By Published On: February 20, 2024

The stories you tell about your organization can either guide you like a beacon or mislead you like a mirage. And right now, amidst one of the most significant global upheavals of our time—with the pandemic, geopolitical shifts, and societal reckonings—the fabric of some brand stories is wearing thin.

If your brand’s values no longer align with your goals or reflect your current situation, it’s time for a brand narrative audit. Even if your historical values are the pillars of your identity, you should authentically reevaluate their roots to determine whether they fit in your new world and be open to rewriting your narrative arcs if they don’t.

Why Internal Voices Matter

The concept of brand character is often attributed to the marketing department—the storytellers who craft brand narratives with the captivating threads of promise and allure. But it’s so much more than that. Every decision, action, or word from within the company has an influence and impacts reputation and public perception.

Your brand story is shaped from within by the amalgamation of experiences and perspectives among employees. It’s not just about dictating brand values from the top; they need to be lived, observed, and retold in every department, by every team. In other words, your brand comes alive and breathes in the collective heart of the organization.

So, what happens if the pieces of that collective heart are out of sync? Confusion, lack of productivity, attrition, conflict, drama, and struggle. In other words, organizational anxiety. Organizational anxiety is the ever-present, yet unspoken ghost haunting the halls of the business world. It is the assassin of innovation, the saboteur of team morale, and the insidious underminer of company culture. As you navigate the increasingly complex global marketplace, it is crucial to recognize and address this pervasive issue that can ultimately damage not only internal operations but also the external perception of your organization.

This is the subtlety of organizational anxiety. It’s not the overt, obvious hiccups that derail your strategic initiatives. It’s the quiet, creeping self-doubt, the incessant worrying behind the optimistic nods in the conference room. What’s perhaps most nefarious is how this emotion can embed deeply into the corporate culture, going unnoticed as deadlines are missed and productivity wanes.

The question then becomes, not if anxiety is present within your organization, but how is it managed. Are those murmurs in the halls, those invisible signs of unease crafted into a unity of purpose or left to fester?

Creating a unified story for your brand is not just for external consumption but can also be a powerful tool for binding together a team. A clear and compelling narrative provides context and a sense of purpose, allowing employees to feel they are a valued part of something larger than themselves. To build a new brand story, you first need to listen to the one that is being told now.

Telling the Story You Are Living

The management of work-from-home and hybrid work is just one example of an issue that requires a new outlook and a revised message. The story of remote work goes beyond logistical changes; it’s about how attribution biases affect organizational cultures. Some employees embrace the newfound autonomy, highlighting efficiency and improved quality of life. On the other hand, those who relied on physical presence for validation in traditional workplaces may see remote colleagues as less committed, lazy, or as taking unfair advantage, falling into the “fundamental attribution error” cognitive bias. This disconnect is reshaping brand narratives from the inside.

Employers need to recognize and actively address these biases. It’s important to reframe your narratives around trust, accountability, and performance measurement. Remote work doesn’t mean being disconnected, and the stories we share within our organizations should reflect this shift in perception.

Your brand story should reflect the realities of everyone involved by representing the experiences, values, and voices of your entire team. This is more than just a marketing asset—it’s what attracts talented people, sets you apart in the market, and creates an authentic connection with your customers.

Reevaluating Your Brand Story

The benefits of diving deep into your employees’ perceptions, morale, and brand engagement are manifold. It not only boosts employee job satisfaction but also serves as a reflective pool showing you what the world sees when they look at your brand.

Employee Perceptions
Awareness of what employees think about your brand strengths and, perhaps more crucially, its weaknesses, acts as a reality check against corporate self-illusions. Employees are the truest advocates and critics. Their perceptions can be the greatest asset or liability for any brand strategy.

Brand Engagement
Brand engagement is a measure of how emotionally, cognitively, and behaviorally invested an employee is in your company. It’s about going beyond the paycheck and finding fulfillment in the brand’s purpose.

Indicators of Brand Engagement

  • Employee Advocacy: Do your employees recommend the brand as a great place to work? This form of word-of-mouth is the epitome of brand engagement.
  • Productivity: Engaged employees are 17% more productive than those who aren’t. Productivity can be both a symptom and a cause of engagement.
  • Collaboration: When employees understand and support the brand, they are more likely to help their colleagues and departments to achieve collective goals.
  • Follow-Through and Growth: Engaged employees are more committed to their work, meaning they are more likely to go above and beyond, learn, and grow.

Methods for Assessing Perceptions and brand engagement

  • Employee Feedback and Suggestions: Often, the most insightful opinions can be sourced directly from employees during organized sessions or through feedback platforms. One-on-one or team interviews can be especially eye-opening, but use caution when deciding who should conduct the interviews. If anxiety is setting in, consider hiring an outside party who can promise employees anonymity to ensure authentic and honest feedback.
  • Third-party Surveys and Reviews: Utilize external surveys or reviews to get an unbiased and more quantitative view of employee perceptions, especially those who have left the company.
  • Customer Feedback and Complaints: An indirect but telling assessment of brand perception can be gleaned from customer responses, which often reflect what employees are communicating.
  • Competitor Analysis: Comparing how your brand stacks up against your competitors in the eyes of your employees can identify areas where you excel or lag.
  • Social Media Monitoring: Keep an eye on what your employees are saying about the brand on social media. Are they posting positive stories? Sharing updates? This can provide valuable insights into their level of engagement.

Taking the time to evaluate employee perceptions and engagement within your company is an investment in your long-term success. Their engagement levels play a critical role in assessing the health and resonance of your brand’s cultural narrative. When they are highly engaged, it not only demonstrates their belief in the brand, its values, and its vision but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment. This deep connection translates into increased productivity, loyalty, and advocacy, which can significantly impact the success of your brand.

Conversely, low engagement among internal stakeholders can be detrimental to your brand’s image and hinder its ability to attract and retain top talent. It reflects a lack of alignment, motivation, and understanding of the brand’s purpose, resulting in decreased productivity, higher turnover rates, and a weakened brand reputation.

It is important to recognize that engagement is not a static measure but rather a dynamic one that fluctuates in response to cultural shifts, market challenges, and internal changes. As a leader, you can shape and influence engagement levels by fostering a positive work environment, providing clear communication, offering growth and development opportunities, and recognizing and rewarding achievements.

Conclusion: The Continual Rewrite

Your brand isn’t just about what you put on a billboard or write in a tweet. It’s about the culture and the people—it’s the essence of who you are. And your brand story is about more than your products and services. It’s about navigating change and anxieties with empathy, authenticity, and transparency. By listening to your internal audiences, you can rewrite your brand story to reflect the present realities and create narratives that resonate with your customers and inspire and unite your people.

As brand strategists, we craft narratives that resonate with customers and weave values into a unifying story for brands of all sizes. Our latest case study shows how we built a new brand story using internal voices for a B2B technology company whose reputation was left tarnished after a series of supply chain and manufacturing issues.

About the Author: Beth Seitzberg

Beth Seitzberg
During her career crafting creative Beth has conceptualized, designed, developed, strategized and overseen the building of brands, campaigns, and creative platforms for large corporations as well as for dozens of regional and local companies in every sector including financial services, manufacturing, retail, medical, and non-profit. This range of experience with clients of all sizes has honed a specialization in brand management and application of master brand strategy across channels and tactics. With a background in psychology and sociology she brings both a researcher’s behavioral approach and an artist’s instinct to her work. Beth specializes in designing outstanding, strategic creative that ties into business goals and communicates the client’s message clearly and distinctly in their unique voice.
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