A company's strongest assets are its people. But when it comes to representing the company's brand, those people can also be the weakest link. You don't want 10 different people talking about the company in 10 different manners. What you do want is a unified voice, and the way to do that is to ensure your company's brand isn't lost in a tangled web of mixed up messages.
Situation: Consider the position of a journalist who was never told about frequent and ongoing changes to his publication. Some of the regular features were folding, new sections were being added, print dates were changing. He was in the dark, yet he was a brand ambassador, the one calling people for interviews but unable to answer their questions regarding when and where the article they were being interviewed for would publish.
Suggestion: If something is changing in your company brand, which can happen frequently over a short period of time, keep your staff in the loop about what's going down. Whether the change is temporary, permanent, a failure or a hit, an employee in-the-know continues to be an accurate ambassador of the company's brand.
Situation: I was talking with a longtime friend who had the hardest time explaining to me exactly what direction his company was taking since its merger. Considering he holds a high-level position within the organization, I found this a little odd. But after asking a few pointed questions, I understood exactly what was going on. His company had not had an official internal communications program for more than six months. For half a year, employees were left to form their own opinions about their employer's brand. This led to widely-diverse opinions and explanations at a time when a unified message was extremely important.
A replacement was finally hired and the company worked to once again inform its employees about its brand and strategy. But the damage, although temporary, was done – the initial lack of attention ended up costing the company in both reputation and share price.
Suggestion: Educate your staff before taking a brand public and make sure employees understand the brand message. Newsletters, meetings, email bulletins, posters…use all the tools at your disposal. Organizations should pay as much attention to internal/HR branding as external/company branding.
Situation: Last October, an African-American television news presenter responded to a comment left by a viewer on the station's Facebook page. The viewer said the presenter should wear a wig or grow more hair so she would look better on TV.
The presenter replied with a comment expressing pride in her African-American roots. A couple of weeks later, she replied to another post from a viewer questioning the station's methods of choosing children for a gift-giving series.
That's when she got fired, supposedly for violating company policy that employees are not allowed to respond to controversial social media posts. She claims she never knew the policy existed, nor was it written down anywhere.
This kind of situation can be avoided if companies clearly inform employees about its policies. That's just good HR branding, which in turn leads to proper behavior when representing the company brand.
Suggestion: Employees can be eager indeed to share your company's brand, but the flood of social media means the rules should be revisited. Be clear on what your employees are allowed to post online and whether or not their personal social media pages are off limits should they want to chat about where they work, particularly if it's in a not-good-ambassador manner. Establish guidelines for employees who are representing the company brand and make sure employees are aware of said guidelines.
For example, at Brookwoods Group employees are encouraged to respond professionally to almost all social media posts that relate to the company.
Overall, and most importantly, don't forget that all employees, from the mail clerk to the CEO, are in fact brand ambassadors - but they can't be good brand managers if they're not properly coached.