Friday, June 12, 2009

Driving the brand

On my way to work this morning, a truck belonging to a local company accelerated through a stop sign to cut me off. 

It ticked me off – and it got me thinking.

A company’s PR department can do whatever it wants through media relations, or community investment, or social media – but if its employees don’t “live the brand” – that is, act in a way that reflects the organization’s commitment to customer service – the customer (or potential customer) won’t have a good impression.

Think back to the last crummy customer service experience you had, and how it made you feel about the company. Did you go their website to find out what good things they’re doing in the community, or for their industry, or for humankind? I doubt it. You likely griped about it to friends and family, as many would.

Good employee communications is fundamental to good PR. 

Employees need to know what’s expected of them in their duties – that’s a given. But they also need to understand what’s going on in the company and its environment and, most importantly, how their role and performance contribute to the company’s overall success, to feel truly engaged and motivated to work hard.

Some companies don’t invest much in employee communications, assuming people will naturally link their performance to the company’s success and their own continuing employment.  But the fact is, they often don’t; we’ve all heard employees on picket lines spreading vitriol about their employers and encouraging customers to go to the competition. They don’t think about how those customer dollars going to the competition will help pay their salaries once the strike is over – often, I’ll wager, because they don’t realize how their actions, customer loyalty, and jobs are inextricably linked. Making that connection at every possible opportunity is the #1 job of internal communications – and key to supporting a healthy brand.

A good PR department recognizes that employees are fundamental to a customer’s good brand experience.  If your customers are getting crummy service on the front lines, or are getting cut off by vehicles emblazoned with your logo, it won’t matter how much care you put into your news releases or your beautiful annual report. They won’t want to do business with you, period.

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