Questions Clients are asking

Posted by Allan Steinmetz on 4 February 2019

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 Lately, I have been having some stimulating conversations with CEO’s and CMO’s about Vision/ Mission, Culture and Brand Purpose. They have many questions regarding how often should these ideas be revisited? How should they be cascaded throughout the company and by whom? They wonder whether they should address Vision/ Mission, Culture and Brand Purpose with internal resources, or secure the help of their agencies and consulting firms?

I have also been reading some fascinating articles and thought pieces in a variety of publications and internet posts about the changing dynamics and relationship between agencies and clients. How agency roles are changing and less relevant and costly. For the most part, they pose questions about the role that agencies have regarding audience analytics, content, social media options and more versus traditional creative TV ad creators. There is confusion about what traditional ad agencies/PR firms provide and what Facebook or Google and digital agencies provide. More questions arise about what clients should be doing for themselves by hiring staff with specific expertise versus what agencies have traditionally offered. A reoccurring theme I have seen is how to manage multiple agencies with their various expertise to collaborate with other partner agencies and internal resources and capabilities each other?

All these questions made me think about the benefits and value of agencies /consultants for Vision/Mission, Values, Culture and Brand Purpose. How often should direction be revisited and evaluated? When and how to use agencies/consultants to enhance customer engagement and internal brand cultures and advocacy programs? What components should clients do themselves and what should they outsource to experts and agencies?

Here is are my ideas and thoughts:

How often does vision, mission, values, purpose, and culture need to be updated or is it necessary to start from scratch? 

The answer depends on the relevancy of the vision and its competitive leverage. Also, it depends on new disruptive opportunities and expansions of markets and channels the company is targeting. Often it is best to start from scratch when entering new markets for new disruptive companies (battery powered automobiles or autonomous mobility) that dramatically change the market dynamics of your company. For legacy companies like manufacturing such as automobiles, aviation or machinery, it is probably good to revisit, revise and evolve the vision to reflect the new direction, new audiences (workforces) uncontrollable external factors as needed. Any time a vision is changed or modified, it is critical to deploy an internal integrated communications program to support the new direction.

Another critical question is how do all these elements (vision mission values purpose and culture) work together and build advocacy, engagement and business momentum? How do they influence business planning, accountability supporting the vision, strategic planning, transparency, and effective communications?

At Inward, we have always promoted CEO Balance - C for customers, E for employees, and O for owners, balance by aligning your strategy with your organization, and business processes. When a company has CEO Balance, they can accelerate performance faster and achieve higher results. A company vision often resides in strategy; however, it has also evolved into governance that straddles business processes such as HR, communications and marketing. The elements of the vision can be incorporated into all strategic planning templates, annual appraisal systems, executive compensation, and incentives and annual employee engagement surveys and all employees especially executives should be held accountable based on achieving the vision’s goals and objectives over time. Unfortunately, vision statements have become a box that’s get checked off and slowly evolved into an afterthought that resides on dusty posters on old hallways.

In my opinion, the vision should be used as a living document and yardstick of performance, alignment, culture, and behavior. Status, progress, and reporting should be made at the board level monthly with accountabilities for implementation.

When launching a new vision/culture program, is it necessary to have a “soup to nuts” broad internal integrated marketing program and partner agency or is it something that happens by osmosis and naturally?

My response largely depends on what you have done to effectively communicate the vision across the organization with impact and continuity. For instance, if you had a large-scale launch event as you described at your annual sales meeting, that is terrific. However, I would ask what did the company continue to do after that event to build momentum and continuity and cascade the message and program beyond the corporate level down into the plant floor and even local office/store level?

Usually, a company will achieve higher impact, employee recall and greater monetary results when there is a successive, sequential integrated internal communications program that is linked by message continuity (from corporate, to brand/division, to geography/location) with a highly creative/impactful lockup, icon or metaphor that is carried through every element of the communication tactical plan.

First, you need to establish your goals and objectives for your company vision, mission, values, purpose, and culture. How will these ideas be used to fuel energy and momentum for your overall business strategy? Or are they merely words that sit on paper based on a company strategic checklist that is required? Are they living, consequential elements of your strategy that drives the operation or not?

Second, with the VMVPC (vision, mission, values, purpose, and culture) clearly articulated and defined, the next step is to establish message architecture that effectively communicates and makes the message meaningful and personally relevant. Messages are created through a process called message laddering. What is the corporate message, what is the employee message (what’s in it for me - WIIFM) and finally one of the traits, behavior and attributes that employees must embrace to make the VMVPC a reality?

Thirdly, once the messages are established and clear; what is a compelling creative metaphor/icon that represents the idea visually? We have many examples that we can share for some of our clients such as Walmart, McDonald’s, American Airlines, Banfield Pet Hospital, and others. If you’re interested, give me a call.

How can a firm like Inward interact and engages with an organization for a VMVPC (vision, mission, values, purpose, and culture) relaunch the internal brand culture?

There are organizations large and small that has us do the entire program including and not limited to Vision, Mission, Values, Purpose and Culture Strategy, research and discovery, message articulation, message architecture/laddering, creative design and execution, project management. Some hire us to do everything; others use individual capability and services based on our expertise and skills.

There are often situations where companies hire us to do singular programmings such as gamification platforms, recognition and reward programming, or training facilitation, onboarding or Internal Social Media planning, programming and execution. It all depends on what they need, and the availability of internal resources.

It is not uncommon for clients to cherry pick services as they need it. For instance, for one client, we helped them develop and new technology launch communications strategy and plan which they took over and implemented on their own, menu style. For a global financial services firm, we helped develop a broad message manifesto and elevator pitch and message architecture that was executed into an internal launch video. They took it over from there and did everything else with the help of another agency. For a major retailer, although we were on retainer for a vast variety of programs and assignments, we were asked to create internal/external brand alignment to support their fresh produce strategy for employees in their produce departments. The answer depends on what the client wants and needs. Based on their needs we would develop an estimate of time and materials, creative development and production costs and timing. It also heavily depends on your appetite for outsourcing these types of services.

An excellent way to think about Inward is as an internal employee advertising agency. They had two major external brand ad agencies for consumer advertising and a digital consulting firm as their digital agency. They also have multicultural agencies for distinct racial and ethnic audiences. They have a PR agency representing them as well. I asked, “Why not hire an employee branding agency like Inward to effectively communicate with integrated programming to your employees deploying state of the art techniques, strategy, and exceptional creativity and messaging, just like the other agencies?” I asked, “ Are your employees and retail channel any less important than external audiences?” We think not.

If your company is considering a fresh look at your vision, please pick up the phone or contact us and let’s have a conversation like I had with this senior executive.

Allan Steinmetz CEO - Inward Strategic Consulting 617-558-9770