Working Inside Out

In this blog, our Client Relationship Director Emma Collins talks about harnessing the power of your people and projecting your brand values and culture from the inside out and gives her top tips on finding your new communication mix in the remote world of 2020/21…  

Over the last 6 months and throughout the pandemic – I’ve found it fascinating to watch how different brands have responded to the new remote world – especially from a communications perspective. No company is the same, but every business around the world has had to sit down and evaluate what to prioritise in order to stay unified, focused and aligned to a strategy, in some cases resulting in a total pivot and others simply adapting what they already know.  

So many companies have been taking a leap of faith and implementing brave changes to convert their communications into a virtual world – and in our latest podcast with guest, Ryan Berman author of ‘Return on Courage’ we discussed how brands can further this and find courage in their adaptations.

Ryan’s book focuses on a 5-step process that encourage brands to create a ‘Central Courage System’, which from my years in the industry can also be characterised as building a brand from the inside out. By shaping the projection of what your brand stands for from within and letting it organically tell its story to the outside world, brands develop more consumer trust, employee faith in their leadership and overall have more confidence in their values and their culture.

Top Banana have been fortunate enough to work with DFS during this crisis who have been the perfect example of a ‘courage brand’ and one who have wholly embraced virtual.  I recently observed a simple but highly effective regular ‘TV style’ programme entitled ‘On the Sofa with’ which was introduced and hosted on their Workplace platform during lockdown, filmed in the Top Banana studio. As you might expect it was a new channel execution, introduced to try and reach out to colleagues, to connect and communicate from afar – but to me, it was more than that – it was an embodiment of their values, their culture and their purpose.  Why?  To begin with – their leadership team sat on the sofa and were a joy to watch. They were relaxed, brutally honest, fun, engaging and were completely aligned with their values – Aim High, Think Customer, Be Real. They answered difficult questions with poise, honesty and integrity whilst also exuding positivity, drive, and a real sense of emotional connection with each other. DFS’ northern heritage and spirit remain a consistent red thread for their culture and approach to communications which instantly provides warmth and a sense of belonging for their employees, regardless of where they are based. 

This is no more evident than with the other channels that DFS have used to keep connected – their ‘well-being’ master classes for example (mince pie making, gift wrapping, cocktail making and pumpkin carving to name a few) featuring their MD, Nick Smith who gallantly took part and provided a real sense of fun and heroic humour at a time when moral could have started to decline. 

Workplace has remained a constant platform for connectivity and as with most things in life….’you get out what you put in.’ The platform has huge engagement and has been embraced fully with each and every employee. It’s a place for business, well-being, fun, connection and good old DFS banter.  There are groups for everything from charity fund raising and yoga for beginners, to business updates/town halls and regional sales targets and results. DFS’ culture shines from the screen as you scroll from one page to the next and whilst there is clearly a communications framework spearheaded by a talented and passionate comms team, the overwhelming difference in my view is that each individual DFS colleague is a brand champion in their own right.  The force as a whole results in a brand that is truly inspiring, known and loved by consumers and is trusted by employees and the outside world alike.

Of course DFS aren’t the only example to come from the pandemic, the way businesses have adapted in a moment of fight or flight has been astounding to watch, and Top Banana’s client base have been no exception. That being said, we’re not out of the woods, and in many ways it feels as though we’ve been flung 5-10 years into the future with a new remote, home working model and businesses around the country de-centralising.

If you’re going though this period of change and are still finding your communications groove, my top tips are this

  • Don’t be afraid to change channels

Virtual solutions like TV Shows, Podcasts, Vlogcasts and Online Experiences aren’t as daunting as they might seem. They can be informative whilst being engaging and we have clients that prove it works! The leap of faith to switch up what you’ve been doing for years can be the hardest thing, especially when before the pandemic they worked so well. But part of this is accepting that there is still considerable time before live, face to face communications are back on the cards and if you wait until they are, you could have lost significant amounts of trust and transparency from your employees and customers alike.

  • Dial up what you’ve already got

That Workplace or Yammer account set up a year ago that no one really uses is your diamond in the rough. Social Media has never been more important – channels like LinkedIn have gained 25 million more users this year alone with people looking to remotely connect with like minded individuals for best practice and advice. This is the first time this has happened to all of us, and an online community and internal social media campaigns can have more effect on moral and attitude than you think; after all, we all just want to feel part of something bigger.

  • Invest now for long term gain

If 2020 has taught us one thing, it’s that we need to be prepared for anything. The pandemic hit like a tonne of bricks and although businesses responses have been phenomenal – we all need to be in a better place should anything like this happen again. Remote working, as I’ve said, is likely to become the new norm no matter when COVID goes away and finding your new communication mix now, will mean no matter what happens – when a vaccine is found or when your office is back in action – your employees are motivated and engaged regardless of where they’re working in the future.  

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