“The finest 100% organic carrots in the county?” Not according to the workers who picked them; the underpaid proletariat who complain on the market stall of backache, long hours and exposure to chemicals.
What we have here is a reputation gap, a figurative span of distance between a company’s internal viewpoint of its own business operations versus how it is perceived elsewhere. This could mean in the marketplace by customers, or internally by its own staff who then go on to influence customers.
We all now have smartphones, which means effectively that each of us is walking the streets with a megaphone.
Every company has brand ambassadors
As your staff members are either brand ambassadors or brand dissenters, it’s important that you exert strong situational awareness over this oft-neglected communication channel. It is incredible how many firms plan budgets for external marketing activities but apportion nothing to the management of their internal PR. What’s the point in spending thousands on super-glossy print advertising when tomorrow your HR exec (no less) will go home and bitch on social networks about the tuberculosis-infested incubator you call a break room?
From the top looking down, things often appear to head only upwards. You may even start to believe your own press releases. How a company is really running operationally compared to the directors’ perceptions of its operations is one of the biggest drivers for an exaggerated reputation gap. Operational issues, often the primary drivers of such a situation, sometimes stem from silos, which is the containerization of your departments.
Going back to our farm example, the birds in the hen-house are unhappy with conditions, and also because they see the happy pigs next door. They too now have smartphones, so to avoid mass Instagram coverage of a Chicken Run-style great escape, you need to break down some (internal) barriers, paradoxically. “Instagramming” (if that’s a verb) is but one stale crumb in the social media farmhouse loaf; there are lots of facets to baking bread, frankly, and the complexity of the issue is another reason even inwards-looking companies can benefit from consulting with PR pros.
Before investing time in external PR and money into marketing, what would be the effect of us investing both time and money into managing our internal marketing and internal PR regarding the cross-relationships of these silos?
Identify dangerous internal reputation gaps that exist and how they can be bridged
Companies with a good reputation do better over time; their reputational capital can be 55%-85% of a corporation’s market value – just look at Apple (sticking with the farm theme). Reputable companies can command premium prices for products or services, pay lower prices for purchases, attract top recruits, enjoy greater loyalty from customers and employees, more stable revenues and face fewer risks from crisis situations.
We cannot do this simply through marketing.
Employees are one of the most trusted information sources about an organization, and communicate real company values through their behavior. The things your people say and do define reputations, and their words and actions can be amplified across global networks in an instant, either by them or
someone else. Either way, boundaries between employees and customers are blurring, and in many cases, the employee is the entry point for customers looking to engage with our company.
Globalization is driving companies to differentiate by brand and positioning, but this also exposes the entire organization to scrutiny in its everyday behavior – and then amplified by social media. Managing credible strategic reputation-building requires every farm-hand to respond, be they the silver-tongued foxes selling on the road, the bleating goats in IT, right the way up to the farmer and his wife.
What happens when we begin to disassemble your internal communication silos and let your staff go “Free Range,” all working together for the greater good? Will this work in building employee trust and engagement?
You can bet the farm on it.
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