Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Feel the Love, or Not – It’s All Good

It shouldn’t be lonely at the top. If so, chances are you’re not getting the feedback you need to stay connected or to build a strong brand and corporate culture. And those things are just as important for academia as they are for a company selling running shoes or for an airline filling seats.     

The trouble is, the higher up you are, the more insulated you may become. “No one wants to offend the boss, right?” says Amy Gallo, a contributing editor for Harvard Business Review, in a recent blog Gallo offers some great tips for building a culture of feedback and trust.

Here’s another simple, but powerful exercise that brings the process of building brand strategy up close and personal. I learned it from Ariel Goldfarb, a brand consultant at CurtisAlan Partners and adjunct lecturer at Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.
Step 1: Can We Talk? - Select a few people you work with (or teach, for that matter). This process works for all stakeholders. Actually, you’ll learn a lot by repeating the exercise with different stakeholder groups.
Step 2: Gimme the Truth, Even if it Hurts - Ask them to fill out a questionnaire (anonymously, if they’re reluctant to talk candidly) to assess your competencies – strengths and weaknesses. Then ask them what they really want or need from someone in your role.
Step 3: Mirror, Mirror… - Take the same inventory on yourself.  Be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses.
Step 4: Compare and Analyze - Assess how closely your brand traits fit those articulated by your stakeholders.  This is your brand equity. Where are the gaps?
Step 5: Set Goals – Consider some goals to improve your brand equity with this group and more closely align their needs with your perceived brand traits.
Step 6: Do It! - What are some tactics to get you there? Create some concrete, actionable plans to address your goals from Step 5. And then make sure to follow through. They’ll all appreciate that you listened and took action.
It can be a humbling experience. But as Randy Hlavac, Medill lecturer, social IMC guru and founder of Marketing Synergy, Inc., says, “You have to give to get.” The more you repeat the process, the easier it gets. That’s the stuff that helps improve culture, strengthen your organization and build brand equity.
Michele Bitoun is Senior Director of Undergraduate Education and Teaching Excellence at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications and a graduate student in Medill’s Media Strategy and Leadership program. She can be reached on Twitter using the handle @michelebitoun.

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