Working for a small unknown company can have its advantages – quite often no one has ever heard of it – people don’t yet have a story in their head about what that brand means to them.
[It was a real turning point for RedBalloon when at social events I no longer had to describe what RedBalloon did. In fact now many people tell me what RedBalloon delivered for them – they share the experience of what they gave or received. This is a true delight for me as the founder. The RedBalloon brand has become a promise held in the heart of the customer; it is no longer up to us to create that story – they have now created it themselves.]
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I digress really from my point about creating employee brand connection. Working for someone small and unknown can have its advantages – but many people love working with larger, well known businesses. They are proud to name their employer and will openly promote the products or services of their employer.
Given that I write this blog while travelling back from holidays – I sit in the clean, cheerful A320 and remember how excited and proud I was to get a job in the aviation industry.
I had been working for a professional services firm and I really wanted to get into a more “traditional” marketing role – a mentor said to me “go and work in product marketing for one of the bigger advertisers and that will give you the right footing to rise up through the marketing ranks”.
I looked up the list of top advertisers – approached five and was offered three jobs (late 1980s). I was soooo excited to accept a role at Ansett Airlines as a product manager. I literally jumped with joy. I told anyone who would listen so proudly that I worked for Ansett.
Fast forward three years and that view had changed completely. In fact it got to the point that if asked at a social event where I worked, I would answer “in the travel industry” and change the subject really quickly.
I knew within the first month that Ansett was nothing like the organisation I imagined it would be. People didn’t have job descriptions, there was no planning process, people seemed to spend a lot of time in meetings without resolutions. I was a young naive marketer who was so passionate about making a difference – but there was no one interested in listening.
I could go on about actual events which caused me to make such a dramatic turn around on my “brand connection”. But there is no point. It is just my view of the world – and others would have experienced something completely different.
Simply the external communications (advertising) was inconsistent with the employee experience. One of the TV campaigns “You can’t have the greatest airline in the world without the greatest people” was on air at the time when the pilots first went on strike and then resigned – Australia did not have a full aviation industry for nine months.
Another reasons I stopped being a brand advocate for Ansett was when people told me things about the airline’s service – I knew I had now power to influence what they had told me. I couldn’t fix it. There was no mechanism for collecting this customer feedback. Given I was “voiceless” internally, then I too became voiceless externally.
To create a company where employees are truly connected to the brand cannot be bought – they either believe in what the organisation is doing or they don’t. If people are proud then they cannot help but tell others about why they are proud of their employer. (I know ON-Brand Partners works in the area of brand connection.)
Right now – there is no cheaper nor authentic advertising than your employees talking about you.
(As a side note, it is interesting that on 22 April Telstra has embraced employees as advocates with its social media policy. “Telstra has taken a liberal approach to regulating employees’ use of social media, with a new policy assuming that employees are responsible and will be the company’s best advocates (Telstra’s policy, social media). Telstra’s “3 Rs of Social Media Engagement” states that the organisation “embraces social media as an important tool of corporate and business engagement”.)
Naomi is the 2008 National Telstra Women’s Business Award winner for Innovation. Naomi was also a finalist for the Australian HR Awards and a finalist for the BRW Most Admired Business Owner Award in 2008. Also in 2008 RedBalloon achieved a 97% Hewitt employee engagement score. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a professional speaker inspiring middle to high-level leaders on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blog and has written a book sharing the lessons from her first five years.