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Culture talk: giving a voice to your biggest brand advocates

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Culture Talk_Event Preview

In this month’s “Event Preview,” we take a deeper dive into a talk near and dear to the professional heart of Discovery Benefits Vice President of Marketing Stephanie Schroeder. Here, Schroeder gives us an extended sneak peek into her upcoming presentation that will tout the role that company culture plays in turning employees into a brand’s biggest ambassadors and advocates.

Event Details
Wednesday, January 11
11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Hilton Garden Inn
4351 17th Ave. S, Fargo

Registration (includes lunch)
• FMWF Chamber of Commerce Members
$27 in advance
$32 at the door
• Non-members
$40 in advance
$45 at the door

This training qualifies for two CPE credits for the ND CPA Society.


1. What is culture, anyway?
“Culture” has become a bit of a buzzword for corporations. Everyone knows it’s important for a company to have a good culture, but because the word is tossed around so freely, it seems to have almost lost its meaning. In a workplace setting, the walk doesn’t always match the talk. Sometimes, people equate culture with throwing a party for your employees or offering a unique perk, but all the events and perks in the world can’t make up for a disingenuous culture. It’s one of those things that’s hard to define, but you know it when you see it.

Think about culture from a more general perspective. When you talk about your own personal culture, you might mention things like where you come from, what your goals are or what values you hold dear. Well, the same types of things define your corporate culture, too. When someone walks into your building, you want them to get a feel for your history, to recognize the things that are important to your organization and to see your core values being lived out in the actions of your employees. That feeling they get from all that? That’s your culture. And just like we all have very different cultural backgrounds, every organization has a different culture.

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2. What does it have to do with your brand?
The reason it can be hard to make culture a priority is because it’s seen as something that only has direct benefits inside your organization. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. When you create a genuine culture where employees feel like their values align with the organization’s and they are empowered to make a difference, the impact of that extends far beyond your office walls. When your culture makes employees feel valued and empowered, you get more than just talented staff, you get brand advocates—people who are going to evangelize your brand not because it’s their job but because they believe in your mission.

Brand advocacy is the ultimate goal for marketers and non-marketers alike. Everyone wants to get people talking favorably about their organization and to create promoters, as opposed to detractors. So we invest in brand-awareness activities and work hard to create engagement and do everything possible to differentiate our brand from the competition. But even if you do all of that—and even if you do it really well—you’re not guaranteed to get brand advocates out of the deal because you’re fighting for the attention of customers who are oversaturated with advertising and branding. And while you still have to try to get their attention, there’s a much easier audience out there that can rapidly build brand advocates in the meantime: the people who are already intimately familiar with and are positively engaged with your brand, AKA your employees.

Brilliant marketer and entrepreneur Seth Godin published a book called “Purple Cow,” where he talks about building a brand by playing up your differentiators. To create brand advocates, he says he encourages brands to find the thing that makes them unique and remarkable—their “purple cow,” as he calls it. Because unlike your ordinary black-and-white cow that you wouldn’t think twice about seeing, a purple cow is going to get your attention with its remarkability.

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3. So how do you accomplish it?
Well, the good news is that every company has a culture and one exists at your organization, whether or not you’ve made a conscious effort to create one. The real question is: Do you have the right culture? And do you have the culture you want? In other words, does your culture align with your core values, empower your employees into advocacy and adequately reflect your brand? If not, there’s a lot you can do to improve your culture while simultaneously evangelizing your brand.

First, define the culture you (and your employees) want. This should be taken as seriously as determining your core values or crafting your mission statement. Once you’ve determined the culture you want, put it in writing. Create a brand book and make it available to all employees. Place a statement in your corporate handbook. Make sure everyone knows it isn’t just talk.

Next, put your money where your mouth is. Build that culture. Form a culture committee that’s responsible for engaging employees who will champion what culture means at your organization. Most importantly, make sure management leads by example. Culture has to be carried out at all levels of the organization.

Finally, encourage advocacy. Activate your brand’s social media channels and push out regular content if you’re not already doing so. Encourage your employees to engage with your brand on social media and share their favorite aspects of the culture with others. Then, reward and recognize that kind of advocacy to keep the cycle going.

Culture Talk_Purple Cow Book

Read This
In “Purple Cow,” bestselling author Seth Godin launches a movement to make truly remarkable products that are worth marketing in the first place. Through stories about companies such as Starbucks, JetBlue, Krispy Kreme and Apple—coupled with his signature provocative style—he inspires readers to rethink what their marketing is really saying about their product.

Too often, companies try to pinpoint their purple cow by asking things like, “Do we have the best pricing? The best service? The best products?” All of these are important, of course, but there’s another question to ask: “Do we have a remarkable culture?” Because that’s how you’ll get your closest audience, your employees, to also be your closest advocates.*

*Summary from Amazon

Written by Mike Dragosavich


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