Yesterday you received my humble view on how "everything your organisation does is branding", whether it's intentional or not.
Today I'd like to expand the intentional/unintentional viewpoint by considering positive and negative scenarios, and how to view them as brand building opportunities.
My rough take on this is that you could basically substitute the word brand with trust. These are all trust building opportunities that allow your current customers, potential customers, or referral partners to feel good about being around you and supporting your organisation.
This wouldn't be a legitimate marketing email without a trusty 2x2, so here's one I whipped up:
Intentional-Positive: This is the minimum requirement to play, the stuff we all do - posting on socials, creating service pages, marketing, advertising, yadda yadda. Basically anything you have some control of, where you'd present yourself in the best light possible. We all do some version of this and while your content may be ground-breaking, the fact that we all do it is relatively unremarkable.
Intentional-Negative: "Negative" might be misleading here - to people outside of your ideal audience it will seem like you're being negative, but your true fans will appreciate your view. Eg: "Everyone Hates Marketers", the wonderful podcast by a former work acquaintance Louis Grenier (👋 Louis!) demonstrates this beautifully. It's part of your DNA. Few do this well, but it can be a powerful tribe-builder.
The unintentionals are where things get juicy.
Unintentional-Positive: You've made someone's day by sending a personal handwritten thank you note, which is not your normal process. Or someone who wasn't a customer emailed you for help, and you not only answered their question, but you sent them links to help them completely solve their problem. Or you threw in something for free, just 'coz. Or you said something that's so obvious to you, but it lifted a fog for the person you said it to. Examples like this happen everyday. They're not necessarily part of the "process", but they're built into the DNA of the company or the person. Maybe it's a culture thing, sometimes done off the-cuff - but people really notice it.
Unintentional-Negative: Not everyone who messes up online actually means to, but Everything you do or don't do becomes a part of your brand, right?. It happens. An unscheduled portion of your day may be dedicated to putting out fires because of them. Someone has misunderstood what you said or taken offence, and leaves a comment on your facebook post shaming you for it. Do you ignore it? Others will see the comment, and see that you haven't responded - probably not good.
The "Intentional" scenarios are relatively safe zones. Relatively. They're decisions you make, and they will generally have a positive effect on your org, at least in the way you intended.
Intentional-Positive scenarios, ironically have the most potential for going south. It's where you're most vulnerable and making your biggest claims. You're fully on display here, and maybe sometimes it backfires... but interestingly, Unintentional-Negative scenarios also have the most potential for trust building.
An Intentional-Positive can be called out for being misleading, and often is - advertising lives here. Something like 75-80% of people globally have zero trust in advertising on social media, so there's some inherent risk in putting your dollars there. Greenwashing happens here a lot. Misleading taglines and ad campaigns happen here - remember it's intentional. But done ethically, this is where the foundations of your brand begin, and you can really develop a lot of strength here.
A Unintentional-Negative is clearly riddled with landmines as it's all in someone else's hands - but handled well, can be turned around into an Intentional-Positive scenario that again, potentially builds more trust than other items on the Intentional-Positive list above like advertising.
Responding to that negative comment to clarify what you said and address their concerns is likely to win over the doubters, at least the ones reading that post, and at least for the period of time it takes them to read it. Your only goal there might be to get a response like "Hmm, well said!".
Clear as mud I'm sure...
This is far from perfect, but I hope the one takeaway is that these micro trust-building activities are happening all the time.
The opportunities to be transparent and honest in your intentionals are probably obvious - do good things and people will lean in to you more.
Simply being prepared for the unintentionals, maybe that's something that starts at a cultural level. But it seems like a simple thing to let yourself go off-script now and then, if there's a chance to build a fraction of additional trust - let your team know they can do the same.
It might even guide what that person says about you when you're not in the room...
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