Communication skills are vital to effective company branding.
We discussed this idea in our white paper, "Beef up your communication skills to strengthen your business brand." By cultivating a specific impression of your organization (or yourself, if building a personal brand), you can foster loyalty, extend your reach, and cultivate an audience that will reliably consume your brand’s communications. A brand isn't a tangible product; it's an impression you cultivate bit by bit through every interaction with your target audience. Consequently, the effectiveness of your communication is critical to successful brand-building.
But this begs a question: you communicate with your customers through a variety of channels, online and off, formal and informal, personal and impersonal. How do you ensure your brand message stays consistent no matter where, how, or when you are communicating?
Start by establishing clear brand guidelines
If you can't articulate how your brand should be communicated, you're guaranteeing inconsistency in messaging. The larger your organization, and the more people involved in communicating with stakeholders and customers, the worse the problem will be. To solve this problem, articulate and share clear brand guidelines.
For an example, the Walmart Corporate Brand Guidelines does an excellent job of clearly breaking down the elements that define Walmart's brand and how those elements should be communicated both visually and verbally (whether written or spoken).
Of course, Walmart is an enormous multinational corporation, and you may not need guidelines as extensive as theirs. A simpler solution might be to create a brand rubric, essentially a list of criteria that all communications must meet to fit organizational branding. Such a rubric creates consistency because it ensures everyone in the organization has the same understanding. By making requirements known upfront, everyone can plan, structure, and draft their communications appropriately the first time. Even better, team members can save hours trying to figure out what to say and how to say it – because the rubric tells them what to include and how to communicate it.
- Have content creators read and sign off on established brand guidelines. Your company probably has employees read and sign specific company policies. Do the same with brand guidelines; at minimum, anyone involved with company communications should be required to read them.
- Involve front-line and back-office personnel. Not everyone in the company is directly involved in customer communications, but that doesn't mean company branding guidelines don't impact them. Even back-office personnel can potentially create communications crises with the power of their personal social media. All employees need to be aware that any public-facing communication about the company needs to reflect the organization's mission, values, and voice.
- Train employees on the brand guidelines. Sit them down and go beyond simply reviewing the guidelines: practice putting them to use. Work on exercises that help employees understand how each brand element translates into actual communications. It's just a bonus that training will strengthen their communication skills at the same time.
Ensure that everyone (internal and external) is on the same page
Excellent branding requires collaboration among everyone involved in company communications (including both internal and external personnel).
Consider the relationships between sales, marketing, and product teams.
Beyond brand guidelines, the sales team may have its own rubric or framework that discusses how to handle customer relationships at every stage of the sales process. For each stage, marketing will (or should) generate content that is appropriate both to the specific stage and to the brand. Then, the communications both groups produce are shaped by the information they get from product engineers, customer service staff, and other internal stakeholders.
When these groups work in isolation, branding messages get confused. All stakeholders – including third-party vendors and contractors – need to work together to ensure they're on the same page and present the company's brand consistently.
- Host staff meetings. No one loves company meetings, but you're guaranteed to produce inconsistency in messaging if your teams don’t talk to each other. Whether the meetings are in the boardroom or online, create formal opportunities for all relevant parties to discuss their needs around branding and communications, particularly when planning campaigns that involve multiple individuals or departments.
- Create shared goals. Sometimes inconsistency in communications happens because different individuals or groups are working toward different aims. For any specific campaign or project, ensure the entire team shares the same goal(s) and is working toward the same ends.
- Assign or create a brand steward. Given the velocity of information and content creation in today's world, your organization likely has many kinds of content produced with less-than-optimal oversight. Failure to meet brand guidelines can then go unnoticed until problems arise. Designate one or more team members whose job is to keep everyone on track in terms of meeting branding requirements and provide feedback and guidance to creators.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 25 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.