Over the 23 years we have been providing public relations and marketing communications services, I have visited with hundreds of businesses—some big, some small and many more in between. I have met wonderful people, and others who I had to tell politely that they were too awful to consider working with.
I had two recent experiences that were so starkly different it got me thinking about the importance of shared brand values and their relationship to the overall corporate culture.
The first experience was a visit to an older, well-known privately held company in a major city. They had asked for a presentation on what they could do to more effectively communicate to their customer and prospect list.
This meeting started with no social amenities of any kind. There were five executives there and no one even introduced themselves. They barely spoke to each other and it took an unnecessarily aggressive effort to pry a question or two out of them. One person left early and all but one left the meeting without comment to go straight to their next appointment.
I remember thinking, “This place is completely soulless. They didn’t care about my presentation—even though they requested it. More importantly, they obviously didn’t care about each other or their company. It’s as if they all shared the same corporate value of ‘going through the motions,’ but without caring enough to really engage with anything except their watch.”
The second experience was a visit to a company in Iowa that requested a case presentation on marketing integration. When I arrived at the company, I was struck by how interesting the landscaping was near the entrance, which included a bridge to the front door. It was a delightful surprise, beautiful but not excessive.
As I entered the building, there were dozens of people meeting at tables in an open space adjacent to the receptionist. This company was alive with energy and you got the sense they were all excited and enthusiastic to be there. It had the feel of a Silicon Valley tech company, but in a small town in Iowa.
As I waited for the people I was to meet with, one of them arrived a bit early and immediately engaged in a friendly conversation. I could tell he was glad to have me there. I was very comfortable talking with him within the first minute of meeting him.
As I met with the group of four, I noticed they all had copies of several case studies I had sent them. They jumped right into an informal discussion with notes, questions, observations and ideas. It was a dynamic and productive meeting.
When the meeting was over, the VP of marketing gave me one of the best tours of a company I have ever had. She told me how proud she was to work there. The organization’s culture, vision and brand values made it worth moving from a very good job and lifestyle in Dallas to Iowa.
I left thinking how exciting and rewarding it would be to work with Company B. I had the exact opposite thought after leaving Company A.
The “Inside Out” Approach to Building Brand Values
When I think about how two companies about the same size could be so different, the only explanation I could come up with is that they value very different things.
Company A seemed to value the status quo and playing “not to lose” within the company rules. There was no interest in relationships, innovation, ideas or the future. Working with them seemed like it would be drudgery.
Company B valued creating their future together. They operated as a seamless team and everyone seemed to know everyone. Company B cared about the work, and they added energy and passion which made working with them seem like fun.
Values are the key to building a great and sustainable culture—much more so than a mission or vision statement. Shared brand values drive consistent behavior. That consistent, collective behavior is ultimately what creates a culture.
If you want to reshape a culture, think about the brand values that the leadership of an organization emphasizes and rewards. If you foster the brand values that drive the behaviors that lead to better results for your customers, you have started the process of building your brand from the inside out.
This “inside out” philosophy can help you better fulfill the brand promise you are making to your customers. We have worked successfully with a number of clients on building a stronger culture that is geared to delivering a consistently superior overall brand experience.
Company B is working with some of the most exciting companies in the world because they have already figured out how important shared brand values are to building a strong culture and superior performance.