4 Steps to Protecting your Company’s Brand – Values

CEO resigns after VW found cheating on their emission promise. CEO convicted for selling food that the company knew was unsafe. CEO of a major auto manufacturer is in a media firestorm because her company did not disclose or order a recall for a known ignition switch problem.

These are just three of the BIG mistakes made by companies, and they were not accidental. Someone somewhere in the company made a wrong decision. Whether the reason was to squeeze more profit from an unwary consumer or to cut corners doesn’t matter, it was a BIG mistake. Every company, even these three companies, had core values. They looked good on the poster in the lunchroom, on the website, and in the employee manual, but they were not relied on in the decision-making process or direct employee behaviors. The core values were not embedded in the company’s culture.

Branding isn’t about color palettes and graphic design. Branding is about what the company stands for and how they choose to present itself to the consumer. Everyone who has gone through a branding exercise knows that a primary anchor of their brand is the organization’s values. You can’t determine a brand promise or mission without knowing the values first. Employees would be unable to understand how to act and behave to brand if they didn’t understand the underlying values and how they affect their behaviors and interactions.

How does an organization create a brand that is being lived in the office, with the customer, and in the boardroom?

  1. Core values have to be real. Not nice words designed in the boardroom, but organizational attributes are used in all decisions and interactions internally and externally. They are so important any breach of these values is punishable by termination.
  2. Core values need to be used in the hiring and promotion process. The company recruitment process must include screenings for values fit before hiring. In fact, a best practice is to screen for values before the hiring manager screens for skills and experience. It is too easy to make a values exception when a high performer is under consideration. I am sure the CEOs of companies that have experienced the PR disasters above were high performers…
  3. Core values need to become a checklist with every business decision, small and large. Before a decision is made, the question is asked, “Does this decision meet our values standard?” If the answer is no, then the decision becomes obvious. I’m sure someone in the VW organization didn’t check for value alignment when they decided to cheat on the emissions testing. I’m also confident the person who decided to put the market food they knew was tainted didn’t ask if this fit the company’s core values.
  4. Core values need to be part of the organization’s ongoing conversations at all levels. As brand values failures prove, it is as important as keeping all projects and staffing aligned with the company strategies. If part of the ongoing conversations at VW had included being honest and truthful, this situation would not have occurred. If the leader ultimately decided to cheat on the emissions testing as part of the “honest and truthful” conversation, he/she might have made a different decision.

In a world of social media and the 24-hour news cycle, a breach of your values threatens the entire company. Consumers choose to do business with companies they feel they can trust and respect, not companies that are caught cheating or lying. It is so vital the leadership and board of directors must agree that a short-term loss is a better consequence than getting caught lying or cheating…

About rich@leading2leadership.com

Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on Amazon.com and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at www.leading2leadership.com.

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