The Innovative Workplace
By Joy Justus
IS YOUR AGENCY AN UBER OR A YELLOW TAXI?
Your brand is either helping or hurting your effort; take charge of it
Would you rather your agency be seen as an Uber or a Yellow Taxi? Both reliably get riders from point A to point B, but there are differences between them that matter to their respective customers. Those differences make up their respective brands. Your agency has a brand as well. It tells prospective clients and employees what you bring to the table.
As any marketing team can tell you, a lot of thought and work goes into branding, and the difference between success and failure couldn’t be starker. If you call to mind successful companies, some names will pop in your head, not simply because they’re profitable, but because you know their brand. If they didn’t have an effective brand, you wouldn’t have even thought of them.
Creating a really attractive brand that hides hard truths about your workplace or partnership style will only hurt you in the long run.
Your brand is either helping or hurting your sales, recruitment, and retention efforts. That’s the big reason why marketing experts, HR leaders, and others are talking about it. You have no say in whether you have a brand, but you do have a say in what that brand is. Here’s how you can take charge of it.
When building your agency brand, you won’t be working from scratch, but rather altering what already exists. Your first step, then, will be to get an accurate picture of your existing brand. Examine all the places your organization appears. Look at your website, your corporate social media accounts, and your job postings. Search your organization’s name online to find news stories and reviews by customers and employees, past and present.
What impression is your agency giving? How would an outsider view it based on what they can find online? What’s distinctive about working for or with your organization? What images do you see? What words and phrases appear most often? These are the first questions you should ask.
Next, ask yourself what sort of employees appear to work at your organization and what sort of clients partner with you. If, for example, your social media accounts feature photo after photo of employees playing games and partying on the job, but show little or nothing of their actual work, you might be giving the impression that working for you is mostly fun, relaxing, and carefree—and that your current employees are the sort who value playing hard over working hard. If online employee reviews mention a former manager who was terminated for harassment, but the reviews make no mention of any other leader in the company, you may still have a reputation for tolerating harassment even though the offending manager is long gone.
Another factor regarding your brand is to take inventory about what your clients are saying publicly on review sites. Locate your company and read the reviews posted on Yelp and Google. And, don’t forget to check the Better Business Bureau, too. If you do not have any reviews, now is the perfect time to ask some happy clients to post about their experience working with you.
Identifying your existing brand may be more challenging than you expect. Not only do you have a lot to look at, you also have your own working impression of your company that may color what you see. It may be prudent, therefore, to enlist the aid of a disinterested third party, someone who can describe your existing brand as it is and not as you wish it to be.
Once you’ve got a complete picture of your existing agency brand, it’s time to move on to the next step.
There are two questions you should ask in this step. First, is the brand you’ve identified an accurate representation of reality? And, second, is it the type of brand that you want?
A brand may be inaccurate for a number of reasons. A former employee in a vindictive mood might have taken to a review site such as Glassdoor to tell the world how much they hated their boss, when their boss was (in reality) patient, caring, and supportive. Social media might describe your culture as no-holds-barred competitive when the truth is that your culture is distinctively collaborative and uplifting. Or your only review from a former client is from one who was decidedly unhappy with the partnership.
Accuracy is crucial. You don’t want a flood of applicants who don’t have the traits and behaviors necessary for success in your company. Similarly, you don’t want to be spending a lot of your time managing unhealthy partnerships with clients who are more trouble than they’re worth. If your brand doesn’t match reality, you’ll need to correct that in the next step.
Before we move on, though, there’s another question you should ask. Is your current brand headed in the direction you want? Does it align with your specific employee-related and client-related needs? These are questions only you can answer, but the answers will determine whether the next step involves minor tweaks or a major overhaul.
Think of your brand as your culture as seen from the outside. The images and messaging you use should show prospective employees and clients the real you. That way, you’ll encourage the kinds of relationships you want to develop and deter the kinds you want to avoid.
Since it’s vital to success that your agency brand accurately mirror the reality of working with you, changing your brand may require changing your culture. Creating a really attractive brand that hides hard truths about your workplace or partnership style will only hurt you in the long run. Employees will join your organization only to realize that they’ve been sold a false reality. Frustrated and resentful, they’ll soon leave physically or mentally, neither of which is good for your bottom line. Worse, your clients will also recognize the inconsistencies and they too will not stick around long-term.
In short, an effective employer brand can’t be developed in isolation. Whoever is working on the brand should collaborate with the agency leadership team.
You’ll need a team to make all this work. Once the team responsible for the brand is identified, create a list of tasks you want to accomplish to improve the brand and assign owners. Plan to meet periodically to review progress and celebrate milestones. Not sure where to begin? Below are some ideas to get you started:.
- Rebuild or refresh your website, modeled after another organization you admire that represents the brand you want to have.
- Boost your reviews in places that matter. Client reviews should focus less on the “great service” you provide and more on the value-added resources you bring to the table. Ask clients for testimonials you can publicize. To attract desired talent, your current employees can anonymously post reviews about working for your team on review sites like Glassdoor.
- Write case studies to share with prospective clients. Think about clients who have benefitted from your expertise. Do your extra resources (e.g., loss control, HR solutions, technology platforms, compliance services, and/or safety programs) reduce the risk of claims or make a client’s life easier? Write about these experiences and share them with others.
- Apply for a “best places to work” award.
- Dedicate (or outsource) someone to manage your social profiles. Create a schedule to curate and post relevant content regularly and develop a strategy so that you are speaking directly to the types of prospects you want to attract.
Joy Justus is senior vice president at ThinkHR, responsible for overseeing the insurance channel marketing and distribution strategy. She has 25 years of experience in employee benefits, property/casualty, and human resources. Joy joined ThinkHR ten years ago as a start-up. She has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth, holding various executive leadership positions in sales, marketing and strategic initiatives.
ThinkHR’s flagship solution, People Risk Management (PRM), is used by over 1,000 full-service agencies across the country. Core product features allow employers to reduce risk, drive efficiencies, and resolve people-related human resources and compliance issues quickly and efficiently. Agencies partnering with ThinkHR report improved cross-selling outcomes between commercial and benefits departments and stronger marketplace differentiation. To learn more, visit www.thinkhr.com.