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The folks at Armada Corporate Intelligence offered an internal branding strategy take on the United Airlines woes, offering strategic thinking questions you can ask and answer to improve your brand’s resiliency and avoid brand crises.

3 Ways Your Internal Branding Strategy Can Be Smarter than United Airlines

Via Armada Corporate Intelligence

United Airlines is at the forefront of recent business and general news due to having forcibly removed a passenger from a partner airline flight. Chicago Aviation Department police dragged Dr. David Dao from his seat after United identified him as a low-value flier. That put him next in line to be bumped to make way for several crew members. Dao suffered a broken nose and a concussion, and lost two teeth. This past weekend, United made headlines again with another incident; a couple headed to their wedding were removed after having moved into more expensive seats.

United Airlines seems unable to extricate itself from the intense negative media spotlight right now. These situations underscore a major brand impact of smart technology: nearly every customer is a broadcaster following his or her own personal rules for the ways in which broadcast journalism operates. While the era of personal broadcast journalism is several years old, it’s clear that even major brands have not fully adapted their branding and customer experience strategies to recognize this phenomenon.

3 Internal Branding Strategy Challenges

The concept of internal branding addresses the ways in which an organization prepares its own people to carry out the experience it delivers for its customers. For an airline, determining the correct way for a gate agent to manage boarding, or for a flight attendant to interact with passengers, are both elements of managing an internal brand team.

With current United-related stories focusing on its business practices and crisis communication response, let’s pursue a slightly different path. Here are three internal branding weak spots the United incident highlights. For each, we articulate a challenge and related internal branding questions for your organization to ask and answer.

Anticipating Flexibility in a Rules-Oriented Culture

When making sure an airplane takes off and stays in the air, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. That’s why airlines are sticklers for operations manuals, checklists, and rules. With United, a Wall Street Journal Story reports the company cultivates a “rules-based culture where its 85,000 employees are reluctant to make choices not in the ‘book.’”

The challenge: giving your people the flexibility to handle negative customer situations that may develop or are already happening. United is reviewing its policies after the fact. How can a brand better anticipate these situations? A variation on business war games could be helpful; set up customer interaction situations, having stand-in rogue customers disrupt the system. Alternatively, data analysis of real world customer interactions could signal unusual ones a brand should explore, particularly if a customer introducing more system stress than expected turns it negative very quickly.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • How much customer interaction detail is spelled out within your brand policies?
  • What do you do on an ongoing basis to monitor when policies aren’t functioning properly?
  • Are you actively imagining unusual, hypothetical situations to test how applying the rules might escalate and turn customer interactions negative?

Who Is Your Internal Brand Team?

It is easy to identify your employees as critical members of your internal brand team, particularly those with direct or indirect customer contact. Brands typically focus training attention on employees to ensure they understand and carry out the brand promise as intended.

The challenge: looking beyond your own employees to understand other parties and organizations that are on your internal brand team. While early reports suggested United saw the interaction with Dr. Dao as the purview of the Chicago Aviation police, the officers present on the plane were certainly part of the United internal brand team. One wonders whether United strategized the possibilities with the officers before they boarded the plane to remove the passenger. If that conversation took place, it’s difficult to see how dragging a passenger off the plane was a sanctioned course of action.

Internal Branding Questions:

  • Has your brand team consciously explored, from a customer’s perspective, who all the parties are that interact with your customers within your brand experience?
  • How many are partners, contractors, agents, or even unrelated or unaffiliated parties you would never include in traditional employee training?
  • What steps can you take to make them more formal members of your internal brand team?

Everyone Is a Reporter, Everyone Is on Camera

The first-hand reporting on the United incident came from multiple passengers, complete with different camera angles of the exchange between the Chicago Aviation police and Dr. Dao. The passengers uploaded their videos to social networks directly. That means they were in effect broadcasting the video without any chance for a United response. Sharing the videos may, in fact, have happened even before senior United executives learned of the incident through internal communication channels.

The challenge: brands are controlling less of the message about themselves than ever before. Each customer (or bystander) can cover a brand interaction as it happens. That means there no opportunities for a brand to hide from negative situations or even go through typical internal communication protocols. In a practical sense, this means every member of an organization’s internal brand team needs to be aware that EVERY interaction has the potential to wind up on social networks, and then broadcast channels. Not only do they need to be prepared for this, a brand needs to be listening for customer-created reports. These communication channels move faster than most internal communication processes!

Internal Branding Questions:

  • What does delivering media training look like for EVERYONE in your organization – and for your extended brand team?
  • What is the bare minimum training required to prepare frontline people interacting with customers to understand the impact of personal reporting?
  • What provisions do you have for listening to miscues and problem situations that an external party is reporting even before your internal brand team members can?

Are you prepared?

As you explore these internal branding questions, we do encourage you to consider the worst possible situations you can imagine to more accurately test your internal branding readiness. Don’t shy away from considering: How bad could it get? – via “Inside the Executive Suite” 

10 Lessons to Engage Employees and Drive Improved Results

FREE Download: “Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact”

Results!!! Creating Strategic Impact Mini-Book

Senior executives are looking for employees who are strong collaborators and communicators while being creative and flexible. In short they need strategic thinkers who can develop strategy and turn it into results.

This new Brainzooming mini-book, “Results – Creating Strategic Impact” unveils ten proven lessons for senior executives to increase strategic collaboration, employee engagement, and grow revenues for their organizations.

Download this free, action-focused mini-book to:

  • Learn smart ways to separate strategic opportunities from the daily noise of business
  • Increase focus for your team with productive strategy questions everyone can use
  • Actively engage more employees in strategy AND implementation success

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On Tuesday, we were at the Kansas City Public Library to shoot videos featuring content from Brainzooming articles, downloads, and workshops. It was a whirlwind day. We shot twenty-five videos during the day to support our own brand’s content marketing strategy.

Yeah, twenty-five videos.

Videozooming, you might say.

I planned forty videos, but knew that wouldn’t likely happen.

15 Keys to Shooting 25 Social Media Videos in One Day

You might wonder how we made it through twenty-five videos in one day. Here are the factors (from my side of the camera as the person in all the videos) to enable our high volume of work. We:

  1. Partnered with a video team (Alex Bentzinger of Bentz Creative) who was flexible, and willing to work with strong direction.
  2. Picked a single location (The Kansas City Public Library) offering a wide variety of settings within one building (and we didn’t even use all the settings we planned).
  3. Made a site visit ahead of time to identify and discuss logistics.
  4. Completed a strategic creative brief ahead of time.
  5. Prepared an easy numbering system to identify and select which video to do next.
  6. Did not prepare specific scripts for any of the videos. This meant they didn’t have to be delivered perfectly; they just had to be delivered on topic and close to the time limits we set (less than 2 minutes each).
  7. Mapped where each video would likely happen so we could be time efficient within a specific location.
  8. Tried to plan for every potential delay by over-accounting for anything we might need.
  9. Organized all the props using the video numbering system, allowing for efficient placement.
  10. Selected multiple outfits and multiple shooting locations to efficiently create visual variety.
  11. Had someone directly representing the creative vision (Jan Harness, my erstwhile Creative Instigation partner) to check camera angles and how I was doing. That allowed me to concentrate on delivering messages.
  12. Had a contact at the location to help us navigate any issues we might create by shooting in places we weren’t exactly supposed to be shooting.
  13. Concentrated on the main content in the video, leaving the intros and calls-to-action for later when we have a stronger sense of how they need to work.
  14. Captured most of the videos in one take. Granted, this may be difficult to do, but it helped that we were talking about content that is familiar and core to what The Brainzooming Group does.
  15. Stuck to shooting the videos we identified upfront with only a few deviations to pursue ideas that developed during the day.

Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

 Expanding Our Content Marketing Strategy with Video

We’re looking forward to completing the production and expanding our content marketing strategy in a new way. We’ll be sharing the videos with clients and subscribers to expand how we deliver strategy, branding, and innovation tools for you! – Mike Brown

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It’s natural for a business to struggle with new ways and places to add value for its customers. Other than dropping price, in what ways can you adapt your branding strategy to boost the benefits and reduce the costs (be they financial or non-financial) of having your company as a provider?

That’s a huge question.

One way to look at your branding strategy to identify new value opportunities is to ask this strategic thinking question:

What mistakes are customers prone to make before and after they work with us, and how can we eliminate (maybe even guarantee to eliminate) any of those mistakes?

That’s not a new branding strategy question, but it came to mind once again while heading to my car after morning mass yesterday. I hadn’t seen one of these trucks for a few months, and this was a great opportunity to take a picture of it standing still.

Yes, that’s a big typo on the side of the truck. And it’s been there for at least a few years.

Think about this opportunity if you’re a vehicle graphics company. Maybe you’re adding new materials to your product mix. Reducing the time to take off and install vehicle graphics. Selling service packages over an extended period to touch up graphics. Offering a discount here and there to get your customers to swap out their graphics on a more regular basis.

Those ideas all center around what you do.

How about looking before and after for potential mistakes?

How about offering a 100% spelling, grammatical, and image accuracy guarantee? That would be great for when everybody that wrote or reviewed copy that was going to go on the side of a truck suddenly forgot (we hope forgot) the basic rules of English.

That could be a great service. And all you’d have to do to market it is rip off the picture in this post, and assure your customers that YES, this really DOES happen!

What are the comparable opportunities in your business? Spend fifteen minutes today thinking about the dumb mistakes that happen before and after what you do. See if there are a few ways you can help your customers completely avoid those to create more value in what you deliver for them.

It’s all up to you if this strategic thinking question will create its full impact for your brand! – Mike Brown

5 Ways to Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater speed and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

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I was talking with a friend about how we approach developing a strategic planning process for a client. During the conversation, she asked me about the proudest moment we have had with The Brainzooming Group. I told her I don’t tend to think about moments of pride, since I try to avoid the seven deadly sins as best I can!

In response, though, I shared a client’s comment after we completed an all-day social content strategy workshop:

“We got six months of work done in one day.”

I’ve recalled his comment often since he shared it in the early days of The Brainzooming Group. The statement does a great job of describing the brand impact we strive to create with a strategic planning process: Getting smart work done while expanding creative thinking more quickly than anyone imagined possible.

5 Secrets to Get 6 Months of Work Done in One Day

You may be wondering how in this situation (and others) we get six months of work done in one day. Here are five secrets:

  1. By creating an event focused on strategic planning, we earn the attention and time commitment of people that might not typically devote attention to strategic thinking.
  2. Narrowing in on the business objectives in advance, we orient all the activities toward what we need to accomplish, increasing the efficiency for everyone participating.
  3. We create strategic thinking exercises to fit the participants. We serve up tasks in an easy-to-understand format, minimizing the time needed for instruction and familiarization, thereby maximizing the doing and working time.
  4. The ground rules establish how interactions will happen. This eases us through challenging situations instead of allowing things to grind to a halt.
  5. We provide structure and a flow for people to work together who might not necessarily want to do so. (In the case of the client making the comment, we got several agencies in the same room collaborating for the client’s benefit.)

Those reasons (and a few others), are all part of getting much more work accomplished than EVER happens in typical business meetings – especially strategic planning meetings.

Interested in getting that kind of productivity and impact in your strategic planning process?

Contact us, and let’s figure out what we can do to move you ahead dramatically! – Mike Brown

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fun-ideas-strategic-planningLooking for Ideas to Make Strategy Planning More Fun?

Yes, developing strategy can be fun . . . if you know the right ways to liven it up while still developing solid strategies! If you’re intrigued by the possibilities, download our FREE eBook, “11 Fun Ideas for Strategic Planning.”


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I’m excited to be speaking again this year at several Social Media Strategies Summit events. The first is in Chicago on April 26-28, 2017. I’ll be speaking at the SMSSummit in New York this coming October (October 17-19, 2017). Additionally, I’ll also be presenting a workshop at the GSMI-sponsored Branding Conference, also during October in Chicago.

As part of the relationship with these GSMI conferences, we’ll be co-releasing several new Brainzooming eBooks on brand strategy and social media content marketing. The first of these eBooks is now available. You can download your FREE copy today!

FREE 81 Social Media Content Marketing Ideas eBook

The new eBook features a checklist of 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand. The checklist will help you generate social media content marketing topics that fit your brand and engage your audiences.


Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

81 Engaging Social Content Ideas to Boost Your Brand includes ideas to:

  • Better involve your audience
  • Share your brand’s knowledge
  • Teach valuable lessons
  • Develop brand-oriented lists
  • Share impactful opinions
  • Incorporate your people into the stories
  • Repurpose strong social media content marketing topics

One great thing about the eBook’s checklist is you can apply it to both long-form (eBooks, blogs, videos) and short-form (status updates, photos, short videos) content multiple times. This will keep your social media content marketing fresh and consistently up-to-date across social networks.

Download and take advantage of this free resource to grow your social media impact. While you are at it, check out the Social Media Strategies Summit events in Chicago or New York. Register for these events and join other senior-level corporate professionals looking to learn how to accelerate their brand presences across social media.
Download Your FREE eBook! 81 Engaging Social Content Ideas Checklist

Looking forward to your thoughts on the new eBook, and seeing you in Chicago or New York for the 2017 SMSSummits! – Mike Brown

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My dad was a huge believer in The Power of Positive Thinking. I think that book, by Norman Vincent Peale (affiliate link) was the first self-help book he tried to get me to read.

For some reason, I particularly resisted The Power of Positive Thinking, although I’m hard pressed to say why.

For whatever reason, though, I do not think I ever read the book in its entirety. Probably the best I did was reading a summarized booklet he gave me. The more important aspect of my exposure was absorbing how my dad lived the book’s central messages in his work and personal life.

This recollection surfaced while searching for ways to think strategically and positively about several possible business challenges. It’s my tendency to focus on the scary possibilities looming over the horizon and address those.

The Power of Positive Thinking Plus Strategic Thinking Questions

via Shutterstock

As an alternative, I tried being more like my dad, coupling the power of his positive thinking with the strategic thinking questions that are so comfortable for me. It became apparent how I could more easily form and hold onto a positive expectation when strategic thinking questions provide a way to generate ideas and evidence for the positive thinking. Here are a few examples of positive expectations I wrote, along with the strategic thinking questions to support them:

Positive Expectation – There are people who want to help us succeed.

  • Who do we know that shares our interests?
  • How can we get them to cooperate with us?

Positive Expectation – We are over-delivering value and benefits.

  • If we deliver less value than we planned (but still more than is expected), how can we re-deploy what remains to create additional or different value?
  • In what ways can we ask more for this extra portion of value?

Positive Expectation – We have done solid, comprehensive work, and can continue to mine it in new ways.

  • What have we done previously that answers a question or issue from today?
  • How can what we know or have done previously allow us to move 3x more quickly than if we didn’t have previous experience?

Positive Expectation – Remain confident things will work out successfully.

  • When this works, what do we need to be ready to do next?
  • What next bigger challenge will this success propel us to accomplish?

I’m not  saying these specific examples will work for you. What is worth considering is how you can pair up strategic thinking questions to better realize, hold on to, and work toward positive expectations, even if that isn’t your natural tendency. – Mike Brown

Download our FREE eBook:
The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions

Engage employees and customers with powerful strategic thinking questions to uncover great breakthrough ideas and innovative strategies that deliver results! This Brainzooming strategy eBook features links to 600 proven questions for:

  • Developing Strategy

  • Branding and Marketing

  • Innovation

  • Extreme Creativity

  • Successful Implementation


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We worked with a client to facilitate an information technology strategy vision. From before the engagement’s launch until near the completion, we asked for strategy documents spelling out corporate priorities, objectives, and expectations. We wanted a strategic target to align IT strategy and innovation initiatives to support the organization in realizing its overall vision.

Despite repeated requests, no one ever surfaced this type of strategy document.

We instead used previous exposure, strategic thinking exercises with the IT team and others, and strategic business sense to describe what it seemed a corporate target would encompass.

Flash forward to subsequent opportunities to hear top executives discuss the company’s direction. These presentations suggest a clear, overarching strategy that perhaps doesn’t exist in a formal, written format, but is only passed along verbally outside of the top corporate ranks.

This situation prompted sketching two strategic planning process approaches (narrow or broad collaboration) and alternatives for how an organization communicates its strategy.

A Narrow Strategic Planning Process

When only top management participates in a strategic planning process, relying on verbal communication of the plan can be dubbed “Drip and Wonder(?).” We found ourselves in this situation in the example above. If you are in front of a senior leader (or someone else that has been in front of a senior leader), you get drips of the strategy. If you don’t have this access, you “Wonder(?),” as we did, what to emphasize to best contribute to corporate success.

In this situation, when the strategic plan output makes it to a written document, it’s a “Read to Learn” situation. You must review a big binder of material to know the direction. If they do throw put multi-media communication behind the strategic plan, it’s likely to lead to superficial (because that’s all there is time for) wows (although the hoped-for wows may be snoozers).

A Broad Strategic Planning Process

When you engage a broad group in strategic planning, the verbal communication takes the form of “strategic conversations.” These do heavy duty in both developing the strategy and creating shared knowledge of the strategic direction. The broad participation helps fuel more frequent and robust conversations about the organization’s strategic direction. It’s not about access to the right senior executive; it’s about strategic conversations among people throughout the organization helping shape the direction.

The written plan doesn’t carry nearly as much burden to convey every detail. The written format can concentrate on providing guidelines to operationalize implementation activities. Finally, adding multimedia communication focuses on providing the vision’s highlights.

Putting This to Use

This is a new visualization of something we experience that paves the way for another benefit of strategic collaboration. It needs some more work, but it sets the stage why the type of strategic planning approach an organization takes shapes communication opportunities. – Mike Brown

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the free Brainzooming blog email updates.

Start Implementing Faster and Better!

In the new Brainzooming strategy eBook 321 GO!, we share common situations standing in the way of successfully implementing your most important strategies. You will learn effective, proven ways to move your implementation plan forward with greater agility and success. You’ll learn ways to help your team:

  • Move forward even amid uncertainty
  • Take on leadership and responsibility for decisions
  • Efficiently move from information gathering to action
  • Focusing on important activities leading to results

Today is the day to download your copy of 321 GO!

Download Your FREE eBook! 321 GO! 5 Ways to Implement Faster and Better!



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