Make the Crowd Part of Your Comms Strategy

IMG_1346Building your brand has evolved from the days of just hiring a knowledgeable and experienced corp comms team to define and communicate the essence of your company brand.  For sure you still need us – to align the messaging, demand consistent visual identity and manage social media to attract the right brand advocates. But the truth is today your front line is your company bottom line, and that is increasingly influenced by your users’ interaction with you.
More specifically, how good (or not) your customers experiences are when they interact with you, what positions you support and how well you know what is important to them.  The crowd is loud and it is not possible to maintain a positive brand without them on your side.
I am a big fan of sites like Yelp and Chef’s Feed. What’s interesting to me is that most contributors don’t spend  their time commenting on the food.  They want you to understand the overall experience.  Mediocre and even bad reviews often begrudgingly admit the food was anywhere from not so bad to really quite good, yet if they had a negative experience from the brand  – the host/hostess, waiter or busser, there go the stars.  So how much time do you think a restaurant pays attention to getting the food right vs training the busser?   Obviously the food is important but for many people, it is not necessarily the most important to them.
Not long ago,  I worked for a company that implemented a new HRIS system.  To be sure the roll out was big.  And well communicated. It was emailed about, blogged about, posted on the intranet home page, a topic on staff calls and at all-hands meetings. But in the end, the system was…well…universally hated by 7000 employees!  Why? No one could figure out how to use the one thing people cared about most, the employee org chart.  You know, the original social network inside the firewall. Then one day it was replaced with a far superior system; in every way but the one that mattered most.  Employee photos!  A communications plan that better understood how important the org chart was would have made a lot more fans.
Building a brand is about going well beyond a good communications plan.  It is about delivering great experiences.   It is about understanding what matters to your audience.   People talk about experiences and what interests them, not tag lines.  So go ahead, give them something to talk about. And remember, we’re all part of your brand experience.
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