Now that Heeralal has publicly embarrassed himself and the company he worked for, WIN TV is left to pick up the pieces of its brand, which has surely been tarnished by this fiasco. The question on the minds of organisations, in and out of the public eye, is “How can I avoid this?”
For those of you who’ve been living under a walkover,
“Journalist Darryl Heeralal was fired yesterday as a freelance television reporter by WIN Communications, after he posted statements deemed racially offensive on FACEBOOK. . .”
according to The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian on Feb 26th, 2013.
A keen executive will take this as an opportunity to check up on her organization to ensure that it is not vulnerable to potentially irreparable public humiliation. You ask “is it even avoidable?”, and the answer is YES!
A brand perception is determined (and can be damaged) by the touch points that bear the flag of the brand, and the most conspicuous touch point is the employee.
Here are some guidelines that should protect an employer from inconvenient employee-brand mishaps.
1. Clearly articulate your brand’s identity and your brand’s values.
Like a person, a brand has several different facets and attributes that make up its identity. It is of extreme importance for a company to outline the elements of its brand identity along with a clear statement of its brand values. To do this, I like to call on Kapferer’s Brand Identity Prism, which requires you to define the brand as though it is a person. So ask yourself (and your management team) if my brand were a person:
- What would it look like? (Physique)
- What personality would he/she have? (Personality)
- What culture would dictate his/her behavior? (Culture)
- How would he/she see himself? (Self Image)
- How would he/she like to be perceived by others? (Reflection)
- What sort of relationships would he/she have? (Relationships)
Then question its values. What does the brand stand for? What does it stand against?
2. Consistently communicate the brand’s identity and values to employees.
Its one thing for you and the rest of the management team to know the ins and outs of the brand, its also not nearly as important as the whole organisation knowing it, and yes, I mean the whole organisation (Security Guards, Kitchen Attendants, Receptionists, CEOs). An employee must be fully aware of what the brand stands for.
Consider how many people in your organisation truly understand, or even know what the brand represents, & why. A key word is consistently. Remind them, incentivize them to remember. This is important. They need to know what it is in order to know how to deliver it.
3. In your recruitment process, consider whether the employee you’re bringing on board demonstrates the same values as the brand.
It would be much easier if you don’t have to “train” someone to be like the rest of you. If your company prides itself on Uniqueness and stands against blending in, I suggest you take the girl with the orange and purple hair over the guy whose socks match his pants. You won’t expect her to be posting close-minded statuses and tweets.
4. Employees must understand their role in the brand’s identity.
This should ideally be achieved through regular training sessions that achieve buy-in from all staff members.
5. Branding is not just an external perception, the values must be lived within the walls of the company to form part of the culture of the organisation
An organizational culture that represents the brand’s values is priceless, both to the employee and the employer. If one of your brand values is high service levels, then practise that internally- make a cup of coffee for your assistant, help the garbage collector with the bags 🙂
The key is, encourage the behavior you want to see expressed when dealing with your customers. A company I work with believes in out of the box thinking, and so, decided to meet out of the boardroom, and held a weekly meeting at Maracas beach, one Monday morning. The result is a culture of unorthodox decisions that have the potential to change the status quo of the industry, not to mention a kick-ass culture that employees love and represent well.
As consumers, we want to trust our brands, and we look for that trust in commonalities across platforms. The employee is one of those platforms that tell the story of your brand; ensure that they all tell the same story.