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Stories in The Village: EVERYONE must understand the brand

Our stories as marketers continues to be a theme of late, whether it’s understanding how YOUR history and biases impact your stories and now from Seth, how your EXECUTION is central to the story/brand experience. Below is an excerpt which asserts lack of a story can impact consistency of the brand:

But what if you haven’t figured out a story yet?

Then the work is random. Then the story is confused or bland or indifferent and it doesn’t spread.

On the other hand, if you decide what the story is, you can do work that matches the story. Your decisions will match the story. The story will become true because you’re living it.

Does Starbucks tell a different story from McDonald’s? Of course they do. But look how the work they do matches those stories… from the benefits they offer employees to the decisions they make about packaging or locations.

The pithy piece from Seth opines about what comes first, the story or the work. Not sure that this is the best way to manage the story or the execution, since they are more or less ONE thing – the Brand. These are two interactive and evolving components which can’t be untethered. Customers, employees and transactional interactions move the story and change the story over time, evidence the $1 coffee from Starbucks or the 3 hour re-training event which was intended to boost the barista-ness of the the customer experience.

This example from Starbucks is a great use case for how to align execution to the story and the market. So if the story is linked to execution/the work, then speaking to the market is only part of the story to be told.

As brand managers/creators, marketers need to continuously deliver messaging not just for the market, but for the larger organization in partnership with human resources and the leadership. What are the types of activities and processes required to consistently deliver on a brand story/uphold the integrity of a brand? The realities is it varies. This will vary from industry to industry and market segment to market segment, but 3 key areas for consideration regardless of industry:

  • Establish a Unified Tribal Understanding
  • Open Channels for Feedback
  • Consistently Reward and Publicize Contribution

Tribal Understanding

You can’t tell the same story, unless you KNOW what the story is, so what have YOU done as a marketer to make this happen?

This is the concept of making sure the whole organization understands what a product is supposed to do and what the value drivers are for the consumer. In technology for example, the larger organization needs to understand the solutions being delivered, the relative importance of the solution for the consumer and overall strategic direction of the company.

With this baseline folks can understand and how this relates to what customers/the market need for a given technology provider. Without common tribal understanding, you get inconsistent execution which can greatly change the market version of the story/the stories your customers tell.

Tip: The easiest way to figure out if you need to develop a plan for this is fairly simple, walk around the business. Walk around and ask say 10 folks across the organization from a functional perspective and seniority perspective and see if they tell the same story about your product or your brand. If you get 6 different answers, you probably need to do something.

Channels for Feedback

As consumers habits change and market requirements evolve, it is important that every organizational story teller cannot only understand the brand story, but also that they can contribute to the evolution of the story. Whether it’s collections, professional services or customer service, all of these stakeholders interact with the market daily and should have easy access to provide input from the business. This can be as simple as email or a suggestion box on the intranet and is imperative to keep a pulse on the market and to understand how your product is perceived on the front lines.

Tip: See if you have a clear path from communication to the marketing team, product management and leadership of YOUR organization, if not perhaps you should roll out a formal plan, remind folks of how to contribute and develop a formal plan to manage input for improvement.

Reward and Publicize Contribution

This seems a little obvious, but telling the story for the market, requires awareness for the larger organization of how a single person can leverage their tribal knowledge and exceed the promises of the brand. While the type of recognition will vary by company size and budget, marketers need to equally tell the story internally and leveraging an open channel for feedback and ensuring the full understanding of the story makes it simple. Don’t underestimate a Starbucks gift card and an “all employee” email.

Tip: Recognition isn’t about burying an accomplishment on the intranet for a specific functional group – it needs to be shared. Don’t fall for the corporate newsletter trap here – you can mention it in the newsletter, but take the time to highlight individual successes outside of the normal communications channels for the whole organization.

While this clearly is not the alpha and omega of brand based story creation and modication, it’s a good place to start. Do YOU have any ideas on how to improve the stories told in the village? Leave a comment and let us know.

5 Gardening Tips for Growing A Corporate Bloom

So Seth, by way of Chris got me to thinking about development again this week and how every person has the opportunity to improve the workplace and EVERY person can help identify and develop talent. Corporate gardening is no simple task – it takes diligence, collaboration and nourishment. I don’t think Corporate Gardening is the sole domain of HR – it should be a requirement for the whole organization and HR should provide the infrastructure and tools to enable corporate gardening.

Organizational Horticulture

A rich and fertile cross functional resource landscape is required to maintain a green workplace. Growing organizational talent requires a passion to create opportunities for expansion and growth throughout the entire organizational field. This means exposing folks to right the amount of career specific opportunity and sponsored industry access and participation. If your people don’t get out – you might have good skills and some reasonable gardeners, but most will be more mechanical robotrons, rather than folks working towards their master gardner certificate.

Hi, my name is R57200, a product management robotron. I create tables with requirements, complete checklist and draw childish diagrams. Proficient at email. Give good meeting.

So I had to dig back into a lecture from over a decade ago for a class I can’t remember (sociology, psycology, other?!?), to identify a model which could be updated to be in context of Corporate Gardening. The not so random framework is – Bloom’s Taxonomy. The base framework is below:

5 Corporate Gardening Tips

  1. Provide liberal access to resources, the leadership and cross boundary functional interaction.
  2. Empower creativity as much as delivery
  3. Saturate the organization in opportunity – developmental programs and benefits.
  4. Trim as required for a vibrant bloom and organizational balance
  5. Fertilize with cool swag and open conversations

The Greening Has Begun and you haven’t even noticed

So I don’t often get any emails, but I have that feature turned on for my feedburner feed so I get do get some, but i’d rather have comments – turned it off – snap. My 10 Tips for dealing with the fact that you will never leave your job post has received 3 emails and NOT from 3 people I know, so I thought I would follow up on it. Each of them referenced the “Greening Your Own Grass” concept – weird I thought, because sometimes I’m just cheese, which was the intent. So like any good opportunist, I googled the term and it appears there’s no obvious content around this, so what the heck. It even has got a kitschy pop psychology ring to it.

I went out looking online for ideas, since I haven’t thought the concept much more than cheesy bullet I created. So I decided to extend the concept to support the hiring requirements of democracy, an online entity of some sort in the marketing sector, but I changed them a little, to fit the context of greening.

  1. “The ability to unlearn.” – After you are in a business for a while take the opportunity to engage new kids on the block and get their input. A refreshing view is always a good thing, plus you might find something simple which could add significant value.
  2. “The desire to add value.” – In principle this is the enjoy what you do concept with a little Locke thrown in. Don’t become a pass-thru entity. Routing work “packets” isn’t a job, it’s a network appliance . A router is cheap, replaceable and boring.
  3. “The imagination of a child.” Creativity is the first thing to go after being in a role for a while. Wake up and be excited about trying new ways of doing your job. Take 10 minutes a day researching on what you do and find out what others like you have done – repackaging is still creative, if not fully original.
  4. “A global perspective.” – This is one of those onion concepts – first layer is understand the big picture, identify your ability to impact the big picture and to deliver. The other is more literally – understand your connection to supporting the changing market place, which is going global.
  5. Soul. While the democracy list takes a jab at James Blunt, it’s about identifying how you can find your corporate flow. Perfect balance of challenge and capabilities.

So as I think about Greening YOUR Own grass, is about finding your corporate flow. Flow is basic chart, which most marketing and tech folks should be able to interpret. I first discovered the construct of Flow in a Leisure Lifestyle course during undergrad, these diagrams come from a person who synthesized some chap named Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi presentation in Sydney on 17 March 1999…

So this Flow thing just might work to start the greening. So keep a hiring attitude and a desire to find your flow in the workplace. There’s $.02 on something I never thought I would post on, my Leisure class.

10 Tips for dealing with the fact that you will never leave your job

I must admit – not my idea, stole if from an outro on an Onion News piece, Child Bankrupts Make-a-Wish Foundation. (you will feel guilty for laughing at it) If you never check in on the Onion, I encourage you to do so, fun stuff and you can get a printed version in Denver at Sancho’s.

So I saw this the other day when I got home from New York and thought about it a while, asked some folks questions about this and got an array of great ideas. Most of them are why you might want to stay where you are – find an opportunity to grow and expand your contribution. That’s right – pollyanna optimism, with a dash of opportunist thrown in.

Another way to look at it this post might be: 10 ways to optimize your current gig…

  1. Stop the Alerts! – turn off your daily monster reminder that there is something else you could be doing. I did this a long time ago and I am better for it. Basically there is no need to find out about that analyst job at a cool web 2.0 company. Your career builder and monster reminders encourage/foster thoughts like: Maybe they give weekly massages? or It might be cool to get a haircut in my office or It might be good to just be a network admin again. Nothing good can come from a free haircut – think work life balance.
  2. Understand what YOU do: This esoteric concept is a fairly interesting way to grow professionally. Find others like YOU in your industry. Caution: This may foster Zen like clarity and a renewed passion for what you do.
  3. Understand WHY your role is important: You aren’t getting paid because you are really good at pouring coffee for the CFO when he or she randoms into the break room, in fact you probably internal and external constituents that depend on you, so find out what they expect from you. Do a little ad hoc survey of your “customers” and understand what their value drivers are.
  4. Get a life! This is the easiest way to bring joy into the workplace. Find a way to jam your off time with satisfaction – we don’t work for nothin! Plus all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Get a hobby, fall in love, join a support group – whatever.
  5. Work hard and play hard. Duplicate? Nope. You need a life, before you can have fun. So I guess get a life, has more to do with finding folks who you can hang with and once you have friends you can play. Think about it playing with yourself is a little boring — I like action action figures like the next geek, but other humans ROCK!
  6. Mentor: Find a mentor – be a mentor. If you have someone you can learn from it makes everyday an opportunity to grow, the other side of the street is that if you can find someone to mentor, YOU can improve your organization. Upside: You might actually build a relationship, which will set you on the path to finding a life. Yes this a self referencing looping structure for career improvement in a 10 tips post.
  7. Push Yourself: After being in a role or company for a long time you will ultimately get a little complacent. Well I’m here to tell you, if you don’t expect excellence from yourself or growth – no one else will and that’s a sure fire way to want to turn your monster alerts back on.
  8. Green your own Grass – This is a concept that if you have a life, expect excellence and understand what you do, you just might enjoy what you do. We all long for greener grass, especially in Atlanta, but you have to find a way to “be the ball“. If you have a reasonably good gig, you like the people you work with and are good at what you do – take advantage of it. Think about it – if you are lucky enough to have this kind of gig or you think you may have an opportunity to develop it where you are – what a cool place to be in a career!
  9. Switch it Up – Been there a while? See if you can get a different role in your company. Use your tribal knowledge, leverage your mentor and passion for excellence to learn something NEW. This is definitely greening your own grass!
  10. Engage: Remember – You work with people! Develop relationships! Execute towards shared goals, actively participate in the processes and be a collaborative team. We all got something to learn or share – no matter where we are.

As you may have realized by now, I just needed a snazzy title to frame some leadership concepts. Cheers!