By Aditi Seshadri
The best brand ambassadors for any organisation, especially social sector organisations, are not always the Aamir Khans or Shabana Azmis or Leonardo DiCaprios of the world, they’re your staff.
YOU – the people who work in an organisation – make the most effective brand ambassadors because:
* You work there day in and day out and know the organisation the best
* You are anyway talking about it all the time to various stakeholders, sharing relevant articles on your social media
* You have an interested network of people already such as your family, spouse, friends and colleagues who are interested in what you do
* You feel the most passionately about your cause, which is why you do what you do
A brand is not simply a logo or a website that’s maintained by a marketing person or your communications staff. It’s the entire experience that you offer your customers/beneficiaries, donors, volunteers, board members, staff, clients, policymakers and others when you interact with them – from the service you provide, to your treatment of people, to conversations on social media, and even events you organize.
At an individual level, for employees, the brand filters down to:
* Your audience – who is your primary customer, what is their background, what are they seeking from you?
* The message you put out – is it consistent across all departments, all platforms and all employees?
* Your personality – are you all about the cause, are you young and hip, what is the emotion you convey to people
* The experience you provide – Is it consistent, does it meet with the standards you defined, across stakeholders
Employees as brand ambassadors is not just a one-way street, where an organisation gets the benefits of a brand task force; it works the other way as well – by being an informal brand ambassador for your organisation, you building your own personal brand as well, and you get to use the goodwill, the authenticity and the might of the organisation to:
* Promote your work: You are spending all your waking hours doing your work, so why not talk about it and make sure people know what you’re doing
* Differentiate yourself in an interconnected world: It’s no longer possible to keep our professional and personal lives completely separate; you meet someone socially who could possible become your next client or you meet someone at a work event and they become your Facebook friend. At some level, you are always working on your brand.
* Jobs and networks: Haven’t we all had a colleague about whom we wondered ‘how did that person manage to get ahead or get that job or make a name’? They were just smarter about building their brand
Employee guideline: How to get started
The good news is you’ve probably been building your personal brand all along, even in the smallest of ways, and what I’m suggesting is just a more strategic way of doing it and making sure you don’t miss out on the basics
Be authentic: This seems obvious but it’s important to stay true in what you’re talking about because inauthenticity reduces your credibility. So, just because it’s on trend to talk about climate change, it doesn’t mean you should. If your cause is animal cruelty, stick to that because that is where your authenticity will shine through.
Differentiate yourself: We live in an increasingly noisy world, so differentiate yourself from others. Did you work your way up from an underprivileged background, embrace that and talk about it.
Identify your goals and audience: Much like you would identify goals and audiences for an organization, do a quick similar exercise for yourself; your goals will determine your audience, and subsequent steps. Looking for a job or building thought leadership or looking for new client? Then you need to attracting recruiters through your LinkedIn profile, or writing articles in industry publications or speaking at sector events.
Audit online presence: It is increasingly likely that an online search is going to be the first point of contact a new stakeholder will have with you. So do a Google search on yourself, and audit the results. You’ll know where your name appears the most, which articles are showing up, where you have outdated profiles or photos, which are the websites or blogs that have higher traction, positive and negative comments. Also set up a Google alert for your name so can keep track.
Update your resume: Your resume is no longer just the physical document you take to interviews, though you must update that regularly. Also update your website profiles, social media profiles, with your latest achievements and career changes
Get a good photograph taken: To go with the points above, you need a clean profile photo. Keep it basic – a plain or clear background, facing front, eyes looking into the camera, smiling, from the waist up. Save the arty photos for your instagram feed.
Go social: Yes, you work in the social sector; yes, the real work is out in the field; yes, your beneficiaries are not on social media. However, your brand is, because your presence is there and a lot of your other audiences are. Social media is simply not avoidable anymore, especially if you go back to those goals like a job hunt or industry thought leadership, or even finding clients.
Speaking opportunities: This is a tough one because most people fear public speaking or, rather, fear making fools of themselves in public. But I would highly recommend getting over that fear because nothing establishes leadership more than standing up at a podium talking to a room full of people. And, it gets easier every time.
Write articles: This is still one of the best ways to establish thought leadership. If you’re invited to write pieces for other publications, take every opportunity you can. But also utilise platforms like LinkedIn publisher to write pieces for your professional circles. Original content is the way to get noticed online.
Make it personal: People like connecting with people rather than a brand. So even if you’re building a brand for professional purposes, inject the personal into it. Through your interests or details about yourself or anecdotes from your life. Like I said before, there is nothing like keeping the professional and personal separate anymore
Network: It’s not a dirty word. In our circles, networking has a less-than-noble implication but there’s nothing noble about not making connections with people that will help grow your work. So just think of the greater common good and always be on the lookout to make connections – attend conferences, set up meetings with relevant people, send connecting emails, the whole hog
(Also read Networking 101: Making the most of conferences)
Coming soon: Getting started: How to build your organization brand for more on brand basics
Want your employees to be more proactive in growing the brand? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to conduct a webinar, organise a workshop or develop a strategy.
Aditi believes in the power of stories and work that helps those who need it the most, and that there is true inspiration where the two meet. Her areas of focus are brand and content strategy, storytelling for impact, media publicity, social media strategy and multimedia outreach, particularly in the context of the needs and goals of social sector organisations.