Monday, September 26, 2011

Is It Time For A Social Media Policy?

Thinking back to when I was a training instructor for a Michigan utility company, one of the tasks I had was monitoring the customer service representatives to make sure they were responding properly to inquiries and maintaining a pleasant and professional demeanor.  For the most part it was routine and each call was completed in less than five minutes.  On occasion, there would be a CSR that made personal calls and some were quite embarrassing for the ear to endure.  Of course there were policies against using the company telephone system for personal reasons, but it happened.  When it was discovered, the person would be reminded of the corporate policy.  There were never any violations involving the computers because back then, (I am a bit embarrassed to admit), computers were nothing more than a cathode ray tube with a black screen and amber letters and numbers, and no Internet!  Hard to believe, but it is true.  Fast forward to 2011 -- we have Internet gone wild with in your "facebook", swimming in "plenty of fish", shown on "YouTube"and cleaned up and connected on "Linked In".  I believe there are so many social networking sites that it defies the imagination.  Can people get carried away using social media in the workplace that is often such a part of life in general?  You bet!  We have all likely heard stories about people who have taken things a bit too far -- sometimes purposely, and sometimes unintentionally.  So, is it time for companies to add social media protocol to their policies and procedures manual?  You bet!  As many companies have discovered, social media can be used as an incredible tool for branding corporate image, promoting products, services, events, educating employees and the general public as well.  Therefore, rather construct a rigid policy with a list of what employees CAN NOT do using social media, consider the opposite approach.  Think about using the arsenal of the employee base to become an extension of the marketing department.  Perhaps consider beginning with engaging all employees in determining what is acceptable and what is not.  Identify those employees who are the most savvy and interested in becoming involved in the process,and create outlets for them to add value by using their skills and interests by creating employee blog sites with teams of employee bloggers, or create facebook pages to announce and promote community service activities.  Make the authorized use of social media a positive and encouraged activity that contributes to marketing goals and objectives.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Marketing Your Brand is a Team Sport

The leaves are beginning to turn, autumn is in the air – it is football season!  After several conversations with my son, who loves the game and is a great resource for sharing strategy, explaining plays, and answering my questions about what the referee is saying, I pondered which player is most valuable to the team.  Initially, I thought it must be the Quarterback; after all he is the one calling the plays.  My son kindly pointed out that the QB is only on the field with the offense and, “without the linemen, the QB would rarely be able to successfully pass or hand-off the ball, and without a receiver or a running back, the QB would not have a player to take the ball toward the end zone.”  Without a coach to teach, motivate, and inspire, many team members would find it nearly impossible to reach their potential as a player. Football really is a team sport. Perhaps that is one of the reasons it engenders such great camaraderie and generates emotional contagion.

It struck me that the game of football is a great metaphor for operating a corporate marketing division and camaraderie and emotional contagion would not be a bad thing to give marketing a boost.  Recently, I was asked by a client to help them create a unique industry brand for their company.  The company is small, and cannot afford a diversified marketing staff or full-time public relations professionals. Rather than claim I could create their brand and give them a turnkey package to promote it, I suggested, in my professional opinion, a better approach that could be implemented for any company serious about creating and marketing their brand.  It isn’t really complicated but it does require commitment.

First of all, recognize who you are as a company and create your own quick pitch mantra. Working with a consultant like me, or another talented professional can ease you through the process. Take the time to train each employee.  Start in the executive suite, if it exists, and don’t stop until everyone has been introduced to, and taught to recite the quick pitch mantra on cue.   Teach all employees to share the quick pitch whenever they have an opportunity, and help them to identify opportunities.  Some examples of opportunities could include informal meetings with friends, during participation with professional associations, or during volunteer activities with not-for-profit organizations, and of course, never over look the powerful impact of using social media. Executives should model behavior for other employees and work with them to create their own quick pitch for how their job ties into the success of the company. 
Secondly, identify subject matter experts across disciplines.  These SME’s will become the coaches for their teams and will be the point people for helping with internal information dissemination.
Thirdly, don’t stop at the training phase.  Everyone must be empowered to become a cheerleader!  Never let a week pass that does not include encouragement to everyone.  It can be a Monday morning inspirational email blast, an end of the week mass distributed voicemail for reaching a special goal, or thanks to stand out employees for random acts of kindness and support of others. Be sure to remember the preferred information reception needs of the entire employee base if it is intergenerational by using means and methods appropriate for the type of position, generational mix of employees and convenience.  Make it easy to communicate the message, easy to retrieve it, and easy to remember.
And finally, make sure there are plenty of hugs to go around.  That may sound corny, but making people aware that they are appreciated can be a tremendous boost to morale.  Happy, inspired employees are more productive and more likely to take the internal messages to the sources needed to brand the company image externally. 

Marketing to create corporate brand identity and product brand awareness is a team sport that requires all team members to work together and support each other.  Companies that recognize this are far more likely to experience harmony that will lead them to end zone where they will score better bottom lines.