The world of branding and marketing creativity is pretty special. Since we deal in the currency of pop culture, we are uniquely positioned to influence it. Our work is to craft the public identity of a brand. Who they are as a brand, what they do and say, stand for and value, is our daily work. That’s a pretty huge deal, if you really think about it. And, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the people who are building these brand identities are the integral part to how those brand identities turn out. It is their job after all. Thus, it makes a lot of sense to nurture a company culture that puts people first.
There are two key ingredients to having a people-first workplace culture capable of building strong and meaningful branding: empathy and authenticity. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to already be a part of a company like that. Or maybe you’re responsible for creating the culture for your company. Whatever the case, there’s a few reasons why doing it well should be top priority for you. Let’s dig in.
You’ll have a place people want to work, or you won’t.
Let’s say you’re in charge of your company or your brand’s workplace culture, in some way. You’re a manager, a director, or you’re in the C-suite. You can think of it in a very simple way. Whether you give them a reason or not, people are going to have an opinion about your company. That can go one of two ways. You will be liked, or you will not.
Of course, you can’t make everybody happy, but you can try. So your number one priority should be having a content team. I think it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “a house divided upon itself cannot stand.” Or maybe I just saw that as a meme on Facebook. Either way, there’s truth to it. A functioning team is the first tool you have in building a strong brand. You’re like a head coach. Learn who your staff is, what makes them happy at work, what makes them not so happy at work, and support them as much as you can.
So what does that support look like?
Committing to Accountability
Everybody loves an office happy hour. But there’s more to company culture than letting folks take a break with a quick game of ping pong. Having systems and resources in place to ensure misconduct is handled correctly is a huge step toward a healthy work culture. According to a survey from Harvard Business Review, one-third of a company’s employees feel that responsibility for misconduct goes unchecked. This lack of faith in the process increases the likelihood for misconduct to go unreported. The result is a snow-balling mess of apathy and discontent that looms over the whole office. The weight of that feeling on your team members can adversely affect the product you all create together. Put yourself in the shoes of a creative who is disillusioned by workplace problems. Are they going to be making their best work?
Let’s hope your company is not in that situation. Instead, let’s imagine you are one of the ones doing it right. That means you’ve got a few other things on your list of priorities.
Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
We are a diverse bunch, us humans. Your brand should reflect that diversity. Valuing people from all backgrounds and walks of life enriches your company. There is so much value in having a variety of perspectives in creative work. Imagine what’s possible when your company hears those voices. The potential for better and more meaningful work. The authenticity that becomes possible when the company chooses to engage. High morale lives in spaces where empathy is a priority.
Even more, we can’t ignore the disenfranchisement of marginalized groups, and how it is not only our professional responsibility, but also our social responsibility, to push against the systemic causes that hold many people back. Your company should be committed to equity, diversity and inclusion. Close the gender pay gap. Hold town halls so people can raise awareness of the issues that matter to them. Support the development of Employee Resource Groups so people can connect over their shared identities and affinities. Hire candidates with diverse identities. The list could go on. But your workplace culture should be committed to holding these standards.
Your Values Are Showing
Wow, we’ve been getting pretty ethical in here. That’s a good thing.
It’s clear your brand needs to have a defined set of ethics, so everyone knows what it stands for. If a brand doesn’t define this themselves, they are leaving it to the world to do it for them. That’s the last thing you want. Don’t leave it to chance that the world will look favorably on your brand or company. Instead, let empathy and authenticity be your guide. Support your team like you would your family, value diversity in all its beautiful forms, and stand tall for what you believe your brand could and should be. Do these things, and creativity will flourish. And when creativity flourishes in marketing, everybody wins.