I have always held the firm belief that the successful dissemination of a company’s culture and brand is dependent upon the representation of those values in the everyday actions of its employees. If employees are not embracing the tenets you have worked so hard to instill and are actively representing the opposite in public, it will create mixed messages about what you truly stand for and tarnish the essence of your brand. My beliefs were reaffirmed recently with the LinkedIn post of an acquaintance about his eye opening experience at the airport. He was standing in line waiting to board his flight when the businessmen behind him began to swap derogatory comments about women that made everyone around them visibly uncomfortable, and then in the same conversation they proceeded to talk about their business partners. He continued that not only were these comments unacceptable, it seemed a no brainer that their very public broadcast was damaging to both their personal reputations and their company. Despite my acquaintance’s belief that it should be obvious that our behavior can be linked back to our company, people are often oblivious to the impact their communication and behavior can subsequently have on their company’s brand. I worked for a company that had a negative reputation with businesses in the local community because of employee behavior at company sponsored events. I can also definitely recall instances where a co-worker openly criticized a client or a job candidate in a public setting or in the presence of third party with no regard to how that might impact future business or candidate referrals. In each instance, the individuals involved simply thought their behavior or communication was being conducted in the presence of colleagues or friends, so it didn’t really matter and there could be no lasting repercussions. However, there was clearly a disconnect between the values and culture we were officially marketing and those that the employees were representing in public spaces, and it impacted the caliber of candidates and clients that we attracted.
The truly valuable job candidates or blue chip clients don’t really need you, you need them, and you are essentially pitching your company, your culture, your brand with every communication point in your recruiting, sales, or client management process. Even candidates or clients you ultimately determine are not the right fit for you, you need to handle respectfully and professionally in your rejections or separations. Everyone has a voice in the digital age. If someone is treated carelessly, receives poor communication, or simply overhears some offhand insult, they can have a post about it plastered on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and all of the highly followed message boards in their industry before you can say the words “damage control.” If you handle even the rejections and separations with authenticity and professionalism, those clients and candidates will become de facto brand ambassadors within their respective communities and initiate future referrals. They might not have been the right fit for you and your company, but they are influencers whose peers and followers may be those high value targets you seek. You also need to be cognizant that some rejected recruits might obtain valuable experience elsewhere that makes them the perfect fit for you down the road, so you always want them to leave with a positive impression and feel welcome to come back to you when the time or the position is right. To that end, you should always be mindful about what you communicate, how you communicate it, and who your audience is because you never really know who is listening or what impact your communication could have on the future success of your personal AND corporate brands. Make a conscious effort to positively represent your brand with every interaction you have with a client, peer, job candidate, or even someone in the community, and through your example continue to inspire others to be brand ambassadors not detractors.