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Walking the Talk: Matching your Internal and External Brands Pays Dividends in a Crisis

[by Howard Fencl, Hennes Communications] Having trouble hiring and retaining quality millennials? Are anonymous Twitter and Facebook users perennially posting ugly rumors or grousing about the work culture at your company? And why does the media always seem to break news about your company before you’re ready to release it?

There may be a serious disconnect between your internal brand and the brand you promote externally. Fast Company has good advice on syncing (I absolutely refuse to use the odious corporate bafflegab term, “aligning”) your external brand with your internal one to snag and retain staff.

Here’s why that’s important: Matching your corporate culture with your external brand can pay big dividends if your company is dealing with a controversial issue or is embroiled in a crisis. When the culture in your workplace is negative, unhappy employees can express their displeasure in destructive ways that can blow holes in the best reputation.

And that’s in the best of times. In a crisis, the stakes are raised considerably – and the unhappy employees may see that crisis as an opportunity to rant online.

Unhappy employees leak to the media. Unhappy employees trash your company on social media, and dig in about the hypocritical mismatch between your shiny external brand and the misery of their daily existence. We know that on social media the claims of employees carry extra weight. They tend to be shared and retweeted. And if those posts go viral, the reputation you’ve fought so hard to build can vanish in seconds. It’ll take you a good long while to dig out.

If, however, you’ve nurtured a positive corporate culture, your employees can be enlisted as brand ambassadors who will gladly help disseminate your messages in a crisis. They’ll stand up and fight for your brand, because they know they work for a company that walks the talk. The brand is the truth, and not just marketing mumbo-jumbo.

Getting to that kind of culture takes time, hard work and persistence. Forbes’ Coaches Council – a group of business and career coaches, shared 15 ways to build to quality work culture. It’s a good start. Maintaining it is the trick – one that everyone at your company is ultimately responsible for.

As my former colleague – and reputation mentor – Davis Young wrote in his book, Building Your Company’s Good Name, “A good reputation is everyone’s job, not just management’s…every action of every person affects perceptions…if the folks on the inside don’t buy in, how can you expect external stakeholders to think your organization is credible?”


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