In the business world, there’s always ‘we’ behind ‘I’, a team behind a brand, people behind products, technologies behind services. Companies strive to be flexible and adaptable in a fast-paced environment, so they often search for resources outside the organisation when the biggest way to drive change is to champion the ones that already work within the business.
Humanising your brand doesn’t only help by generating a more authentic relationship with your audience, it also allows you to create empathy between the management and the staff and help you share the overall vision, defining one set of rules for everyone.
Giving staff a shared belief enables them to understand the direction the company is taking them so they become engaged ambassadors for the organisation. A great example to look at when examining the way employers can protect and bring their employees with them is the campaign creative agency Mother created for KFC.
Following KFC’s chicken supply crisis that forced it to shut down many of its restaurants in the UK earlier this year, the fast food brand decided to take a blunt humorous stance by simply rearranging its letters to FCK on the front of a chicken bucket as part of an extensive ad campaign in print and in store.
It was followed by the words “we’re sorry” and a heartfelt apology to customers, putting the blame squarely on itself and not the local branches, and admitting its wrongdoing, alleviating the blame and negativity being foisted on its staff in the franchises.
In this situation, KFC was facing the prospect of losing both customers and employees, who were facing the brunt of customers’ anger. The brand’s honesty and humour are likely to help it in the long term.
By protecting its employees and taking responsibility they’ve created a movement that can engender change and empower staff to think about KFC the same way as say Coca-Cola rebrand campaigns, which involve its employees to create a meaningful experience.
If you’re a business owner time is precious but what can you learn from this experience? If an initiative is communicated effectively internally, it will make working for a brand following a crisis a much more comfortable experience, while also showing staff that the brand does care about them and they’re appreciated.
If employers understand that their workforce are the lifeline of the business it will help the brand as staff will ultimately become more loyal. You can make your brand radiate inclusivity by simply asking your staff for advice on the business and what they’d change about it. This will demonstrate to them that their opinions do matter and they’re not just there to work and go home.
This exercise can also provide significant insight for business owners and staff who are the face of the business might have more clarity on this. Involving everyone in the company is a great way of ensuring its development. Building ideas and plans for a brand needs responsibility and inclusivity, not seclusion and privacy. Different people bring different skills, perspectives and experiences to it. Only when these are brought together will a business owner be able to assess all the ideas and recognise which can be taken forward.
But don’t just make it one or two tick-box exercises. Collaboration is an ongoing process. Internal campaigns should be thought of in the same regard as external ones, as they offer the possibility to create brand ambassadors from your staff.
Through inclusivity you can change employees’ perceptions about their jobs in a positive way and ensure that their appreciation and loyalty levels are maximised. Ultimately, your employees are your most valuable brand ambassadors representing the company’s values out in the world through every single customer interaction. Like democracy, collaboration and inclusivity doesn’t just start and end with one vote.
By Ross Peet, managing partner at Yes&Pepper (a London-based ideas agency)