Brand in the boardroom

Brand in the boardroom

No board can make the right decisions if they aren’t considering the organisation’s brand in their thinking.

As regular readers of this blog, you will know I define brand as the result of the promises you keep. And as the framers and architects of the promises the organisation makes, the board has a singular and singularly important role to play in building that result.

However, it’s likely that boards you are on, or the board of your organisation, don’t think or talk much about the role they play in building and driving the brand.

If it is given attention, it’s likely to: be a request for sign-off on the budget cost for the marketing team to ‘rebrand’; have popped up as a line item for awareness in the strategic plan; be something to monitor in the risk matrix; or perhaps it even hit the agenda when an organisational failure had spilled over and threatened the so-called ‘brand reputation’.

While all of these things are valid (well not the ‘rebrand’ one but that is another article entirely), sidelining brand as something the board just reacts to misses the myriad opportunities for alignment that the deliberate and conscious inclusion of brand can bring.

Making what you care about visible so you can connect with others who share it is the work of your whole organization – including the board. And when aligned in this way, the decisions your board makes around purpose, strategy, structure, values and the ability to follow through and do what you say you will do is the mark of an organisation that people know stands for something.

Including brand as part of the discussion around the board table will improve outcomes. Here are just a few questions brand-conscious board members should consider:

  • What is the organisation’s legal structure and how does that support or hinder what you’re doing?
  • What products, services or programs do you offer (and which should you stop)?
  • Who should you hire as CEO?
  • How can you stay true to your purpose and at the same time navigate a changing environment?
  • Does it make sense to try to acquire that other organisation (or be acquired)?
  • What partnerships can you build to have a greater impact?

In every one of these cases there are a series of promises being made and the nature or those promises will have a direct impact on the organisation and the brand, which will in turn impact other future promises.

For example, in the case of an acquisition, the obvious promises are around how operations, products and services will merge. However when you think about bringing together the brands of the two organisations, it gets a lot more complex – and I’m talking about more than the expected arguments around name and logo.

For instance, do the two brands care about and stand for the same thing in the same way? If not, how will that change? And when that changes (because it will) how will that impact the staff, customers and other stakeholders and their ongoing relationship with you?

So you start to see how the promises made by your board are more important to the organisation’s brand than any marketing campaign. The board originates the promises the organisation makes and the nature of those promises directly relates to the organisation’s ability to keep them.

Make the wrong ones and the organisation can quickly head off a cliff. Make the right ones that build alignment and strength around what you care about and the result is a brand everyone will stand behind.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.

This article is a preview of a talk Michel is giving in a few weeks at the Better Boards Annual Conference.

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