Branding and Internal Communications Tips for Distributed Teams
Think of the some of the world’s most successful brands, and I’ll bet that much more comes to mind than just their logos.
Perhaps it’s the quality or value of what they produce, the experiences you’ve had with their services, the attitudes of their leadership team, their approach to corporate social responsibility, or the happiness of their employees and other customers.
Here’s a quick test. Ask five people at an organization to tell you what their company stands for—the essence of their brand—and listen to the answers you get. Are they similar? Or are you possibly hearing five very different perspectives?
As a critical part of building a robust company culture, one of the biggest challenges that remote companies encounter is how to get employees to understand their brand and communicate that specific vision with a unified voice. It’s much easier said than done when it comes to internal communications.
A former manager of mine once called it “making sure we’re all singing from the same song sheet.” And whether you’re just a few miles or several time zones away from one another, that sort of singing can become more than dissonant. It can become an echo of warped rounds.
Unfortunately, when brand cohesion isn’t happening within a company, this is what you can expect your customers to be hearing. But it’s not just them that you have to worry about: your competitors, your investors (current and potential), and the general public are listening, too.
There are some smart moves you can take to prevent this muddled messaging. When the confusion begins internally, that’s where the solution needs to take root.
Here are some branding and internal communications tips to get any distributed team to exude a more harmonious brand:
1. Clearly articulate your brand.
This first point may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by the number of companies that don’t invest the time to develop their brand from the outset. This doesn’t only apply to scrappy early-stage startups, as even more-established companies have fallen victim to “brand ambivalence.”
This should not be anywhere near the last thing on your list; in fact, articulating your brand should be the very first thing you do. Craft your company’s mission, vision, unique selling points (USPs) and values—even build a manifesto, like Holstee did—and hone them until the experiences that you wish to create for your customers are first and foremost “baked into” the brand you’ve developed. (Etsy does this beautifully.)
2. Make information accessible.
Once you’ve put this invaluable information together, don’t let it sit idly in a dusty corner of your digital library. Help others discover it by sharing its location and contents in company or departmental emails or Google Docs. Encourage your team leads to offer you feedback (for one, you’ll know they’ve read it!), and hold at least one synchronous meeting to help get everyone on the same branding page.
Everyone is busy. Don’t expect that your colleagues are going to actively seek out information about the brand; people are simply too busy to be searching for this stuff. Make it simple by providing direct links to a specific spot in your Google Drive or internal folder that contains all the goods, and circulate those links far and wide within your organization.
3. Encourage consistency.
By this point, you’ve brainstormed, you’ve shared, and you’ve discussed; the team has weighed in and bought in. Fantastic. Now comes the hard work, though. It’s time to encourage consistent representation of your brand by the very folks whose geographical (and possibly cultural or linguistic) distances and differences could derail those efforts.
Simplicity is key. By overcomplicating any message, you’re almost ensuring a cacophony of distinct brand descriptions. Make the meaning behind your brand memorable, and continue to motivate others to spread that message in the way it was created. Explain that this helps to not only capture the spirit of the work you’re all doing, but also to guide your company as it grows and your brand as you move forward.
4. Lead by example.
Company leaders don’t just create a brand; to make it tangible, they must embody it. Think of some of the world’s most celebrated business leaders, and you’ll see that they are not just a reflection of their brand; they’re immersed in it. If you’re in a leadership role, examine your own actions and messages. Are they in alignment with your company’s core values?
If not, take stock of areas where you need to make adjustments and list steps that will get you on the right track. (Bonus: increase your accountability by sharing your list with another member of the leadership team.) If you’re already on point, congratulations! A brand is like a garden in that it requires attention in order to flourish. So, yes, this means that your work is never done, but if you believe in your brand, it’s truly the most rewarding vocation.
By Kristi DePaul | December 2, 2016 | Categories: Remote Management