The values of your company will impact everything including its marketing
One of the elements that I look at when we develop a strategic marketing plan for a company is its values. This may seem kind of strange to some people but it’s crucial to the process.
Your values are important. They are what shape your culture. They guide your decision making.
They don’t just apply to the C-Suite or your operations team. They apply to customer service, human resources, public relations, and even your marketing.
Your values inform how you do your marketing and communication which is why we see them as critical and you should too.
A Tale of Two Companies
The first company has taken the time to create values. It has them posted on its website so current and prospective customers and employees can see them to get a sense of the company. It also talks about the values when they are onboarding their employees.
It’s exactly what you would expect. They have values and they showcase them.
The second company is doing all the same things but they are going even further. When a big decision is made it’s explained how the move aligns with the values. They’ve developed classes for each of the values to teach employees why they are important to the company and how they are applied on an everyday basis. Reviews focus on what employees have done through the year and how they are performing to the values.
The first company represents most of the companies that I have worked for. It has taken the time to create values but they aren’t living them. They are more like window dressing. It has them because aren’t all companies supposed to have values?
The second company has made a conscious choice to create values that will help promote the culture they want. It speaks to how they do business every day in both a broad sense when they are making decisions but also in how they act.
A Failure of Values
As I said earlier, just because an organization has values doesn’t mean they are living or even paying attention to them. There are many examples of organizations that have acted against their core values.
Below where the stated values of Enron, an energy, commodities, and services company that became one of the largest companies in US history to declare bankruptcy:
- Communication – We have an obligation to communicate.
- Respect – We treat others as we would like to be treated.
- Integrity – We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly, and sincerely.
- Excellence – We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do.
Enron has become much better known for fraud and corruption. They applied deceptive and fraudulent accounting practices to cover up the fraud that began to occur as a regular way of doing business. Executives of the company also got caught up in insider trading. Look at their values again and you will see a complete failure.
More recently, Boeing has been caught up in a scandal involving the 737 Max jet after two planes crashed because of issues with the companies new automated flight control system. It turned out that Boeing was aware of the issues all along but had privileged money over safety.
Odd for a company that touts some of the following values:
- Start with engineering excellence
- Be accountable — from beginning to end
- Lead on safety, quality and integrity
- Collaborate with humility, inclusion and transparency
- Earn stakeholder trust and preference
In its communications, Boeing played down the issues and defended the safety of the 737 Max but as evidence started coming out, it showed the company was completely aware of the issues all the way back before the first plane had ever been delivered.
The entire fleet of over 300 planes has been grounded since May of 2019 as Boeing works to fix the issues but it has an uphill battle. They have squandered much of the trust that they had, not only with the airlines but with the public as well.
Your Values Impact Your Marketing Communications
Your organization’s values impact its culture. That, in turn, impacts the brand personality and the brand voice that is used to communicate whether it is marketing, public relations, or employee relations.
Your values will shape how you present yourself to the world and that impacts every piece of marketing and public relations.
I run a PESO agency meaning we use the PESO model developed by Gini Dietrich at Spin Sucks. We use paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media to communicate for not only ourselves but our clients as well. The values that we have an impact on how we use these different pieces of media and how we communicate through them.
I believe that we should focus on helping first and if we do that well, the money will follow. This impacts how we talk to those who could be clients in the future and our current clients.
Values are especially helpful when times are tough or the unexpected happens. A recession, a pandemic, a civil rights movement are all instances where your values will show you the right actions to be taken. They will guide how you’re talking to people. That in turn will impact how they feel about you.
Enron lied to its shareholders and its customers. Boeing did the same thing.
Unless you’re an airline, you won’t be buying a plane from Boeing but do you really want to fly on a 737 Max right now?
For both these companies, the failure to follow their values led to bad decisions but the communications and marketing were impacted as well. Enron and Boeing both lied in communications to their shareholders and the public. The marketing sold messages that were bogus because they had to hold with the company line which ignored the values.
When you can’t be trusted, you will lose customers and find it difficult to attract new ones. Word of mouth has been supercharged by social media. When people are mad, it’s not just their friends that they tell. They have platforms to tell whoever is interested in hearing their message and that can be fatal for you.
Don’t Ignore Your Values
Values shouldn’t be put away when they feel inconvenient. Maybe if you let your values slide you could make more money. Perhaps you see them as bureaucratic nonsense but your values help you do the right thing instead of the easy thing.
I can honestly say, every company that I’ve worked for or with has had values whether they have been written down or not. I have run into hidden values or found that the values weren’t something that any rational person would broadcast but they were there.
When you take a stand to say, “These are our values and this is our culture,” people will hold you to it. When you ignore your values people will notice.
In 2007, I worked a temp job with a big technology company. I had known people who worked for this company who told me how amazing this company was to work. I knew them as a company with a great culture.
I was in a sales position and imagine my surprise when they told me that I should do whatever took to get a sale up to and including lying. This was not the company that I had heard of. They took a step farther and said that if I didn’t lie to get sales, I would be fired.
Not only didn’t they share my values, but the values that they had proclaimed also weren’t evident so I quit. I didn’t really want anything to do with them on any level.
If you talk to any reputable public relations person they will tell you that it is not ethical to spin information. As an industry, we should be honest and transparent but that’s not always the case. There are times that public relations spin like crazy so they can manipulate people into what they want. It’s given our industry a bad reputation. It’s easier for the negative to get attention than the positive.
Marketing should always show how it can solve problems and show value and then it focuses on features and tells you what the value is.
Good sales should focus on needs yet you’ve no doubt run into salespeople who told you lies and half-truths. Some of these salespeople use high-pressure sales techniques that practically bully people into buying. This can tell you something about them and the organization they work for. While it may get the sale, it doesn’t breed trust or loyalty.
When your customer doesn’t have loyalty they will leave at the first moment that they get a better offer. When they don’t trust you, they will be actively look to leave and when they do it will highly unlikely that they will ever come back.
Don’t forget your values. They could be the difference between success and bankruptcy.
*Image by Sarah Richter from Pixabay