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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina

Brand management 101 talk

In October 2023, Stacey Stevens and I presented at Good Business Colorado's Level Up Academy. We wanted to approach both sides of taking care of your brand, both proactive and reactive. Below is the Zoom video of our talk. Unfortunately, we're only in a little square at the top of the screen, but it's the content that matters!

Here's a quick synopsis of the talk, Brand Management 101:

Investing in your brand helps you show potential customers that you're an established, credible business. Over the long haul, deploying it consistently both online and offline enables you to earn goodwill and build long-term customer relationships. On the opposite side of the coin, crisis preparedness is essential for any business.

We will share a template crisis communications plan designed to help members weather a reputation-threatening crisis by tapping into the right voices, with the right tone and messages, at the right times. This educational session will help GBC members promote and protect their businesses using a brand management model, to better connect with employees, customers, prospects, and other stakeholders.

In case you prefer to skim words, here is a write-up of the talk:

Brand Management 101: A Balanced Approach to Brand Management and Crisis Preparedness

Today, we're diving into the dynamic world of business management, focusing on the essential aspects of brand management and crisis preparedness. Whether you're a seasoned corporate player or a budding entrepreneur, mastering these strategies is crucial for steering your business toward success, even in the face of unexpected challenges.

About Stacey Stevens

Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Stacey Stevens, bringing with me 25 years of experience in the communication field, with a special focus on sustainable agriculture. My journey has led me through the halls of corporate giants like Coca-Cola and Nestle, providing insights into the intricate workings of the food and agriculture industries. While my background lies in the corporate realm, the principles I've gleaned are universally applicable, especially in sustainable agriculture, where corporations are increasingly recognizing their potential for positive environmental impact.

My expertise primarily lies in the dairy industry, where I've collaborated with governmental bodies such as the FDA, USDA, and even the Department of Homeland Security (back when it was just a concept) to fortify the sector against potential crises. While the catastrophic events we prepared for haven't materialized, the meticulous planning and cooperation between industry and government remain invaluable.

About Georgina Miller

Joining me in this discussion is Georgina, a fellow business enthusiast from Golden, Colorado. Despite our different backgrounds, our shared passion for empowering businesses led us to collaborate through Golden Women in Business, where we've forged a partnership grounded in mutual support and knowledge exchange.

Georgina specializes in proactive brand management and marketing, using her expertise to assist small and medium-sized businesses in crafting robust brand strategies. As we embark on this journey together, Georgina will shed light on the proactive side of business growth, emphasizing the importance of building a resilient brand foundation to weather any storm.

Let's get going!

Now, let's dive into Brand Management 101. Georgina will begin by unraveling the intricacies of brand building, highlighting how a strong brand serves as a linchpin for business resilience. From there, I'll pivot towards crisis management, drawing upon my experiences to outline strategies for navigating turbulent times with grace and efficacy.

Brand building 101

Your audience

Let's start with a bold assertion: the most critical element of your brand is your audience. Yes, your company's identity matters, but who you're speaking to is arguably even more crucial. Whether you're selling a product, rallying support for a cause, or engaging with stakeholders, understanding your audience is key. So, before diving into anything else, take the time to truly grasp who your audience is, what they want, and what they need from you.

Brand identity

Now, let's talk about your brand identity. Think of it as your company's personality—the essence of who you are in the business world. It influences everything from your sales team's demeanor to the design of your logo. At its core are three elements: purpose, vision, and values. Your purpose is your 'why'—the deeper reason behind your business beyond making money. Your vision is your grand ambition, your North Star guiding your journey. And your values? They're the principles that underpin everything you do, especially crucial in times of crisis when staying true to them can help rebuild trust.

Personality & Tone of Voice

Moving on to the outward expression of your brand, let's talk about personality and tone of voice. Every interaction with your audience—be it social media posts, blogs, or advertisements—should reflect your brand's personality authentically while also resonating with your audience. Burger King's sarcastic tone works for them, but it might not suit a hospital providing sensitive care. Your name, logo, and visual branding should also align with your audience's expectations, creating a cohesive impression.

Using AI to create content

Now, onto the question of using AI, like Chat GPT, to maintain brand authenticity in content creation. It's a fascinating area where knowing your brand's tone of voice inside out is key. With clear instructions, AI tools can help generate content that matches your brand's personality, saving time and effort while maintaining authenticity.

Why building a brand matters

In essence, building a brand isn't just about aesthetics—it's about forging connections, expressing values, and standing out in a crowded marketplace. By understanding your audience and staying true to your brand's identity, you can create a compelling brand experience that resonates with your customers. And remember, in the hustle and bustle of business, taking the time to lay a solid brand foundation is an investment well worth making.

Creating a solid tone of voice for your brand is essential, and dedicating even just half an hour to nail it down can make a world of difference. There are various exercises you can undertake to define your brand's tone, such as determining how casual or respectful you want it to be. These exercises can help you articulate your brand's personality more clearly, providing descriptive words that you can plug into AI tools like chat GPT to generate content that aligns with your tone.

When it comes to standing out from your competitors, it's crucial to bring together your mission, vision, and values to create a unique identity. You don't want to intersect too much with what your competitors are doing, as this can make you blend in with the crowd. Instead, focus on expressing what makes you special and differentiating yourself in the marketplace.

Consistency is key to building trust with your audience. Ensure that your messaging, tone, visuals, and actions align with your brand identity across all channels. This consistency helps establish your brand's credibility and fosters trust among your customers.

Dealing with a crisis

Preparing for potential crises is also essential for safeguarding your brand's reputation. Every crisis presents both a threat and an opportunity. It's a chance to live your values, implement fixes, and regain trust. For business leaders, especially those running their own businesses, addressing potential risks should be a regular part of planning.

Identifying risks

Consider spending dedicated time each quarter with your team to envision worst-case scenarios and identify potential risks. Spend a few hours discussing negative headlines that could impact your business and keep you up at night. While large corporations have extensive risk management processes, as a business leader, you have unique insights into the risks inherent in your business.

Map out these scenarios with your team, considering their likelihood and severity. Prioritize the top three risks and develop a plan to mitigate them. Even if the worst-case scenario unfolds, having a plan in place gives you a head start in responding effectively.

Designate roles and responsibilities within your team for crisis management. This includes internal and external resources that can provide legal, communication, and technical expertise. Ensure everyone understands their role and how they fit into the crisis management plan.

Practice, practice, practice

Testing your plan through drills or simulations can help your team understand the real risks and practice their response. Role-playing scenarios, like creating a fake news story about a crisis, can help your team prepare for the unexpected.

When a crisis occurs, communicate openly and transparently with your audience. Express empathy for those affected and outline the steps you're taking to address the situation and prevent it from happening again. Consistently communicate your values and commitment to your audience, even in challenging times.

Stay proactive

Monitor early warning signs and stay informed about industry trends. Designate someone on your team to track news headlines and social media mentions related to your business. Address any negative feedback or reviews promptly to prevent issues from escalating.

While no business is immune to crises, being prepared and responsive can help minimize their impact. By turning crises into opportunities to reinforce your values and rebuild trust, you can emerge stronger and more resilient than before.

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