re well on your way to leveraging the talent you’ll need to create a brandful workforce of your own!

Do You Have A Community Manager?

What are community managers and why are they important to building a brandful workforce?

I recently met a community manager from The Huffington Post. According to Wikipedia, community managers “work to build, grow and manage online communities around a brand.” They are familiar with emerging technologies and ways to engage customers purposefully. As well, they understand how various communities form around specific products and services and how to keep them interacting during ongoing evolution of the brand.

Tim and I met over the holidays, online. We both commented on a LinkedIn update. Then we started looking at each other’s profiles. Tim shot me a message saying: “Hey, we’re both in New York if you ever want to meet up.” Then after the holidays I shot him over a quick message: “How about coffee next week?” We had a plan to meet. Of course, this was after we already knew everything there was to know about each other online.

Tim was supposed to come to my office, but as luck would have it (or not), he forgot his wallet that day and couldn’t come, so I offered to go to his neck of the woods and buy him lunch over there. He immediately took me up on my offer and suggested giving me a tour of his office at The Huffington Post. What a treat! If you haven’t watched the live stream of Huff Post Live, you should check it out. They have shows on politics, entertainment and general interest and it appears to be gaining in popularity.

I learned a lot from Tim. Not just that community managers are probably the most brandful employees at any organization. (It’s actually part of their job description to be a brand evangelist.) But the insights and experience of community management can be brought inside of an organization. What they do to engage customers can be done with employees. I’m going to start to follow Tim and other community managers more closely.

Thanks to Tim for meeting up. I’m glad to be part of his community. And thanks for reading this and being part of mine.

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New Year Resolution: Become Brandful in 2014

As you make your new year resolutions, consider adding one to your list: being brandful. Becoming brandful means closing the gap on who you want to be and who you really are. This can apply to you personally, or it could apply to an organization such as your employer.  When an organization becomes brandful, its external perception (the customer experience) matches the internal culture (employee experience). When you are personally brandful, you acknowledge your passions and interests and actively pursue them on a regular basis, including in your work-life. Merging your personal brand with the brand of your organization can bring greater value and meaning to your personally and to your employer.

Why else should this be on your new year’s list? I believe 2014 will be a year of authenticity. With the rise in social media and escalating global competition, consumers are no longer easily fooled by traditional advertising and marketing. They are getting close up and personal with brands and becoming more involved with the products and services they love. Becoming brandful allows both individuals and organizations to keep the curtain raised and be transparent, without worry. When you are, who you say you are, there is confidence.

Put a resolution on your list that not only catches you up to everyone else, but thrusts you ahead. Here’s to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2014!

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