BRANDE : blog archives for June 2009

June 28, 2009

Personify or Perish

At the end of my last post, I casually threw out the idea that people relate to people not organizations, and accordingly, organizations must take on a personality of their own or risk being perceived as ordinary.

But why is this the case?

Because personification is how humans go about understanding inanimate objects. We tend to personify things that we feel the need to have an emotional bond with. We name our cars, think of our boats as women, and treat our pets like children.

My mother used to guilt me into wearing certain sweaters when I was a kid by telling me they felt sad because “they never get to be worn like the other ones.”

We also personify what we don’t fully understand as a way to be rational about what scares us. We name hurricanes and atomic bombs. We take abstracts like God, death, and the devil and anthropomorphize them into concepts that we can deal with like the grim reaper and Mephistopheles.

You’ll notice that when we lend human personality traits to objects we are celebrating their individuality, uniqueness, and importance. By naming your convertible and talking about it like a woman, you are establishing that it’s different than all other cars on the road and that it’s of emotional importance to you. Conversely, when we want to dehumanize someone, we treat them like objects and strip them of their individuality and importance. Essentially, we un-personify them. Racists dehumanize people by saying “they all look the same” and sexists treat women like objects.

Companies build brands with human characteristics to help us find a way to relate to their products and to differentiate from the competition – essentially celebrating their corporate individuality.
NPO’s and causes are don’t sell products to which we can assign human traits, so what to do? We can sell the culture the way social movements do.

The paradoxical brilliance of social movements is that they’re able to build strong, unified cultures by encouraging individuality. Freedom of expression solidifies culture not the opposite. Aside from the traditional channels of expression for social movements like language, art, and press, web 2.0 has given us the “golden opportunity” to put the onus on all organization members to lead conversations and energize the cause. All members should be encouraged to contribute to blogs, share videos, and tweet about the cause…and it must unfiltered and authentic. Encourage self-expression through any and every channel.

Let your people build the organization’s personality for you. Without it, you’ll just be another inanimate object.

– For more information on building your internal culture visit BRANDEMiX.
– To join a free webinar on communicating the personality of your brand RSVP to webinar@brandemix.com

June 22, 2009

Create Ambiguity, Not Certainty

Geoff Writes:
rosa_parksMy last post, regarding using stories to inspire movements by creating dissonance in people’s minds, created a lot of commentary.

Here’s what I’ve heard:

“How exactly do you create the uncertainty that makes for a provocative moral? Why does uncertainty make people act? Perhaps this can work for a social movement, but not for an organization.”

I think it’s time for a case study.

There is one story, which is credited for starting a social movement that every American knows. It’s the story of an innocent seamstress in Montgomery, Alabama who was too tired to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger and was consequently arrested. Rosa Parks’ story inspired the black citizens of Montgomery to boycott the bus system, which went out of business within a year, and ultimately compelled the Supreme Court to rule that segregated busing was illegal.

This story became a rallying cry of the civil rights movement and still permeates our culture to this day as a symbol of the effect one, ordinary person can have on society. However, the story, as it is recounted, is not entirely true. Rosa Parks was no innocent victim or ordinary person. She was in fact a long time activist and NAACP member, and her refusal to get up had nothing to do with tired feet. It was completely premeditated by her and the NAACP leadership that put her up to it. They had planned to use Claudette Colvin as the poster child for this event, but abandoned it when she became pregnant.

Why pick Rosa Parks? She was the perfect fit for the lead role in this story. A middle-aged, married, church-going, black woman would create just the right dissonance – the quintessential ordinary person acting extraordinarily.

This event and the subsequent movement it inspired, was staged by an organization. It was not the impulsive, unbridled movement as it’s framed to be (nor are many other movements). I therefore believe the argument that organizations are incapable of producing movements akin to those of organic origins does not hold water. It’s just a matter of how the story is framed.

So why did the NAACP need Rosa Parks? Why did the story have to be about an ordinary person rather than a known hero? Because it was necessary to create the uncertainty (dissonance) required to make others act.

Stories, used properly, raise more questions than they answer. Who is this Rosa Parks? What made this ordinary woman act so out of character? Am I capable of that? What’s going on in Alabama that’s making ordinary people riot? Is there something I should be doing?

If Martin Luther King Jr. had been on that bus no one would have been surprised. It would have been completely rational. When people use their rational brains they’re less likely to act. If you activate their “reptilian brain” or their emotional brain, they move. The same principle is applied to war propaganda. If you tell a story that gets people thinking rationally about the realities of war are they likely to hop into a trench?

Lastly, the NAACP needed Rosa Parks because people don’t respond to organizations…they respond to people. Companies and organizations are undefined and soulless…at least until they take on a personality of their own (read: brand).

Give your organization personality. Are you raising questions or just providing answers? Don’t be afraid to create uncertainty. If people are going to connect with your cause they must see the dissonance between the world as they see it and the injustice that you’re fighting, rather than an abstract “we’re fighting obesity” type of statement.

For help framing your story go to BRANDEMiX. To join a free webinar on communicating the personality of your organization please RSVP to webinar@brandemix.com.

Social media for internal comms
Deloitte Consulting won a Gold Quill at IABC this year for a cool internal comms initiative that uses social media. The aim was to retain and recruit more Generation Y employees by getting them engaged with the company and sharing what it’s like to work for Deloitte via social media.They ran a Film Festival asking employees to make 3 min film answering the question "What’s Your Deloitte?".

Employees posted videos on a Youtube channel, and I imagine, on their intranet. The video below was the one that had the most view on YouTube.


More details of the campaign can be found at IABC here. In summary:
– 372 films were submitted, by 2000 film makers, which equates to 5% of Deloitte’s staff.
– the gallery where the films were show was viewed over 400,000 times.
– the winners got a experiential trip e.g. Sundance Film Festival or a cash prize.

I don’t know how the campaign has impacted on their Gen Y retention and recruitment [if anyone from Deloitte reads this, then any results you could share would be fab].

The reason I like this is because it’s not using social media to sell more widgets, or attract more voters, like many of the text book campaigns, but to get people to share their feelings and opinions on what it’s like to work somewhere. Plus, [and no offence to Deloitte] Big Five management consultancies aren’t well known for experimenting with new things or giving up control.

So, big hand to Deloitte for this and congrats on your award.

June 19, 2009

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June 13, 2009

Recruiting Goes Social? Not So Fast

Recruiting on Social Networks-
Take the poll

I took my recent Social Recruiting presentation out from the virtual closet to freshen it up, since I’ll be presenting it again on June 23.

As it turned out, I really didn’t have much to update.

Surfing to see if there was anything new I may have missed over the past few months, I came across the newly released Arbita-Recruitment-Genome-Report. According to the Executive Summary, 80 percent of the 482 respondent companies still do not have an effective strategy for using SEM, and less than half have an effective strategy for social networks.

Developed by Arbita to delineate the best practices in recruitment, the survey is chock full of other kernels such as:

* Only 38% of survey participants feel they have the right metrics and reports to support their recruitment marketing decisions.
* 81 % feel Internet sourcing is a major part of their recruitment strategy, yet almost half confess feel their team has inadequate training on Internet research and sourcing.
* Slightly over half (55%) of respondents conduct direct marketing to candidates. What are the other half doing?

Slightly discouraged, I downloaded Deloitte LLP’s 2009 survey entitled “Social networking and reputational risk in the workplace.” From the Executive Summary I learned that almost 70% of participating companies still haven’t integrated social networking with their business strategy. 58% of executives agree that reputational risk and social networking should be a board room issue, but only 15% say it actually is. No matter. The study goes on to say that 49% of employees admit that a company policy would not change how they behave online anyway.

Surely YouTube must have some great examples of companies using streaming videos to recruit talent. But when I went there to find some samples I had no luck- I put in “jobs” as a search key. My results came back with Steve Jobs, Family Guy and a bit on Barrack. “Recruiting” got me football, a Google Recruitment Video from 3 years ago and the Czech Army’s recruitment message.

You will argue that there are a lot of new recruiting methods available such as utilizing LinkedIn and Facebook to market opportunities. And yes, I agree. LinkedIn offers free and paid products that make it easy to network in and among your circles of choice. On it, I’ve seen such selfless acts as HR professionals using their profiles to promote openings instead of themselves. And Facebook offers inexpensive “buys” to reach target groups. I also agree that Twitter is a great way to broadcast job opps as well. Assuming you have a following who has a following.

But to truly excel at Social Recruiting, one needs to build relationships. It requires a commitment and investment– one person tasked to “making it happen” instead of a “happenstance” method. And there needs to be a continuous, brand-aligned, multi-tiered approach. Unlike a job board, you more info can’t get traction in a day.

How many are doing this? I bounced onto Indeed.com to do a national job search of company’s looking to hire such a person. Under “Social Network Community Managers” I found 2 openings; under “Social Media Marketing Manager” there was 1. However, there were more than a few Social Media Intern opportunities. Draw your own conclusions.

In another recent survey, JobVite said that 66 % of their surveyed respondents who used social networks for recruiting reported that they had successfully hired a candidate who was identified or introduced through an online social network.

Hired a candidate? Hope they didn’t need to hire 2 of them.

I do know there are great companies doing wonderful work in building support through blogging, tweeting, alumni groups and employee generated Facebook pages. They are providing experiential connections and building brand equity that will serve them well.
But for those who may not have taken their first small steps yet, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

As it turned out, I really didn’t have much to update in my presentation.