Company culture has crossed from a trendy topic to a no-joke, C-suite discussion that can’t be ignored. Just Google “Forbes Company Culture” and you’ll see almost two full pages of articles from 2015 alone. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably already interested in building or strengthening your company culture. Or maybe you just don’t get what all the fuss is about. Luckily, there’s no shortage of online content you can read to become a culture maven and if you want an insider's view from a company who has spent the last 2 years ferociously focused on culture, you should definitely read a few more of ours. But back to you.
Instead of getting overwhelmed by the mounds of company culture advice, insight or maybe demands coming from your leadership, just take a purposeful first step. The momentum that follows will encourage and motivate you to stick with the process of making culture a priority for your company. So, what’s the first step?
Creating a consistent internal communications and messaging strategy.
What is Internal Messaging?
The internet will give you variations of the definition, but basically an internal communications and messaging strategy is a guide that gives your employees and stakeholders a consistent way to speak, communicate, and think about your company. If you’re like so many business leaders we work with, when asked Who/What/Why/How your company is what it is or does what it does, your employees would have dozens of inconsistent interpretations. These inconsistencies cause both internal problems (as generally happens when nobody is on the same page) and external consequences (competitive and sales disadvantages, disgruntled or disloyal customers, customer service issues, etc.). And that can wreak havoc on your long term plan for success.
Creating Your Messaging: Step 1
Company Mission: Mission and Vision (whether statements or defined concepts) often get confused. At its core, a Mission (often formalized as a Mission Statement) defines “what” and “who” a company is. And while a mission could easily be dry, boring and flat, there is a trend among uber-successful companies to inject the Mission with a twinge of the unexpected for a bold, creative, inspiring and remarkable effect. For example, Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company, has a beautiful mission that truly gives an understanding of who the company is and what they do:
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia is a clothing company who makes outdoor gear. That’s boring. Clearly their mission statement goes deeper and has purpose beyond just describing the what and who.
Creating Your Messaging: Step 2
Company Vision: A well-stated Vision (or Vision Statement) complements a company’s Mission. Where the Mission details the “what” and “who,” the Vision provides clarity into why a company exists and how it intends to achieve the what, who and why. The Vision tells the story of the future - how will this company accomplish what it set out to do or be (as spelled out in the Mission of course!)? You can Google dozens of examples of awesome Vision statements, but here are a few of our favorites. You’ll see that Vision statements don’t have to be sexy, they just have to be authentic and provide clarity about the path forward:
- Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
- Amazon: Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.
- Hewlett Packard: To view change in the market as an opportunity to grow; to use our profits and our ability to develop and produce innovative products, services and solutions that satisfy emerging customer needs.
Creating Mission and Vision: Next Steps
If your company doesn’t already have a well-defined Mission and Vision, your Internal Messaging needs to start here. These two pieces of internal messaging blaze a path for all the other pieces that must follow but also serve as a guiding light for your company’s activities, decisions and future that can be actioned immediately. Once you and the appropriate team members have solidified your Mission and Vision (maybe you’ll build this alone but the input and collaboration from trusted members can be tremendously helpful), disseminate it to every single employee within your company. Encourage and incentivize people to memorize it and talk about it. Make your Mission and Vision something everyone can be proud to discuss. Bring it up during meetings, use it on your website and in sales presentations - use every opportunity to authentically weave it through the day-to-day operations within every level of your organization.
Now, if you work for (or own) a larger or more established company, there’s good chance your Mission and Vision statement already exists. But really, is it ever good enough to just exist? What about relevancy? Was the Mission and Vision created in 1982? Did an old CEO or owner dictate the current iteration? Does it still make sense? Do the existing Mission and Vision actually serve to guide the organization in decision making processes? Is the Mission and Vision aligned with the brand image and ideal culture you’d like to own? If not, you can either start from scratch or start dissecting the Mission and Vision into small chunks to determine what pieces and parts matter vs. those that don’t. Of course, it’s important to get buy-in from the appropriate parties before you start changing the established norms of the company’s messaging, but if you ask yourself about relevancy and realize the Mission and Vision are outdated, you might find that few people at the helm are actually married to those words and concepts.
There are several other critical components to an Internal Messaging strategy, like a Main Tagline, Value and Benefit Statements, and Market Positioning, but since creating a powerful and authentic Mission and Vision can take some time and energy, we’ll avoid the urge to overwhelm you with more info. Check back for our next blog that offers tips about these additional pieces soon. If you’d like to bounce any ideas or questions off some of our team members who've been deeply involved in building internal messaging for Stratus and our clients, give us a shout anytime.