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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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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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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!

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



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Mike Brown

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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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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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I long ago learned an important lesson about corporate branding decisions: no matter how many intriguing, mentally-engaging brand strategy conversations you have among senior executives, those conversations NEVER lead to final decisions. No, corporate branding decisions are only resolved when someone needs a new business card, trade show booth, brochure, or website.

When you have to physically display a logo or depict how two brands relate to each other when they are placed together? THAT is when executives finally make corporate branding decisions.

A conversation with an upcoming client brought this lesson to mind. They asked whether they should include the organization’s logo in the official email signature.

Addressing that question led to an extended conversation about reasons why they should or should not include the logo. During the conversation, we also tackled what the organization’s multi-part name is supposed to mean (because no one seems to know) and why its logo looks like something it isn’t. We also touched on whether one of their product names actually has much greater brand equity than the overall organization (which changed its name to an acronym several years ago).

See what I mean?

A question about the email signature quickly got us (well, at least me), questioning their whole naming and identity strategy.

If you’re struggling with corporate branding decisions no one is moving forward to resolve, maybe it’s time to design new business cards. Getting physical like that will prompt the decisions you need to make to clarify your brand strategy and move into action.  – 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!

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



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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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One of the most popular Brainzooming blog posts the past few years is rich in strategic thinking tools. It features more than 200 strategic thinking questions we’ve gathered, envisioned, and created going back to The Brainzooming Group origins as a corporate strategic planning department.

The Brainzooming Group has created and published many more questions since then as part of our portfolio of strategic planning tools. We decided recently to update the post. While doing so, we realized we’d added nearly four hundred more questions since the article’s original publication date.

Strategic Planning Tools – 600 Most Powerful Strategic Thinking Questions

Rather than hit you with an updated mega-post of 600 questions, we decided to compile the links, organize them, and share the update with you in an easier-to-use eBook: The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions (The Brainzooming Group Uses. So far.)

This eBook’s questions cover the areas we address here and in our client work, including:

  • Organizational strategy
  • Innovation
  • Branding, naming, and marketing
  • Customer experience
  • Creativity
  • Implementation

While you may associate strategic planning tools with year-end activities, you will use and find these question links valuable throughout the year. They will help you:

  • Stretch and re-orient conventional thinking
  • Stimulate creativity (even among people not seeing themselves as creative)
  • Improve meeting efficiency and effectiveness
  • Align diverse activities to common strategic themes

And since we use what we publish, we’ve already found having the eBook on a phone helpful. You can quickly link to questions when you are in a meeting that isn’t delivering the results you expect. Pop open the eBook and grab a question or two to orient everyone toward more productive discussions.

Yes, we’re serious: these are the links to our 600 most powerful strategic thinking questions, all in one of the best strategic thinking tools you’ll download for FREE all year long! – Mike Brown

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

Engage employees and customers with powerful 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


Download Your FREE eBook! The 600 Most Powerful Strategic Planning Questions



Mike Brown

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Following yesterday’s update about my dad’s unexpected death (and don’t worry not EVERY post hereafter will be about my father), I wanted to share this list of thirty things #MyDadTaughtMe.

The list originated on Twitter in 2011 in response to a hashtag floating around at the time. You will find business wisdom, life lessons, and spaß from Bernie Brown on this list.

You get to decide which is which!

Life Lessons My Dad Taught Me . . .

  1. The song, “Nobody loves me. Everybody hates me. I think I’ll go eat worms.”
  2. Don’t invest time and effort in something that won’t yield results for somebody.
  3. Even if somebody’s screwed up a bunch of times, they might not next time.
  4. Always grab a quick nap if you can. (Although I didn’t ever do it until I met my wife, who loves naps.)
  5. The “Power of Positive Thinking” works. He lived it out throughout his life.
  6. What can it hurt you to try something new, as long as it’s low risk?
  7. When you go to a restaurant where celebs go, ask the maître d, “Who else famous other than me is here tonight?” (Though I never have!)
  8. You can’t pick up a cigarette he dropped, snap it in two and hand it back to him without getting popped in the face. (Only time he ever did though.)
  9. Humor is tremendously important in life. Take time to have fun and laugh.
  10. Sales is a numbers game. If you’re not making enough calls, you’re not going to get enough sales.
  11. If you want to make a profit, you have to learn to manage costs really well.
  12. You shouldn’t make other peoples’ decisions for them. Who are you to decide someone will say “no” to your request?
  13. Don’t wind up in a career where getting paid depends solely on you having to be there each day.
  14. Don’t ever tell someone how much you make.
  15. Try your hand at being an amateur artist, even if you don’t seem to be very good.
  16. Don’t throw that “whatever it is” away. You may be able to use it later.
  17. DIY is a good thing in lots of parts of life & business. (He’s lots better at DIY than me though.)
  18. Share what you’ve learned with other people if it can help them.
  19. It’s better to be pissed off than to be pissed on.
  20. Don’t take more than your fair share. And make sure others get their fair shares first.
  21. Don’t ever brag about yourself (unless it’s about your son).
  22. Nobody’s irreplaceable. They were looking for someone else when they found you.
  23. Taking money from someone gives them the right to tell you what they think you should do.
  24. Roughing it is having to walk from your hotel room to the hotel restaurant.
  25. How to be really sneaky at paying a restaurant check before anybody else at the table knew what had happened.
  26. You’re going to have to work long and hard to get ahead.
  27. If you expect to get, you have to give first. And that’s not just about money. It’s everything.
  28. If practicing isn’t making your Little League team better, try not practicing and see if that works.
  29. Some things you simply have to put up with. Put up with them stoically.
  30. Live within your means. But never skimp on toilet paper or run out of it.

Bernie Brown via Mike Brown

 

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Mike Brown

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I was discussing a request for proposal the other day with a potential client. He’s developing a short list of potential candidates for a new market research initiative at his company. It was clear that the organization’s team had already decided that a request for proposal was the best way to determine which outside vendor will be the best market research partner.

One other thing that was clear in the conversation:  their expectations go well beyond carrying out an already in-place quantitative market research initiative.

conference-room-office-space

The discussion surfaced the need for creating and implementing multiple types of research – both quantitative and qualitative – across a number of market segments. While he billed it as “customer” research, it likely needs to include both prospects and former customers to provide accurate insights.

As we talked, I told him they shouldn’t be issuing a request for proposal.

When a Request for Proposal Doesn’t Fit

A request for proposal is fine (I suppose) when the expectations, needs, and product or service are evident. I told him, however, that when none of these are clear (even to the client) and there are multiple avenues to address a nebulous deliverable, a request for proposal isn’t the best step.

In less specific situations, a request for proposal is a waste of time for potential vendors. They are taking time to design something they will likely never implement. The real market research design will only take shape after the client selects a vendor and meaningful exploration takes place. By that point, the specifications have changed so much, the proposal is likely irrelevant.

The client will wind up re-working much of the original RFP process in short order after they pick a research partner. That’s wasted time, too.

A Request for Presentation Could Be Better

I suggested they invite potential market research partners to come in and present their credentials, experience, and initial thinking on helping the client explore what types of market research they will really need. After developing a comfort level with a potential market research partner from the Request for Presentation, they can select one. THAT is the time to sit down, specify the methodology, and develop a scope of work with pricing.

We’ll see if they take the advice.

I hope they do.

A Request for Presentation will likely be a more fruitful RFP process than one focused on a Request for Proposal. – Mike Brown

 

Need Fresh Insights to Drive Your Strategy?

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Whether you are just starting your strategy or think you are well down the path, you can use this eBook to:

  • Engage your team
  • Stimulate fresh thinking
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Written simply and directly with a focus on enlivening one of the most familiar strategic thinking exercises, “Reimagining the SWOT Analysis” will be a go-to resource for stronger strategic insights!

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Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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