Building a Brand from the Inside Out
by Jennifer R. Farmer
Put your money where your mouth is. We’ve heard this phrase since early childhood. It usually implies the tried and true lesson of say what you mean and do what you say, or it can literally mean spending time or money on causes or issues you claim of personal importance. But it is also critical in internal business practices, both for protecting the workplace culture and also the organization’s reputation. As public relations professionals, we have the responsibility to advise colleagues, company leaders, as well as clients to adhere to the organization’s mission statement in both external and internal communications. Building a brand must start from the inside out.
Many of us have had professional experiences that did not match up with what was claimed on the website or sold in an interview. Being victim to bait and switch advertising in hiring has farther reaching consequences than unhappy employees. Once an organization develops a reputation for poor internal culture, the effectiveness and credibility of the business itself is at stake.
The tragic downfall of Thinx CEO Miki Agarwal is a prime example. The fiercely feminist company selling “underwear for people with periods” was known for its shocking NYC subway advertisements, which even seemed to overshadow the company’s cause; however, the campaign was so successful in awareness raising, it also brought to light the mismatching HR practices with the feminist ideas the company promoted. Accused of horrible benefits at best and worst sexual harassment at worst, Agarwal made a less than heroic exit, and the company’s reputation was ruined.
As progressive communicators working on social impact campaigns, implementing fair and equal practices in the workplace is critical to effectively communicating our message. To become a brand people trust, your people must trust their leadership and each other.
That means building a team of individuals that will not only work hard, but work well together. Many organizations go through standard team building exercises and personality tests, but nothing replaces a natural commitment to collaboration and inherent respect for one another and new ideas. Often attitudes are most affected by the internal environment and what is allowed to become “normal” or “standard”. Avoid an internal PR crisis by committing to a transparent, authentic, and morally sound work environment, just as you would advise your company or clients in external communications.
Inspirational speaker Alexander den Heijer has said, “When a flower doesn’t bloom, we change the environment in which it is growing, not the flower.” Whether building, reorganizing or adding to a team, implement the right organizational practices, attitudes and leadership that will allow a team, the company, and its message to thrive.
Jennifer R. Farmer is a strategic communicator and the author of “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide.” Connect with her by following Facebook.com/Tips4ExtraordinaryPR.