Brand ambassadorship Soviet-style

Shel Holtz, writing for ragan.com, suggested several ways for organisations to increase their employees’ brand literacy, ie, knowledge about the organisation’s brand.

His suggestions included:

* “Indoctrinating” employees early and often

* Conveying the company brand through stories of real people

* Curating brand content in one easy-to-find location

* Having trade shows and product launches for employees as well as customers

* Using multiple media and employee-generated content

* Providing training opportunities in brand immersion

* Sharing customer feedback with employees

* Hosting quick and entertaining polls and quizzes about the brand

Reading this, I was reminded of an organisation that used these suggestions with some success to get their brand message across internally. That organisation was the USSR.

The fact of the matter is “brand literacy” is just a semi-Latinate way of saying that employees have something good to say about the company. But even a Soviet-style dictatorship can get people to say what you want them to say, that is, to your face. What they say behind your back may be a different story.

Case in point is the American Medical Response of Connecticut. That company has been accused by a labour relations group of firing an employee for depicting the company in a bad light on Facebook. The case is ongoing and details concerning who actually did what and for what reason are of course in dispute. What is not in dispute is that disgruntled workers will talk about their problems – over the proverbial water-cooler, in the pubs, in their homes and (uh oh!) on social networks.

Among the stands that the US National Labor Relations Board is making in this case is that employees have the right to have such discussions about their work conditions – and company attempts to stifle such talk (no matter the forum) is in most developed countries probably illegal and definitely counterproductive.

Sure, brand literacy is an important thing for employees to have, but a company is only going to get that by accomplishing two things:

1) Providing products and services that the employees are genuinely proud of being involved in making

2) Having a workforce that is content and positive.

Both of these you can only get by a two-way communication with the employees. Mr Holtz’s suggestions are certainly good, but listening to employees should be on the list.