Furthering Business Goals by Focusing on Brand Authenticity and Employee Satisfaction
SXSW is truly one of those singular, unforgettable events that every professional should experience at least once. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, knowledge or simply want to surround yourself with some of the world’s most intriguing and enlightened minds from multiple disciplines, then you should make it a personal goal to attend SXSW.
There’s tremendous value in taking the time to connect the dots of the holistic SXSW experience and leveraging that experience for your own personal story. With high level perspective and awareness, you can certainly gain valuable insights into how to strengthen your business and your personal brand.
The Importance of Making Authentic Personal Connections
One of this year’s focal points at SXSW was the notion of Social Responsibility, and as a brand marketer, this topic resonates so clearly for me. Social Responsibility is centered on the impact that brands can make on people by aligning personal connections, authenticity, values and purpose for the sake of achieving greater social good.
One of my favorite sessions at SXstyle was Kendra Scott’s Building a Philanthropic Fashion Empire: Do Good. Kendra spoke about starting her business with the intentions of “doing good” from the very beginning. For Kendra, being authentic and genuine from the start, rather than layering these sentiments on later as if to say, “me too,” was of the upmost importance when she started out. Thus, her focus from the onset has been to determine if there is something her brand can do to add value or do something better.
Kendra has consistently shown this inclination by making philanthropy one of the pillars of her brand (Family, Fashion, Philanthropy). Doing so has allowed her to establish authentic personal connections with her customers, who, in turn, have developed consistent loyalty to her brand.
For anyone looking to build a business that leverages a philanthropic or social awareness component, consider these ideas on the front end:
- Determine a clear plan and feasible budget for the charitable alignment.
- What is your “why” – why does this particular philanthropic alignment make sense to your brand story?
- Is that strategy sustainable for your business over a long period of time?
- How will you engage your customers on a personal level and help them feel connected to your brand story?
- How will your employees and brand ambassadors be engaged with your customers and your brand story?
- What is your strategy to celebrate and share your philanthropic involvement?
The key takeaway here is to remain authentic to your passion, your purpose and your people. That is how you create meaningful connections that last.
Finding Like-Minded People
Another key takeaway from SXSW was the importance of hiring and casting a retail space. When creating a great customer experience, you’re effectively designing a set and putting on a play. And when choosing team members, it can help to think of yourself as a casting director. In order to deliver a strong performance, your staff has to be authentic, genuine and fully committed to their roles.
So: as you interview, look for people who are like-minded, making sure that they share your same core values. Why? Because the experience you’re looking to bring into your customers’ lives is achieved via the people that you hire for your brand. The employees who love their lives and love to come to work every day are the ones who create the greatest experiences for your customers.
When interviewing individuals for your team, ask open-ended questions that allow you to really understand their motivation and drive. My favorite questions to ask are, “Tell me about your personal story,” and “What are you most proud of and why?” How he or she answers these questions is an open view into their most authentic self.
Rachel Shechtman, founder of the retail concept Story, spoke about this same notion during SXstyle. She suggested that you ask yourself the following questions when choosing a business or financial partner:
- Do you like them?
- Do they bring authenticity and authority?
- Can you build an authentic and compelling story around the partnership?
Although it is of the upmost importance to hire like-minded team members, what makes an amazing team is also having employees with different strengths that complement one another. While like-minded in sense of purpose is key here, it doesn’t mean that every person must have a cookie-cutter personality and be exactly the same in every way. This is true when building any type of team. The greatest ideas and execution are born from dynamic and well-rounded individuals who join together in the name of greater social good.
Remember: when brands value and invest in the right people, that energy resonates throughout the customer journey provided by your business, allowing the brand to capture the values and the heart of the customer.
Purpose & Passion
My last takeaway from SXSW was the idea of being present, doing what you love, and doing what’s right for the world.
Rick Badgley, VP of Retail for Toms, spoke about a movement of social goodness and incorporating a story of purpose into a business model. The best and most beloved brands are the ones that come from a genuine place, and a good, authentic brand will translate in any language. It’s important to clearly articulate your purpose and live it every day.
Brands also need to be authentic when expressing their social voice, by showing who they are and connecting with their audience in meaningful ways. Millennials have grown up with technology – they demand transparency, commitment to the environment and social responsibility, which can often be expressed and furthered in the digital realm.
During the session, Rise of the Social Employee, Sarah Pederson of Hearsay Social spoke about developing and curating your brand’s social voice and a few of the factors that can make the most impact:
- Make sure you show a human element. When things go wrong (and they do) on social media, be human and have a sense of humor. Mistakes will happen.
- Have guardrails, communicate your social strategy to every employee and encourage them to participate.
- Free your voice, and empower creativity to shape who you are as a brand. Creativity and personality always win on social media.
- Social championship starts at the top. Executive participation goes a long way, both internally and externally.
Connecting with people on a personal level and working with individuals who love their life allows brand ambassadors to be excited about creating something new. Ultimately, those elements are the very keys to innovation. People perform at their best and are most motivated about their work when they have the opportunity to demonstrate true passion.
Behind all of the exciting music, the packed conferences and the blur of networking sessions, SXSW is a time to learn and come away with inspiration to fuel you for a lifetime. It’s a golden opportunity to look for moments of impact and find ways to take what you’ve learned and make your mark on this world.
Written by: Jaime Bettencourt, SVP Sales & Account Management at Mood Media