Tag Archives: marketing communications

Delivering on the promise.

The basic idea behind “brand alignment” is pretty simple – When it comes to delivering on your marketing promises, make sure everyone in your organization knows what’s going on and they’re able to walk the talk.  Living up to that ideal, though, isn’t simple at all.  It takes a concerted effort to get everyone tuned in and turned on to the principles and practices that align the “do” with the “say.”

Promise Broken
One revealing way to test if an organization is living the brand is to observe how they deal with customer complaints.  I recently had an experience with a new service I subscribed to online that told me a lot in a hurry about what they believe and how they operate.

Within an hour after subscribing, I got a notice that the first program would be broadcast that same evening.  They described the event and what the participants would learn during the one-hour session.  I didn’t want to miss it, but I already had another meeting scheduled.  Reluctantly, I contacted that person and asked if we could reschedule for the following evening.  She agreed, so I was set to take part in the new program.

Does your company deliver on its brand promise?
Does your company deliver on its brand promise?

Customer Disappointed

I decided to share one of my Inside Out lessons with them in the form of a “strongly worded” e-letter to what I thought was some nebulous person in the ether-world.  To my amazement, I got a reply the next morning from a sales manager named James, expressing regret for my problem and promising to look into it.  Later that day I had my next pleasant surprise.  I got a real live phone call from James explaining how I had been connected to the wrong program.  He also thanked me for informing them because they were able to contact other people who experienced the same problem.  Then he said I would be set up in the near future to participate in the program that had been advertised.

Relationship Renewed

That would’ve been good enough, but then I got a call from David, their head of marketing.  He had received my e-letter, too, and he also wanted to apologize for what happened.  Then he really floored me – he said he wanted to give me a FREE lifetime subscription to their service.  The only thing he asked in return was for me to give him occasional feedback on how I felt the service was meeting their customers’ needs.

I told him I thought his offer was very generous but I probably over-reacted a bit in my note, and his compensation was way more than I expected.  To his credit, he would have nothing of my attempt to downplay my initial disappointment, and he apologized again for “wasting my time” and failing to give me what I was promised.

Execs in some companies might say he was crazy to give away so much.  But I’m betting they don’t get many complaints like mine, and when they do, few people raise a fuss because the service is probably impeccable most of the time.  Since it’s an online program, it’s not really “costing” them anything to give it to me free, but it still speaks volumes about their commitment to delivering on their promises – and living their brand.

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Let people’s emotions get the best of them.

Emotions drive sales and buy-in
Emotions drive sales and employee buy-in.

It’s a truism in sales that customers make up their minds on the basis of emotions and rationalize their decisions with reason.  That principle holds true in most types of communication where you’re trying to win people over – regardless if it’s for a product, a service or a point of view.

A good example is the remarkable commercial that Google ran during the Super Bowl.  It managed to take the techie tool of a search engine and make a wonderful emotional connection with it.  I decided to compare it to how Microsoft is promoting its new bing search tool in its commercials.

The differences start with the basic style of production.  In the initial commercial that launched bing, a narrator hypes the contrast between a search engine and a “decision engine.” The second commercial illustrates the frustration that people can experience with the “overload syndrome” that bing suggests they get with the typical search engine.  Both spots are well done and attempt to strike an emotional chord, but they still lean more toward the rational end of the spectrum.

The Google commercial, on the other hand, has no narration, just poignant music and simple, engaging visuals that show someone going through various links on the Google site as he makes his way through a series of moving moments in his life.  It brilliantly takes the rational experience of online searching and “humanizes” Google much more effectively than the bing ones do for Microsoft.

The effect is similar to the Anheuser-Busch commercial that shows soldiers coming home from the Middle East.  As they come off the plane and walk through the airport, spontaneous applause breaks out from strangers waiting for other flights – no narration, just moving music and appreciative faces conveying a very touching moment.

When I went to YouTube to look at the AB commercial again, I got a version that was followed by a news report of soldiers coming home and being reunited with their families.  Naturally, that amplified the impact of the commercial, and it showed how well “news” can be linked with “promotion” to create a one-two punch of emotional impact.

By the way, YouTube numbers show that the Google commercial has been viewed more than 4 MILLION times since it was posted after the Super Bowl.  Compare that to the 72,000 views of the bing intro spot and 170,000 view of their “overwhelm” commercial – over a much longer period of time.  Does that say something about how people respond to the emotional versus the rational?  Check them out yourself – and remember those contrasts the next time you’re trying to win the hearts and minds of any stakeholder – inside or out.

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Closing the distance.

My friend and colleague, Richard Barrett, wrote a book several years ago called “Liberating the Corporate Soul.”  It’s exceptional on many levels, as I wrote in a review that is posted on Amazon.com.  One remarkable quality about Richard’s book is how it is both wonderfully inspiring and technically rigorous.  Marcello Palazzi, Co-Founder and Chair of the Progessio Foundation said that “Liberating the Corporate Soul achieves the impossible: it integrates the intangibles of ethics, vision, and consciousness into a tangible measurement system.”

 Much of Richard’s work is rooted in his experiences from when he worked at the World Bank.  During his years there, he developed a strong conviction that the institution needed to focus more of its attention on the issue of human rights in its monetary policies and decision-making.  Since he was a mid-level manager with limited influence, he decided that he would need to take a less conventional approach if he wanted to reach the ears – and hearts – of senior management.

Building Leverage Over Lunch

He began his quest by inviting a handful of friends to join him for a “brown bag lunch” to discuss the role of the World Bank in addressing human rights issues.  At the end of their lunch, the group agreed that they would meet again – and invite others who might share a similar interest.  They continued this “pyramid” approach of attracting like-minded colleagues until after a year the group had grown to more than a hundred people.  Eventually, it attracted the attention of senior management – some of whom also began attending the luncheons.  Not long after that, human rights found its way onto the bank’s agenda of top priorities.

That experience led Richard to do more work in the areas of values and human development in the workplace.  He eventually left the World Bank to pursue a career in consulting that led to the publication of “Liberating the Corporate Soul.”  I’ve often cited a quote from his book that has significant implications for professional communicators, as well as HR and organizational development people. . .

“Nearly all the tension and all the fear in the world originates

from the sense of separation we have from one another.”

 For me, that quote speaks volumes about what it takes to achieve a level of trust that sparks meaningful employee engagement – that gut level drive for people to willingly, even eagerly, go the extra mile for the mutual benefit of the employee and the company alike.  For professionals in the “people business,” that phrase can serve as a touchstone and a mission for their work – to close the distance that separates people from one another in the workplace.

 Over the years, I’ve collected and created a number of quotes that I’ve found thought-provoking or inspirational about employee engagement and communication – including Richard’s.  I’ve compiled some of them into a 4-minute “moviette.”  You can see it by clicking on the title I’ve given it as a tribute to Richard and his work – “Closing the Distance.”   So find yourself a bag of popcorn…sit back…and enjoy.

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Simple questions with big implications.

Answer the Questions
Here are three simple questions that have big implications for how you think about the connection between employee engagement and marketing communication. Rate each one on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest), and then compare your answers with the data we’ve collected from other respondents over the years as shown below (don’t peek until you’ve answered the questions):

1. How much impact do you think the quality of employee relationships within your organization affects your relationships with customers and other external stakeholders?

2. How much is the quality of employee relationships affected by the level of trust and the quality of communication in your organization?

3. If someone asked employees in your organization to rate the level of trust and quality of communication in your organization, what would they say?

Compare Your Responses
After administering this questionnaire to hundreds of people, we’ve found a fairly consistent pattern with the following average scores:

  • 8.5 on question #1
  • 9.2 on question #2
  • 4.5 on question #3

Here’s an interesting point worth noting about the data. Almost all of it has come from managers, and the responses to questions #1 and #2 are highly consistent across all levels of management. On question #3, however, the higher a person’s management level, the higher the scores tend to be. Front line supervisor scores are generally the lowest on that final question. It’s probably safe to assume that the gap between the first two questions and the third one would be even greater if the percent of non-management employees had been higher. It’s not a scientific study, of course, but the anecdotal evidence is pretty clear – and somewhat sobering.

Consider the Implications
So why do so many companies persist in living with such a glaring gap between where they are and where their own conclusions suggest they should be? After talking and working with numerous people in the various groups and organizations, here is what we have concluded:

1. Management doesn’t fully appreciate how much the quality of internal relationships accounts for business success.
2. They have misguided notions of what constitutes effective communication and what fosters trust among employees in the workplace.
3. Even if they do understand the requirements for communicating well and fostering employee trust, making the shift requires considerable effort and resources to do it right – usually more than they are prepared to undertake, especially when they believe the competition is really beating them at some other aspect the game of business.

It’s easy for management to ignore the significance of strong employee relationships as the core driver of marketing and business success. It’s even easier to miss the boat in trying to make a strong positive connection with employees when it comes to communication and building trust. If you want to get your management team tuned in to both of those issues, invite them to answer our three simple engagement questions. You might be surprised at just how attention-getting they can be.

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