Last week we introduced the topic of pushing past fear to authentically and clearly communicate your brand’s values, discussing the power that fear holds over us and why, in actuality, fear is a liar. This week, we’re continuing the conversation, taking a deep dive into the “how” of pushing past fear to effectively message your brand’s mission.
When it comes to taking an authentic stance on your brand’s values, knowing who you are as a brand and going beyond your ‘what’ to ground yourself in your ‘why’ can help provide the launching pad needed to take what feels to be the more risky, but more rewarding path.
For many mission-driven businesses, the values already exist but may not be clearly and fully communicated. No matter how secure we are in our own individual beliefs and values, the prospect of fully and authentically communicating what your brand stands for can be overwhelming.
So, where to begin?
Over the course of working with brands to help them more explicitly message their mission, we’ve come up with a roadmap to help build out the path to clearly and authentically communicate your values & push past fear in order to be successful.
- 1. Name your fear.
What is stopping you from articulating your values, or a position on a potentially controversial cause? When you, or your brand, can name that fear, it lessens its power over your ability (or inability) to move forward.
- 2. Accept the possibility of polarization.
Pleasing everyone thrills no one, and acceptance of this internally, throughout your organization, makes it infinitely easier to communicate your beliefs externally.
Once you’ve acknowledged the possibility of polarization, it’s important to be prepared. Normalize the potential for backlash, create a plan, and then when it happens, you’ll know how to navigate it without backing down from the message you’ve put out in the world. That plan might include things like talking points, an outline of consistent core messaging, copy on your website, and a discussion about how community engagement might be addressed (ie social media post comments). Whatever tangible resources make up your plan, make sure they are communicated comprehensively within your organization.
- 3. Connect the values you are communicating to your brand’s business case.
The messaging you put out into the world must be authentic to your brand.
Ensure your leadership team is part of the conversation by prioritizing getting buy in from the top, which then makes it easier for others (board members, stakeholders, etc.) to buy into the articulation of your values as a core component of what makes up your brand.
The key to doing this if buy in from leadership doesn’t already exist? Reiterate the role the values you want to communicate play in your brand’s business case. By connecting your what of your brand to the why of your brand, you can use it as a grounding moment to return to again and again to empower employees and encourage them to embrace the values in all that they do, the work that they put out on behalf of the brand and the story that they share as both employees and brand ambassadors.
But in order to connect the what to your why, you have to be able to firmly and confidently answer: why does our brand exist? Are you able to speak clearly to speak to the foundation that your brand is built upon? The problems that you solve and the communities that you serve? And then further, do the values that we are looking to communicate - that we might be fearful of communicating - help in solving those problems, speak to those communities and support the reason that your brand exists?
Fully understanding that why can help you embrace your brand with confidence. Once that’s done, you can work together internally, with fellow employees and leadership, to weave values into your brand’s culture and identity if they aren’t already integrated.
- 4. Bring your customers and community members to the table.
In the absence of information, assumptions are made.
So, start having conversations. Ask open-ended questions & be transparent about receiving feedback. You can conduct focus groups, or virtual town halls, but it can be as simple as an email, a social media post or Instagram story. But by having honest, transparent conversations with your customers, surprising or reaffirming doors may be opened, perspective may be shared, and brand trust can be built.
- 5. Fully embrace and understand the power of showing, not telling.
We all know it’s not enough to “talk the talk.” A key part of authentically communicating your brand values is also communicating how those values look in action. Incorporate moments of “showing” - big and small - into ongoing communication efforts.
- 6. Understand that communicating your values is an ongoing work in progress.
The final step in the roadmap is not ever truly ‘final,’ but it is important to both understand and convey that communicating values is an ongoing work in progress. It’s important to communicate your journey, regardless of the stage you’re in. Consumers have made it known that if brands are not actively communicating their position on critical social issues, you might as well not be taking a stand at all in the eyes of stakeholders.
Honesty and transparency builds trust, even if formal statements or actions are still taking shape – we have seen this firsthand in the way that many brands are learning, growing and evolving their antiracism initiatives and commitments.
As we’ve mentioned, fear of getting it all wrong can make us risk-averse and prone to inertia. But by communicating that your brand is learning and growing, that your commitment to antiracism, social justice, labor rights, or climate justice is a journey not a destination, it provides transparency and helps kick that inertia to the curb.
Ready to help build out your brand’s own roadmap to messaging your mission? We can help - get in touch today.