The new financial year has started with the quest for new customers and great staff that’s more vigorous than ever, writes Sue Parker.
Australia continues to navigate COVID-19, diverse commercial challenges and new workplace models. But this gives leaders a unique opportunity to differentiate themselves amongst the competition, overwhelm and noise.
Why values branding matters for your business
Part of that differentiation starts with values branding and communications that is candid and reliable. The issues leaders ignore or condemn are revealing. And the values and ethics they stand for and the causes they support influence their reputation. And by virtue, this impacts staff and customer appeal significantly.
Customers are more discerning where they spend their dollars. It’s more than profit and self-interest but wider considerations around the vulnerable, environment, sustainability, corporate responsibility and wellness that factor more frequently too.
The June 2021 Australian Bureau of Statistics Insights into Australian Business Conditions and Sentiments reported that 27 per cent of businesses are having difficulty finding suitable staff and 19 per cent do not have enough staff currently. Further, 23 per cent expect to increase staff numbers over the next three months.
Whilst these statistics are generalist and can’t take into account the many industry and role nuances, it does encourage a revisit of bias and hiring processes. Productive and loyal staff are more attracted to trustworthy and solid employees. Hence the need for values branding communications as an employer of choice and a solid digital footprint of business leaders.
Leadership and brand trust – the research
Approximately 80 per cent of customers and employees trust organisations whose leadership have an active and engaging social media presence. The Hootsuite Social Trends 2021 report saw a dramatic increase in social engagement during 2020 and that ‘people want to connect with people’. And 73 per cent of marketers ranked customer acquisition as a top priority for 2021.
Further, Brand Fog reported 93 per cent of people are likely to purchase from organisations whose leader’s beliefs social issues aligned with theirs. 75 per cent of employees considered it essential their CEO communicates beliefs publicly.
Connected Leadership research from business advisory firm, Brunswick found 60 per cent of candidates would research the CEO’s social media. Of significance, over 83 per cent (5:1) of employees prefer to work with organisations whose C-Suite leaders use social media factoring it as an important element for satisfaction and retention.
This all translates to the just how important it is for leaders to demonstrate values and ethics. I would add that the spotlight has increased around how employers approach and navigate the pandemic response and responsibilities with integrity (financial and wellbeing) Staff will either be positively or negatively impacted and word will travel.
Businesses must not underestimate the impact happy employees have on their business brand. And therein are great PR and brand opportunities to leverage.
Trust and engagement
Trust and engagement is amplified with transparent personal values and brand management. Touchpoints are vast across organisational and EVP brand awareness, talent acquisition, referrals, social proof, sales, marketing, networking, investor relations, product launches and feedback.
Business owners and hiring managers need to really dive into and embrace social media to maximise recruitment and retention activities. Top talent in the new working-from-home and hybrid workplaces have greater leverage now and are reviewing new employers and analysing their leader’s values with a steely gaze.
And getting on the front foot to identify, reflect and address industry trust issues for customers is also essential. Many sectors suffer from a very poor image as reflected in the 2021 Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey. Commercial trust is declining and there are real opportunities to address that as it impacts your own business values and points of difference.
From a staff attraction perspective, diversity, inclusion, ageism and all other biases and impactful social issues are front of mind for skilled and professional employees. Ageism a major issue and I guarantee that any business that addresses that in their own teams will reap enormous customer returns and PR value.
Pillars of values-driven branding
There are four key elements that merge how customers and staff perceive and experience a business. Rhetoric must meet reality and congruency is vital. The channels to communicate include LinkedIn, social media, websites and PR activities. LinkedIn is by far the most important social channel being indexed high in Google searches. Having a human face and engaging with content and communities is essential.
- Motivations: The why and ‘why below the why’. The drivers below the surface – personally and professionally. What are the issues that really matter?
- Goals, values, passions: Small and bigger goals for your organisation. This can and should incorporate the social issues that matter as appropriate. Of course, social responsibility endeavours, community, sporting and board activities sit here.
- Personality and character: The nuances which are uniquely yours. Your vibe does attract your tribe. And vulnerability can be a superpower when communicated to build and support others..
- Visual: Current and realistic photos of all owners and managers are vital.
Comfort and resonance
Every new customer and staff member seeks comfort and reassurance that their choices are good ones delivering for their own needs and values. Leaders and hiring managers will be left behind if they do not fully galvanise and stand out with solid personal values branding.
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